During one of their vacations, Jerry surprised Betsy with a whole new take on honeymooning. Their original plan had been to go sight seeing and enjoy a new town they had never heard of. In the end, they ended up spending a lot of time enjoying each other instead.
How did this plan get hatched you ask? Well, Jerry had read a book about long distance marriages. Betsy had scoffed at the premise of sacrificing the author was suggesting. That applied to people who had no choice, if at all. She had a choice. Her stubborn hubby didn’t want to accept it.
In the book, the author had recommended that long distance couple not only used vacation to do vacation thing, but used the time wisely to build the relationship up. Do the things that mattered intimately, do the things that mattered socially, and avoid using escapism to pass the vacation time. In other words, do the hard work of relationship building during vacation time.
That would entail changing the very definition of how they spent their regular time. They would have to be very intentional about what they did on the phone, via text, and video chats. They couldn’t sweep things under the rug and fill the moments with platitude. They had to treat the relationship like a business venture. One with regular meetings, not the boring fall asleep variety either. They had to hold each other accountable.
The part that made Jerry nervous was giving Betsy homework to do and making sure there were consequences with teeth if she didn’t follow through. The reverse of that equation was not an issue for them as Betsy was very good at holding Jerry’s feet to the fire if he ever slacked on his responsibilities, which he rarely did.
Drawing Lines to Walk
As Jerry started to lead the changes, as Betsy had not seen the point yet, he had to be careful not to come across as demanding or as a bully. He had to learn to speak Betsy’s language of love. He had to show her the benefits to her for trying something totally new. Plus, he had to make sure he tracked himself to hold her accountable.
At first, it was small little things like time zone etiquette. Having to stay up extra late to chat about nothing was hurting his productivity at work and making him resent her. Worse, biting his lip about it was making his anger rise. His first solution was to draft up a sweet letter explaining how much more meaningful their chats would be if they did it at a different time.
Betsy liked the idea because she was growing tired of Jerry’s apathy to her interests. She never took into account just how late he had to stay up some days to talk to her as opposed to how early he had to end meetings to chat with her… all depending on the time zone he was in.
With a new scheduling app, that was so not sexy, they were able to plan out the right times for their conversations, as the app factored time zones.
With less spontaneous chats, they shifted the nature of their conversations. Betsy had taken a page from her success at work with preparing for meetings and brought that over to their scheduled chats. It was fun having business like talks with her hubby where they had a good agenda set in advance, agreed upon in advance, and scheduled in advance. That made accepting homework from Jerry a lot easier too.
When they didn’t have scheduled meetings, they drew up times when it was OK to have spontaneous calls or texts. That didn’t originally sound very romantic, but over time, it improved the creativity of the conversations. Betsy was pleasantly surprised to hear the depth and variety of opinions Jerry actually had about a lot of things in their lives. His advice actually made sense too.
There were some conversations that eventually got labeled as off-limits when they were apart. That one was very difficult to agree upon. Betsy hated to wait to have those heated conversations. Jerry was thrilled to have those eliminated so he wouldn’t have to pretend to care about getting his head chewed off.
Those conversations were handled in person. They rarely were so time sensitive to require instant resolution. What helped Betsy get on board with the delayed conversation was the fact that Jerry booked the time to discuss them whenever he ducked in for a change of clothing before his next round of travel.
By knowing in advance when they’d meet, Jerry was always ready to listen and not throw advice out. The list of things that had to be discussed in person started to decrease as the trust grew between them about this new methodology.
And it does get fun
During their improvements of conversations, Jerry started sharing some of the needs he had been keeping quiet. His visual drive found words that made sense to Betsy. She loved to dress up and show off the results of her gym membership. Jerry loved taking photos. They started to plan trips that would allow more scenic detours for them to do more photos.