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How do couples cope when living apart from each other?

11 replies

winnie1 · 15/04/2003 09:52

To cut a very long story short my dh and I are to be living apart for most of the week. I wonder if other people have managed to make a success of their relationship living like this and what advice would you give about setting ground rules etc. When we first met we lived hundreds of miles apart and that was fine but now we have two children (who are with me). Thanks in advance.

OP posts:

Lil · 15/04/2003 10:32

Winnie this is a question straight up my street!! My husband has been working away most of the week for a couple of years now, and we have 2 little ones. It does take a while to get used to - well for the mum more than dh, as you are sole carer and the responsibility for everything is so large. I have regular dark thoughts that on the monday I will fall down the stairs leaving my poor babes alone in the house starving until friday!!!! But I must admit that I have got used to it. But...I think that is the worry now, that I have got used to dh not being there and i go into 'single mum mode', super efficient and certainly not relaxed enough.

The biggest problem I think is that when dh is home on the weekend, after a week of travelling and business dinners all he wants to do is stay in the house and relax with the kids. I on the other hand am itching to go out!!! so it is frustrating from my perspective.

And sex..hmmm..the embers do go a bit cold and you do get out of 'couple' mode so I think that is a biggy..but maybe 'absence will make the heart grow fonder' for you!!

and last but not need to feel confident dh isn't straying,'cos when you are tied to the house in the week, knowing he is 'free' you can get a tad paranoid.

Sorry this is so negative but on the whole Winnie I guess I'd recommend you try and avoid it..its not great for any marriage I think - and that's without the fact that the kids do tend to miss their dad and you become baddy mum during the week while he becomes playful dad on the weekend.

maybe someone else here will give you a more positive spin on it


suedonim · 15/04/2003 11:01

Hi, Winnie. My dh and I have spent a big part of our married life apart. (We've been married 30 yrs - some people say that it's only 15 years, really!!) We're not ground rules type people so didn't have any as such, but I can tell you a few ideas that worked for us.

To help you cope practically, try to set up or work out in your head how you will manage in various situations. Building up a network of family and/or friends to whom you can turn is essential, say if one child needs to be whisked off to hospital or something. Look at your home and car - are household appliances and the car (assuming you have one) covered by maintanece contracts and breakdown insurance? Make sure you keep all documention and phone numbers etc handy - maybe in a special file. If you can't already do it, learn how to change a fuse/plug and so on. All these give you some peace of mind.

Try to have some means of contact available all the time with your dh, a mobile phone maybe. If you can arrange a regular time for calling, say wehn the children are in bed, it can give you something to look forward to, esp if you've been stuck indoors for some reason. But a brief call to the children is nice, too. If they are old enough, your DH could record himself reading bedtime stories which they could listen to at night.

Having a social life for yourself is very important. It's worth paying for a baby sitter sometimes so you can go out when your DH is away. It's also fun to have a few friends round in the evenings for a girlie night in. I found that sometimes people got a bit funny because DH was away and would never call 'in case he was home'. I don't know if they thought we spent all our time in bed, or what!!! But make sure peopel know it's ok to get in tocuh even when your dh is home. (That's if you're happy for that, of course.)

I always found dh coming home was actually the hardest bit of his being away. Suddenly, after coping fine by myself, I was expected to share responsibilties for discipline and decisions about things. I think you have to come to an agreement with each other that you work as closely as possible on these issues, especially with the children, otherwise they soon spot the opportunity to play you off against each other! We found it good to go out for dinner as a family on the day dh got home as we could then talk about our week on neutral territory, and kind of get to know each other again.

If you can possibly afford it, get some help with the garden, (even if it's just seeing to the lawn) and with house maintance. It's pretty soul-destroying to have your dh home and then he spends it mowing the grass or painting the window frames!!

My top tip, though, is to tell your dh if you rearrange the contents of the kitchen cupboards. It used to drive mine barmy that I would move everything and he couldn't even find the stuff to make a cup of tea, LOL!!!


