Why My Husband and I Aren’t Living Together for a Year


This week was spring break at the University of Maryland, where I work and go to school, so naturally I went to California to visit my husband. We got married last July and are currently living 3,000 miles away from each other. By choice.

You see, I had an amazing opportunity to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Maryland in College Student Personnel, where I get to think about all the things I love. I get to study counseling, and organizations, and how colleges work, and I get to do it for free, which is pretty unbelievable. I have an assistantship that lets me work in my field (student affairs, yay!) and gives me tuition remission, a stipend, and health insurance. My husband is also a smarty-pants and is working on his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, my alma mater, where we met (go Banana Slugs!). When I got my acceptance, it was unfathomable that I wouldn’t go. UMD was my reach school and, by far and away, the cheapest. No student loans and the best education? How could we turn that down? We got engaged, and I moved cross-country.

We got married the summer between the two years of my program for completely practical reasons. We wanted to be able to take advantage of the ease that marriage might give us when doing a national job search together. Since then we have spent about every other month together, since his schedule is very flexible while he finishes his dissertation. The last few months before we graduate and this long distance ends will be much harder, though, with less time together, and more time tending our separate homes.

I wish that this post could do something like what many other posts on APW do for me; give clarity, provide some a-ha moment about a shared experience, or analyze a phenomenon that some (or many?) of us experience. But in reality it is more an opportunity for me to lay this all out on the internet for others. Because it is at once the best and a totally stupid decision for us, and after eight months, I am starting to get tired of wrestling with it. Here are some things I think about often:

  • How I talk about it with others: This is probably the most difficult. Very few people understand. Only others who have done it before, or who know people who have, don’t require a long explanation. These people are amazing and are a source of comfort, but I have stopped meeting them, because I have started to lie. I say “my husband is out of town” or “my husband travels a lot for work.” This is mostly for self-preservation, as it is tiring to have to explain the situation constantly. This all goes to hell though, when I want to tell a story about my husband’s roommates. That phrase tends to get the most raised eyebrows.
  • Regretting my own arrogance of simply thinking “we can do it”: I don’t think either of us fully processed how difficult it would be to live in different houses in different cities in different states. It’s not the big things that are difficult (although taxes are ridiculously complicated this year, and I guess that counts as something big). It’s hardest having to calculate the time difference and think about the other person’s schedule when you need to call in order to ask a little question like when some random person’s birthday is. And it’s hard when you have a bad day at work and you only have an hour to Skype and you don’t want to blow it for the other person but you really want to vent, and you end up in this weird apology-anger cycle (I’m mad, and I’m sorry I’m mad, and I’m sorry I’m making you mad, but it makes me mad that this is the only time I can tell you about things and AGH I’M MAD AND SORRY and WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING?!). I remember telling people that this would “only be two years” and “we are really good at communicating” and blah blah blah. Those are nice things to think about, but I definitely did not know how painful this would be. Maybe it’s good we didn’t know, so we could have this experience.
  • I wonder what it means to strengthen a marriage from 3,000 miles: Really, how do you make a relationship strong from so far away? I like to think that Robert and I are doing a great job maintaining our bond, but when you don’t see each other every day, and, during busy weeks, don’t necessarily get to talk to each other every day, how can you possibly do that? We Skype a lot, and we send each other lots of emails (Robert is the king of finding fabulous Willie Nelson/Lucha Villa/John Prine songs and sending them with the sweetest little love note). It makes me wonder if there is a best way to do this, or if our muddling along is really what everyone in this situation does.
  • Wondering if this was the right decision: I constantly wonder if we made the best decision. But I keep coming around to the question of what were the other options? I wouldn’t have rejected UMD, and I wouldn’t have postponed the wedding, and I wouldn’t have made Robert change his path… There really is nothing else I could have done and retained all our opportunities. And so recently I have been changing my focus to look for affirmation of my choices. Affirmation comes much less often, I think, being far away, but in bigger doses than if we were together. When we reunite, I am filled to the brim with gratitude that I am his partner. When we have good conversations on the phone, it is so much more special than a good conversation in the context of lives that have already been woven together. I am glad to have these moments, and I will work hard to maintain my sheer joy at these moments when we live together. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe the pleasure of having our lives truly tangled up together will be better than the full bodied happiness I get from these once-in-a-while joys. I’ll have to wait and see on that one.
  • Lastly, I wonder what will it mean when we do all the “married stuff” finally after a year of being married. Does it not count that we are married, that we do not have all our stuff in the same place? That we have not yet combined finances (a recipe for a headache if I ever saw one, and something for me that meant “real marriage”), and that we do not see each other every day? I think if anything, all of this is just an argument that marriage is way more than the stuff. It truly is a commitment to the “for better, for worse.” It’s much more than putting on a ring (if you so choose), and deciding whose set of silverware stays in the drawer, and who takes out the trash on what days. Those choices are important, but there is something else, something bigger, that survives across mountains and fields and months apart.

Maybe I’ll write back in August, when we will be done with school and will be living together, to tell you it was all worth it, and it was no big deal. I am hoping I’ll have some epiphany to share about strength and choices and balancing love and careers and everything else. For right now I’m not sure it’ll come, but who knows. And for all the people who are together and live together, please be thankful. Be thankful every time you lay down in the same bed (what a luxury!) and every time you don’t pay rent on two places. Be thankful especially every time you look up and notice your partner, having forgotten they were there, they are so familiar a sight.

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  • Meagan

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. I’ve been long distance with my partner for 4 years due to my masters degree/his PhD, and I completely understand how hard it is to even understand what your relationship really consists of anymore after a lot of time living separate lives. Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for my partner-I’m moving in a few days to finally be together, in the same time zone, state, city, and *apartment.* Your reminder will be a good way for me to celebrate the joy everyday of just being with him.

    Good luck making it these last few months (and good luck to you both with finishing your degrees. Congratulations!) You can do this and you will come out stronger!

    • Loryn

      It is somewhat comforting to know that we are not the only couple living thousands of miles apart because of our careers. We are also middle aged, but neither one of us was ready to give up our career, and both of us were out of work for long enough that we needed two professional incomes again to catch up with all our debts and expences. We would also like to think about the possibility of retiring some day. I am hopeful, but also full of anxiety. I have spent the last year and a half traveling back and forth spending a few weeks or months in each location, as our son was finishing high school at the time, and I was still searching for a job when my husband acquired one 2100 miles away. Now I have found a job, but was not able to where my husband did. Thus, we will not have the luxury of spending long periods of time together. Thanks for listening!

  • Miriam

    Thank you for writing this post! I do love APW, but often it feels like many of the stories are like, “And THIS is the big moral of the story that means everything is perfectly fine!” It’s refreshing to get a story from someone who is still struggling with a hard problem – life, career, money, and relationships are all sticky things to navigate when both folks are ambitious and independent, and it often doesn’t work out neatly or easily. Thanks for sharing your story – I’d love an update when you’re back in the same place. Good luck!

    • meg

      This is for a sort of interesting editorial reason. We’ve learned that it doesn’t work to run writing pieces unless the author has come to some sort of peace within themselves before writing it. IE, the problem does NOT have to be solved (I often write about unsolved problems), but if your’e still at the very angry, lashing out place, the post is going to end in a mess of comments with people screaming at each other. (Weird but true. The trained actor in me thinks it’s about the intention you bring to a work.) So! It means we probably run more pieces that we should where people have actually come to a conclusion, since we get less writing where the writer has come to some sort of peace without a solution (like this one). Just an interesting editorial tidbit for your morning!

      • kyley

        Oh, that *is* an interesting phenomenon!

        • Katie

          This is totally interesting. This makes me wonder something. Guest posts are frequently one-off pieces, so readers are not so familiar with the context of the writer . I wonder whether there would be fewer debates in the comments if the unsolved problem developed over the course of several posts, or if it came from someone whose perspective we were already familiar with.

