Skype calls are almost a universal part of military life these days. However, when you are separated for months at a time, it can get harder and harder to find anything new and interesting to say. When you run out of synonyms for “I miss you,” try these suggestions for keeping your relationship active and fun despite the distance.
- Play A Question Game – If you are looking for a way to keep your Skype sessions, chats, or emails interesting, this is a good way to keep things flowing. My husband introduced me to the idea, under the name “Pass the Cask” since he had first encountered it as a drinking game. The players take turns choosing questions and answering them; think of it as Truth or Dare without the “dare” option. You can think of your own questions or pick up one of the many books of open-ended questions on the market. This is a great way to keep a conversation going, and may also help you get to know each other even better.
- Read to Each Other – This one depends on your spouse having internet access in his/her sleeping area. If your schedules happen to line up right, reading to each other over Skype can be a wonderful way to maintain a sense of closeness even when it’s time for one of you to sleep. This sounds like a good suggestion for kids, but it also worked wonders for my husband and me during his recent deployment. To be honest, I missed the majority of the book because I always fell asleep so quickly, but just laying there listening to his voice as I drifted off was incredibly comforting, and I always slept better. He says that the same was true for him; on nights when I read to him as he fell asleep, he slept better. Sharing a book also gave us something else to talk about, if only because he had to fill me in on what I slept through. Most nights we also fell asleep with the Skype chat still on, which was almost like sleeping together (at least I could still hear him snoring in my ear).
- Play RPGs Together – It gets much easier to have engaging conversations with your partner if you are doing something together. Online role-playing games like World of Warcraft are a fantastic way to accomplish that if your spouse’s internet connection is up to the task (and WoW in particular demands relatively little). Most of these games are pretty involved and feel much more like an activity than point-and-click browser games usually do; there is something much more interactive about having actual avatars that move around on the screen together. World of Warcraft became a huge part of our relationship for a while during this last deployment, and it was always fun telling other spouses things like, “Well, Greg is doing okay; we killed a dragon together today.” I also discovered that killing dragons on my own was great stress relief when my husband wasn’t online. Too many women are hesitant about trying this kind of game, but you might surprise yourself- and your husband- by enjoying it.
- Play Internet Games – Plenty of more traditional games are available online. Facebook offers a multitude of interactive games like Words With Friends or Lexulous (a free knockoff of Scrabble), and you can find similar offerings on Yahoo! Games and elsewhere on the internet (browser games are safest; be wary of downloads). My husband and I played many hours of Lexulous while he was in Afghanistan, and we had a great time with it. With video chat and a little imagination, it can almost feel like sitting across the table from each other playing a board game together. The nice thing about the Facebook games in particular is that they can be played in real time, but they can also be left for as long as you like, which is helpful if your spouse’s internet access is limited or unpredictable.
- Play Without a Computer – It is possible to play games together with or without an internet connection. Chess and checkers are particularly easy to adapt to offline play over a long distance; the board is already arranged in a grid, so you only need to agree on a numbering system for the squares, and you can mail, text, IM, or otherwise exchange moves. I still have long chains of emails with my husband that all say things like “A2 to B5″ and “G8 to D3.” It may be a little slow, but the sense of togetherness- and the odd looks you get for setting up a chessboard all by yourself at the coffee shop- are worth it.
I do not have kids myself, but it’s worth noting that items 2 – 5 are also good ways to keep kids and parents, as well as spouses, involved and connected.