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Published on January 22, 2021

8 Ways To Make Your Long-Distance Marriage Work

8 Ways To Make Your Long-Distance Marriage Work
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It is no surprise to couples that creating a happy marriage is hard work and full of challenges that they have to overcome. Couples that have to face the challenge of maintaining a connection despite a long-distance marriage, however, take the prize for one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in their relationship.

It is estimated in a 2017 study by the Statistic Brain Research Institute that 3.75 million marriages are considered to be a long-distance marriage. And according to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, the number of long-distance marriages is on the rise due to increased travel for work and internet dating.[1]

The good news is that although it is estimated in a more recent study that long-distance marriages have a 58% success rate, this statistic is not any worse than the current success rate of traditional marriages.[2]

So, what actually is the hard part of a long-distance marriage?

Feeling connected is one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome in a long-distance marriage. According to a study, the most difficult issue that long-distance marriages face is the lack of feeling connected to their partner’s daily life.[3] This disconnection leads to decreased intimacy and can erode the relationship over time.

Since relationships are either growing or dying, this feeling of disconnect must be addressed daily, which can be quite challenging for couples separated by distance. Over the years of working with couples through the Couples Synergy method, I have found that those who are successful at navigating a long-distance marriage practice 8 things that ensure their success.

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Here are 8 ways to make your long-distance marriage work:

1. Get Creative With Quality Time

Quality time is necessary for couples to nurture their connection. In the book The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, it is recommended that couples spend 5 hours of quality time together without distractions. This can be extremely difficult for long-distance couples, especially if they are new to the separation.

Long-distance couples need to be creative when spending quality time together, and technology can play a significant role.

For example, one couple we work with has a standing virtual “meeting’ every Friday evening even though they cannot be together physically. They use this time to connect and share their common vision, which is important when spending quality time together. Whatever a couple chooses to do, this time needs to be distraction-free.

2. Stimulate as Many Senses as Possible

When we are in love, all of our senses seem to be stimulated. Just given the traditional five senses, our sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch senses become alive with every moment we spend with our partner.

When we are apart from our spouse as in the case in a long-distance marriage, these senses can lack the stimulation necessary for bonding with our partner. Couples in a long-distance marriage must get creative when apart and find ways to stimulate these senses in each other. Whether you send a picture, audio file, a delivered food or scent, or something your partner can touch themselves with, these creative ideas activating all of these senses can facilitate connection.

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3. Virtual Intimacy

Technology has increased our ability to connect with people all over the world in an instant. It has also created new ways to express sexual desires and intimacy between lovers when they cannot be together in the same space.

Companies like kiiroo.com have developed apps and sexual toys designed to connect a couple who is especially separated by long distances using technology to enhance intimacy. Getting creative with phone/virtual sex, intimate pictures, sexting, and virtual masturbation can help with the disconnect long-distance marriages often feel in their intimate lives.

4. Letter Writing

Romantic movies have been made about couples separated by distance and how their love was kept alive by the letters they wrote to each other. There is just something about receiving a letter in the mail that holds much more meaning than a text or email, and this is something that couples in a long-distance marriage can replicate in their relationship.

Writing letters to your spouse can spark loving feelings that cannot be duplicated by any other form of communication, and they can be revisited at any time to keep the feeling of connection fresh even when their partner isn’t available.

5. Fall Asleep Together

The act of falling asleep together in the same bed may be something a traditional couple takes for granted, however, lacking this connection can be wearing over time for a long-distance marriage.

A client I had several years ago was engaged and was separated from his fiance for six months due to work obligations. He and his fiance got into the habit of falling asleep together over facetime. He reported that it gave him a sense of calmness and normalcy when he would wake up to see his fiance still sleeping on the screen.

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Technology advances have created opportunities for long-distance couples to share in this intimate moment, even if snoring might be involved! Beginning and ending the day together even virtually leaves both people feeling a sense of belonging, significance, and connection.

6. Transparency

As mentioned above, one of the most difficult challenges long-distance marriages face is a feeling of disconnection from their partner daily. When partners are not aware of what their spouse is experiencing just because they are not spending as much time together as traditional couples, this can breed worry and assumptions.

According to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, long-distance couples do worry more about infidelity than traditional marriages.[4] Thus, when transparency isn’t a standard in their relationship, this can add to more worry and more disconnection.

Transparency can be in the form of letting your partner know where you are going, who you are spending time with, what you are spending money on, or what you are communicating on social media. It is important to note that this is not about seeking permission or being controlled by your partner but having consideration for your partner’s feelings and not allowing insecurities to develop.

7. Healthy Boundaries With Friends

The fact is that long-distance couples will not spend nearly as much time together as traditional couples will just because of their physical separation. This doesn’t mean that while apart you should isolate yourself socially. In fact, according to a study, people in long-distance marriages tend to isolate themselves from others and focus on work to alleviate any loneliness they may feel.[5]

It is important for people to have a healthy social life and support system even if they cannot be with their partner. With that said, it is important to have healthy boundaries with the people you spend time with when away from your partner.

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For example, your spouse should know the people you are spending time with as well as what you are doing with them. Also, the people you spend time with should have equal respect for your marriage and not push any boundaries that might disrespect your spouse.

8. Surprises

Surprising your partner is essential in any relationship, and it is just as important in any long-distance marriage. This can be tricky for couples separated by distance and can take creativity and planning to implement.

Surprises—because they are unsolicited and unexpected—communicates a message to your spouse that you are thinking of them and that you took the time and effort to show them. These surprises do not have to be expensive or extravagant. In fact, it is the smaller gestures that seem to mean the most.

For example, a client of mine wanted to surprise his wife who travels for work and arranged for her favorite candy to be delivered to her hotel room. Another client arranged for their spouse to be taken to an indoor skydiving facility to celebrate his birthday. The gestures can be endless and yet pay out in great rewards in the end.

Final Thoughts

Every kind of marriage faces specific challenges unique to their situation, and long-distance marriages are no exception. Couples must realize that marriage takes work and long-distance marriages face obstacles that traditional marriages do not have to face.

It is important for couples separated by distance to acknowledge their limitations and adapt to new ways of connecting with each other to continue developing their relationship. In these ways, long-distance marriages can ensure a closer connection with their spouse and reach out to each other across the divide.

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More Tips on How to Make Long-Distance Relationships Work

Featured photo credit: Justin Follis via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Statistic Brain Research Institute: Long Distance Relationship Statistics
[2] Kiiro: Long-Distance Relationship Troubles
[3] The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships: Long Distance Relationship Frequently Asked Questions 2018
[4] The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships: Long Distance Relationship Frequently Asked Questions 2018
[5] The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships: Long Distance Relationship Frequently Asked Questions 2018

More by this author

Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian

CoFounder of Couples Synergy and the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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