    • Makena

      Thank you for writing about this! My husband and I currently live 8,000 miles and fourteen time zones apart. We are both officers in the military, and for our careers, we had to do it for nine months. If anything, the separation has made us closer. Since meeting each other, we had been together everyday. Needless to say, this was definitely an adjustment. I was terrified at the prospect of being separated from him for an extended period of time, and I know we were both nervous about how it would affect our relationship. If anything, it has illustrated how strong our relationship really is, and how much we enjoy being together. We do things like cook new meals together (Thank you Apple Face Time!) and send each other surprise care packages. We are fortunate to be able to visit each other every 4-6 weeks. I will be glad when we are under one roof in four months! But until then, I just take each day at a time, and every morning when I wake up, I know it is one less day that I will be apart from him.

  • I just want to send you strenght… and tell you that August is almost here and it will have been worth it . We were long distance before getting married for about 2 years while I finished my studies and it was hard, but time passes and you will be together soon.
    Just hang in there, think of it one day at a time, one month at a time, and also think of those weekends where you are able to see each other.

    • Oh and that last picture, is just perfect. I love your veil / mantilla. and oh the joy that is showing.

      • amelia

        ditto! where is the veil from?

  • I have friends who got married on her mid-term break in the Peace Corps (and before the days of email and skype). He said it was rough, but they knew they wanted to be together. So they did.

    I feel you on the distance. I just found a job (close by, thankfully), but I cast a wide net to find the right position. I was definitely contemplating what you are doing. During dating, we lived apart for various periods of time, and it went alright. Communication definitely is the most important. My guy isn’t so verbal, so we sometimes had rough patches. I think it’s awesome your husband sends you songs and little pick me ups!

    I wish you both luck finishing up and finding the right path together.

  • ProjectWed

    You may feel like an aberration, but in the DC-Metro, you are in good company. So many of us, here, are wives/SOs of the military/government/non-profits that deploy—or who deploy ourselves.

    The fact is that the world is big, but growing smaller. Distance is no longer the impediment that it once was. Distance still is a challenge, as you so eloquently described. But the bigger challenge that I see is keeping true to oneself and ones’ relationship. Others judge and do not understand—but why should we expect them to? The others have their own challenges within their relationships; and from what I hear, I’ll choose distance over someone else’s relationship problems, any day!

    • Alison

      SO true. As a DC soon-to-be-wife to a government employee with many deployments under his belt, this post really hits home! Especially the angry-emotional Skype calls, ha. When you only have a few minutes a day to talk (if that), it feels like you have to make it count, bitching about work like any normal person makes you feel awful. Having to spend those few minutes going over admin issues is equally frustrating. I’ve been known to make lists of things we have to discuss on that day’s call (which given time zones is often at a weird time of day for both of us). It is hard sometimes to keep the romance alive or (more troubling) feel like the relationship is growing rather than just hanging on for dear life. And then you have the (embarrassingly) equally difficult parts when you are together for extended periods of time, but you aren’t really used to having one another in shared space yet. How do you talk to anyone about those difficulties, when they’ve been listening to you complain that you miss your person for months on end? It counts as real marriage for sure, and it is survivable… But there are days it can still be awful.

      This is an issue we don’t talk about enough: i feel like there are so many of us quietly living likethis! Thanks Apw and Lily for sharing!

      • Mbest

        Thank you for talking about how hard the long awaited transition to being together can be. My so is about to come home from two months on tour in Europe, we have delt with this before., but I am always nervous about the fitting back together time. He often feels a little like a stranger to me for the first few days we are together again. I was shocked by this the first time it happened, I thought seeing him again would be magical and when it was hard I was scared something was wrong. While its not easy I have come to understand how each of us handle being apart. We get married in a year and are looking forward to shifting our lives to spending more time together. The time we have been apart has shaped our relationship in good but not easy ways. I have never lived on my own before and have learned important things about myself in this time. I think we both have. But now we are so ready for life together.

  • Vmed

    We recently admitted that there’s a very real possibility that when I go to med school next summer, it will be with my one year old and not my husband. My mom was surprisingly unfazed when I told her- I really thought she’d fret with me, but instead she said, “If that happens, you will be fine.” And I remembered that my parents had to live apart for almost a year when I was an infant. I don’t know much about that time, but I know they are still super in love 30+ years later.

    It was a temporary assignment for my dad, so it didn’t make sense to try to move the whole family ten hours away(Mom, toddler, infant, house). She’d drive out visit him, two babies in tow. He’d fly back to be with us for a weekend. When I was a kid, sometimes they’d tell stories about that time, and I thought that it was all very reasonable of them.

    But as an adult, in my first year of marriage, expecting a child, with a big (solo?) move on the horizon, I have more perspective on how incredibly difficult that must be. And yet you do what you have to do, so while we are trying to work out a move-together plan, I am spending as little time as possible being anxious, and many moments appreciating being able to make dinner together, or share odious chores, or greet each other at the door.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds like this year counts Very very much as marriage.

  • Kara

    Wow, whenever it gets tough, look at that last picture and reclaim that beautiful joy. I don’t know you, but I can see how much you love each other there. Beautiful!

    Strength and sympathy from here as well. My husband and I finally get to be together (through the generosity of some management in my office) and I’m so grateful for that. I think we’re committed to NOT having to repeat the separation when my “virtual office” permission runs out.

    For what it’s worth, one of the things that helped me most was to get a “elevator speech” thing to answer the “where’s your boyfriend/fiance’/husband?” thing and a couple of canned responses to the inevitable “why would you want to do that” or “oh, that must be so hard” comments. It made it SO much less emotionally draining for me.

  • Anontoday

    This post got me thinking about a tough question for the APW community: can living apart for a time ever be healing?

    My husband and I have struggled throughout the nearly 3 years of our marriage. We moved into our home when it was still basically under construction, he’s been increasingly miserable at his job and unable to find new work, he’s had chronic health issues, and I’ve not exactly weathered all of this with grace (read: I’ve screamed, yelled, blamed- all the stuff you’re not supposed to do as a supportive partner). There have been moments of joy (days, weeks, maybe a month or two in a row), and way too many tears. We’ve struggled to communicate and have crumbled under the weight of our own expectations. We finally hit our breaking point and have decided to separate.

    Most of my heart knows that this is likely to lead to the end of our marriage. But we still love each other. We agree that we picked well when we picked each other. And yet we just haven’t been able to figure out how to work with each other. We’ve agreed to “check in” at 6 months and see where we both stand emotionally. I’m hoping that space will provide perspective, and help us each get to a place of healing.

    Has anyone else experienced this? I’d really value any wisdom the APW crowd can provide. I’ve been reading since we we’re planning our wedding and I never cease to be amazed by the wealth of life experience of Meg’s readers. Thanks.

    • Hillori


      My heart goes out to you.

      Living apart for a time can help both of you gain some clarity and reprioritize your wants and needs. There are no promises how that will play out– only that with clarity, things get better.

      I went through something similar: illness in a young relationship and lots of unhealthy emotions. My advice is for you both to take the time you need. Retreating to your seperate corners for a short time may bring you together indefinately, or it may show you that your paths diverge.

      My thoughts are with you.

    • Another Meg

      Separating is hard. It could go either way- there are so many factors. My separation ended in divorce, but it’s not always like that. A friend and her husband separated for a year and are now back together and stronger than ever. It’s an important time to take stock. Counseling, both as a couple and individually, can be incredibly helpful.

      Sending good thoughts your way. Take care of your heart.

      • MrsM

        I wish you all the best, and hope that the outcome of your seperation is positive, whatever happens in 6 months.

        My husband and I went our seperate ways before we married (after several years together). We even moved to seperate countries… At the time neither of us had any expectation of getting back together. However, during our seperation we actually become friends again, and established that we really liked each other afterall. After 18mths living seperate lives we got back together as a much happier, healthier couple.

        I hope to share with you some hope, it is ok to seperate and just maybe seperating is what you need to give you both back the perspective that it is sometimes so easy to lose when you are in the middle of the issues.

        Good luck, kia kaha (be strong)

        • Rebecca

          1) Exactly

          2), Hello, fellow kiwi MRSM :)

    • DorieG

      Marital struggles are wrenching … sending calm thoughts to you.

