My husband and I have been apart frequently this summer. Between business trips, weddings and funerals, our interaction has depended heavily on conversation. I love talking to my husband, of course, but our relationship also relies heavily on physical presence and shared activities. Chatting on the phone just doesn't cover that.

This summer we have had the chance to learn how to make our marriage happy and loving, even when so many aspects of it aren't an option - such as being far apart. If you struggle with making your conversations with your spouse interesting while you are apart, read on to discover tips for smooth sailing until you and your spouse are together again.

Avoid criticism

While I was traveling for Mother's Day, I felt like my husband and I spent half the time in one conflict or another. It was maddening and just so sad. I was determined that it wouldn't happen again when he left on his next business trip. While he was gone, I determined to find something sweet, encouraging or playful to say every time I thought of criticizing him. I came home from that trip so completely in love with my husband that I wanted to never be critical of him again.

I've heard the adage that before marriage you should have your eyes wide open and after marriage, have your eyes half shut. I just didn't realize how true it was until this experience. When you are away from your spouse, there are no apologetic hugs or distracting games to diffuse tension. All you have is words. That's why it's especially important to make those words as positive and endearing as possible, and to soften your heart so it matches the softness of your words.

Write love letters

My husband spent time out of the country this summer. That meant we couldn't even talk on the phone. After a few days, we discovered he could at least check his e-mail, even if he didn't have time to respond. That was a game-changer. Every night, I wrote to him. I told him about my day, making the most of funny anecdotes and inside jokes. I told him about books I was reading or news stories I'd seen. I also spent about two paragraphs telling him how happy I am to be married to him, plus at least one sexy little sentence to make him miss me all the more. My letters, written in another time zone while he slept, gave my husband a reason to be excited to get up in the morning despite all of the intimidating things he would have to do that day.

Notes are nice because they allow you to ponder a bit, instead of expressing yourself on the fly. Even if you aren't much of a writer, you shouldn't feel the need to be long-winded or poetic. My logical, number-loving, engineer husband wrote me a note the night before our wedding, and I treasure it all the more because I know it doesn't really come naturally for him. Regardless, it was incredibly sweet and sincere, and I can say from personal experience that those things are what matter most.

Find a distance-friendly shared activity

It doesn't really matter what you choose, but I highly recommend establishing an activity that you can do "together" while you and your spouse are apart. While my husband was away recently, he discovered an app for our tablets that allowed us to play hangman, draw pictures and send each other messages from across the world. We also considered doing a crossword together or even playing a board game over the Internet. In the end, my husband took pictures of his trip with a prop of my choosing and then posted them to a cloud storage that I could access. Clearly, the Internet is a powerful tool. It makes for a wonderful evening of real-time interaction without being wholly dependent on conversation in order to feel connected.

Even if you don't want to depend on the Internet, you could decide before your trip that you are going to do the same sort of thing on selected days. You can spend Monday reading the same book, Wednesday eating at the same kind of restaurant and Friday shopping at the same store. This gives you something to talk about when you do get to chat, plus, it's a way to reinforce the things you have in common and the fact that you love spending time together.

Have realistic expectations

Today, my husband helped friends of ours move into their new house. Feeling worn out, sweaty, hot and thoroughly unenthused, he came into the house and released a heavy sigh. Then his phone rang. I called him, expecting a cheerful morning conversation before I buckled down to work for the day. I'm sorry to say that I got a bit frustrated with him for being so out of it, instead of being realistic and gentle like I should have. Fortunately, he was great about it, taking it all with a grain of salt and reiterating that he missed me despite my being "difficult."

I invite you to learn from my mistake. When we are away from our spouses, there is no telling what their emotional, mental or physical state is when we call. If I would have called him with that idea in mind, I probably would have still been disappointed that he wasn't really in a frame of mind to talk, but at least I wouldn't have been annoyed with him. While we are separated, we must minimize our conflicts.

Next time you are apart from your spouse, be careful to not expect too much of your busy, hardworking beloved. If he or she can, create situations where the two of you can be doing the same thing, even if you can't do it side-by-side. Write little loving notes, and make sure your spouse knows just how awesome you think he or she is, distance notwithstanding.

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