It is 5:30 a.m. I am watching my husband pack his suitcase, scrambling to make a 7 a.m. flight. For the past three years his work has taken him out of town more than half the time by my conservative estimate. People comment on how tough it must be holding down the fort solo, dealing with the added domestic duties that fall to me in his absence, and the hardship of sleeping alone night after lonely night. I am a sucker for soaking up sympathy, and I would never say no to a casserole.
But here's my dirty little secret: I love my long distance love affair.
There are so many benefits to love at a distance that it's hard to know where to begin. Don't get me wrong, I'm still 100 per cent committed to my relationship. I don't see our regular geographic separation as a convenient stepping stone to eventually living separate lives. In fact, I see the distance as a way to shake things up a bit, inject a new rhythm into what had become predictable domesticity, and a chance to become more independent apart while better and stronger together. After all, our relationship began in the early days of Madonna's career. That is a very very long time ago.
But of course, like any romantic arrangement, a long distance one requires a certain attitude. And putting false modesty aside, I rock at it.
First, one can't be resentful. My husband's decision to accept work out of town was a mutual one. He's working on some pretty cool stuff, and his ambition was part of what drew me to him in the first place. Supporting that decision, even if it means there is no one else to blame when I miss recycling day, is a reasonable sacrifice. Having a partner who is as passionately consumed by his work as when he was a young pup is something to be grateful for after almost 25 years of marriage.
Second, trust is key. I don't pack a nanny-cam in his suitcase. I encourage him to go for drinks, go for dinner, and engage in harmless flirting to make his time away more fun. By the same token, he doesn't micro-manage me from afar although he did once ask, "How come there is always so much sand in our bed when I get home?" "I'm screwing a lifeguard in your absence," I retorted. While trust is important, so is the strategic use of jealousy (he doesn't need to know I'm too lazy to wipe our dog's paws before she snuggles in beside me on his side of the bed).
Third, it's important to make best use of time apart. This is not an opportunity to watch hours of reality TV. No, it is a chance to focus more squarely on independent interests that take a backseat when we are together. For me, solitude opens up new space to pursue a passion for writing; for him having no domestic duties (by virtue of living in a hotel) means more time to read and exercise. Becoming more interesting to ourselves means becoming more interesting to each other too, and certainly gives us more to catch up on during our nightly chats than whose turn it is to pay the outstanding hydro bill.
And last, one has to up their game in a long distance romance. I make a legitimate effort to welcome him home in a way that reinforces his decision to come back. I substitute my usual work-at-home "inmate" attire (grey sweatpants and sweatshirt) for something more polished, and slap on some lipstick, too. I make a home-cooked meal because I know he is sick of eating out. We also plan more fun stuff like theatre, music or yoga on the weekends to push the reset button on all the time spent apart.
The phrase, a change is as good as a rest, has taken on a new meaning in my marriage. In our case, the change is a change of scenery for one of us. Our long distance romance has made us more interesting to ourselves and to each other-and the time together a more precious commodity.
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