Remember – Communicating by phone, text and email are very different types of communication. So think carefully about what you say and how you say it. Hearing each others’ voices in a phone call gives more clues about moods and feelings, and being able to have a conversation means you can respond to what you hear and correct any misunderstandings. It’s difficult to explain feelings in a text or email, and a time-lapse between sending and receiving messages can often create confusion. Imaginations run riot!
When you are in touch make sure it is a two-way conversation. An opportunity for each of you to catch up on what has been happening in your separate lives. If you have children it is important for the partner away to be kept up to date with their lives, especially if the children are too young to communicate themselves. Knowing the context of your lives apart makes it easier to be responsive and supportive.
If you are upset or angry about something be careful about how you express those feelings. If your partner is upset or angry keep calm and listen carefully before responding. Not being physically together can make it much harder to read each other’s emotions accurately and to be able to show your support.
So often we soothe each other by a gesture or a hug so think hard about what you could say to make your partner feel reassured. Texts can be a great way of telling your partner you are thinking of them, missing them, and, that you love them. A simple XX message from you can make their day!
Reunions – Be realistic
Absence is said to make the heart grow fonder so thinking about “the reunion” can be a way of making absence bearable. In those lonely moments apart, imagining what you will do when you are back together (something special) and how you will feel (warm and loving) is especially comforting. Couples apart for long periods are in danger of having high expectations of “when we are together again”. Unrealistic expectations result in feelings of disappointment, followed by resentment, even anger, hurt and rejection. It can seem that absence makes the heart grow colder.
But you can manage expectations better
- When you are imagining the relief of being back together and the excitement of being physically close again, hold on to those good feelings but at the same time think of the factors might interfere with your plans. For example, if you return home early in the morning after a long flight you will be tired and ready to relax and your partner may be focused on getting ready for work and organizing the children. Some elements of the reunion will have to be put on hold until later. Try not to put pressure on each other!
- You will have different expectations of what reunion means. For the leaver this may include peace and quiet at home – so noisy demanding children and being expected to go out will shatter their vision of the perfect homecoming. For the left, the returning partner will be someone to share the childcare duties and a chance to be out of the house and socialising. The clash of expectations can result in a row.
- Before the reunion, think about the potential clash in expectations and find a way of getting around them. Share ideas with your partner, making clear that the aim is to enjoy being together. Each of you will then be aware of the other’s expectations and hopefully prepared to compromise. And if you have children factor in their needs too, and the fact that they are less likely to be able to make compromises (young children) or less willing (teenagers).
- Be prepared for the fact that it can take time to get back into a comfortable way of being together. The leaver may feel that decisions have been made in their absence and worry about their lack of involvement in home life. For their partner, eagerness for support with the house and children may be coupled with a sense of losing control. And both of you may have worries about what happened while you were apart; whether you were missed and whether anything happened to change your emotional closeness such as attraction to another, or infidelity.
- If partings are a regular part of your lives then you can build a way of having reunions that recognizes the needs of everyone and includes a special time or treat that everyone enjoys. In this way you are creating a tradition for you as a couple and as a family, which affirms your couple and family relationships, making partings bearable and reunions rewarding.