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What a Post-Wedding Cross-Country Move Taught Me about Marriage


Today we have a post from one of APW’s longtime contributors. Sharon blogs over at Bride Sans Tulle and has been providing APW with wisdom for about as long as I can remember. (May I recommend checking out her grad post here, or this amazing bit on why love is a choice? Because, um, you will fall in love with her.) The thing I love most about getting to follow ladies like Sharon over the course of a few years is that I get to see how the trajectory of their relationships change, and it reminds me that marriage is a long process, one we get to shape and mold every day for years and years to come. So today Sharon gives us a little bit of insight into just one more step in her journey: moving cross country immediately after getting married.

—Maddie for Maternity Leave

What a Post Wedding Cross Country Move Taught Me about Marriage | A Practical Wedding

My husband, Jason, and I got married on a Saturday. The following Wednesday, we were in our car and on the road for a cross-country move. True fact, people took bets during our reception as to which state our first married fight would occur in. (I hope those who wagered on Texas remembered to collect their winnings.) This is the part where, when I tell our story in person, I usually pause, take in dropped jaws and widened eyes, and say, wryly, “I know. We were totally nuts.”

Except that it didn’t really feel all that crazy at the time. Incredibly hard, yes. There’s nothing quite like the mindf*ck of going so quickly from being surrounded by all your loved ones at your wedding to sleeping on the floor of a strange apartment (because none of your shipped belongings have caught up yet) in a city where you literally know no one. Making new friends felt like an excruciatingly slow process at times, not aided by crying jags brought on at seeing Facebook pictures from “back home” of all the dinners, pool parties, birthdays, and scrumptious babies we were missing out on. And it was stranger than strange to step into navigating the beginnings of married life without anyone who’d known us when we were single around. Looking back, I’m a little glad that we didn’t realize how hard and lonely the process would be at the time. I’m honestly not sure we would have been brave enough to face it.

But I’m so glad we did, because moving so soon after our wedding also gave us something amazing: it gave us the gift of being able to play by our own rules when it came to our marriage. There were some people who, upon learning that we’d be living together for the first time after we got married, almost gleefully predicted what a difficult time we’d have of it because we hadn’t cohabitated beforehand. “You’re going to fight all the time!” they’d say. “He will have so many habits that will drive you crazy! The first year is the hardest because you’ll have to negotiate all the chores!” We took a lot of delight in proving these naysayers wrong and took to sharing a roof like ducks to water. Now over two years in, we’ve never argued about who’s doing the dishes or taking out the garbage or the myriad other household things that people told us we’d fight over. We don’t harbor simmering resentment over these things.

The thing is… we’re not saints by any stretch of the imagination. We didn’t manage to buck the predictions in this case because we’re super-patient or fantastically enlightened people. It definitely helped that we’d both lived with roommates in singlehood, that we have similar ideas of what constitutes messy or clean, that we were just so damn thrilled to finally get to live together… but really, I think we just both instinctively felt that we’d been given a free pass with our move. And on so much more than silly fights over chores, at that. Our marriage didn’t have to follow a set script or narrative. Our first year didn’t have to look like anyone else’s or be filled with spats and squabbles just because someone else said so. Wedding planning had felt so fraught and so public for me and, rightly or wrongly, I’d spent the months of our engagement constantly worried about the scrutiny and judgment of others. It was incredibly liberating to realize that we alone got to decide what our marriage would be. Nothing was fated for us. Even in the midst of the homesickness, underemployment, and financial pressures that surrounded our first year of marriage, we could be incredibly happy. And we were.

So yes, maybe we were a bit nuts to take on something as huge as a giant move right after we married. But when I think about it, I don’t feel crazy; I feel empowered. I think it was good for Jason and me to have such a large challenge to face together in our baby marriage, not least because it gives me confidence that we’ll be able to handle whatever the future throws at us as well. There are times when I start freaking out over the dominant cultural narratives that surround women, especially the ones about having children (you know, the ones that say your life ends when you have a baby, or you inevitably end up mothering both spouse and child, or, at the very least, you’ll never get out of those sweatpants again), but then I take a deep breath and remind myself… I don’t have to listen to them. A great marriage won’t be ours by chance or only if all the stars align correctly; we get to build it every day, together. And that? Feels pretty crazy in a really good way.

