MOTUNRAYO JOEL writes on the effects of married couples living apart due to work or other reasons
It has been four years since Mrs. Bidemi Adeboyega saw her husband, Segun. After spending barely two weeks together, her husband, who works with an oil and gas company, had to resume office in Kuwait. His transfer came as shock to the couple – but it was one they appreciated.
She said, “Who would not do anything to leave the shores of Nigeria. My husband has been with the company for 15 years. The minute he got a hint of his transfer to Kuwait, we began to pray seriously towards it.”
But Bidemi said she longs to see her husband whenever she returns home from work.
“It is horrible not having him around most times. I feel lonely. I’m not one that has many friends. He is my best friend. We had known ourselves for 10 years before finally getting married. At this moment, I don’t know if I can continue this way,” she said.
Unlike Bidemi who is still battling with the pain of a long-distance marriage, Mrs. Funmi Ojo, a businesswoman, has come to accept the reality of the situation.
“I have two boutiques; I’m doing well as a businesswoman. My husband is in the United States; he left Nigeria about six years ago. My kids and I travel once in a year to the US to visit him. My husband and I have argued about my closing the business, but I don’t think it is a wise decision; especially because our children are still young. I need to support him in paying bills, “she said.
Ojo told SUNDAY PUNCH that her children always ask about their dad, but she tries not to let the situation weigh her down.
She said, “I feel bad whenever they ask about him; I wish we were all living together but there is little I can do about the situation. Some of my friends are against my husband and I being apart. They say it will affect our marriage. There are times when I feel we should end it, but a part of me wants to hang on.”
Ojo told our correspondent that her thought about ending her marriage was spurred by the story she heard about a young lady who lost her marriage after she and her husband lived apart for four years.
She added that the lady’s husband called her on the phone one day to say he had fallen in love with another lady.
A marriage psychologist, Dr. Uzondu Nwachinemere, said that one of the valuable lessons one can learn from a long-distance marriage is building a strong trust foundation for the relationship.
He said, “The couple will learn how to control jealousy and not let their imaginations run wild. If one realises one cannot trust one’s spouse, no matter how hard one tries – that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Another advantage of long-distance marriage is that the precious moments couples spend together will be something they cherish and they won’t take things for granted.”
Nwachinemere added that in long-distance marriages, couples have nothing to do most of the time except to talk to each other. In the process, they learn to connect deeply and communicate well.
“No matter how good couples are in communicating, they will experience misunderstandings and conflict at some point. When couples are far apart from each other, they will need to build their trust level and skill to negotiate challenges. Overtime, couples who learn to address and resolve problems and conflict over distance equip themselves well to deal with future challenges in-person,” he said.
Another marriage counsellor, Mr. Michael Okosodo, said long-distance marriages give room for distractions.
“It’s common to feel lonely in a long-distance relationship when you don’t have someone to give you a hug after a long day at work. You feel worse when you are sick or face a bad day. The minute a ‘new friend’ steps in to offer a shoulder in such circumstances, you may feel yourself drawn towards the person and infidelity slowly creeps in. Couples should always keep a check on their boundaries. If loneliness becomes unbearable, quickly take the next flight or bus for a quick break,” he said.
Okosodo added that maintaining a long-distance marriage could be expensive.
“One may save up on food, dates and other expenses, but one ends up paying twice as much if one travels frequently for short visits. Expenses on phone calls and data can add to one’s bills too. The added rent and maintenance of another apartment can add to the list. In the end, the only thing that’ll matter is if the person on the other end is worth the effort. If he/she is, none of the disadvantages will be strong enough to break the couple apart,” he said.
On her part, a marriage psychologist, Mrs. Chioma Anthony, said couples living apart would have to deal with fear.
Anthony stated, “No doubt, they (couples) will have to deal with questions such as, ‘What if he finds somebody else?’, ‘What if he gets bored of waiting?’, ‘What if he’s cheating?’ Even the most confident ones will face some of the disadvantages of long-distance marriages sooner or later. That’s why they will have to make things clear right from the beginning and find different ways to express their love and show that the love they have for each other is the only thing that keeps them going.”
She also encouraged couples in this situation to send text messages to themselves on a regular basis and call themselves regularly.
“Regularly call your partner to tell him or her how much you miss him or her and how much you wish he or she could be there to share some moments with you – these things count. In addition, couples battling with the demerits of long-distance marriages will need to turn a deaf ear to hearsay and rumours,” she said.
Missing someone gets easier every day because even though you get one day further from the last time you saw them, you are one day closer to the next time you will see them — —Actor, Mark Ebert