      As Hillori said, separating doesn’t guarantee anything — except the space and room to think with _less_ of the daily stress that is fracturing your marriage. (I wouldn’t say _without_ that stress as you are likely to begin fretting about what the separation signifies at the same time you are basking in the relative calm it brings).

      Beyond what you have written, I do not know –cannot know–what you are feeling. That said, 6 months seems to me like a long time before “checking in” and I wonder if waiting half-a-year to discuss the issue will make the decision to end the marriage simply easier. My ex-husband and I talked every 2 weeks or so after I moved out, and I don’t think I could have been confident in my/our decision not to return to married life with my former partner had we not discussed our feelings with that level of frequency … combined with a greater level of honesty between the two of us.

      You didn’t mention if you had sought out couples counseling. While counseling cannot disappear the health problems, a house-in-progress, or a lack of work options, it may give you both the tools to deal with/communicated about those issues more effectively. (And I know there have been some posts attesting to the benefits of counseling). I will be frank here: couples counseling didn’t save my marriage. By the time my ex-husband and I separated, though, the struggles had gone on for much longer than your three years, and
      I was so emotionally tired, I didn’t feel like exerting the energy to change destructive behavior patterns. But, as I note above, we were able to have more constructive conversations as a result of that counseling.

      Although it was primarily my decision to end the marriage, deciding whether a marriage is irretrievably broken is hard, hard, hard for many reasons, but especially because in my case (and from what my divorced friends have shared with me), the love for the other person rarely goes away. (I do recognize that this is not the case for all couples). I truly agonized over the “should I stay or should I go?” question for a long time, and I hope that you find the strength to make the decision which is best for you.

  • Renee

    When my now-husband and I were dating, I moved halfway around the world for 13 months. Between that and him joining the military, there was a time where we saw each other for 8 days out of the previous 18 months. I don’t regret the decision to move but, having done it once, I don’t think we would voluntarily do it again. I had the same attitude of “We can do it” and that it wouldn’t be too difficult, especially with the likelihood of his deployment in that time frame. Of course, we did make it but it was much, much harder than either of us had anticipated. Even now- a year and a half after I came home and we got married- it’s still a luxury for him to be home at night or for a whole weekend, although at this point it has to do with his military schedule. Luckily, most people in our current city are either in or related to the military so the vast majority understand or have experience being apart from spouses for extended amounts of time.

  • Erin

    Congratulations for making it this far! Long distance is HARD. I do think everyone just muddles through the best they can.

    I met my husband online – I’m in Ohio. He was in Texas. I resisted ‘dating’ for a long time because of this, but by the time he flew up and we met in person for the first time, we were already talking marriage. I knew I wanted him for the rest of my life.

    We spent two years after that on nightly phone calls and weekly Skype (my internet connection didn’t do well with it) and lots of online chatting and insane amounts of airfare. It was hard. Every time I left again or he left again, I’d spend days feeling like a piece was missing.

    But it /was/ worth it. He finished his degree. Last June, I flew to Texas and we drove back in his big red truck. This January we got married. And there are still days when I look over at him and can’t believe he’s here to stay.

    I think in some ways long-distance /can/ make a relationship stronger. For one, it forces you to be sure you can talk to each other. Because long-distance, you can’t get caught up in the physical or the lazy. You can’t watch movies together or read a book next to each other (though we did actually watch movies in tandem while on the phone together a few times). You have to actually enjoy talking to each other. And you have to learn how to talk to each other through things that you might otherwise solve with a hug.

    But that doesn’t make it suck less. I’m so happy it’s almost over for you!

    • We also had movie date nights long-distance! We would set ourselves up to instant message back and forth, then start the DVDs in sync. Then we could type back and forth when we wanted. :)

      And we have been in the same apartment almost two years now, and I am still thrilled and thankful that we get to live together.

  • Gigi59

    I would just like to say YES to: “our muddling along is really what everyone in this situation does.”

    The one thing I’ve really learned as I age is that there are very few correct answers to anything and we are all feeling our way along as best we can. We all make the best decisions we can at the time and then deal with the results. And usually everything turns out just fine.

    And it will for you too, Lily. You’re obviously happily in love and I can’t wait to read your post about the joys of finally living together. Best of luck…

  • Marie

    My fiance and I were long distance for the first 5 years of our relationship. It was really hard to explain to other people–starting out long distance! We actually grew up in the same home town and went to the same college…it was when he graduated and moved away that we realized what could be between us. He moved for a job, and I still had big plans–one year left of college, a year in NYC w/ an Americorp program, and then law school. Looking back, I’m not sure how we knew it would be worth it. Were we crazy starting a serious relationship, when it seemed like living even remotely near each other was not in the foreseeable future??

    We’ve been living together for a year now, and that is only because somehow I found my dream job in the same area that he lived and worked. Looking back, we had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of really harsh downs…but, I think it bonded us in a very strong way. I respect and love him so much for allowing me to pursue my dreams, and for supporting me in those dreams (how could I have stuck it out in Americorp if he had said “if it is so bad, quit, and move in with me?”). When I look back, I think “Wow, we went through all of that? We are awesome!” And our year of living together has been better than I could have even imagined.

    • Liz

      Crazily enough, ditto – though I am a year behind you. The wedding is in October, and after that we will FINALLY move (to the same city and) in together full-time.

    • I’m another one in the same situation. We started dating two months before I went to college. He stayed in our hometown until he went to college (five hours by car away) two years later, which was also when I studied abroad (five hours by plane away). We spent most of the next summer apart, and then the next year, he studied abroad (five hours by plane again). The last two years he was in college, I lived in a city six hours away, before we both moved back to our hometown for a year. Finally, almost a year ago, we moved in together.

      It was quite the time (six years apart), and involved plenty of screaming and crying, but it also formed such an important foundation for both of us. We’re masters at communication and reading each others’ moods now, we really appreciate every minute we have together, and now that we’re both in grad school and working full-time, neither of us is resentful that we don’t see each other much during the week, because we’re so happy to be sharing a kitchen table and a bed.

      Like Lily, it was hardly even a choice. Neither of us could imagine forcing the other person *not* to do something. We both wanted our own college experience, we both wanted to study abroad and do our own things. It worked out great, and we decided it was enough, and that moving forward, we’ll do whatever we can to find a way to stay together, even if it means that one of us has to put their career on hold for some time.

  • Jamie

    Oh wow, this was a timely post. I am moving, only a couple of hours away, from my fiance next week. I am starting a 27 month MS degree. We are getting married right smack in the middle of it all, and I will spend our first year of married life traveling around the state (country?) on rotations. I’m definitely a little scared, and I have wondered whether living apart our first year of married life will “set us back.” I believe we are strong enough to get though it, but sometimes I wonder if things might have been easier if I had met him earlier, later. No use worrying about it now. In a week, I will start taking one day at a time… for 822 days. :-)

  • A very intelligent, beautiful, post. Wisdom isn’t always summing things up into a lesson, sometimes it’s just saying the things very clearly.

    As the world has gotten flatter, as they say, marriages span more space. Reading this I thought, “But of course!” And then I thought, “Inevitability doesn’t make long distance marriage any easier. But it ought to make it less embarrassing.”

  • Rachel

    Thank you for sharing your story! I wish people did not need a long explanation to understand where you are coming from, because it makes a lot of sense. Wishing you well!

  • Stephanie

    I’m a mother of the bride who reads the blog. When my husband and I got married 40 years ago, we moved from the US to Italy where he would go to medical school. After 3 years of scraping by on money earned from summer jobs I moved back to the US to work full time to support him. We spent 1 full year apart and several shorter periods apart before he graduated. Because this was way back when overseas phone calls were expensive we wrote to each other every day and would also tape messages. Mail delivery between Italy and the US was unreliable so we could go for weeks without a message and then get a pile all at once. Since we’re still together, I’d say the experience made our love stronger because we felt committed to each other and to surviving the time apart. We still have many of the letters and it’s a pleasure to read them.