Photo from Sharon’s personal collection

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  • CarbonGirl

    This post is really hitting me right now as we are about to embark on a cross-country move (Florida to Oakland!) in 13 days. It is so scary and exciting all at the same time. I feel so many emotions leaving this place that has been my home for the past 7 years. Sadness, fear, excitement. Worries about how our pets will handle it. But I am trying to focus on how this is a great adventure my husband and I will be taking on together and how it should strengthen our young (3 years in January) marriage.

    • Caroline

      Welcome to Oakland. I think you’ll like it here. The East Bay is about the best place on earth. I love it.

      • Heather

        I second that! My finance and I moved from Atlanta to the East Bay almost a year ago and we couldn’t imagine moving back now! And our two cats made it through the airplane ride just fine and adapted quickly to their new surroundings. You will have a blast!

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    This ” I’m a little glad that we didn’t realize how hard and lonely the process would be at the time. I’m honestly not sure we would have been brave enough to face it.” .
    When I moved overseas right after high school I did not anticipate how hard it would be at moments, I just went on with it, hopped on the adventure.
    I think that “lesson” is really important, and rings true for many other situations as well. Sometimes you just have to hold hands, close your eyes and jump. You just have to keep going, take slow, but easy steps, or just GO. And in doing so you will be surprised at how much we are actually capable of. I am not sure stopping to think about what ifs and possible scenarios helps, in the end, you have to go, and in doing so, you are already halfway and often, it is a lot easier than it seems / than they say / than you think.

    Also I loved this: ” A great marriage won’t be ours by chance or only if all the stars align correctly; we get to build it every day, together. And that? Feels pretty crazy in a really good way.”

    Thanks so much for sharing this Sharon, I love your writing.

    • Jessi03

      Thank you so much for posting this! I’m going to be marrying my fiance next October and moving across the country for his school. Everyone keeps telling us that we’re crazy and going to fight all the time because we haven’t lived together except for one summer 3 years ago when we were still just friends. This gives me hope!

      • JES

        I think you guys will have an amazing adventure. You are not crazy! I was opposed to living together before getting engaged, but it was something that was important to my boyfriend so I agreed to move in with him before we were engaged. Living together this past year has been awesome (but I knew it would be!). The transition was not terribly difficult and I love building a life around us as a couple. Ironically, the positive experience made me realize that waiting until you are married to move in IS NOT crazy, or a bad idea, or whatever words people use to discourage others from making this decision. If we had waited, it would have been just fine! If I could, I’d live this first year over and over again because I don’t want to lose the feeling of being excited to live together. I don’t regret that I didn’t wait, myself, since it was more important for my boyfriend that we lived together first than it was to me that we didn’t, but if it is something that you both agree to do, then you have a very exciting experience to look forward to!

    • Sarah

      The same comment resonated with me. I moved across the world to be with my fiance, and in hindsight I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Its been four years and I am still having a rough time. I often wonder — if I had known what the years here would be like, would I have come? I am looking forward to another half way around the world move after the wedding. I need a change.

  • KB

    I don’t know what it is about moving in with a boyfriend/spouse that people automatically assume that you’re going to fight all the time. I would think that moving in with him (or even your best friend, for that matter) would prompt an assumption of easiness because you’re close to this person, you share the same values, you already communicate on a deep level.

    • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      I agree! My bf and I moved from Pennsylvania to Nebraska about a year and a half ago. When we first moved, my grandma just kept asking if we had fought yet. We don’t have big fights like some of my family members do- my partner is a very calm person, which in turn calms me when I start feeling worked up. Not to mention he lived with roommates who bickered all the time and we always looked at each other and said “I don’t want us to be like that.”

      • KB

        Exactly! Plus, I feel like, even if you haven’t lived together before getting married, you’re most likely spending a significant amount of time with this person, so you’ve probably already fought before or at least have an inkling of what problems areas will be (unless he’s secretly harboring a large collection of human hair or something…). Any fights from moving in are most likely the result of being in close proximity and not because you happen to be significant others.

