Bridging the Distance in a Commuter Marriage
Strategies for staying connected -- and sane -- when you have an absentee spouse.
Advantages of Having an Absentee Spouse
"A friend got me thinking of this when she said I have the most romantic
marriage," Buckholtz says. "I think it's because we don't take each
other for granted. We really don't fight because both of us see the bigger
picture. It's a cliche, but we treasure every moment together. That phrase,
'Don't sweat the small stuff,' applies."
Tessina echoes the pluses of commuter marriage.
"It's surprisingly good for couples to get a break from each other. Done
right, each coming together heightens your appreciation of each other -- it's
like a mini honeymoon. Being on your own enhances the autonomy of each partner
and prevents taking each other for granted. Surprisingly, it often improves
communication because you have to be clear when you're at a distance."
Tessina also says there are many opportunities for growth for couples in
commuter marriages. Individually, spouses may develop increased self-reliance,
self-determination, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-motivation, and
"As partners settle into a routine and gain greater confidence and
competence," she says, "they may find they each benefit from the
What about children? Are there any benefits for kids with absent parents?
Though it's hard for her to frame time apart from their dad positively,
Buckholtz says she thinks they are developing a "sense of
Making Separation Successful
"I don't like having him here, 24/7, and he doesn't like being around me
24/7 -- that's the straight scoop," Katharine Parks of Chillicothe, Ohio,
says matter-of-factly. She has been married to John, an IT entrepreneur for 32
years. Empty-nesters, he is gone about 70% of the time.
"[Absence] teaches you self-sufficiency," she says. "And
reunions can be pretty special. Someone who will make me feel that I am center
of their universe -- that makes up for a lot."
Buckholtz says reunions can "supercharge a relationship. Even six years
into my marriage, my heart still beats faster every time I think about a
Time to oneself is also valuable.
"We each need our own time and we have that while he's at work,"
Kuzma says. "That's something we wouldn't ever want to lose in a
relationship anyway. It's not healthy to be completely dependent on someone
"Your commuter marriage will teach you many subjects," Tessina says.
"If you keep in mind that you are a student and the problems exist to teach
you something, getting through the hard parts becomes easier and more
efficient, and the new things you learn are a great reward."
Buckholtz sums up the key to her separation success. "[This] lifestyle
doesn't necessarily suit our relationship. But it's given us a perspective that
people who see each other day in and day out might not have. I believe we are
better for it."
Adds Kuzma's husband, David, "We really rely on the saying, 'Absence
makes the heart grow fonder,' and I'm convinced that it's true."