Project Relationship


Watching apparently great romances fail is sad on many levels. Whether the couples are prominent like Seal and Heidi Klum or are simply our best friends who seemed to have it all, we are shocked to see that even high-flying romances can crash and burn. We are sad for them and fear that their failures do not bode well for the rest of us.

While we never know what goes on in anyone else’s relationship (and sometimes have a hard time keeping track of our own), one problem that many couples suffer from today is distance. Distance can come in many forms and flavors.

Up In The Air
A common form of relationship distance is geographical, and it is not only stars and singer-songwriters who have to be apart too often.

Many couples today are dual-careered, which can mean that work lives literally stretch from the East to the West and sometimes cross up in the air. Innumerable careers require travel, and all of our technology has yet to really change the need for some face time with faraway colleagues or customers.

Geographical distance for prolonged or even intermittent periods is very hard to handle. That old saying about absence makes the heart grow fonder is only true for short absences and vigilant lovers. The problem is that we get used to living apart and start to fill in the gaps with other interests.

That doesn’t mean that anyone is or is not actually unfaithful in the Biblical sense; it just means that the life of each person “keeps on keeping on,” and it takes a conscious effort to reconnect with your partner at the end of each absence.

Alone Together
The other form of destructive distance is that kind of distance that can take place while two people are in the same house, same room and even the same bed. In my work, I hear tales from former lovers who describe being alone in a bad marriage as the loneliest place of all.

Airmiles For Two
Happily, both forms of distance are fixable if not avoidable. If one person has to travel and the other can even occasionally go with them or meet up with them out of town for the weekend before or after, that can be a romantic getaway indeed. If both of you have to travel, try to link up schedules to meet somewhere exotic or at least fun even if just for a night. It happens in great romance novels, so it certainly is doable for your own love life.

If that kind of travel is not practical because of either time or money, then make the homecomings something special. Roses for her if she is the one who has been out, and great food for him if he is the road warrior, can help reentry if you have been separated for any length of time. Try to be sensitive to the adjustment it takes for both of you to get back in synch and give the relationship a little breathing room.

Growing Apart
The other form of distance is actually harder to fix but even more necessary. So many people who are divorcing can see, retrospectively, exactly how, when and where they began to draw apart. They can practically draw a timeline. Many of them wish they had somehow been more aware of what was happening, when it was happening and why. It can be harder to live in the moment with your partner than in the future or the past. The key is to make sure that you are constantly weaving each other into your present life.

Staying Connected
If your interests have changed from soccer to tennis, take each other along for lessons or tournaments. If your work has changed from light to intense, share the nitty gritty and promise each other that “this too shall pass.” If you feel rudderless, let your partner come alongside and help you find your way.

We all crave connections, yet they are hard to preserve. If it were easier to stay together, I myself would not have a profession. But this profession provides lots of reminders as to why we should never let too much distance come between us and the one we love.


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”