About a month into our long-distance dating relationship, Cliff and I prioritized a nightly phone date (we live in cities that are annoyingly far apart and generally only see each other two weekends each month.) This decision was not intuitive or easy. Neither of us are really phone people, and I am definitely not a late night person, but since we both have kids at home and really busy lives, the only time to make communication happen is when our houses are finally quiet and the distractions of the day are done.
In spite of the effort required and the sacrifice of sleep, these dates have become the highlight of my day and the joy of my life. We spend maybe a dozen hours a week talking about life, love, hopes, history, Jesus, goals, work, dreams, kids and…food. Lots about food. Oh, and also laughing! Because we find each other H I L A R I O U S which means the rest of the world doesn’t have to. (You’re welcome, World!)
Sometimes one or both of us is crabby or frustrated from something that’s happened in the day, which is fine – but I don’t think we’ve ever been able to stay that way, which is fun. And sometimes we land on a tender topic and one ends up not being able to speak while the other holds the phone helplessly and prays across the three-hour distance, wishing there was more we could do and be and offer each other in the broken moments. I wouldn’t have chosen for it to be this way. I would choose to live next door. But I also wouldn’t trade this part of our relationship for anything because it’s become so, so lovely. These are the magic hours, filled with words that give depth and meaning to the day we just had and the one just ahead.
We’ve occasionally talked about how couples become disconnected even though they live in the same house. Substituting physical proximity for emotional connection is an easy trap with a dangerously slippery slope. Perhaps all marriages would benefit from spouses going to separate rooms for an hour with their cell phones and having a date made only of words. I realize I’m suggesting something I never would have done in my own marriage and probably wouldn’t have done in this relationship had it not been necessary; but there you have it. I’m discovering as I get older that I can’t afford to get so stuck in my own preferences or habits – I have to be willing to push out beyond them in order to find the beauty that lies just on the other side of The Way I’ve Always Done It. That’s what I’m learning now; sort of late in life, but I’m so grateful.
Finally, if you’re looking for a great resource for building emotional connection in all your primary relationships, I’m loving this book by John Gottman. I can’t recommend it highly enough.