Your relationship, your way

No matter your age, relationships with loved ones often change over the years. There’s no set formula for a successful relationship – something we will have all learnt through our own experiences! For many, a marriage or long-term partner won’t necessarily fit into a box, or be as straightforward as it seems.

Knowing that every relationship takes its own form, we spoke with a couple who have been happily married for more than 30 years, but find themselves currently navigating a situation much like a long-distance relationship due to work commitments.

“In this instance,” says Rebecca, “the reason for living apart is financial – and it’s something we did before we got married too!”

Although living together when they tied the knot, before Rebecca and Steve got married, they spent six months apart – with Steve working in the North Sea and Rebecca carrying on work in London.

Three decades later, having left the UK to live in Australia, then South East Asia, Steve now works full-time at his job based in Singapore.

“He’s still based in Singapore where his income is better than it would be living in Australia, but we know it is for a limited period so we felt we could manage it before his position returns to be based in Perth,” says Rebecca, who has been living back in Perth for the better part of a year.

“Logistically, it has been really tiring for us both, because it means one of us going back and forth to the other,” says Steve. “We constantly seem to be booking plane tickets, as we’ve tried to keep the periods apart at less than three weeks wherever possible.”

While they recognise they could have been able to save more money during this time without the regular trips – particularly as they prepare for the transition into part-time work or retirement – it would have meant longer periods apart, which they didn’t think would have been best for their relationship. Although unusual to some, Rebecca says it’s something they’re fairly familiar with.

“My husband has always travelled for work, often long distances, so I’m used to being on my own for periods of time,” she says. “However, when my kids were still living at home I’d have them to look after. Now, making the decision to move away from a hectic life in Singapore and return to Perth, I’ve allowed myself some physical and mental space to appreciate some ‘me’ time.”

Like any relationship, with the positives, the couple also recognise and have faced challenges.

“The last 18 months haven’t been easy, and it has been particularly difficult facing the passing of one of our own parents, as well as the sickness of others,” says Rebecca. “The phone and even FaceTime don’t make up for having your partner to discuss day-to-day stuff with, especially when it’s really stressful.”

Nonetheless, Rebecca says that with the time apart you can also get into a habit of being on your own. With most time spent living in different houses, and countries, when they are together they may realise they’ve formed their own little habits or ways of getting things done.

“The time spent together can be very intense in lots of ways and there are high expectations on both sides to make the most of that time,” says Rebecca. “Often, it doesn’t always work out like that and there’s disappointment. You have to start all over again the next time you’re together, which can feel a bit like Groundhog Day!”

From their perspective, the couple says that, as with any relationship at any stage, there has to be compromise on both sides so things don’t fall apart at the seams. They say that planning outings or get-togethers with old friends during those times together has certainly helped dilute any tension or feelings of great expectation.

Whether you’re navigating your way through a long-distance or interstate relationship, or maybe you’re figuring things out in unfamiliar territory with a new love, what’s clear from this chat is that no matter the circumstances, we all understand that each relationship has its own nuances and ways of working. 

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