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Friday, July 17, 2009

Frequent flyer miles for Cupid?

Earlier today as I began to write, I noticed an article that people were moving less due to the recession, in fact moving less than anytime in the last several decades. Perhaps not surprising, is the trend that many couples are living apart while one continues in a job and the family home, the other partner lives in another city chasing work, the family unable to move entirely to one city or the other.

I didn’t realize how many people I know, who are engaged in a long distance relationship. Not counting my former soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan, my oldest son is dating a girl who lives in Iowa, but goes to school in Texas, while my son lives in Texas and goes to school in Florida. I have a friend who just moved his wife of three months with him while they still try to sell her house in Houston.

As you might imagine, marriage and relationship experts have some advice for those of you who are either already in this situation or for those of you considering such an arrangement. The first thing they suggest, is for those not married make sure you define what you relationship will and won’t be. How exclusive will each of you commit to being with the other?

For all couples, married or not, long distance or not, the key to the relationship is communication. Keep lines of communication open and constantly try to find new ones. One idea for all of us, is to write 10 things per day you appreciate about your partner and then give all 70 things to your partner at the end of the week.

When I travel, I use this trick; I take my wife’s pillow case on my pillow. Then I can smell her as I sleep, and it keeps me really connected to her while I have to be away.

Keep a daily journal. It will encourage you think about your feelings, will provide a personal history for the two of you to review one day, and will hopefully spur the two of you to discuss your expectations from each other while apart and the expectations you have when you are about to be together again.

Continue to be honest about your fears and challenges while separated. Make sure you are living up to being a good partner. You can’t control the actions of others, even those you love, but you can control your own. Be the partner/spouse/ lover you want and you might be surprised at how much you get in return. There are a number of websites where you can have a photograph of the two of you turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Then mail your spouse a few of the pieces every day.

The Internet is a great communication tool for separated lovers. You can email, instant message, chat, even talk on the phone, or view live video of the other as well, all via the Internet.

Most of us will have a long distance relationship at least once in our lives, with a lot hard work, understanding and commitment, your relationship can not only survive separation, it can thirve. Remember, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

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