If you’re in a long-distance military relationship you’ll know the ups and downs of trying to communicate with your partner when they’re miles away from you, and you’re not sure when you’re going to hear from them.
Unlike other long-distance relationships, dating a military person can bring up a host of unique challenges. Being separated for long periods, accepting your partner could be in danger, and running a family home on your own are just some of the obstacles long-distance military relationships face.
Contrary to popular belief, LDRs aren't doomed from the start. But the lack of intimacy can become a strain for long-distance lovers. “A struggle in long-distance relationships is the experience of skin hunger, as due to the distance, physical touch is irregular or absent for long periods,” explains Charisse Cooke, a relationship psychotherapist.
“Physical and sexual intimacy is an important part of our partnerships which are severely rationed for long-distance couples.”
If you’re looking for advice for your long-distance military relationship, here are six proven ways to make them work.
“Coordinating two schedules to allow for the appropriate time to connect and share in meaningful ways can sometimes be extremely hard for couples, depending on obligations and responsibilities,” explains Cooke.
This will be different for every long-distance military relationship and it may take you some time to figure out what the best form of communication is, so try not to get frustrated when you come up against challenges to start with.
Work out what’s best for you as a couple. If WhatsApp feels too stressful, especially if you’re waiting too long for a reply, look at other forms of communication.
Don’t plan to chat when you’re both tired or you’re rushing off to work or other commitments either. Try to put dates in the diary where you know you have enough time to give them the communication they deserve.
Try to think outside the box, too. Writing letters or emails may seem old school but it’s a great way to bring romance back into your relationship. Writing a letter gives you a chance for non-interrupted communication and the excitement of receiving one never gets old.
Just because you’re away from each other doesn’t mean to say you can’t celebrate milestones and plan date nights.
Thanks to modern technology we’re more connected than ever, meaning you can feel as though you’re in the same room as someone when you’re not. So make use of Zoom or other video platforms to watch a movie together or share another experience.
However, Cooke believes investing means being unique with your time. “Making time for our partners is important, but it’s also important to take each individual’s needs into account,” she says.
“Whilst date nights can be enjoyable and fun and bring a bit of normality to the relationship, they can sometimes feel contrived or inappropriate depending on the people involved.”
Reunions in a long-distance military relationship can feel exciting and no doubt you’ll be counting down the days until your partner is home.
That being said, it’s easy to get into a rut of doing the same things when they get home, but expecting different results.
Take turns in planning date nights or sexy surprises for each other to keep it fresh. If you expect them to always plan these surprises you’ll only end up disappointed — both putting effort in shows you mutually understand each other's needs.
When you’re dating a military person it can sometimes feel as though you’re leading separate lives, so it's valuable to have a shared goal you’re working towards.
“Setting goals can be very important, because of the lack of daily structure within the relationship, time can become amorphous, and moving forward as a couple can be deferred to an unknown future time,” explains Cooke.
“Having goals for the relationship allows both people to know what commitments are important to the other and give meaning and structure to the partnership.”
Whether it’s a financial goal like saving for a new house, having something to work towards together allows you to bond even when you’re miles away from each other.
When you’re not with your partner for huge chunks, you miss out on some of the daily conversations that let you get to know each other better.
The Paired app aims to bridge that gap, with questions, quizzes, and games, for you and your partner to answer, and discuss.
A study by the University of Brighton in the UK found that over a third (36%) of couples who used the Paired app to answer daily questions and quizzes felt happier as a result, and had more meaningful conversations.
We may be led to believe — mainly thanks to social media — that all other couples are perfect, but no one is! So aim for good enough, rather than perfect.
This type of thinking not only puts pressure on you but also puts pressure on the relationship and the expectations you both have.
A more balanced approach is to aim for a “good enough” system. Be kinder to yourself and your partner when things don’t go to plan, you didn’t have the conversation you wanted, or didn’t say the right thing.