How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work and Keep the Spark Alive
Longtime Hollywood couple Jason Momoa and Lisa Bonet shocked the world this month when they announced their split on social media. It has since been reported that the Aquaman and game of thrones The star spent more and more time on the road filming that her 16-year relationship suffered.
For a growing number of couples, living apart is simply more pragmatic. For some, it’s even more romantic than sharing a bedroom, bathroom and permanent address.
So how do you make a long distance marriage work?
United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia
University administrator Miranda Roberts has been married to her husband, David, for 19 years, 11 of which have been spent living in different countries.
The couple, originally from Toronto, moved to Dubai 12 years ago, along with David, an engineer, who traveled to Saudi Arabia a year later to work on tourism projects in the region.
And far from causing trouble, Roberts says distance is key to their marital bliss.
“I couldn’t imagine having someone home every day,” she says. “We are individuals and we are both very independent. We have a very strong marriage and when he’s home it’s like he never left.
Usually, David returns to Dubai every weekend to spend time with Miranda and the couple’s son, Jacob, 17, but work demands mean the couple have not seen each other for five months.
“Pining doesn’t help anyone,” says Roberts, who has built a successful career and close-knit group of friends in Dubai. “You must be happy and become your own person.”
She and David both have a “sense of purpose” outside of marriage, which Roberts says is crucial for a successful long-distance relationship.
“We don’t have this daily drudgery of coming home from work and regurgitating everything that happened,” she says. “We are making the most of our time together.”
Fortunately, Jacob is mature in the face of the situation and is always happy to see his father when he returns to the family home. “Jacob is considerate and well-mannered, so I’ve never had a problem disciplining him on my own,” Roberts says.
Currently, David has no plans to return to Dubai and Miranda is happy to continue her busy independent lifestyle.
“It can get lonely sometimes and I have to celebrate a lot of things on my own, but on the other hand, I can do so many things that I want to do,” she says. “It’s about finding the right balance.”
From Hollywood to Bollywood
Like Momoa, a demanding filming schedule keeps Indian soap opera star Neha Marda, 36, away from the family home.
The actress spends Monday to Friday filming in Mumbai, while her husband of nine years, Ayushman Agrawal, runs a business 1,800 kilometers away in Patna.
And, like Roberts, Marda says distance itself is what keeps the spark alive.
“Our relationship is really fresh because we don’t take each other for granted and when we see each other it’s amazing,” she says. “Obviously you will miss each other, but we value our time much more.
“The biggest difficulty is communication,” she continues. “It’s important to talk to each other a lot and to be there for each other. If you’re fighting, you need to make it up right away or it can drag on when you don’t see each other to work things out.
For Marda, all relationships take effort, and long-distance marriages are no different, though she recommends making time for the other person whenever possible.
“My husband and I are both ambitious and our work is endless, but we make sure to make time for each other,” she says. “I fly to Patna every weekend, so we can socialize and spend quality time together.”
For the greater good
Lisa McKay, 45, an Australian psychologist, and Michael Wolfe, 45, an American aid worker, have been in a long-distance marriage for 13 years and have two children, Dominic, 10, and Alex, 8.
The couple were introduced by a mutual friend online and began their relationship by writing letters to each other while McKay lived in Los Angeles and Wolfe lived in Papua New Guinea.
They got engaged after spending just 20 days in the same country, although much of their marriage took place on opposite sides of the world.
“We think the way we started our relationship gave us a really good foundation and helped us in our togetherness,” says McKay, who has published a book about her long-distance marriage. “It was tough when the kids were young, but we reaped the benefits of being apart.”
Over the years, Wolfe’s work has taken him to Laos, Indonesia, Sudan and the Solomon Islands for months or even years, while McKay’s work as a psychologist supporting aid agencies l has also taken her across continents.
Currently, McKay and Wolfe are in Sydney, Australia, with the pandemic taking its toll with international aid. However, when another humanitarian mission arises and travel is possible, Wolfe will inevitably be posted overseas again.
“We’ve learned to communicate well over the years and the distance has really served our relationship,” says Wolfe, who also works as a career growth coach. “It helped me become a better listener, a better coach and a better human.”
A transatlantic production
British director Jordan Murphy met his American wife Mariel Letourneau in 2015 while working at a summer camp in New York and decided to continue their relationship when he returned to the UK.
Their love grew over long FaceTime calls and vacations, and in 2017 they got married. Letourneau, a choreographer, moved to the UK in 2019, but the reunion was short-lived.
“Mariel moved to England and unfortunately just as she was settling in Covid-19 hit,” says Murphy, 30. “We tried to generate revenue but due to the impact of Covid on our industry we lost all our work and decided we needed a change.
Letourneau returned to Pennsylvania alone while the couple embarked on a long and grueling second visa process, which was finally granted earlier this month after eight more months apart.
“After being apart for almost seven years, I’m so happy and excited to be with Mariel again,” Murphy said. “This decision seemed right and we feel determined to make our life here.”
For Létourneau, it was also worth the wait, but getting there was difficult. “Keeping the spark alive was a challenge for sure,” she says. “I think spending a lot of time apart in the early years was good because it made us appreciate all the times we would actually spend together – but I think it only lasts so long.
“Eventually, you have to be with this person, which is why we decided to commit to getting married and going through immigration.”
Letourneau’s words of wisdom are echoed by clinical therapist and life coach Anne Jackson of One Life Coaching.
“Long distance weddings are tough, but they can work if there’s an end date in sight,” she says. “You have to invest in visiting each other and staying in touch via video call.
“Knowing their life, their routine and what makes them happy, and sharing their joy is very important.”
Dangers can arise, Jackson warns, when communication is lost or when there is an imbalance between the efforts made by each party.
“Keeping in touch is the most important thing,” she adds. “A relationship is all about transparency, currency, and intimacy, and you have to maintain all of those things to maintain a successful long-distance marriage.”
Updated: January 26, 2022, 9:49 a.m.