    • Rymenhild

      What a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing if here. I’m glad to hear you and yours made it through.

    • Technology seems to make it a little bit easier to handle in these situations. But, boy, are we missing out on the letter-writing! I get sad when I think how much our society is losing from a historical view-point with the invention of email, texts and Skype.

      I’m sure your descendents will love reading your letters, as much as you do! My family has several binders full of letters written by my Great-Grandparents from 1910-1914 (when my Great-Grandfather was working on his Master’s and PhD). We treasure them!

      • Alexandra

        I dunno, from a historical standpoint, maybe all this means is that 40 years from now, grandchildren interested in their granparent’s lives will be able to pull up their facebook account from 2012 and see how much their grandparents hated mondays and loved cats with misspelled quotes on them.

        … Maybe handwritten love letters is a better legacy.

    • Jennie

      My fiance and I have spent two non-consecutive years of our seven year relationship apart; the first time I was living in Europe while he was on the west coast of the US. As very poor students, we couldn’t afford to talk by phone more often then once a week for twenty minutes or so, and I had very infrequent access to the internet. So we wrote reams of letters to each other instead. Luckily, the post system in Italy is much improved and we would send/receive a batch of letters each week. It was so hard being apart, but looking back now, I realize that writing to each other let us discover things about our relationship we may not have otherwise. When we spent a year apart on the east and west coasts for graduate school, we talked by phone every day, but the conversations were much more about mundane daily activities than about exploring our individual and relationship identities. I encourage everyone to give it a try from time to time (even if you see each other every day). Letters to each other can provide a valuable space for exploring a relationship.

      Plus I love reading them now. I’m hoping to take quotes from our letters to decorate our kettubah.

      • H

        That’s so lovely! What a beautiful idea, to include quotes in your ketubah!

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for writing this. My fiance and I have been in the same city for maybe 6 months out of the entire 3 years we’ve been together. I’ve been looking for a job in DC, where he is, which is really where I need to end up with a masters in international development, for a year, and am at the end of my rope. We’re 5 months out from the wedding, and I don’t know if I can handle not being together much longer. I guess I’m lucky that we’re only 4 hours apart instead of a whole country or even in different countries. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Janet

      Mary, I totally understand your frustration. Feeling like you should be thankful you’re “so close and not thousands of miles/hours/countries/etc. apart when so many couples are struggling with it” when you’re only a few hours or even closer to your partner has been my MO for awhile now. In reality it’s driving me crazy. We’re still apart. We miss each other like crazy. We only get to see each other on the weekends thanks to our jobs and him being in school. The list goes on and on.

      We even live in the greater DC-Metro area and we are seperated by the dreaded Potomac River and the 7th level of hell that is the Capital Beltway. On a good traffic day I can make it to him from my place in an hour ‘n half, from my work an hour. However, add it the horrible traffic that is prevelant thruout the DC Metro area and it can quickly turn an hour drive into a two to three hour one way trip!

      We want to move in together, but I know myself well enough to know that if I moved to his house my production at work would suffer, which my boss would NOT tolerate. Most importanly, my emotional, mental, physical health would suffer having to commute four to six hours a day. All of which would negatively impact our relationship. The last thing I want to do is come home to him after working a nine hour day, being up at 5am to get to work, driving a minimum of four hours round trip, and be a miserable person because I’m tired and have had enough. So yes, I’m thankful I’m close enough to see him every weekend, but I’m still beyond frustrated with the situation we’re currently in and while it will work out in the end…the time in between isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

      • MDBethann

        I feel your pain. Do either of you have teleworking as an option?

        When DH and I started dating, I lived in northern Montgomery Co. MD and he lived in Fairfax, VA. At the time he worked in Alexandria and I worked in DC, so dates were either after work in DC or me metroing to Fairfax to avoid the hell that is I-66 – driving was only really an option on the weekends (and even then only at the right times). After about a year of this and his decision to telework full time, we decided a move was in order, and we bought a house together. Now I’m the only one who commutes, since he works from home full time, and I’ve managed to get my commute down to 4 days a week. Teleworking can be a major blessing in an area where you can spend more time at work and commuting to/from work than you do at home with your family. I’m amazed by the commutes some people have around here!

        • Janet

          Unfortunately, neither of our jobs allow us to telecommute. Funnily enough I live just north of Montogomery County, but work there. The fiance lives just outside Manassas and works around Ft. Belvoir. So there is just no easy way to get from Point A to Point B. Don’t get me started on the train wreck that is I-66! I’ve been running up and down the damn thing for over a year and a half and I still haven’t found a rhyme or reason as to why it is the way it is!

          The fiance owns a house and I rent an apartment, so we are working on getting his place ready to try and sell so we can find a place in the middle. Its pretty daunting right now between work, school for him, planning a wedding, and trying to sell his house. One day at a time and hopefully once he finishes school at the end/beginning of the year he’ll be able to get a new job that will either in DC or MD.

  • Carbon Girl

    In some ways I am happy for the you at this moment. You are already married but are about to move in together as a married couple for the first time. What a grand new adventure you will be starting! Your time apart is almost up and you have so much to look forward to!

    My husband and I were long distance 3 months a summer for two years and then two years before that while we were dating/engaged while I was in the subarctic doing research for my PhD. For some reason, it was harder once we got married. We are horrendous phone communicators and my internet connection was too slow for Skype. It was so hard to feel an emotional bond from that far away. We also struggled for a week or two when I came back as we had to renegotiate our shared lives. That was hard at first because I kept thinking a reunion should be joyful and not stressful. Once I changed my expectations, it was OK though and we got through it.

    • SusieQ

      I know this is derailing, but I can’t help asking anyways:

      Subarctic research?!? Was it as awesome as I am imagining?

    • lasouris

      “That was hard at first because I kept thinking a reunion should be joyful and not stressful.”

      Yes. This perception, and the acceptance of its fallacy (for some of us), are huge. We spent the first 16 months of our relationship with only 6 in the same place (where he was changed though, from France to NZ, and me in the US). After I finished my undergrad I moved to the other side of the world (literally) and moved in with him. The initial reunion was happy but got stressful really fast as we negotiated living together, where we wanted the relationship to go, and the implications of me moving here, in addition to my adjusting in a place without any family/friend supports.

      But four years later I’m very glad I took the leap and moved; it’s worked out well for life (and my career). We are happy for our lives together and confident in our relationship for what the future may hold. So it’s hard, but it’s worth it! :-)

  • Amanda

    Thank you for this post! I really needed to read something like this. I’ll be applying to doctorate programs this summer and if I get in anywhere, I’ll be doing my first year in a different state than my husband who will stay in NYC to finish up his teaching degree. That was a hard discussion for us to have – we’ve only been married a year but have lived together for 7 years and are pretty dependent on each other. In some ways I think it would actually be really healthy for us to have to live on our own for a bit (we’re high school sweethearts so we’ve never done that before) but at the same time it’s going to be ROUGH. Even just admitting to ourselves that we *could* do it, that that was an option for us, was hard. I would love to read more experiences like this! I am always amazed at how many people I know who are going through similar situations.

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    You know, this post and many of the comments have been about the hardships of living apart, and the reasons why it’s often necessary, but I’ve gained a lot of strength from them this morning. My fiance’s work is in the middle of contract negotiations, and right now it looks like there is a high chance of strike or lockout, and it could last a long time. This means he’ll be doing what a lot of people in the maritime provinces do-go find work in Alberta. That means 2 weeks away, and one week home (or a similar schedule) until contract issues are resolved. I’ve been trying not to borrow trouble by worrying about it, but have failed miserably. I’ve found it so reassuring to hear from others that are dealing with living far apart. If it does happen, you’ve all helped me to realize that I’ll have the strength to deal with it.

  • carrie

    I hope my alma mater is taking care of you and you have some room for Terrapin love next to your banana slugs (Fear the Turtle!). I just wanted to send you some virtual support. I really loved this post, because it makes me happy to hear that there are couples filling up their career tanks to hopefully make a better future, even though living apart is hard. I would like to think that living apart will help you live even better together in the future.

