When I was little I heard the line “absence makes the heart grow fonder” in Disney’s Robin Hood. The idea seemed to make sense in my Kindergarten mind. Clearly Maid Marian longed for Robin during their time away, and Robin fought the rich in order to get back to his love once again. The distance didn’t seem to matter, and in fact the time apart made them pine for one another even more. So at 5 I decided that this is how true love worked.
Fast forward to the present and I would rewrite Robin Hood so that while apart for years at a time Maid Marian and Robin would opt for an open relationship. They could keep in touch via messages sent bow-and-arrow style, but they could have the option to see others. And you know Robin was the flirty kind so he probably hooked up with some other lady friends while robbing from the rich (women like a bad boy). But mostly the romantic fantasy of having time apart is just that, a fantasy movies created.
As most of you know I spent 23 days away from my husband because of internship interviews. All the interviews were on the east coast and he had to work on the west coast, thus instead of paying out the nose for air fare we decided it made the most sense to for me to stay on the east coast until the interviews were complete. This was not ideal for either of us, but it was the reality of the situation so we had to make do.
And make do we did. Conversing through phone calls, texts, emails, photos, etc. That didn’t mean we both wouldn’t get frustrated when the other was too busy to talk at the time. Or the constant cutting out of phone calls when someone would go into a dead zone. Or having to remember the 3 hour time difference when trying to get in touch. But the hardest part was the inevitable fact that when apart you are experiencing life separately. You see things, hang out with people, laugh at jokes, have wonderful meals, engage in conversations the other is not a part of.
When the traveling finally ceased and we were back to being in the same time zone, I noticed something was ‘off.’ We just weren’t connected. As someone who studies school connectedness (students connection to their school/teacher) I know that the feeling of connection comes from being engaged with another, feeling a part of the bigger picture, feeling safe, and the understanding that your presence means something to someone. In our case, I was struggling to fully explain everything that happened during my interviews. I could explain the basics of the plot but I couldn’t convey the feelings I had about being in different cities, taking a walk in a snow storm, seeing old friends again, and spending much needed time with family. On Mike’s end he was still frustrated that my profession required me to travel so much, which took away from time we got to spend together. And for both of us, we felt left out of the other’s life. A place we weren’t used to.
So we did something novel – we talked. We didn’t retreat to our safety activities (mine are gym and computer, Mike’s are golf and ESPN) and just pretend the disconnectedness would disappear on its own. The conversation didn’t start easy, as is the case for most important ones. We both tried to play the “I’m fine” card until the other broke down the wall. And then we talked for a long time. I felt misunderstood and he felt neglected, and we both dearly missed one another. By the time we got to the heart of the issue we could start laughing again.
Getting re-connected is not easy. It takes work on both ends. When I start feeling lazy about doing needed relationship work I remind myself of this quote:
“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” – Barbara De Angelis
So go home and kiss the ones you love. Sincerely ask about their day and listen intently for the answer. Do something together like make dinner, go for a walk, see a movie, anything! Just be together.
How do you reconnect with loved ones after time apart?