We’ve all seen the movie (only around fifty million times during his last trip).
A chance encounter. A twist of fate. A stolen kiss. And they fall instantly, deeply, madly in love on the Carolina beaches beneath a breathtaking sunset. They spend two romantic, whirlwind weeks of sheer bliss together before she heads back home to her real life in Big City, USA.
They think life will go on like before, that they can simply forget about those two incredible weeks, but love has its fingers wound tightly around their hearts and they end up rushing over tall mountains and across vast plains right into one another’s waiting arms.
Because distance makes the heart grow fonder.
You know what? I call bull shhhhhhh… Well, you know.
Unless, perhaps, that ‘distance’ is the two and a half miles it takes him to drive to Kroger to buy me a gallon of Bluebell cookie two-step ice cream, then yeah, totally fonder. What can I say? I’m pathetic.
But let me tell you the secret, ugly, Pilot Wife life truth –
If things are going well, sure, distance can (and sometimes does) make the heart grow fonder. But not always.
Sometimes distance makes the heart grow distant.
That’s. Real. Aviation. Life.
He leaves. Life goes on. Loneliness sets in. Things happen and he’s not there to celebrate with you, cry with you, help you, hold you. You learn that you can, in fact, live without him. Because you do – day after day after day after day. Not out of choice, but out of sheer necessity.
At best you grow complacent toward one other. Cold. Unfeeling. Over time, conversations become infrequent, short, monotonous.
At worst, resentment grips your heart. You blame him. Repressed anger festers in your soul. And your heart slowly grows distant. Cold. Bitter.
Here’s the real kicker. Our pilots experience the exact same emotional responses on the road. The chill sets in between you, and two icy hearts can produce no heat for a thaw.
Before you know what gut punched you, you find yourselves existing in detached monotony. Even when you are together, the distance is tangible. You plod through the daily expectations, each secretly looking forward to the next trip. Each dreading the next homecoming. Alone. Depressed. Wondering if love ever actually existed between you at all.
It’s a recipe for infidelity and/or divorce. Your marriage hits the ground and explodes into a ball of flames before you even realize that you were falling.
Ladies (and gentlemen), life is not a Nicholas Sparks flick. Marriage isn’t always a romantic sunset stroll on a Carolina beach. Sometimes it’s more like walking barefoot across a bed of broken glass.
And distance? Sometimes distance makes the heart grow distant.
Here’s the thing. Are you listening? Because it’s really important. You can’t, can’t, can’t hold onto the guilt for the way you feel. Guilt will only compound the emotional distance, making it even more difficult to traverse. You also can’t, can’t, can’t resent your spouse for the way he or she feels. Resentment will only exacerbate the bitterness that eats away at your heart.
Sometimes you will feel lonely. Sometimes you will feel distant. Sometimes you will feel frustrated. Sometimes you will feel disconnected from your spouse.
This is simply one of the difficult challenges that all aviation marriages must occasionally face head on and overcome.
Every. Single. One. You are not alone; we have all been there! There is nothing wrong with you or your marriage. You are simply navigating the nuances of our circumstances. Take heart, friends! You don’t have to throw in the white flag, and your beautiful aviation marriage is not doomed. You simply need a little extra lift under your marital wings!
Knowing and accepting that moments of emotional distance can and do happen, even to us old [and heaven knows I do mean old] aviation dogs, and accepting it as a truth of our unique lifestyle is half the battle. Learning how to prevent and overcome it is the other half!
So how do you overcome the distance? You learn to T.R.A.V.E.L., that’s how!
T-alk often. Communication is absolutely vital if you want to maintain a healthy aviation marriage! Your spouse needs to know that you are thinking of him/her when you are apart. They need to know they are missed, loved, appreciated, cherished! Both sexes deeply desire this! Drop an encouraging text. Write a sweet email. Leave a hidden message in his luggage or in her drawer. Send a pizza to the house or hotel with a message. Get naked. Be creative! You think that your spouse ‘already knows’ they are loved, and maybe they do, but they still need to hear it. Often. Especially when you are apart.
R-eject negativity. I know I have said this time and time again. Because. It. Matters. When you pour negative thoughts and commentary into an already volatile situation, you are asking for a chemical reaction – and not a good one. Find people and groups who support aviation marriages and speak with positive perspective. Do not air your dirty laundry on[the]line for the world to beat to death with a stick. Find a few trusted confidantes who will love you with hard truth and gentle understanding and lean on them. Allowing negative influence to pour into your heart is toxic to your marriage.
A-llow fun. We are terrible at this! Life is busy, chaotic, and full of responsibility. He’s gone more than home, so when he finally shows up there is a list of chores longer than the runway at DEN to wade through. I know, ladies. I know! But you have to take time out of life to have fun with your spouse regardless! Laughing, playing, dreaming, relaxing – these are the ways we stay connected. These are the ways we remember why we fell in love with each other in the first place – before the bills, and kids, and jobs, and responsibilities, and hurdles of life. Monotony is a vicious enemy best slayed by the sword of spontaneity and laughter.
V-ows matter. Why should you T.R.A.V.E.L.? Because once upon a time in a land far, far away you stood at an altar, or in a courtroom, or in front of Elvis in Las Vegas and made a vow before God (and/or Priscilla Presley) to your spouse. You. Chose. This. Person. When you chose this person you made a promise to love them, to cherish them, to fight for them, to do whatever it takes to love them well. Your marriage is not just another disposable entity in our self-gratification culture! It is another human heart that we agreed to hold tenderly and protect. Whenever we look at our spouses and wonder why we ‘should even try’, let us gaze back on our promises and choose to do everything in our power to fight for it. Because vows matter. And then let’s love them unapologetically.
"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life and travel leaves marks on you." ~Anthony Bourdain
E-xtend forgiveness. You will get hurt by your spouse. You will hurt your spouse. When you put two human beings with different personalities, different pasts, different dreams, different experiences, different expectations, different hopes together and ask them to live life heart-to-heart, someone will get hurt from time to time. Learn to let the little things go, offer forgiveness freely, and live to love another day. It’s not worth winning the battle if you lose the war…and your marriage.
L-ove anyway. Love is not always easy. There will be days that you do not like your spouse very much. You will not like something he did or something she said. There will be days that you’d rather not look at them, let alone love them. Love anyway. Love is not a feeling; it is an action. It is putting another person before yourself even when you don’t feel like it and, yes, even when they don’t deserve it. It is choosing to speak gently, treat kindly, respond lovingly, and act patiently even when it’s the last thing on earth you want to do. Because these difficult moments? If you continue to travel through them, they will pass. There is incredible closeness on the other side of the distance. Love wins. I promise; I’ve been there.
Knowing and accepting that sometimes distance makes the heart grow distant allows you to fight – not with your spouse but with your spouse, side-by-side (relatively speaking), together, as a team! Your spouses must feel confident that you are for them and not against them. Learning to T.R.A.V.E.L. across the distance will help you lock hearts and fight to overcome complacency and resentment before they set in and begin to fester. Because that’s what marriage is – a constant choice to overcome life’s obstacles, together, as a team!
I love you, aviation family! Your spouse is worth the journey. Now pack your bags and get ready to T.R.A.V.E.L.!
Blue skies and tailwinds!
Angelia (a fellow traveling Pilot Wife)