  • Julia

    Apologies for this incredibly superficial response to your profound and thoughtful piece, but oh my goodness that last image is possibly THE most beautiful wedding photo I’ve ever seen!

  • Hlockhart

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. My mouth was practically hanging open the whole time I was reading it–I was so struck by how perfectly you describe the different aspects of this experience.

    I, too, like to say my husband “travels a lot for work,” by which most people don’t realize I mean that he’s home 1-2 weekends a month. We’ve been mostly long distance for a few years, during which the amount of time he’s had at home has varied a lot depending on his job, and married for 1. Before that we lived together, so it was a big adjustment.

    I for one know that our relationship is stronger than it ever was when we lived in the same town. Partly that’s just growing older, but partly it is the kind of trust in our bond that living apart has fostered.

    In our first year of living apart, I used to worry about, as you put it, “how do you make a relationship strong from so far away?”In fact, a lot of initial tension in the adjustment to living apart was the feeling that we needed to have a significant phone or skype conversation every single day. Even when my husband had worked a 14 hour day and wanted to drop, or when I was feeling overwhelmed with my studies and didn’t have much to talk about. Even though neither of us is that good at talking on the phone! Over time, we learned that we don’t need to talk much every day if we don’t feel up to it: for us, it’s better to have 1 or 2 good conversations a week, when the spirit moves us, and brief check-ins and email exchanges the rest of the time. We don’t need to be constantly on the same page to trust that we love and support each other (and have fun together when one of us isn’t ready to fall asleep). If focusing on keeping your relationship strong is wearing you out, my advice is to stop focusing on it, and just trust in the foundation you’ve already laid.

    Again, I can’t thank you and APW enough for this post. My husband and I will, at long last, be living together again starting this fall. I’m thrilled, but I’m also really grateful for what we’ve learned about ourselves, and for the trust we’ve gained in our relationship, because we’ve had to live apart. Best of luck to you as you build a life together, even when you’re both far away.

  • Thank you so, so much for this, Lily. My husband and I have been long-distance for almost 3 years now. We’re both academics. It’s coming to an end soon because I have a one-year fellowship in his city, but … that’s just for one year. I’m terrified of what happens after that because this long-distance stuff is hard and darn it I don’t want to do it again! But I also can’t see my way to either of us scrapping the careers we’ve worked so hard to build. The idea that we could wake up in 20 years with one of us resenting the hell out of the other because of a long-ago career sacrifice scares me even more. On the other hand, I’ve also been struggling with a lot of guilt over the fact that the job I’m currently in doesn’t seem to have advanced my career the way I’d hoped. How long do I try to tread water and hope I get my break, at the expense of time with my spouse?

    And I totally understand dodging the husband discussion! I always get one of two reactions when I tell the whole story. 1. “WHAT?! You don’t LIVE with your HUSBAND?! Well, I guess if your career is more important to you than your marriage … still, I’d choose my family.” 2. Mostly from other academics, “Good for you for doing the right thing and sacrificing your personal life to be an academic! Some young scholars actually turn down jobs to be with their families. Can you imagine anything that stupid?” Both responses make me want to bang my head against a wall.

    Ugh. Long-distance is just … hard. There are no easy answers. I think you’re right and we’re all just muddling through the best we can.

    • SusieQ

      I don’t have anything to add, Petite Chablis, except that I want to Exactly^2 everything you said.

    • I’d love to hear more from you about being married and in academia. We’ve already sort of half-decided that it’s likely I’ll just adjunct unless a really incredible position comes up for me, and that we’ll work harder on his career. That said, we’d both also like to stay in New York, and it’s easier for him to build his career here than it is for me (and that I’d be pretty happy with anything that gave me time to write), so that may have something to do with it also. We’re not done with school, so of course it’s all up in the air, but I’d be really interested in how the two of you make choices about this.

      • Hrm. Choices. Well, when I took my current job, I did it mostly because my grad school advisors insisted that accepting Current Job would put me in a better position for future jobs, and because there was not a good career-advancing opportunity for me that didn’t involve long distance, and because I love teaching and research and despite everything that’s screwed up about academia I really, really wanted to be a professor. I still do.

        The big choices are going to come next year, I think, when this one-year fellowship runs out. And there are a lot of different ways it could play out. What if I get a job somewhere that’s not His City — would he move? Would we try long distance again and hope one of us can eventually snag a job in the other’s city? What if it’s another postdoc — would we be willing to do long-distance again for a job that’s basically just more stalling for me career-wise? Or, I could come up totally empty on the job hunt — in that case, what’s my Plan B?

        The big thing I’ve concluded is that with the academic job market as bad as it is right now (in my field, and also in pretty much every other field except economics!), you can do all of the right things and make huge personal sacrifices and it still might not pay off. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I contemplate whether to make more sacrifices than I already have. If the tenure-track thing doesn’t break for me, it probably makes more sense to switch to a career where I actually have a chance of advancing and I can live with my husband!

        I have no idea if any of that was helpful, or even coherent. It’s something I think a lot about but I haven’t reached any clarity on it yet!

        • This was really helpful! I think it’s one of those things you just have to take one step at a time. A hard place to be in, and no easy choices.

    • Petite Chablis,

      I am glad you commented. And I think these two points/questions seem to sum up a lot of life choices:

      “How long do I try to tread water and hope I get my break, at the expense of time with my spouse?”
      “I’m trying to keep that in mind as I contemplate whether to make more sacrifices than I already have.”

      Whether it’s about living apart or working a job that isn’t too fun for a potential payoff later or deciding to buy (or not buy) a house or having kids (or not) or whatever….it’s trying to figure out which option is the right choice and knowing the right timing of it (or when something is no longer the right choice). I think these hard, “adult” life choices can be so difficult….. In the past I’ve always waited until I *knew* and had a gut conviction that something was a right choice. But it’s just so hard when there are time pressures to figure stuff out…. Anyhow, thanks for sharing. And if you ever want to share more, I’d love to read a post from your experiences with marriage/long-distance/academia/etc. :)

  • M

    Muddling through is pretty much right on. My husband and I have been married almost two years, and we’re two months into a six month stint where I’m staying in our apartment and my stable, health-insurance-providing job in GA, and he’s doing a post-doc in MD and living with his parents. Financially and professionally, it was an obvious decision, but man, does. it. suck. I totally get what you say about people not understanding… They just wrinkle their brow and say something about how hard it must be. I agree with the recommendation to get an elevator speech down. For me, it also helps in practice and in conversation to focus on the positives, like rediscovering living-alone tendencies (popcorn for dinner? yes. bbc dramas on netflix? all day.).

    I think you were right to get married, despite the distance. At least for us, long-distance marriage has been different than long-distance dating. There’s a greater sense of oneness, of being a team, and heart/soul-level commitment that wasn’t always there before. We’ll get through this; you’ll get through this. And in the meantime, keep taking joy in those great conversations and the precious time you do get to spend in the same place.

  • Fermi

    Wow. I am loving the posts this week. I just recently started a long distance relationship with someone who lives 13 hours away (2 states away) and this past week has been hard. But just as HLockhart said above,
    “Over time, we learned that we don’t need to talk much every day if we don’t feel up to it: for us, it’s better to have 1 or 2 good conversations a week, when the spirit moves us, and brief check-ins and email exchanges the rest of the time.”
    THAT IS SO THE TRUTH. We have a couple of good facetime convos during the week and the rest of the time it’s texting and short good night phone calls. But if that works for us, then it does. The only thing I can hope is that eventually one day we’ll live in the same city together…but until then we want to make it work, so we’re going to give it a go. That’s all we can do!
    I can’t remember where I read this quote but it makes so much sense.

    “Distance is not for the fearful, it is for the bold. It is for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It’s for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough…”

  • hanna

    I’m done with school now, we’re living together again (for a year and a half now, after almost three years apart), and I’m here to tell you, it’s all worth it, and it was no big deal, finally. We have a 7 month old baby, we both have jobs in our field, and our relationship is improving every day. Combining finances was no problem, getting used to sharing our space again was also easier than I feared. We lived apart because we had to for our happiness at the time and our future careers and mental sanity. I found that the thing that made it ok is knowing that there is an end point, whether fixed in stone, or more sketchy, like ours was, but still, it was there, it was coming, and it was real.

