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Marriage Made Us Feel Homeless


Filling the void as best we can, and waiting.

by Amy Baetsen-Young

Marriage Made Us Feel Homeless | A Practical Wedding

Baking banana muffins for myself on a Sunday morning struck a feeling, some emotion that had been haunting me over the last two and half months since I got married. Between being separated by 2,063 miles from my husband and learning my role at a new job in a foreign region of the US, it was hard to pinpoint what this feeling was.

This lingering sentiment could not be from a flaw in our wedding day. Our wedding was as perfect as a wedding could be for us. We had all the snow we wanted, even a snowball fight. We survived the ceremony without the priest chastising us. Our reception venue was perfect except for the finicky oven delaying the entrees an hour (which no one cared because they were amazing). The only person who ended up stranded from canceled flights was me, which gave me two more days with my new husband, and my new amazing boss didn’t make me use my vacation time. And the feeling of joy from having all our families together for a happy event for the first time in fifteen years still resonates today.

But something was missing the day after our wedding and has become ever more present over the passing weeks. This morning cooking muffins for myself in my one bedroom apartment within an apartment complex, I realized this feeling is derived from my husband and me not having a home. We have separate residences where we eat, sleep, and try to relax.

I always figured when I got married, we would return from a mind-blowing honeymoon to our home. Being married meant I was allowed settle down and create a dwelling that resonated what my husband and I wanted out of life. We would make a home filled with memories of our successes and failures, where we would comfort and love each other.

Instead, five days after our wedding I flew from northern Michigan to central Idaho to start my fourth week of work. My apartment was the same as I had left it before Christmas, cold, vacant, and looking more like a bachelor lived there out of boxes. My husband is still staying out of his house as much as possible because he is trying to avoid seeing the place that was meant to be a home for us, before the job.

We are both taking up tasks to fill the void. I adopted a dog, started working on my golf game again, and have been on putting my art minor to use. He took on a second job to fill his evenings, and in a few months he will be working eighteen-hour days on the golf course; his house will be there just for sleeping. But we both know until we live together neither of us will have a home.

Currently I do not know if my new job is what I want for my career and won’t at least till next year. My husband has his dream job, in our dream location, just no job security. To bide the time we have many conversations of what we want for our future home and what comprises a home for us.

For our monthly anniversary I describe to him in a letter my dreams of our future home. This month included, “There will be trees, upon which mark the change in the seasons and near these trees we will have a place to garden. Which our dogs and future children will run through the paths the corn rows create as the tomatoes try to napoleonize the majority of the garden. I hope there are berry bushes near our home, so I can make you pies in our kitchen and bake eccentric berry flavored cakes for our unborn children’s birthdays.”

Until that moment is here, I fight the urge to move back to him and him to move to me, to what we want to create as home.

Amy Baetsen-Young

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  • BeccaC

    You are both so strong to be doing this and I hope you will find what you want for your career and that it will let you both be together.
    It reminds me a little bit or my circumstances right now – I have my dream job but sadly it requires me to be in a very remote location far from my fiance and home for two weeks at a time. I do get almost get two full, wonderful weeks at home after my two weeks at work are done, but a lot of that time is spent waiting for my fiance to come home from work since he works a 9-5 job (I try to keep busy but weekdays alone can be very long). What helps me is knowing that I won’t be doing this forever (I know I can’t, my job is amazing but I want to spend more time with him), and that even though the distance is hard sometimes we are able to do this (and have been doing it for two years now). We learned very quickly that when I’m up at work we need to call each other once a day, even if it is just a quick goodnight. This living situation has really forced us to work on our communication skills! We are establishing our careers but I often wish that would include being together more.