Bugsy · 15/04/2003 11:20

winnie1, I think setting some ground rules that you review on a regular basis is an excellent idea. DH works abroad alot and you may have seen on another thread that I recently discovered he was having an affair. I'm not saying that the two are necessarily linked but I do think that a marriage is much harder work when you are together less.
Your dh will need to appreciate that although he needs a rest at the weekends, you do too. We are currently trying to organise our weekends so that we do some things all together and that we also build in some escape time for both of us. Even if it is just a couple of hours at the gym, shopping but just some time away from the children to do our own stuff.
Also very important to try and go out just the two of you. Go out at least one evening and do something together; meal, cinema, bowling, theatre, even just for a walk - just whatever you both enjoy. But book a babysitter to force yourselves out of the house.
Also, during the week when you are on your own try and get out at least one evening, otherwise it is easy to feel tied to the house.
If I think of anything else, I'll post again later.


Lil · 15/04/2003 11:45

Sorry I wasn't very helpful Winnie, Bugsy and Suedonim have hit the nail on the head. You do have to go out as a couple as much as possible, and also for the wife to go out in the week. I find that really hard. I think that's where we go wrong the the moment. Have you got relatives nearby - that must make a huge difference?

Suedonim your last point is a good one, about it being frustrating when dh spends the weekend in the garden. Maybe we should set up a work-widow thread!

Suedonim it sounds like you cope fine with dh away, did you just muddle through at the beginning, or has it always felt quite natural for you? (as you can tell I hate it!)


suedonim · 15/04/2003 13:12

Lil, we did just muddle through, really, and no it didn't come naturally. I loathed and abhored every last second of it, to be honest. However, I decided it was likely no more stressful than dh being umemployed so had to get on with it, and we survived.

Bugsy has a good point about you needing a break as much as dh - sometimes I used to get worn out just having to think for everyone! It was nice to be able to be blank and vacant headed for a day or two. It's also a good point about doing things as a couple, no matter how small it is. It's important that you are you and not just a mummy.


Lindy · 15/04/2003 20:34

My DH has always worked away from home a lot and this has caused a major problem in the past, see other threads, same as Bugsy's experience, don't want to go over it all again & certainly don't want to worry you!
However, I have found a lot of benefits too - (I only have one child who arrived very late in our marriage - that could be a 'plus' factor) - I postitively enjoy my own company & the opportunity to do what I want to do; I am able to afford babysitters so I do go out on my own & have a wide circle of 'my' friends. We also do make a big effort to go out just as a couple (without DS) when DH is home but overall I quite enjoy it really .... in fact I'm finding it a bit tough at the moment as DH hasn't been away for the last 3 weeks!


jasper · 15/04/2003 21:42

winnie I am not making light of your fears when I say I have no doubt at all that dh and I would get along better if we saw a lot less of each other.
You may welll find you really like the new arrangement. I know a lot of women whose husbands work away who say it keeps their love alive


Metrobaby · 15/04/2003 21:46

My dh worked away from home during the week too for 5 months. What helped was talking to each other every night on the phone, and dd got to speak to him too - even though she was 19mnths at the time. On Saturdays, I would spend the morning having time to myself, leaving dh and dd to have quality time together. During the week I invited friends around, or called them as it did get quiet once dd had gone to bed.

The biggest thing for me however was to try not to feel resentful of dh being away. I used to get jealous of him being away during the week, going out in the evenings, not doing housework etc etc - even though its not strictly like that working away. Luckily for us it turned out not to be for too long.

The biggest bonus however of dh being away during the week however is the house was a lot tidier and I had less washing to do


Tortington · 15/04/2003 23:10

me and hubby lived apart for 6 months because of a great move down south and jobs n stuff.

it was a feckin nighmare - 3 kids on mi own - nearly had a nervous breakdown - ( single mums i dont know how you do it)

my remedy was to pack up eldest son and send him to live with dad

i missed him ofcourse - but was sooooo relieved when he left.

i digress

guess thats not an option for you is it!? so a couple of points

trust is all important - if your a little doubting you both must search for another way before things go horribly wrong

get the kids to phone not the other way round at a certain time every night. he must be there for the call - or he looks a complete shit.

