Your Time Apart: Making it Through and Back
Here are some tips for thriving during, and after, your spouse's absence.
The goodbye is over -- good for you! You've made it through what was most likely the toughest moment of your time apart. The next thing you have to look forward to? The reunion!
Here are some tips for making it from the moment after goodbye through the readjustment period with your health, sanity and emotions intact.
- Assemble a support network of same-gender friends and married couples. Friends will be vital to your happiness, sanity and accountability and can be there for you in a pinch. Enjoy regular fellowship with this group.
- Vent your fears and worries to your support network and family. You can also share your apprehensions with your spouse, but try not to monopolize with negative thoughts the small amount of time you have to communicate. This may diminish your spouse's morale.
- Develop a new interest. Audit a college class. Join a book club. Start exercising. Try your hand at gardening. Not only will your new activity take your mind off being alone, you'll have something new to talk about during calls home.
- Record items you'd like to discuss with your spouse in a small notebook as you go about your day. Write down important items, funny scenarios, interesting new facts you learned, a hilarious joke you heard -- anything you'd like to share with your mate. If you do blank out when your spouse calls, you'll still be capable of interesting conversation.
- Update each other as regularly and frequently as possible. Be honest about your progress toward your shared goals and budget. And be honest to a fault. If you accidentally broke your husband's favorite exercise machine, tell him. No good can come of delaying or covering-up the truth. If frequent communication is not possible, send a weekly email detailing your progress. It's a great way to keep each other accountable, even during gaps in communication.
- Learn the lingo. You'll probably never be able to understand exactly what your spouse is going through while away, especially if the situation is perilous. You can, however, read up on the country your spouse is in, the language spoken there, the type of work he's completing, terminology commonly used in his career field, etcetera. This background information will bridge the knowledge gap between you and your spouse, leaving less explaining for him to do.
- Care for yourself. If you think you already are, rethink your conclusion. Are you getting enough sleep, taking a daily vitamin, eating enough food, varying your diet and exercising a few times a week? Taking care of yourself will allow you to better manage your full plate while your spouse is gone. It will also ease your spouse's mind.
- Pray frequently. Even when you can't see your spouse, God can; even when you can't communicate directly with your spouse, God can speak to their heart. Try praying for your spouse while you're getting ready for the day, as you think of him, before meals and any other time you feel led to.
- Make a transition plan. If possible, do this together. Which duties of your spouse have you assumed during this separation? Have you discovered an interest in lawn care or a strength in budgeting? How will you transition duties back to your spouse when he returns, or will duties be reassigned or shared? If you have children, it's especially important to plan for the resumption of parenting duties.
- Plan a getaway upon return, even if it's just an afternoon at home with your favorite books on tape. Each day, set aside a small amount of money in a jar. What will you do with it? Have fun putting your heads together!
After the Reunion
- Share what you went through. Allow your spouse to discuss the most poignant, life-changing and dangerous moments he experienced during his time away. Though you were at home, you likely have some stories of your own to share: how you really missed your spouse during your child's school play, how scared you were when changing a tire alone on the side of the road or how you panicked every time the doorbell rang. This exchange will give you each an appreciation of what the other endured.
- Summarize how you've changed, even in small ways. Have your spouse do the same. Did you become more social during his absence? Did you develop more confidence in your parenting skills or become more secure in your relationship? Acknowledging personal changes may ease your transition.
- Reconnect. This can't be emphasized enough. Your relationship has been stretched and, as a result, has likely grown. That's wonderful. Now enjoy the fact that you don't have to be far apart.
- Draw a conclusion of your time away and share it with your spouse. Form a statement such as, "While you were away on your missions trip, I became more involved in my women's group and felt like we grew despite the distance," or, "While I was away at war I learned just how blessed I am to have our family. I also know life will never be the same for me, though I don't exactly know in what ways." Try to make the conclusion as positive as possible.
- Keep praying! Your spouse is home safely, but you need God now more than ever during your transition.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family.