Is there any truth to the adage "absence makes the heart grow
Living separate lives isn't what most couples have in mind when they marry.
But shift work, job relocations, or demanding travel schedules can wreak havoc
with domestic routines. When one partner is often absent, how do you keep the
romantic connection strong? What can couples do to make a commuter marriage work? WebMD talked to
therapists and couples who manage long-distance relationships about the
challenges of running a household in a partner's absence.
Military spouses are famous for developing top-notch coping skills for
dealing with an absentee spouse. Writer Alison Buckholtz and her military-pilot
husband, Scott, live together in Anacortes, Wash., when he's not deployed. He
had been in the Navy for 15 years when they married six years ago, and he's
committed to a career that will take him away from home for the foreseeable
future. They are the parents of two children, aged 2 and 4.
"People say to me, 'My husband was away for two weeks. How do you manage
for seven months?'" says Buckholtz, who is writing a book on how she copes
with a husband who is gone for long stretches of time.
"Everything from carpools and illnesses, sports games, nightmares, and dealing with
household issues like a broken washing machine and bills, falls on your
shoulders," Buckholtz tells WebMD. "That's not insignificant, but the
hardest part is knowing I alone am responsible for the psychological, physical,
and emotional well-being of these two little people."
Raising happy children with limited support is a common concern of people
who have an absentee spouse. "It's a delicate balance for me to keep their
dad alive and present without making them anxious or worried or continually
No matter how often or predictable the separations, Buckholtz says, "we
don't miss him any less. It's not easy and it's not fun. But we do what we have
to do to get through."
Like many spouses who hold down the fort while a partner travels, Buckholtz
has experimented with different approaches to managing her husband's
"I didn't know what would work and what wouldn't. We don't have a lot of
his image around," she says of pictures. "We had a giant poster of
Scott, but it seemed to open the scab, to make the wound [of him not being
around] much more raw. Then we had a talking picture frame that was
motion-sensitive. I love the sound of my husband's voice, but it got to be like
nails on a blackboard it was so painful. We can't try to pretend he is home.
We've been on a journey to make his deployment healthy for all of us."
Buckholtz says she and her children talk often about their dad, but the
natural time to talk about him is at bedtime. "That seems to work for all