Today’s question from a reader is a common scenario. It happens to many couples somewhere in the course of their marriage: being apart.
I’m gonna be away from my wife for a business trip and at this point not sure when I’ll be back. The business is both ministry related as well as commercial etc. We felt God leading us this way and we just want to be obedient. But naturally, it’s tough!
However, I’m concerned about our intimacy diminishing because of the physical separation. What are some ways that we can maintain our delicately cultivated intimacy (including our sex life) while we are away from each other? HELP!!!!
I’ve struggled to answer this question, because the longest I’ve been completely away from my husband is 12 days. And those were some really long days. After he got back, I remember having a conversation with a friend who said about my husband’s busy business trip, “I bet all he wanted to do when he got back is sleep.” I answered, “Well, that’s not all he wanted to do.” And I had my own desire to catch up on some sexual intimacy.
So who am I to say, “You can make it for months without sex with your spouse! No problem“?
But having talked to others with this issue in their marriage, I do have a few thoughts. Perhaps my commenters will add their own good ideas.
Use technology. We are blessed to live at a time when technology links us in a way like never before. I can talk, text, email, Internet chat, or Skype with someone across the globe. I remember when calling long distance took a while to connect and you hurried through the phone call so you didn’t have to pay the cost of a kidney for the experience. Nowadays, you can keep your kidneys and converse across the many miles without much difficulty.
So use the technology to stay in touch! Talk about which avenues or apps would work best for you two, then set up the devices or accounts. You might want to schedule a specific time, like Wednesdays at 6 p.m. EST will be dedicated to conversation and connection. You’ll likely need to discuss some household, childcare, or practical matters, but make sure you also date your spouse as part of that experience. That is, talk about yourselves and your relationship.
And yes, you can “sext” if you want. Sexting is send suggestive messages or images. But I recommend you make sure they’re suggestive more than revealing. Technology is often in the cloud, hackable, or retrievable, and you don’t want a full frontal nude of yourself to be discovered by someone else. A phone conversation is pretty safe, so if it works for you, go ahead and play, “What are you wearing?”
Focus on non-physical intimacy. As mentioned before, date your spouse while you’re away. I know that sounds crazy, but it can be done. I fondly recall late nights on those 12 days apart when my husband would call at the end of his day and we’d talked for a while before falling asleep. Honestly, it was more conversation than we often got at home together.
So use this time to develop other forms of intimacy: intellectual, emotional, spiritual. For intellectual intimacy, read the same book together and discuss what you learned or discuss the headlines of the day. Share what’s happening in your own communities and what you think about it. For emotional intimacy, talk about your challenges, successes, hopes, and dreams. For ideas, check out conversation starters from Generous Wife, Stupendous Marriage, or Family Life; you can pull out one of these each time you talk to broaden your discussion. Grow spiritually together by asking how you can pray for your spouse or pray together. Choose a Bible study and go through it simultaneously, discussing what you learn.
By the way, sexting and sex-talk doesn’t work for some spouses. Some spouses say that visual imagery and sexual reminders while they’re away make them ache all the more for sexual contact. If it’s problematic to be reminded or aroused through talk or text, that’s another reason to hold off and focus on other kinds of intimacy.
Remember and anticipate. You’re not getting face-to-face intimacy, but you have before and you will again. Keep your mind on your spouse and guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) by remembering your beautiful memories from the past and anticipating time together in the future. Remind yourself that this is only a season. Honestly, we can get through all kinds of struggles when we know they have an expiration date.
Take the long view of your wife and your marriage. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Of course this scripture is in the context of persecution of early Christians, but there is a takeaway for your situation in that you and your wife have prioritized this trip for God’s glory and you can keep in mind that the separation is a “momentary trouble” in comparison to the beauty of your marriage and your obedience to God’s will.
Just don’t get caught up in the bad day, that likely will come, when being away from your beloved feels like you’ve been gutted. You can hang in there, knowing that you have an intimate past and an even more intimate future.
A couple of other issues:
Keep your eyes and mind on your wife. Intentionally make the same covenant Job made: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (Worth reading the whole passage: Job 31:1-12.) Then keep the covenant. It may be harder while away from your wife, but concentrate on her and her alone.
Can you masturbate? Plenty of Christian marriage authors believe all solo masturbation is a problem. I’m not among them. I believe the controlling principle is focusing your sexual energy solely on your spouse. If you’re at home masturbating when you could be making love to your wife, that’s a problem. If you’re masturbating while entertaining thoughts of other women, that’s a problem — or rather, sin. If you’re away for a long time, thinking solely about your wife, and about to burst, I think it’s fine to take care of things so you can make it another day with purity on your side. Some spouses can do this responsibly, some can’t. Know which one you are and act accordingly.
Wishing you all the best with your business trip and time apart! May God bring you together again soon.