  • http://www.minnesota-chic.com PAW

    Amazing post–this post resonates with me on the theme of marriage opening doors, and not closing them. What I read, between the lines, is that you and Jason are willing to hold hands tightly and leap into new things, backing each other up and looking back with a laugh to say, “WOW, that was crazy hard. What’s the next adventure?”

    It wasn’t that either of you, as single people, wouldn’t have been able to do such a thing, but instead that you forged a relationship, and that became a marriage, and that marriage backed you both up as you embarked on adventure together. That sentence was very circular, but I hope you can see where I’m going with this!

    Sharon, I love reading your posts (the love-as-a-choice is one of my all-time favorites), so thank you for doing another!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    I’ve had a little bit of the opposite situation; earlier this year my husband and I gave up having our own place to move in with my mother after some family stuff happened. In some ways, it’s every bit as hard as expected, living as a married woman in my mother’s house. As far as my relationship goes though there have been no ill effects, just a lingering knowledge that if we can live through this together we can handle almost anything.

    Knowing that you can go through difficult changes and hard times and hard living situations gives and incredible strength to a relationship. Every rough bit we go through I always feel a little more secure coming out the other side.

  • http://delightfulcrumb.com Stacy

    Good heavens, the similarities are tremendous. My husband and I moved from Michigan to Oakland, California about one week after our marriage this past August. It didn’t feel crazy, though it did feel hard, and I, too, am very glad I didn’t know how challenging these first few months would be. We are living together for the first time. We are loving it. And yet it is difficult, because we are struggling with all you mention here — underemployment, financial strains, missing home more than I, at least, anticipated. I love hearing your thoughts a little bit down this road, Sharon. I hope that I, too, can have that certainty in a few years, and that I can appreciate this chance to write our own story, free of any and all constraints. When we decided to do this, it felt right, and I have to trust that it will eventually make sense in retrospect as well. Best to you as you continue your adventure!

    • Joy

      I hear you, Stacy! We moved two weeks after our wedding and were thrilled to do so. Turns out, it’s much more challenging than anticipated with all the unemployment and financial struggles and missing of people. I hope I can start looking at this situation with more positivity. Sharon gives me hope.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    We’re getting married in three weeks and then will move somewhere in early February. And we won’t know where until early January. (Thanks, Navy!) So yes, I have some anxiety at the moment. Reading your perspective here was really helpful, especially the reminder that deciding what we make our marriage means we will be more ready and able to decide what we make motherhood and other life stages. Thank you!

  • KATIES

    I couldn’t agree more with you about getting to play by your own rules! My boyfriend and I moved across the country together so I could go to grad school after we had been together for almost two years (we are now engaged, a few years later :) . Even for outgoing people that we are, it was a really difficult process of finding new friends (I had my fair share of tears over pictures from back home). But the whole ‘newly living together’ part was great – we had no major conflicts and it really did feel like we got to create our own little routines since there was no one there telling us otherwise! It was a really fun time in our relationship.

  • Anne

    My parents were married in 1971. The day after the wedding, they loaded up all of my mom’s possessions in the back of a tiny Datsun, and traveled from Indiana to San Francisco. They’ve never done another cross-country trip, but they’re still married 41 years later!

  • Sarah

    I can totally relate to this post. My husband and I moved from the east coast to NM just six weeks after our wedding. Although we had cohabited for a couple of years prior to marriage, that did nothing to stop the remarks from acquaintances regarding the stress that the post marriage move would place on our relationship. They couldn’t have been more wrong! While life hasn’t been free of homesickness and tearful moments, the adventure has been amazing and 8 months in we both feel like the move did incredible things to solidify our baby family. It’s forced us to lean on each other like we never needed to before and really helped us define who we are as a unit. I feel like we are so much stronger for the experience.

  • Alicia

    This was great to read. My husband and I have been married for 5 months and we move abroad in 5 days. We’re super excited, but I know that finding our place in a megacity will take some time.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • http://medeamaterial.com jules

    This resonates deeply!

