Today, I am so excited to welcome Lisa McKay to the blog! She’s got a wealth of knowledge to share with folks in long distance relationships and a life that makes even the most traveled among us a tiny bit envious. Make sure that you snag her free PDF further down in this post! Cheers!
My husband, Mike, and I were living in Northern Laos when I became pregnant with our first child. Mike worked for a development organization there. I was writing a book, consulting as a psychologist, and drinking a lot of mango smoothies by the Mekong.
Northern Laos is an amazing place, but living a two-hour international flight away from decent medical care when you’re pregnant is hardly ideal. When I entered my third trimester, Mike stayed in Laos while I went to Australia and moved in with my parents for five months. And just like that, Mike and I were back where we’d started three years earlier—in a long distance relationship.
Mike and I first met when he was living in Papua New Guinea and I was living in Los Angeles. We spent a grand total of twenty days in the same country before getting engaged, and we were on different continents for almost half of our first year of marriage. Mike and I were no strangers to being separated for months at a time. But this felt different. Harder.
I was not exactly enjoying being pregnant, and I most definitely did not enjoy attending labor and delivery classes alone. Mike was only scheduled to join me two weeks before my due date, and I was worried that the baby would decide to arrive before he did.
Back in Laos, Mike wasn’t enjoying his life of sudden solitude much, either. And we were struggling to feel connected. Even when internet access did allow us to talk, our daily lives seemed worlds apart.
Mike was often out and about helping teams build bamboo waters systems in remote, mountainous villages where mamas had never had running water. I, on the other hand, had plenty of running water. However I was struggling to tie my own shoes, missing my husband, and trying to figure out what becoming a mama myself might mean.
Funnily enough, the consulting project I was working on at the time—developing a course on wellbeing and resilience for the University of East London—was one of the things that helped me stay grounded and (at least intermittently) positive.
In order to write this course, I had to delve deeply into all the latest research on positive psychology and wellbeing. It was fascinating stuff, and I shared some of these studies and their findings with Mike. As we learned more about the things that most influence our mood and overall happiness, Mike and I started to talk more intentionally about those topics via Skype.
And it helped. It helped remind us why we had chosen careers that put us in places like Laos, and why we were willing to accept spending so much time apart. It helped us focus on some of the good things that were going on instead of just the things that felt hard. It helped us remember that we were a team, and appreciate the very different roles that we were each playing.
So today, I’m going to share ten questions that Mike and I often talk through when we’re feeling bogged down by life or far apart from each other.
10 Discussion Questions For Couples That Can Help Make You Happier (yes, even when you’re far apart)
- What are three good things that happened today?
- What is something you’re grateful for today? Why?
- What is something that has made you laugh or smile today/this week?
- Describe two times today when you experienced positive emotions (e.g., happiness, joy, hope, affection, gratitude, surprise, confidence, admiration, and peace.)
- Tell me about some good “relationship” time you’ve had lately with friends, family, or people you’re getting to know. Who were you with? What did you do and talk about?
- What part of your work or daily routine has felt the most meaningful and important to you lately?
- When have you felt the most content to “be” in a moment lately?
- What has given you a sense of accomplishment lately?
- Name three things you intend to do in the next week that will bring you positive emotions, strengthen important relationships, provide a sense of meaning or creative engagement, or create feelings of accomplishment.
- What are you particularly looking forward to about being back together again?
These sorts of questions are good to discuss anytime, but I’ve found them particularly helpful during long separations or deployments. Deliberately discussing these sorts of things during deployment might feel a little artificial at first, but the benefits are huge!
These sorts of questions can help strengthen your relationship and boost your own mood at the same time. And those are two pretty significant “wins” in life and love.
If you’d like to read more about why talking through these questions is so good for us, visit this post: Seven Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier And Healthier. But before you do, tell us…
Lisa McKay is a psychologist, and the managing editor of Modern Love Long Distance—a website for couples in long distance relationships. She is the author of the book 401 Great Discussion Questions For Couples In Long Distance Relationships, and the award-winning memoir, Love At the Speed Of Email. She lives in Vanuatu with her humanitarian worker husband, Mike, and their two little boys.