For over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers who have spouses or significant others back home, spending weeks at a time out on the road can put a strain on your relationship.
But it doesn’t have to.
Even though this Saturday is Valentine’s Day — the holiday that sometimes does nothing more than draw extra attention to your struggles — it’s still possible to have a successful relationship (and a great Valentine’s Day) while driving OTR.
Part of the key to a great long distance relationship is to put consistent effort into it. See, most people look at Valentine’s Day as their big chance to strengthen their relationship when really, it’s just one day out of 365 that you should be working on the bond between you and your special someone.
So with that in mind, here are seven things you can do throughout the year to help make your long distance relationship work, along with some advice specifically for getting through this Valentine’s Day:
1. Regular Phone Calls
Calling your spouse or significant other every day is an important piece of the long distance puzzle. By keeping in daily communication, you will maintain the closeness you feel for one another, no matter how far away you are.
In fact, a relationship based solely on communication may be even stronger than one where you see the other person every day. Here’s why:
By focusing your relationship solely on communication, your connection becomes more about your personalities. Compare that to couples who spend their time going to restaurants and eating without really talking about anything, or watching movies in complete silence, and it’s easy to see how the phone could actually help your relationship instead of hurting it. When you remove all the distractions surrounding most relationships, you have no choice but to build a real bond with your significant other.
Another important piece of advice on this point comes from Buck Black, a therapist who works with truckers and their families. Black cautions against texting because so much gets lost in the medium. Instead, he says to focus on using the phone or video chat. That way, you won’t lose the subtleties of the conversation which are so important to making a stronger connection.
2. Unexpected Surprises
Another way to connect from far away is to send unexpected surprises from time to time. Beyond flowers, why not send unique gifts from whichever city you’re traveling to? Even if it’s something small from a tourist spot, it shows that you’re thinking of the other person.
3. Getting Home When It Matters
It’s not always easy (and sometimes it’s not even possible) but whenever you can, you should try to get home for important events. Just remember that even if something doesn’t seem important to you, it may be important to your significant other.
For example, let’s say your sister-in-law is getting married. Maybe you’d rather be out on the road earning money, but if it means a lot to your spouse that you show up, then you should probably make the sacrifice in order to be there. By being present for those kinds of occasions, your significant other will be much more understanding on holidays and other occasions if you can’t be there.
Here, Buck Black adds that you should also consider doing extended hometime with fewer trips home, instead of the other way around. The reason? Black explains that there’s an adjustment period when a driver gets off the road. Shorter hometime is often wasted because of this adjustment process whereas, with extended hometime, you have a chance to adjust, relax and really strengthen your connection to your significant other.
4. Goal Setting
Whether your goal is to save up enough money to take your family on a nice vacation somewhere, or to get enough experience to drive locally someday so you can get more home time, having something to work toward will help make your time apart easier because you can look forward to the goal together. In turn, tracking progress toward the goal also will help bring you both closer to one another.
5. Creative Help
It’s difficult to help your significant other with the day-to-day problems that pop up, but it’s possible if you get creative.
Is your spouse frustrated because there’s no time to cook dinner for the kids? Just say, “I got this,” order a pizza for your family and pay for it on your credit card. When it shows up at the door, your spouse will appreciate that even from so far away, you’re still pitching in where you can.
Or maybe something broke at the house. Obviously, you can’t be there to fix it, but maybe you can take the time to walk your significant other through the steps of fixing it. (Bonus advice: If you don’t know how to fix it either, then maybe you can help by scheduling the repair person.)
The point is, whenever a problem comes up, don’t think “Well, I can’t solve it from here.” Instead, try to think of ways — no matter how small — that you can do something to help in some way. Even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem, it shows that you at least want to help and that you’re willing do what you can.
One of the best ways to make a long distance relationship work is to be optimistic and put a positive spin on everything.
Can’t be home this Valentine’s Day? Make plans to celebrate it the next time you’re home. Does that sound kind of lousy? Well stop looking at it as missing some “big day” and put a positive spin on it instead. You’re not missing some “big day.” You’re celebrating your relationship on your own, special day for just the two of you.
Accepting and adapting to the circumstances of your long distance relationship becomes easier if you keep a good attitude no matter what happens. The best way to do that? Remember that it’s all just another part of your relationship that’s unique and special to you and your significant other. It’s what bonds you together, and together you can get through it.
7. Team Driving
One surefire way to stay close with your spouse or significant other in a long distance relationship is to cut out the “long distance” part altogether. Team driving may not be possible for every couple, especially if you have kids, but if it’s an option for you then it’s definitely worth exploring.
For more relationship advice, click here to visit Buck Black’s website.