    While it is hard to make new friends in a new city, with a spouse sharing the experience you have a built in best buddy who knows EXACTLY what you are going through. In our young marriage we’ve spent part of it long distance, then part of it at my in-laws house and part of it as newcomers in a new country, living together on our own for the first time almost a year after getting married.

    We have had arguments about cleaning and chores, but we both come out of them stronger and more understanding about each others needs. New challenges will come but as you said, we are writing our own book on what a marriage is and how we make it work every day.

  • Jessica

    I love this post. I get that a lot too, comments on not living together before marriage and it gets old. I try not to ask questions about why people are / are not living together in return. Ah, well.

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

    I can relate to a lot of this! I moved across the country for my now-fiance after we’d been dating for a month and neither of our families live nearby (his fam is closest, and they are a 10.5 hour drive). I’ve often felt like we are an island down here in TX (which seriously feels like another country sometimes). But while that can be really tough or inconvenient at times, it can also be SO liberating. The things our families know about are the things we choose to share with them, and that gives us the time/opportunity to decide what we want to be “public.” Now that we’re planning our wedding, it seems clear that this distance is going to be really, really helpful. Our families are pretty hands-off and don’t bombard us with unsolicited advice, but weddings ARE this very public event, and having the planning process a bit less open because of distance has been really good for us so far.

  • http://theaftercath.blogspot.com Cathi

    Being able to write your own marriage narrative, free of expectations, is wonderful, isn’t it? This is something my husband and I have been privileged to experience as more or less the first of our friends to tie the knot. There’s no one (our age) to tell us “you’ll seeeee” or take bets on things they expect will happen, since they don’t know what’s “supposed” to happen yet. We’re doubly lucky that my best friend got married 3 months before us, and is much more vocal and expressive about “married life”, so we can live in quiet obscurity.

    For us, it feels less like trailblazing and more like freedom. Similarly to being able to experience this new chapter free from expectations, the other best part is being able to experience it without feeling watched, or like people are expecting to learn from us. We can nest (or *cough* not nest, hello haphazard collection of college furniture and lack of coordinated throw pillows), fight or not fight, struggle or not struggle, and get used to this big life change in peace. We can emerge from our newlywed cocoon at our leisure and report back. It’s nice.

    • Hannah

      Love

  • http://corrieanne.com/ Corrie Anne

    I love it!!! My husband got a call literally during our honeymoon that his job was being transferred to Colorado (from Minnesota). I had just moved back to Minnesota from living in the Dominican Republic.. it was a little crazy so I can identify. It IS weird that no one here knew me when I was single! Haha. I loved the bit about building a great marriage together every day. So true.

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    “Looking back, I’m a little glad that we didn’t realize how hard and lonely the process would be at the time. I’m honestly not sure we would have been brave enough to face it.”

    There have been a number of life experiences (like international moves, including in particular, moving to my husband’s country 6 weeks before our wedding) that, after it’s over, I’ve thought….wow, I had fun at the time and I’m glad I did it, but I would never want to do it again because it was hard. Sometimes I wasn’t even aware how hard the experience was until after it was over entirely. Other times, I realized in the middle of it that it’s hard, but then later I realized with greater clarity exactly why or how it was so difficult. You know, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees and all that. In both cases, I am glad that I didn’t know in advance how hard it would be because (despite the challenges…or maybe because of them?) these very experiences have been pivotal times in my life.

  • Hannah

    This is my dream. So much of my relationship with my fiance has been somewhat private over the years. Although I talk about him openly to all of my friends, we are very much a couple, more than we are two members of a great community that happen to like each other slightly more than we like the other members of our community. So although we do seek to invest more deeply in our community as a couple, all of the communal traditions of weddings and marriage seem forced sometimes. And the times when we get to just be us and not think about other people’s opinions are really nice.

  • sandyliz

    “but then I take a deep breath and remind myself… I don’t have to listen to them.”

    I’m going to print this out and read it twenty times a day. Actually, maybe I’ll just write it on my fiance’s head while we plan the wedding.

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