Surviving a long-distance relationship, like when one spouse is a service member, can be difficult for any couple. It presents challenges that include issues that non- distance challenged marriages never face.

Your DMK team members who faced similar issues put together some ideas that may be helpful in your own relationship.

Unexpected time apart

The the news of deployment or time away should be shared immediately upon finding out the planned date. Both spouses need to prepare emotionally and functionally for the absence. You both need time to develop a plan to keep communication and romance alive despite your distance and time apart.

Accept it or don’t accept it, but take action accordingly

Your situation may not be normal to the average couple, so don’t let their opinions affect your relationship much. Your relationship is just as capable of the same love and happiness.  

It’s important to accept the differences in your relationship and not let other's opinions affect how you feel about the person you love. This means that you both accept the long-distance relationship is unavoidable without significant damage to individual happiness, finances and goals.

If you or your spouse won't accept the long-distance relationship

If one person is sacrificing at the expense of the other's happiness, then it may be time to accept the relationship is being damaged by the time apart and long-term changes need to be made.  Continuing to accept it, devalues the relationship, family and individual spouses.  If one spouse is unwilling to concede to make such a change, counseling may be helpful.

Deployment plan

Regardless if you are a military family facing a pending deployment or a civilian couple who will spend time apart, you're both going to be going through a change as a couple emotionally and functionally.

These changes affect various aspects of your relationship and personal happiness and should be addressed in a plan.

The plan should detail goals and expectations in an effort to establish a clear dialogue regarding the issues that develop due to the deployment or time apart.

It should be developed prior to your leave and include communication ideas such as: phone, Skype®, text, social media and online journals.

You may also want to include expectations of total time away and long-term expectations of your relationship.  So it's important to understand your spouse’s career path and/or reason for living apart.  You should know if his/her plan is to maintain this lifestyle indefinitely or if there is an anticipated goal to discontinue.

Make sure you have the correct address and information to send care packages or necessary mail for your spouse.


Unfortunately, poor communication is one of the leading problems that leads to divorce in the United States.  It is also one of the biggest problems for long-distance couples.  While smart phones, social media and Skype® have made communication easier, these relationships still have barriers such as non verbal communication including touch, facial expressions and body language that can be important in a busy couple's life when long conversations and "couple's time" are not always possible.  

In order to keep the deployed spouse involved in the marriage and family, replace physical opportunities to communicate with other types of communications that can mean just as much as a kiss, a warm embrace or smile.  These ideas include:

  • Sending care packages with hand written letters to your spouse.  Keep them funny, short and positive.  Write about a situation of the day that made you laugh.  You can add stuff about your kids and pets.  Make some letters about something that happened that made you think of your spouse. The packages can include treats or small items that he/she can put in their room to remind them of you and home.  
  • You can start a private on-line album to add pictures and stuff about the kids, house, pets and daily life and your spouse can add pictures from his/her location, entries about his/her day-to-day living too.  It brings your family together so that you're always thinking of each other no matter where you are.
  • Make a playlist on both spouse's phones.  Include songs and albums you both like.  It brings up memories of concerts, dates and times together that evoke happy thoughts.
  • Share daily reports with your spouse about happenings at home, work, dinner, kids, baseball or whatever "family togetherness" represents.  Vent as needed but try not to make it a gripe session.  Instead, always try to add some humor to your daily chats to lighten tensions for both of you.  Basically, involve your spouse in on your everyday family stuff and involve your family on happenings with your spouse.  

Stay active and busy 

Would you watch a movie that only has one setting with no characters, dialogue or story?  Most of us probably wouldn't.  So, why would you make your life like that? 

Sitting around by yourself without making friends, in a sedentary lifestyle, is depressing and boring.  It makes it harder on you and harder on your spouse who may feel like he/she has to lift your spirits with every call or contact.  Lifting someone's spirits who lives like that is like lifting him/her along with a ton of concrete.  Cut ties with the concrete.  Here's how:

  • Call friends or make them.  Friends are essential to making life fun, exciting, interesting and relevant.  If your spouse is a member of the military, connect with other military spouses for an empathetic support system. 
  • Get outside and enjoy some exercise in a natural environment. 
  • If you want to binge on a show, invite some friends and make it a get-together.  
  • Join a gym and really get serious about your physical fitness. 
  • Craft, scrap, make beer, garden, paint or remodel to keep your mind active and accomplishments flourishing. 
  • Whatever it is that gets your attention and keeps it will make your everyday a better day to live while you are apart.

Understand each other and his/her daily life

Not knowing the duties associated with your spouse's everyday life can cause expectations that he/she is not able to fulfill regarding communication, time-off or positive emotions.

Until you really understand what your spouse is doing everyday you may not totally respect the decisions he/she has made to serve our country, provide for your family and choose a life that includes time and distance away.  Likewise, your spouse must understand your everyday life too.  Your spouse should understand the complexities of managing a family, career, volunteer duties or other responsibilities, as the only caregiver in the household.  It gives you both a better understanding of each other's stress, availability and reasons for any issues that cause delay in daily calls or texts.  It doesn't mean you have to share every detail that would cause unnecessary worry, but be honest and upfront about your daily life.  Your spouse deserves to know your life like you were living it together.  Don't let the distance be a pass to keep secrets or shelter either spouse from each other's everyday life stressors and issues.

In summary, let your spouse know you would like to be told as soon as he/she is notified about the pending time apart.  This will give you both a good plan to keep your relationship healthy.  Be supportive of your spouse and assure him/her that together, you can make it work.  Maintain good communication with unique and strategic ideas to replace the physical presence of each other.  Be honest about your goals for your future together, as well as your everyday life.  Share the little things with one another that make your family feel close.  Keep it simple and add good humor to lighten everyone's spirits, especially when times are difficult.  Don't let the time apart take from your active lifestyle or steal years from a happy life.  You both deserve to have the satisfaction of your career, health and life. Now go live it!


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