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Bridging the Distance in a Commuter Marriage

Strategies for staying connected -- and sane -- when you have an absentee spouse.
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"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 of us."

(Are you in a commuter marriage?  Tell us how you stay connected on WebMD's Couples Coping: Support Group message board.)

The Rise of "Commuter Marriages"

According to data from the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, more than 3.5 million married Americans lived involuntarily apart in 2005.

Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a California-based psychotherapist and author of the forthcoming book The Commuter Marriage:Keep Your Relationship Close While You're Far Apart, says that commuter marriages -- whether chosen or by circumstance -- can take one of many forms:

  • You're living apart, temporarily or for a long time
  • You spend days or weeks apart sporadically or on a regular basis
  • You both live full time in the same house but rarely see each other because of work schedules
  • One or both of you is traveling frequently or occasionally, but not together
  • One of you is forced to travel for long periods of time because of military service or other occupation

"Spending time apart is both a blessing and a problem," Tessina tells WebMD via email. "When you have time apart, it can freshen your relationship and remind you what you love most about your partner. On the other hand, if you begin to resent the separation and don't communicate well while you're apart, your marriage has the potential to quickly unravel."

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