How distance in marriage can be a good thing

Ashley Wheelon

I made it to my car before I started crying. I had just kissed my husband goodbye before he boarded an airplane that would take him out of the country for 10 weeks. I sat in the parking lot, terrified of the effects the time away would have on our children, our marriage, and our future.

We had prepared as best we could for the separation. We explained to our children that daddy’s job was far away, but that he would come home. We discussed how to protect our marriage against temptation. We asked those around us to pray.

But I still wondered how we were going to make it through. What could have been an enormous hindrance in our marriage was an actually an opportunity for growth. God used the physical distance to teach me three things:

1. My spouse is my priority.

Ephesians 5:31 says my relationship with my husband is second only to my relationship with God. But before he left for work, that hadn’t been true. If I was busy with the kids, I’d ignore his call and return it when I had time. I wanted all the details of my daughter’s school day but settled for a quick response about my husband’s day.

During the weeks my husband was gone, I planned our days around scheduled phone calls and video calls. I put other tasks and activities on hold to make sure we had time to talk.

2. Every day is precious.

Psalm 90:12 says that when we learn to number our days we gain a heart of wisdom. Realizing life is short — or in my case, realizing how much my husband was missing — deepens our appreciation for the opportunities and experiences God brings our way.

Funny stories, school drama, and sleepovers sometimes didn’t even get mentioned when my husband was home. When I was parenting alone, I found myself making mental notes of all the things I wanted to tell him the next time we talked. I wanted him to be a part of as much of our days as possible. I had no idea how much I took for granted until I realized how much my husband was missing.

3. God has to be center of our marriage.

Our normal routine included church on Sundays, quiet times, and community groups. While our individual relationships with God were growing, our faith as a couple wasn’t.

Physical distance brought into focus our desperate need for God. He became our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  When I was overwhelmed and my emotions wanted to take control, the only place I found comfort and peace was in God’s Word. If I found a helpful verse, I texted it to my husband. I shared with him what God was teaching me in my quiet time. I looked for Scripture to pray over him. God truly became the center of our marriage.

While not every marriage goes through a period of physical separation, things like deployment, jobs, and family emergencies put couples in the same position my husband and I were in. Time apart doesn’t have to harm your marriage. Distance could be the thing God wants to use to sanctify your marriage.   

Only God can take a burden and give you a blessing.

Now that my husband is back home, I have to fight to keep these lessons in mind. The time apart was by far the hardest season we’ve ever been through. But the Lord strengthened our friendship through the physical distance. Only God can take a burden and give you a blessing.

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