  • Erica

    Oh honey I hear you. Two weeks before our wedding I moved across the country, without my soon-to-be husband, and two days after our wedding my husband flew back home to OUR house, 2061 miles away (weird coincidence, eh?) We had a set time line when we knew he’d be moving too, but that didn’t make those nine months a whole lot easier, and I spent a lot of days whining about how I had been robbed of my newlywed bliss. What did help? Saying yes to all the things. Wanna grab a beer after work? Yes! Wanna go check out this new yoga studio? Yes! Wanna go skiing this weekend? Yes! Basically I made myself really busy with stuff I enjoy doing and probably wouldn’t have as much time to do when hubs came and joined. And the bonus has been now I have a nice little social network here that I may not have taken the time to develop if I hadn’t been on my own – I have a tendency to retreat into our cave. You’ll get there. It’ll suck for a while, and it might even suck for a while once you’re reunited and you’re trying to figure out how to live with each other again, but eventually you’ll get those berry bushes.

  • ann

    Three weeks after our wedding, my husband and I packed up the apartment we had lived in for three years. I took the bulk of our stuff (and our cat) in a UHaul to a new city, while he moved in with his parents. He’s finishing his degree, and I’ve just finished the first year of mine. Not having a home has been painful, and we’re so, so excited to be moving into our new home (that we’re buying!) in just four weeks, in time for our anniversary this summer.
    Ultimately, for us, marrying was each of us saying that the other person was more important than a career. I picked a grad school (PhD–I need to be here 5+ years) in a city where he could find work, even if it’s not exactly the work he would otherwise choose. We also both have a lot of friends here, which has been huge for me during the past year.
    Now that he’s finishing his degree, he says it’s hard to talk to people who are encouraging him to apply for “perfect” jobs in other cities. In general, the people (mostly men–his field is 80% men) don’t respond well to “I can’t take a job anywhere because my wife is in X city.” His advisor has said some pretty awful things to my face about how I’m ruining his life (so I refuse to talk to his advisor anymore). So that’s added an extra layer onto the difficulty.
    But for us, the pain of being apart was too unsustainable. We married because we wanted to share our lives together. If, at some point after I’ve finished my masters, he gets an exciting opportunity that would make him really happy, I’m willing to give up on the PhD and go back to my previous, portable career. I will put him first, as he has put me first this year in supporting me from afar.
    It’s been really hard. I know that transitioning back to living together will be hard, too. Our cat, who used to love him dearly, has been indifferent to him on recent visits–a sign of how long it’s been since our little family has been a family. But we’re moving into a house that we’ll make a home. A house that has enough room for a child (or two) and a garden.* A house that we’ll put our first, real, adult furniture in (no more furniture found on the curb!). Three more weeks after 10 long months apart.

    (*A great way to accidentally communicate to your PhD advisor that you may have children while in grad school is to buy a 3 bedroom house. He got excited for me when I said our offer had been accepted, asked for the listing, and upon seeing it said “It looks like a great place to start a family.” Relationships with PhD advisors are also complicated…)

    • MisterEHolmes

      Best of luck to you: this sounds like so much to tackle at once!

    • H

      Can I just say, fuck his advisor? Situation here and I’m so sick of men giving my boyfriend shit for moving “for me”…

      • ann

        Yeah. His advisor claims it’s not a sexist attitude–he just doesn’t think anyone who gets a PhD should partner with someone who can’t move anywhere in the world at any time. At the same dinner where that comment was made, his wife told me that it’s been phenomenally hard for her to move every few years for his career. She had* no friends and no career 4 years after moving to the city where he has his tenure track job.

        Interactions like this made me choose a graduate school based on choosing a particular supportive advisor. Almost everyone else in my research group has a spouse with a career–that’s just accepted as normal in my group. One of my advisor’s other students is about to have his second child, and our post doc just had her first–scheduling meetings around people’s child care schedules is also normal. I think I found some unicorn of a research group in my also male dominated field.

        *This was a year ago–I sincerely hope she’s happier now.

        • KC

          Congratulations on finding a unicorn!!! :-)

          (and ouch, 4 years and no friends or career is harsh, especially since her partner has a career and automatically has community [if not, like, buddy-buddy superfriends]. I also hope she’s doing better now.)

