Dear Thelma: Our marriage is in danger due to a long-distance relationship

I AM in desperate need of some guidance for a unique marriage problem that my spouse and I are currently facing.

My husband and I have been happily married for six years, and we have always had a strong and loving relationship. However, our situation has recently taken a challenging turn.

Due to work-related circumstances, my husband had to relocate to another city about a year ago, and we've been maintaining a long-distance marriage since then. We both agreed that this was the best decision for our careers, but it's been much harder than we anticipated.

Lately, we've been struggling to cope with the emotional and logistical challenges of being apart. We miss each other terribly and feel like our connection is slipping away. Our communication has become less frequent, and when we do talk, it often turns into arguments about trivial things. We're both feeling lonely and disconnected.

We've tried to visit each other as often as possible, but the distance and the demands of our jobs make it difficult to see each other regularly. It feels like our marriage is hanging by a thread, and I'm worried that if we don't find a solution soon, it might be irreparably damaged.

I love my husband dearly, and I want our marriage to work, but I'm at a loss as to how we can bridge this gap and rekindle the spark we once had.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for how we can navigate this challenging period in our marriage and come out of it stronger than ever?

Desperate for reconnection

Thank you for writing in about this increasingly common conundrum. The concept of a lifelong career is increasingly rare, and with technology and economics changing rapidly, many of us are facing relocation, hybrid work and other changes.

In your case, work has caused a prolonged physical separation. Relationships need nourishment, and your marriage is dying from lack of input. Chat isn't doing it, and neither is the occasional visit. This is not surprising as many couples don't survive long distance relationships.

The solution is clear: the two of you must choose between your current jobs and your marriage.

Considering you have six happy years together, I expect you will value the relationship over the work. Therefore, work must change for one or perhaps both of you. So here are some thoughts about the next steps.

First, you don't mention kids and you are both in the same country. So there won't be ghastly hassles with visas, new languages and so on. These are huge plusses.

Also, living as a couple means lower bills in terms of rent, food and utilities. And you'll be together again, which will be a daily comfort.

See the upsides, and it will give you fuel to contemplate the changes you will make.

In thinking options, start with a sit down and figure out how long this situation will last. Is your husband's move to the other city long-term but temporary?

For example, if your husband plans to be away for another year before returning, then you may have the option of sabbaticals or unpaid leave.

If the move is likely to last many years or may be permanent, then you two need to have a discussion over your career choices as one of you will have to move.

You haven't said what you both do, so here are some ideas to consider.

A key factor in who makes the switch can depend on who has the best earning potential or who will find it easier to switch to a new job.

If Mary earns three times Ken's salary, it's worth Ken relocating and Mary being the main earner. But if Mary can easily move to a new company and opportunities for Ken are slim, then it may be easier for her to move, irrespective of who earns what.

Taking an approach from couples working overseas in multinationals and the diplomatic corps, you may have a relationship where one of you has the fixed career path and the other has a portable job. So Mary would maintain her job as a lawyer while Ken gives up his teaching job and becomes an online tutor.

Government careers like police, teachers or doctors mean little to no choice about your postings but your career path will be secure, and include goodies like pensions and healthcare.

For some couples, that stability is worth more than potential bigger earnings in the private sector. It's worth doing the maths.

If you both have those jobs, consider one of you staying while the other goes private (in security, private or tuition school, private healthcare etc). This will allow you to have the best of both worlds.

Whatever you decide, work on this together. If your husband gives up his job and returns to your city, for example, and you are the one with the stable career while he searches for work, you may set aside part of your income to pay into his EPF.

There is no right or wrong; do what suits you two best. And remember, few decisions are irreversible. If you try something and it doesn't work, change it!

I appreciate that this is scary, change is always terrifying, especially when it impacts where you live, and how much you earn. But with the two of you sharing six years of happiness, I'm sure you can work it out together.

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dear thelma


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