  • Teresa

    Hi, My name is Teresa and I have spent a total of a year and a half apart from my FH. We have been together 5 years. The half a year was actually much more difficult than the year, because that was after we had already moved in together.

    My tips:
    -Make every visit count! Screw one weekend in Maryland, one weekend in Cali… if you guys go somewhere else, then you are making new memories together! Plan them early so that you have something to look forward to!

    -Really try to create positive interactions. For instance on those crappy “I’m angry but I’m on Skype with you” sort of days, say, okay I need to b*tch for 5 minutes. Then we are going to play a game of scrabble and forget about that.

    -Read and watch the same stuff… once again the whole having common experiences sort of thing.

    Good luck! after being sad that my boyfriend decided to spend 6 months away from me, and blaming him but not trying to blame him, we were okay. You’re going to have some yucky fights but best of luck.
    I and my FH spent the year apart after only starting to date second semester senior year at college, and somehow we worked out.

    • I love the idea of reading and watching the same things. Maybe it’s pretty obvious advice but I have never thought of the importance of doing that when you are living apart. What a great idea!

    • Snow Gray

      My fiancee and I do that as much as possible – if you’re only a few time zones away you can at least watch most of the same programming (DVR is your friend) and if you live further, YouTube! We watch QI (our favorite show, which doesn’t play here in the states) at the same time, so we can laugh together and talk about it.

      It’s one of those things that helps you feel together, even when you’re apart.

  • Florence

    Thank you so much for sharing this story… We’re in a long-distance relationship too, and no one understands. First there are people who don’t get how we could be engaged and planning a wedding AND not living together (“but if you haven’t lived together, how can you know it’ll work out?”), and then there are those people who don’t understand why I don’t “just” go to another college closer to him and change my career choices…
    What killed me was hearing my brother in law saying his long-distance relationship was killing him, because having to drive for 20mn to see his girlfriend was really too much of an effort.
    It’s good to know we’re not alone in this situation. I truly wish that you’ll write in August to say how wonderful it is that you two are finally living together!

  • Thank you so much for posting this. My fiance and I have been long distance for the majority of our relationship. We met three days before I was to get on a plane to NYC for job interviews and he left for nearly a month for a business trip. When he got back we knew two things – that we loved each other and that in a couple of months I would be moving to New York. I’m happy to say that I feel confident that we’ve made this long distance thing work. As we’ve always said since embarking on this partnership, we will make it work because we have no other choice – we chose each other long before being engaged and as much as it is difficult being apart we’ve come to appreciate that being long distance has really forced us to be expert communicators. Currently we are trying to figure out what we are going to do once we are married. He currently has a very well paying federal government job that, thankfully, allows 3 telecommuting days three states away. I am working full-time in New York and recently went back to school and enrolled in a program that will hopefully allow me to make a career change. Right now a long distance commute to my fiance’s job is what we are gearing up for after he joins me here in New York. We don’t know where we’ll be in five years, let alone one year after we are married, but we do know that wherever we land we’ll be together. We’ve waited long enough!

  • JEM

    “I think if anything, all of this is just an argument that marriage is way more than the stuff. It truly is a commitment to the “for better, for worse.”

    Oh man, surprise tears. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • H

    My fiance and I know that in about 2 years (maybe 3), he’ll have to move away from here, and I’ll have to stay here (until I finish school). We’ll be long distance for a year, or maybe 2. After these couple of years, I’ll be applying for physician residencies, and a freaking computer will determine whether I’ll be able to live with my husband or not. So this story scares the living hell out of me. Because, while now is awesome, I’m worried about later.

  • Thank you for this.

  • Is there a post in the works at APW about folks who CHOOSE to live apart? (As in we don’t have to live separately but choose to do so). I’d LOVE to read a post on that type of living apart (aka Living Apart Together).

    • meg

      We’d love to post about that. In fact, we’d discussed that as a staff. But! No posts have been submitted, so till they are, no posts are forthcoming!

    • Martha

      I have nothing of substance to add here, but Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton! That’s all. :)

    • Claire

      I’d love to read about that too!

  • Jane

    Hi there! I enjoyed reading this. My husband and I had lived together for about two years before we got married, but then right after we actually got hitched, we lived apart for nearly six months (I moved to take a dream job 1200 miles away, and we both decided it would be best for him to keep working where we used to live until he found a job in the new city.) It was hard, of course, but we quickly figured out that it was worth the money for him to come visit every two weeks. We just spent the money and I don’t regret a cent of it. At first I was worried because it meant we had stopped saving, but in reality, it was the wisest choice. We also talked on the phone every single day, even if just to say “Hi, I love you, I don’t feel like talking tonight.” And we skyped of course. But I’ve got to say, to anyone reading this, that if there is ANY WAY you can swing it, regular, predictable visits make the whole thing way more manageable.

  • Martha

    My husband and I were apart for 4 months right after getting married for professional reasons. It wasn’t open-ended, but whoa. That was much harder than I expected, and we have decided that we will not do it again. We are lucky because I don’t think we’ll need to do it again, but it gave me so much respect for those of you that do it, again and again. A close friend got engaged a week before her fiance deployed. It’s been tough for them, and I’ve tried to support her by being present, but any tips that anyone else has are welcomed.

  • sarahdipity

    When I first met my husband we were living on opposite sides of the country. Our relationship has been sort of marked by us living closer to each other gradually over time until finally 4 months after getting married we were living together. One of the hardest things I found was that when you’re far apart you can’t just talk about the little funny things that happened to you when you were together. Shared experience is a big part of a relationship. To sort of combat this we would have dinner date nights. For example we’d both get Indian takeout and eat over Skype. We would buy the same book and then take turns reading it to each other over the phone. (I’ll admit to him often reading me to sleep since I was the one on the east coast and he was on the west.) Silly little things like that made a huge difference for us.

    • I love hearing about your shared long-distance dinner nights with the same type of food! I wish I had heard of that when we were long-distance. And the reading each other the book is also very sweet. Really great ideas…

  • Cassandra

    Loved reading this. My fiance moved last year to the US (we’re Canadian) to pursue his PhD, while I was 2 years into my own. The decision was easy but miserable – of course he wasn’t going to turn down this amazing (fully-funded!) opportunity, and I wasn’t going to walk away from the work I had put in, either. We’ve got an international border between us, which means moving to be together requires the hassle of immigration paperwork after we get married. We both know that after our wedding, we’ll be looking at a minimum of a few months still living apart.

    But we make it work, and we know that this distance has strengthened our relationship far beyond what we imagined. It demonstrated to us that while our relationship is a high priority (along with our child, who lives with me), we can pursue other opportunities. We can communicate frustrations and sadness effectively. We can on each other fully without being dependent on each other

    “It makes me wonder if there is a best way to do this, or if our muddling along is really what everyone in this situation does.”
    From my experience, every couple doing it muddles along the best they can. We email in the morning and at night, we skype a few minutes most evenings (mostly so he can talk to my daughter), and we visit when we can afford it, money and time-wise. You just push on through.

    And on that note, my fiance is about to head to the airport to come home for 3 months of uninterrupted family bliss :)

  • MrsM

    This post is resonating for me also. I work in an industry where I have no choice but to work away from home, and do a roster. I work in remote areas, living in camps, and working a roster of 4wks on 2 wks off. Sounds exotic? Sounds fun?

    I get the same reaction over and over “oh you are so lucky” “you get ALL that time off” “you get to spend all that time travelling/doing fun things overseas” etc. The reality is that I cram my entire life into each 14 day period. I feel torn between spending time with my husband, with my family, and my friends, so I live in a whirlwind of activitiy before hoping back on the plane to go back to work for 30 days straight… The thing is I love my work and I can’t do it from home… so i guess i am chosing career and therefore chosing a long distance relationship.