    • Sarah

      Oh man, yes. As a fellow PhD student and newlywed, I hear this stuff *all the time*–though my dept is one of the best in my (conservative, male-dominated) field when it comes to work-life issues. I work so hard to fight this narrative that we have to all be self-sacrificing and self-important, putting our careers above all else. I like this, I’m good at it, and it’s important, but not more important than my well-being, my family, or my obligations to my larger community.

    • BeeAssassin

      I wavered for a long time about getting a PhD after my Master’s, and reading stories like yours (there are lots of them!) helps me feel better about my decision not to. Your situation sounds so difficult (his advisor sounds like a horrible human being). I knew that if I were to get a PhD there would be so much pressure to go wherever the best program and funding was, then to go wherever the best job offer was. i know how career driven I can be given the right(wrong) situation, and I didn’t trust myself to be able to prioritize the relationship over career if I was in the midst of that atmosphere.

      Long winded way of saying: good luck and I admire how you two are dealing with the intense pressures of academia!

  • Joy

    The first 3 months of our marriage my husband and I were apart, and while we’ve just moved in together its looking like I can’t find work where he has to be and so I’m having to consider taking a job in another country to try and replenish our depleted savings. It’s so so hard though when we’d planned that while yes we’d have to be apart for the first few months that after that we’d be together -in the same place- for the rest of our lives. It almost feels like I’m betraying us and myself.

  • k

    oh, i hear you. wanting to avoid that feeling is ultimately the reason we decided to postpone our wedding until i’m done with grad school and am free to move to his state. although i cognitively understand that the long distance relationship/engagement that we’ve already been doing for 2 years is likely extremely similar to long distance marriage, i just couldn’t bear the thought of getting MARRIED and going our separate ways a few days later. i certainly don’t want to wait 2 more years to be married but, for us, being married means being in the same place- so i’m hoping it will be that much sweeter when it finally happens. i am so sorry for your pain, and am sending lots of strength and contentment your way.

  • Amanda Otto

    We have the opposite problem, a bit. We are about to get married and are desperately trying to relocate and find dream jobs and a house that is more affordable and has a little land. We have a child, so we want a better situation for him too. It is such a complicated puzzle with so many pieces! I can’t imagine how frustrating this must be for you right now. If you find that garden, let me know. I want to be your next-door neighbor!

  • Dacia E.

    This is us for the next God knows how long. I’m starting medical school, and medical training isn’t exactly known for geographic stability. We are so lucky that I am moving somewhere that’s very accessible from our current city, but we’re going to have to do this all over again once residency starts. (And for my fellowship, if I go that route. And once I find a job after that.)

    I hate that we’ll be apart for the majority of our engagement and possibly the first several years of our marriage. And I feel awful that my career training is so long and so unpredictable, and I can’t give him any kind of security. My greatest fear is that we will end up sacrificing our marriage or one of our jobs. I’m so excited about starting this life together, and it doesn’t feel like that will actually happen until we’re…you know, TOGETHER.

    • BeeAssassin

      If it helps you feel better, both my parents are doctors and have lived apart at various points in their marriage due to training opportunities. I get the feeling that it’s been a lot (A LOT) of negotiation, but they both seem to have ended up pretty much where they wanted to be. My dad cut his specialty training short to get a “real” well paying job, so my mom could continue her sub-specialty at a hospital a thousand miles away. Then when I was a teenager, my dad quit his well-paying job to live on the other side of the country for a year to finally finish his specialty training. But they’ll be celebrating their 35th anniversary soon. :)

      • Dacia E.

        That does make me feel better :) We have been negotiating this from basically the beginning of our relationship. I am very lucky to have a partner who is willing to be flexible in everything from location to who stays home with the kids. Thanks also for reminding me that no decision is permanent – one of us can pause our career and still resume it later.