I vividly remember my first wedding anniversary: I spent the afternoon at the pool, and then I watched Happy Feet. I also spent it with my neighbors and their kids. I know it sounds unconventional – unromantic, even – but it makes a lot more sense once you know that I was in New Jersey and my husband was in Maine, where he had to move for work.
Mac, my husband, is a college football coach. We started dating in 2008, and since we first met, he’s worked at four different programs in four different states. Each time he’s gotten a new role, he’s gone ahead first and I’ve stayed behind to pack. Sometimes it would take a few weeks or even a few months for me to follow suit.
The stretches during which we’re apart are never easy. There are events you have to attend by yourself, and all you do is watch the couples hold hands or the single people flirt with each other as you stand there missing your person. There are times when you wish someone else could help you bring in the groceries. Above all, there are days when all you want is to curl up with your spouse and feel his kiss.
These stretches have been a real part of the fabric of our relationship, though, and they, in many ways, make us a stronger couple.
Most importantly, they require you to make the most of your time together. When you’re in two different places, you remember just what a gift it is to be with the other person. When you do see him, you’re so happy to be in his presence that you’re more willing to put your phone away and be attentive, to let the small things go. You thank him for everyday things, like making the bed.
Focusing on how much you enjoy and care about the other person gives purpose to your time apart. You might not like it, but you can reframe it as something you’re doing to help him pursue his dreams – and it’s a lot easier to take on a challenge to support someone who always makes you smile than someone who never washes his travel coffee cups.
A long-distant marriage also requires you to pursue a multi-faceted life. When your spouse is somewhere else, you need other things. You need friends to get dinner with, you need a career that excites you, and you need to be comfortable spending time with yourself – or else you’re going to feel painfully isolated and miserable.
The trick here is that if you don’t nurture these other aspects of your life then they won’t be there when you really need them. You can’t ignore your friends whenever your husband is free and then expect them to drop everything when your schedule opens up. You can’t put off finding a job you actually like and then expect the place where you just pass time to suddenly fulfill you. You can’t spend 24/7 with your spouse and expect to be able to handle a sudden surge in alone time. You have to make time for all of these facets whether you’re in the same place or not so that you’ll have something to fall back on as the balance shifts.
More than all of that, a long-distance relationship requires serious creativity.
I started my career in the non-profit sector and had I never moved, I might still work in fundraising. But having to look for a new job in a new city approximately every two years meant I had to get creative. I ended up building a career as a freelance writer and editor; and now, when we move again, I’ll be able to maintain my work.
It wasn’t easy: I sold my car, took a pay cut, and ate a lot of pasta (in order to accommodate said pay cut). I love my flexible freelance life now, but I wouldn’t have found my dream job if it weren’t for having to move so much. Not to mention, the fact that Mac supported me – emotionally and financially – as I grew in my new career validated our partnership and the sacrifices I’d made for him. It’s a give and take.
We’ve seen the stress of living apart break other couples up, and no matter how many coping mechanisms we discover, it’ll never be truly easy. So, for us, it’ll always be a joint discussion and a joint decision, where we check in on our goals and our needs because we both know you can’t take a happy marriage for granted.
Source: Yahoo News