    Most people commenting here see the long distance as a finite period. For those of us who chose a career away from home – how do you know when it is time to stop the long distance commutes, before it is too late for your relationship?

    • Kim

      My husband used to work in camps too, with exactly that schedule: 4 weeks on, 2 weeks off. I came into this relationship knowing that this was a “permanent” thing. He loves his job (helicopter pilot) and I will never ask him to give it up for me.

      That said, he has taken a somwhat less-interesting job (with less variety than before) that has a better schedule: now he works three weeks on, three off. And most importantly, now he has a *regular* schedule, so we can actually plan things in advance.

      Will there come a time when he will give up flying entirely to be at home? I’m not counting on it. I’d rather deal with being alone part of the time than have a husband who is home all the time but miserable because he has a desk job. I try to focus on the positive aspects of his schedule: when he’s home, he’s REALLY home. I call it “filling up” on time with him–we make every moment count. We have a sit-down breakfast and dinner together every day (and sometimes even lunch too). And when he’s away, I can spend time doing stuff just for me.

      We’ll see how different things are when we have kids. But today, five years in, his very abnormal schedule is working for us. We are so lucky to live in an age of Skype and smartphones!

  • Long distance never gets easier, you just have to keep believing that when this is all over and you’re together, you learned something important and can now move onto a new (better) life stage. We did the across-the-country long distance because I got accepted to my dream school in Boston, and while those three years sucked because sometimes you just need a hug so badly and that person isn’t there, you know that person is doing everything s/he can to support you and love you. And it makes the hugs more special when you’re finally together, because you know it was worth the wait.

  • Thank all of you for sharing your stories on Long Distance Marriages and how you make things work. I do think that people muddle through, and some find ways to make the best of it.

    Lastly, I wonder what will it mean when we do all the “married stuff” finally after a year of being married. Does it not count that we are married, that we do not have all our stuff in the same place? That we have not yet combined finances (a recipe for a headache if I ever saw one, and something for me that meant “real marriage”)

    Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/05/living-long-distance-on-separate-coasts-while-married/#ixzz1v38EeL21


    This phrase… it mirrors my concerns: So is living at the inlaws for a while count as having our own place? What does it mean when your country does not allow joint finances, but each person has their own bank account and that’s it? Does it count if we don’t have “stuff”, not even a spoon for us because we are soon moving overseas and why would we buy things to sell them in a bit?

    Thanks for reminding me that dealing with these issues as a couple is as much “married stuff” as getting the silverware, if not more.

  • SteffanyF

    My husband and I did something very similar, just not when we were married. I moved to Boston to get my MA and he stayed behind in San Francisco for a job-that 3,000 miles is brutal! I remember thinking that the 3 hour time difference couldn’t be so bad-until I lived it. I’d be going out with friends for drinks and he would still be at work! I would stumble home from the bar at 3am and he would still be awake. :)
    We got engaged 6 months after I moved to Boston and we only had to do 3,000 miles for 14 months. Then he moved to Baltimore so we were only 400 miles apart for another 8 months. It was hard and I missed him like whoah but I wouldn’t change a thing. We have been dating since college and have known each other since high school, so we have ALL the same friends and moving away gave me the chance to live in my own place, with my own friends, and do my own thing for awhile, while still committing to him.
    I also didn’t get any of the weird social expectations that you are getting, probably because we weren’t married.

    My close friend’s husband is away at sea for close to six months out of the year, and they have two children with a third on the way! She sort of loves it/hates it. But there are all sorts of living arrangements available to you in a marriage. Hell, my parents have been married for 29 years and they have separate houses. They have not lived together in 17 years!

    • I’m pretty sure your parents need to submit a post, ASAP.

  • “I remember telling people that this would “only be two years” and “we are really good at communicating” and blah blah blah. Those are nice things to think about, but I definitely did not know how painful this would be.”

    This is the part of the post that most resonated with me, as I’ve been struggling with the difference between how things seem like they will be (and how we’ll handle them) in a fuzzy potential future and how they actual are when that fuzzy potential crystalizes into something real. Bottom line, realities are different than you imagine they will be (especially so the more complicated the hypothetical that was made real), no matter how awesome your imagination cap is. It’s very humbling.

  • DNA

    This post totally hit home. Both my fiance and I are in academia, and like many academic couples, we lived apart for a significant chunk of time. (For us, we lived apart for 4 out of the 6 years we’ve been together, but that’s nothing compared to one of my labmates and her husband who lived apart for *7* years before they could be in the same university.) I’m saddened to hear that very few people understand your situation because from my impression of being in academia, it’s pretty common for married couples and long-term partners to be living apart given the number of grad school workshops I’ve been to on the “two-body problem” and the extremely tough academic job situation. I hope that you find more people who are sympathetic to you and your husband’s situation.

    While my fiance and I were living apart, Skype was amazing, and we got in the habit of being on the phone with each other while we were cooking or doing laundry. Although we had substantive phone conversations where we talked about actual stuff, most of the time we were on the phone, it would be him humming and me narrating what I was doing (“I’ve just finished chopping up the onions. On to the carrots!”), and it was comforting to have him there. It also made it possible for us to feel close and part of each other’s daily lives, even the really mundane parts. We also tried to see each other in person as often as we could (about every other month, like you), and that definitely kept us sane.

    The hardest part about being in a long-distance relationship is that it is a stress multiplier. When my lab experiments were failing and my landlord forced me to move out earlier than I expected, the long distance really sucked. When I moved in with a really cool roommate and things in the lab were all going well, I didn’t mind the long-distance as much. In retrospect, I feel like my fiance and I passed a really difficult but important test. I think we’ve become better communicators and, even though we’ve been living together for over 6 months now, I’m still really thankful for every day I get to wake up next to him and not a thousand miles away from him.

    I hope that you and your husband will get through this long-distance period and look back with confidence that you made a good decision. :)

    • Rebecca

      “When my lab experiments were failing and my landlord forced me to move out earlier than I expected, the long distance really sucked. When I moved in with a really cool roommate and things in the lab were all going well, I didn’t mind the long-distance as much.”

      Oh, do I feel you! It has become really obvious to me how hard it is to separate lab-happiness from rest of life happiness, and how important it is to find a way. Plants all die =/= I fail at MY WHOLE LIFE, but sometimes it can feel that way. The hardest thing about living apart over the past year has been the added stress on top of the already stressful final PhD year – I feel like I can handle EITHER lab stress or life stress, but both is a real kick in the teeth. Fights get picked when none are deserved, among other things, and those are no fun over the phone.

      Still, the end is in sight…

      • DNA

        “Plants all die =/= I fail at MY WHOLE LIFE, but sometimes it can feel that way.”

        I know this is completely off-topic, but are you a plant biologist? Because plants rule! (I started off in plant ecology and somehow ended up in soil and microbial ecology. I totally miss working with plants though.)

        In my case, I tried to tell myself if my gel bands are messed up =/= I fail at my whole life so I completely agree that it’s hard not to take it personally when things don’t work. I hope you rock the last year of your PhD!

    • So this part totally made me cry:
      “…most of the time we were on the phone, it would be him humming and me narrating what I was doing (“I’ve just finished chopping up the onions. On to the carrots!”), and it was comforting to have him there.”

      This totally captures something that we also experienced in our long-distance relationship years. Just wanting to be together for the normal stuff, and trying to be “together” as much as possible across distance. Beautiful.

    • And very very true about the stress multipler aspect. I have had a few stressful things happen when my husband has been away on long business trips (now that we live in the same country and same apartment, his work actually has him travelling internationally much more frequently.) And when something bad happens…..the distance and the fact that you only have 15 min to talk because of time zone differences and long work hours plus if your phone connection ends up being all echo-y and then disconnects…. Yuck. Def makes the stressful life occurrences WAY more stressful and hard.

  • April

    Oh, sweetie — thank you so much for sharing your story today! My heart goes out to you both.

    Living apart, either by choice or necessity, is hard. Damn hard. And no one really *gets* it unless they’ve been through it. (I say that as someone in a partnership that deals with frequent deployments and long work trips abroad in countries where we cannot communicate. Being alone and apart just plain sucks at times, right!?)

