The “C” Word
Staying connected when you’re constantly apart
Our blogs constantly talks about the “C” word. Yes, “Connection”.
Connection is the key to any healthy relationship. Connection is easy in the early stages. We crave the togetherness. Talking, spending time together, sex. But over time it becomes harder, especially as children and normal life issues are added into the mix. The excitement fades and we have to work at keeping our relationship fresh.
Staying connected can be particularly hard for those who have enforced time apart. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder and in fact can erode connectivity by the hour! Picture the soldiers deployed for months at a time and the partners left at home. The international business people who are on and off planes every week. The partner forced to move in with elderly parents hundreds of miles away. There are many people for whom time apart is a hard reality.
So, how do they keep a strong connection and avoid having to rebuild every time they are reunited?
- Little and often
Belonging is a human need and one we cannot function properly without. Children who are starved of this have an even stronger need to “belong” as adults. Whilst the amount we crave differs, we all need to feel we’re accepted.
In our relationships we need to belong to the partnership. We can carve roles to cement our sense of belonging but we only really feel it from the other person. It is easier, though I appreciate not always practical, to keep a sense of belonging by connecting on a regular basis, even if apart. In this respect we are lucky to live in an age where we have choice. Text, whatsapp, email, phone, Skype, FaceTime, the list goes on. We can connect quickly but the benefits can really make a difference.
In all our relationships, whether its partners, friends or family, just to know someone is thinking of us for that split second can fulfil a sense of belonging. So it is much better to send a quick text/message than keep waiting for that time you can really talk – it may not come as quick as you’d like – and all the time connection is fading.
- Goodbye and welcome home ritual
Goodbyes can be tough but, strangely, hellos can also be hard. We are creatures of habit and adapt to our situation. For a serviceman, away for 6-9 months or even a year, slowing getting back into family life that has been running perfectly well without them can be really difficult. What is built up to be a great homecoming can breakdown rapidly and leave partners disappointed and sad.
So how can we make the transition easier?
Talk about what would be the ideal. What would you like to do before you go? How shall I welcome you back? It’s really important to be honest. So, a rare example from my own experience. My husband goes away for a few weeks sometimes. After a few years of frustrations on the day he leaves we talked about it. I was frustrated he hadn’t packed until 10 minutes before he was going, he didn’t want me nagging when he was trying to get away. We tried a few things but what works best for us is for to say goodbye and for me to then go out and leave him to pack and go!
Talk about what you like upon coming home too. Cup of tea and a long chat? To get unpacked first? To have some space? To jump into bed? Talk honestly about what works for you as couple and you’ll avoid any immediate annoyances that can take the joy away from any homecoming.
- Avoid competing
So whilst you’re apart we’ve talked about contact little and often, but what to talk about when you get the chance? Whilst one might be stressed but exhilarated in New York, one might be trying to keep the wheel turning for 2 toddlers and a baby. Whilst 2 people are living drastically different lives it can be a hard decision on how to talk about what’s going on for you.
Couples sometimes talk to me about “competing” for who has the worst deal. Although it’s good to be honest about how you are feeling it isn’t always helpful to compete for who is having the worst time. You DOn’t need to lie about how you are feeling – just appreciate what is going on for the other. It’s OK to be excited to be working in New York. It’s also OK to be enjoying the extra space in the bed, control over the TV and eating what you like when you like. It’s OK to moan for the third day running. That’s life. It’s Ok to be happy even if your partner isn’t. There will be days when the roles are switched.
The key is talk about what is going on for you. Be honest. Say how you feel.
Honesty maintains connection. Connection is key.
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This post was written by Yvonne