When spine surgeon David Hanscom met his future wife Babs, they weren’t living in the same state. David ran a practice out of Idaho, while Babs, an artist, had a life in Oakland, California. A mutual friend connected them, and despite their mutual hesitation due to living in different places, they started a long-distance relationship — which soon turned into a long-distance marriage.
Married since 2005, David and Babs still live in different cities: David now in Seattle, and Babs in Oakland. At first, Babs stayed in California so she wouldn’t have to uproot her children, but soon found that even when her daughter had moved out, she didn’t want to leave home. As for David, he’s built his career in Seattle, and he does not plan on moving anytime soon. But despite the distance, Babs and David have managed to make their unconventional marriage work.
“To make a long-distance marriage work, you have to have a very strong commitment,” Babs told Fox News. “Like in any relationship, insecurities come through."
Long-distance marriages aren’t easy, and they’re not for the faint of heart. The biggest challenge couples face is obviously a lack of facetime, and often, one partner may have a harder time with this than the other, Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, author of the book “Wired for Love,” told Fox News. They may start to feel lonely and that their needs aren’t being fulfilled in that relationship.
Rachel DeAlto, a relationship expert who has appeared on A&E/FYI’s show “Married at First Sight,” agreed, and told Fox News that in long-distance marriages, partners may sharply feel the lack of physical touch and intimacy.
“There’s just a different energy that happens when two people are physically present with one another that you’re not going to have unless you’re in front of each other,” she explained.
Can they work?
That’s not to say, though, that long-distance marriages are always doomed: Both experts agreed that some people may be uniquely suited for them.
“The more independent you are, and the more able you are to exist and thrive without that constant in-person interaction, the better you’re off in a long-distance marriage,” DeAlto explained.
Tatkin agreed, noting that some people actually are comfortable with — and even enjoy — the extra distance. Another benefit? When people in long-distance marriages do see each other, they’re more likely to be present: Long-distance couples rarely experience the type of loneliness that comes from living together but not interacting, he explained.
How to be happy in a long-distance marriage
Couples in long-distance marriages would benefit from setting an end-date to work toward, Tatkin and DeAlto said. They should also work to stay tethered throughout the day, whether that’s through texts, Facetime, selfies, phone calls, and the like, just like in any long-distance relationship, Tatkin said.
Babs and David have their own system for making their marriage work. Every morning, Babs said, she gets a voicemail that’s like a love letter, telling her that David misses her. Both David and Babs say that they try to do little romantic things for one another, and act in the way that they want their marriage to be.
"Things changed dramatically for me after we were married,” Babs said. “The commitment thing … We were legit family. It fell together for our children too."
For them, the extra space has allowed them to slowly learn more about each other, while still keeping their own lives and interests.