dont rely on the telepathy that we women think men have - they truly might forget valentines day or your birthday or your kids birthdays - for no other reason than they are useless. tell them the special days are coming and tell them you want something!

get a package thing on your phone - we used to watch the same programme on the telly nd have a conversation all the way through - as we would have done if he was sitting next to me. we even got up to make coffee at the same time !

so not being used to being in the house on my own the X Files suddenly became scary ( i know i know i am ashamed - dont tease) so we would wathc that and he was a comfort and could take the piss - but its all part of keeping the relationship alive.

phone sex!? - to crude to go into particulars suffice to say am a christian - so this particularly appealed to me ( you would get the joke or be annoyed depending on whether you are reading the religeous thread)

over and out


winnie1 · 16/04/2003 10:08

Thank you so much everyone for sharing your experiences you've all given me a lot to consider.

Custardo, you are always so funny and practical at the same time Agree about he trust issue but am sure Bugsy and Lindy trusted their husbands so I wonder if there is anything one can do about it oneself at the end of the day. It is in the hands of ones partner (or oneself) to be trustworthy and it is each persons responsibility to remain faithful... unfortunately we have no control over the actions of others. (God who'd want to control their partners?) Blind faith is all any of us have at the end of the day and we call it trust. (Sorry that sounds terribly cynical but I was with my daughters father far to long whilst he screwed around, time and time again... and we lived together... so, there is a basis for my cynicism!)

Love the telepathy bit and utterly know what you mean about pointing out special events and asking for something. My dh was the most romantic thoughtful guy when we first met and continued to be so for quite some time but as we've settled (or not) into married life I can't believe how thoughtless and lacking in romance he became. So I am hoping that absence will have an affect there Which brings me on to your mention of phone sex Custardo. We did a lot of that, living hundreds of miles apart, when we first met so I don't think it's out of the question now

Metrobaby and Bugsy, the time to oneself does seem fundamental. I am very aware that I could become incredibly resentful if I start to feel that I am the one left 'holding the baby' whilst he is out there virtually living a 'single life'.
Most of my friends live miles away, although I have two family members close by, so i think I am
going to have to make lots of effort to get out there... which is difficult when one has been working all day, has two children and a house to organise, play with, help with homework etc, etc,

Jasper, I think you spoke for many!!!!

Bugsy and Lindy, thank you for so many constructive points. In your circumstances I think I'd find it very difficult to remain quite so objective.

Bugsy, I am glad to read on another thread that things are a little better with dh an dyourself but sorry to hear about the job! Hopefully, it will be a catalyst for bigger and better things and the happiness you so deserve!

Suedonim, so many practical points I hadn't thought of! The thought of his spending weekends doing things around the house is a paticularly interesting one as I wonder if he does none of the things he usually does will I get very resentful. I suppose its about striking a balance. We are in contact via email and he has a mobile phone but although I have always hated mobile phones I think I've decided to get one for myself and one for my daughter (13)... (she will be delighted that her mother has finally entered the 21st century!)

And Lil, last but not least, is there any way at all you can stop living like this if you hate it so much? I am glad there are some things that you enjoy about it. Although the fact taht it ishis return that is the "biggest problem" made me wonder if you hate it quite as much as you seem to! Is it more the fact that you are tied to the house with your children and don't get a break or is it that you simply miss dh?

It is interesting that so many of you have mentioned the difficulty in adjusting from single parent mode to co-parenting mode on your dp's return. I spent seven happy years as a single mother and know that one of the biggest problems our relationship has had is my inability to let go of some of the responsibilities and let my husband in. So, I know that I can do it, and I can do it well, but I am going to miss dh like crazy. thanks again everyone.

OP posts:

Lil · 16/04/2003 16:15

Winnie sounds like you're gonna cope brilliantly with the practical bits of being a single mum in the week, as you've been through it all before. You got me thinking now though, about this thread, and I've realised that the main thing I don't like about dh being away isn't the housework/childcare side of things afterall- its that he's not with me in the evenings. So I guess I must miss him, which must be a good sign!! Thanks for pointing that out

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