Being apart isn't easy, but if you put a little thought and planning into it you can make it a strengthening time for your marriage.

It's just plain hard to be away from your spouse, especially for an extended period of time. When that happens, you have to have a plan to keep your marriage strong. It won't just happen automatically, as is evidenced in a letter we received from a woman who is experiencing the pain of such a separation. She wrote: "My husband lost his job nearly a year ago. He was forced to move out of state to find work. We visited him in the summer for several weeks but had to come home to get our children back in school. I am home doing everything for our family and getting our daughter into college by myself. He's alone in another state and is very depressed. He is pulling away from me. I am at a loss. Can you please help?" We know the feeling. We went through a similar time of being separated, though for reasons of furthering Gary's education. It lasted 18 months, and it wasn't easy. We had kids in school, so I stayed home to tend the home fires while he went off to complete a master's degree. We knew it would be challenging, so we made a plan to keep our marriage and family strong. Here's what we came up with that really helped us. • Stay connected. We set a time when we would call each other. We decided to make our conversations as positive as possible, yet still address the issues. We knew we needed to say loving, endearing things to each other. You know, stuff like,"When I climb into bed I think of all the fun we've had together and can't wait to be with you, again." Or, "I miss you so much. We all miss you. At dinner tonight we talked about you and the good times we have when we're with you." Here are some more tips on strengthening a long-distance relationship. It's important to make these calls. Ask how each other is doing, and then just listen without instructing the other, unless suggestions are asked for. A listening ear is a loving ear. Texting is also a fun way to stay connected, but don't let it replace phone calls. The fun thing about texting is that you can send a quick message any time to keep you in each other's mind. Something as simple as "I'm thinking of you right this minute." Or "I love you, sweetheart. Can't wait to be in your arms again." These little connections can keep the love fires burning. Talking with the whole family is important, too, but make sure you have many just-the-two-of-us conversations where you can talk about private things. Use Skype at least some of the time. It's fun to see each other as you talk. • Get together periodically. If at all possible, visit each other at least every six weeks or so. Sometimes I would take the kids and sometimes I left them with someone and went alone to have a romantic getaway with my husband. Sometimes he would come home for a quick visit. It was a time of financial frugality, so we had to be careful. If someone offered us SkyMiles, we took them. These visits are vitally important. Do all you can to make them happen as often as possible. We remember one weekend visit when we stayed in a beautiful home with a pool. Friends had asked Gary to watch over their home while they were out of town. He told them he would be inviting me to join him, and they thought that would be a great idea. It was a luxurious place with a winding staircase and a beautiful guest bedroom for us. We thoroughly enjoyed this private time together, and it didn't cost us anything, except the transportation fee, which was well worth it. We had a truly romantic weekend. Think of fun ways to get together. It's a must. • Send each other love letters and cards. The fun thing about a letter is you can read it over and over. They don't have to be often, but often enough to let each other know how special your love is. I remember a card Gary sent me. On the front it said, "I'm hopelessly addicted to . . ." Inside, "Your lips!" Then, he wrote an endearing message. I loved it! I sent him some fun ones, too. • Plan for the time when you can be together again, permanently. If you are in a new job and you can see that you're not going to be returning, then plan to bring your family there. If you think it will be too hard on the kids, get rid of that idea. They'll adapt much quicker to a move than to a split family. You must do all you can to keep your marriage together. That will give yourselves and your children the security that matters most. Being apart is never easy. There has to be a joint commitment to the marriage and the reason for the time apart. You must find ways to keep your lives happy and together. Take advantage of all the technology available today to keep you connected. Make a conscious decision that nothing is going to interfere with your marriage vows. Be true to each other in every way. With this kind of commitment, and making a plan, you can make it through your time apart.%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//