A strong connection can be difficult to maintain when distance inhibits an extremely important part of all relationships: physical contact. So many individuals I talk to have partners who are overseas serving in the military, studying abroad, or just living in a city four states away. According to Fatherhood.org, a program for military dads, 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed on assignments lasting from 30 days to 15 months. The Center For The Study Of Long-Distance Relationships (yes, that is a real entity) found in 2005 that 2.9 percent of U.S. marriages are of the long-distance variety and 10 percent of marriages had a period of long-distance separation at some point.
I've come up with a few ideas to cheer up those longing for their long-distance loved one.
Susan Swartz, in an article for Suite101.com, said one of the best ways to combat homesickness is to create and send care packages. They should contain items that remind your partner of home, like a favorite baseball cap, a book, and even a framed picture of family and loved ones. They'll appreciate the kind gesture and you'll feel good knowing you can do something proactive that connects you both, and that reminds you of your partner at the same time.
Writing letters and sending food are great ways to let your love know you care, but there will be times when you'll want to share something and make an instant connection. A baby's first word, or a promotion at work, qualifies as one of these events. There are several free or very affordable online forums that allow live chat sessions, including video chat. Swartz suggests a cheap, $30 webcam is more than adequate for this purpose.
The two of you should coordinate times so weekly or even daily chat sessions are possible. I know one mom who chats with her partner every day over morning coffee. The conversations last 30 to 60 minutes, and the kids sometimes join in as well. The kids need the face time with their absent parent just as much as you do.
Create a Digital Scrapbook
You don't have to be a tech-geek to create a nice online scrapbook for your family to share and continuously add to. I once created a private Facebook page when I was in the Peace Corps. The security settings allowed only close friends and loved ones to view it. We were all able to post pictures and share comments in the timeline. I was able to keep in touch with many loved ones through videos, images, and heartfelt words of encouragement.
Remember that while his extended absence is not the ideal situation, staying positive during these times will help time pass more rapidly. Before you know it, your partner will be home again falling asleep in your arms. So cherish this time as well. As you know, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
A relationship counselor and doula, Katie shares her tips and stories with readers online.