As many of us have already figured out, whether, through our own experiences or the ones we’ve observed, marriage is no joke. It seems like so many married couples (both young and old) end up calling it quits sooner or later. Marriage is already hard enough as it is when you live under the same roof, so what are the odds of success for spouses who are trying to make things work while living in different places? Can marriages work when spouses live apart? And if so, how on Earth would they manage to keep things running smoothly?
We spoke with licensed psychologist Dr. Wyatt Fisher to get his take on whether or not a happy and healthy marital relationship is possible when you don’t live together. “We all have certain things we need to feel loved and satisfied in a committed relationship, such as quality time, affection, emotional intimacy, adoration, sexual contact, etc,” Dr. Fisher tells us. And he’s right! These are all basic needs that our partners should be able to meet if we want our relationships to succeed.
As someone who was in a long-distance relationship for almost two years before my partner and I were finally able to move in together, I can say that technology helped a lot, especially when it came to spending quality time together and building emotional intimacy. But according to Dr. Fisher, technology has its limitations.
“Other [needs] such as affection and sex can only occur in person,” explains Dr. Fisher. “Therefore, if a couple is living apart, they still need to make time to be with one another a top priority.” Texting is great, but you can only send each other so many sexy pictures before the fun fade and you’re desperately counting down the days before you can wake up next to your bae again.
It’s also important to consider how long you’re planning to be separated from your spouse or living in different places. If you know it’s only for a set amount of time and you’re planning on moving in together after, or at least relocating to live in the same city, then it seems the marriage isn’t so different from any other long-distance relationship. But the truth is that no amount of FaceTime action can make up for the fact that you and your SO are missing out on the important things happening in each other’s daily lives. This is especially true if being apart is going to be a long-term arrangement, which Dr. Fisher warns against.
“Part of being married is sharing a life together under the same roof, not under two. It defeats the purpose,” says Dr. Fisher.
But if you and your spouse are trying to make it work through an indefinite period of time when you won’t be together, should you just give up now? Of course not! According to Dr. Fisher, while the success of the relationship in the long term might not be probable, he does say that it isn’t impossible. It may sound like a cliché, but anything is possible folks —especially if you are both willing and able to set aside enough time for one another IRL. If you and your spouse are going to be living apart for a pre-determined period of time, it’s important to go into things with realistic expectations of how often you will be able to spend time together.
“A long-distance relationship is not only logistically challenging, but it is also extremely psychologically challenging,” explained clinical psychologist and host of The Web Radio Show, Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. “If you and your partner struggle with communication, transparency, [or] if your expectations about how much you will be together are off… you will create a level of psychological tension in the relationship that ultimately will be its demise.”
It may be helpful to have a conversation with bae about your respective needs and expectations, so you both can come up with a strategy for scheduling quality time (either in person or via Skype). Making sure your communication habits are as strong as they can be leading up to a period of separation is also a good way to avoid unnecessary conflict later on down the line. Although not being together can be really tough, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on a marriage that is going well otherwise. As long as you are both willing to compromise, making it work is always possible!