    While the reasons for being separated for long periods of time as a married couple are different and personal, the emotions, expense and just plain hard work to keep your relationship a priority is exhausting. And of course all of THAT is going on while trying to just manage daily life (i.e. school, work, family, friends, etc.) without going certifiably nuts.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your hubby as you bravely carry on, and hope that August is here before ya’ know it! XOXOXO

  • kyley

    Today it’s my turn to say, “this is just the post I needed!”

    My partner and I have been together for 8 years, thankfully none of that long distance (save a 3 month period back in the very first year.) We’re planning on getting engaged in the Fall, and we’re also both applying to very selective graduate programs around the country, where the chances of winding up in the same place are unlikely at best. This means either a long engagement or a long-distance marriage. It’s nice to know that other people have done it, are doing it, and making it out the other side. Thanks for the post and the comments.

  • MDBethann

    I did the long distance thing in college and while it didn’t work for me, it’s good to read the stories like yours about people who have been able to make it work through all the hard bits, even though I hadn’t been able to do it. Many years later, & hindsight being 20/20, I’m glad mine didn’t work and that I was lucky enough to move on and find my DH,

    Kudos to you Lily and best wishes as you finish up your grad work – may you find a place where you both have jobs in your field and can be together.

  • After spending nearly our entire dating relationship separated (we calculated once that we saw each 10% of the time) due to military moves and deployments, we swore to each other that we would never voluntarily do long distance again. For our marriage to live up to the expectations that we’ve set for it, we need to be together. We need to be together for comfort, conflict and general alignment of life goals. Even as we both did graduate school and job searched, we planned our lives with the priority of being together. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but it’s the conclusion we came to after a very long time apart.

  • Maggie

    This is such perfect timing: We just found out this morning that my partner got into med school (yay!!!!), but not where I will be doing my postdoc research for the next 3 years (boo). We were apart for my first two years of grad school (right after college), but we’ve been living together for the past 3 years. I’m supersuper happy he got in, but I’m also sad to now officially not be living with him for the next few years, especially after three years of really awesome cohabitation. It’s just good to know that others are in the same situation, I guess, even if the end isn’t in sight yet.

  • Lily, ok, so I don’t have any experience living that far from my fiance (he’ll be my husband in an week and a half!). However, we moved to Santa Cruz/UCSC from Baltimore/Hopkins within the last year so Mr. EG could do a post-doc. Have you met the APW ladies in Baltimore? Great, wonderful people. Still miss them. If your husband want’s to go for a beer let us know. Or feel free to hit me up when you visit.

  • sme

    A friend of mine pointed me to this post as my husband and I have lived together yet apart on-and-off for many years now. While we do have our home and whenever possible he returns to it, more often than not we are in a long-distance marriage due to his job as a stage manager in theatre, which takes him on the road for long stretches of time when he’s on a national tour. We’ve spent as long as three years living apart—me keeping the home fires burning, while he jumps from hotel room to short-term rental across the country. I would never dream of telling him he can’t pursue the industry and work that he loves and is so very good at doing. And in truth, I’ve been given a freedom in my work to act as a career-minded individual, reaping the employment benefits in a way I don’t think I would have had we been living in the same space. My time with him would have been important enough that I wouldn’t have worked those extra hours at the office and volunteered for time-consuming projects. Also, since I try to visit him every month or two, we’ve both been able to explore the country in a way few people are given the opportunity to do—while paid to do it! And like others who have commented here, our marriage is truly stronger due to our communication, our devotion, and our willingness to be flexible with one another.
    But muddling through, yes – I think that’s exactly how most of us manage. My only advice for others going through this is that you must find the little details, tricks, and comforts that work for you. For instance, it is very important to me that we speak last thing at night, every night. It makes me feel safe and cared for to mimic the times when we are together and we have those small conversations while drifting to sleep. For him, it’s me taking time to tell him the little details about our neighborhood, pets, and friends to help keep him grounded in our home life. (I love the suggestion someone made about watching the same shows or reading the same books in order to create shared experiences.) We had to go through a lot of trial and error to find our way; and those are only two small examples of solutions we found after voicing our needs to each other. But I think the most important thing is remembering that we are doing it together, even though we may be apart—this isn’t our life on hold, this is our life as we are living it now, however long this particular arrangement may last. He is my partner, the person I want to experience life’s joys and struggles with, so little by little, we figure it out together. And I’m so glad because we have been rewarded with an incredibly fulfilling, happy, romantic marriage!

    • kyley

      Thank you for this thoughtful post! There is some really good advice here.

    • This is so very true: “But I think the most important thing is remembering that we are doing it together, even though we may be apart—this isn’t our life on hold, this is our life as we are living it now, however long this particular arrangement may last. He is my partner, the person I want to experience life’s joys and struggles with…”

      I think this is a great perspective. I need to remember this a little more in the separated weeks. I am a theatre person (who stays home) and my husband travels internationally with his theatre work pretty regularly for a few weeks at a time. And occasionally I get to go visit on tour with him too (maybe once a year?). But I should also not “wish away” our apart time too much because it is part of our life too.

  • Thank you so much for this post; it’s spot on for me right now. I am moving to Saskatoon at the end of August for my MA program, and my husband is staying in Edmonton (5 hour drive) because we own a condo and the best jobs are in Alberta. We’ve both just graduated from our undergrad degrees (finally!). At first, the decision seemed like no big deal- or maybe surreal is a better word- but now that we’ve only got 3.5 months together before I go, I am getting scared. We have been together for 5 years and will be celebrating our one year wedding anniversary in August (a grad post is in the works now that my honours thesis is done, Meg!), and these last 8-9 months have been some of the hardest in our relationship. It’s frightening to think these moments are now so fleeting, that we are just now getting jobs and can relax into our marriage and focus on each other…only for me to move away for 12 months.

    I have also had some pretty severe reactions to the long distance marriage. One guy looked at me like I’d told him I am taking up prostitution, not going away to school!

  • Kess

    My SO and I are not engaged yet, but we probably would be if we were actually going to be in the same location for the next couple years.

    This January, our scales finally tipped from “long-distance more” to “together more”, but come May, we became long distance again. Our 4th dating anniversary will be when the scales once again tip towards “long-distance more” If our current vague plans are followed, it will be 2-3 years into our marriage before we’ve actually been together more than apart, assuming we can both find jobs in the same location once I finish grad school.

    It’s hard in particular because I have basically been the one to choose that we will be long distance for the next two years. While we would have been long distance for 9 months while I finished up my undergrad, I’ve chosen to stay and finish an accelerated masters. This means another year apart.

    A lot of people don’t get it. Either they say that they could never be separated by choice from the person they love (it’s kind of by choice, but it would be financially stupid of me to not get a masters degree now as I can do it for free, and finish it in a year) or they say that we’re obviously not truly committed to each other. After all, they’ve been dating for nearly 4 years and still aren’t engaged! Errrgh!

  • I love the variety of experience from all of you. Like many of the commenters today, I’ve done long-distance, and like many of the commenters today, I have made it to a time where we’re finally able to be together. It wasn’t all bad, and I will say that we got to know each other quite quickly because we had to talk so much; talking was all that we had for a long while after we got together and decided to give our relationship a shot. I will also agree with the fact that muddling through might be the perfect way to describe it. As always, what works for one couple might not ever work for another, and what makes two people happy in spite of being apart might be the factor that prevents another two people from taking the leap of faith necessary to be apart in the first place.

    In spite of trying to Skype as much as possible, which was almost every day in our case, there were times where we were just . . . off. Some days/weeks, we didn’t click, and it was terrifying because we’d end the call and I’d feel worse than before we started talking. I’d toss things over in my mind, wondering how we were ever going to make it through (and at times, we didn’t even know how long that time would be) when we couldn’t even have an easy conversation. We couldn’t comfort each other with our presence, something that is incredibly important to us now. For a long time, we didn’t have a plan; we just did. And I think that’s the most important thing — for two people to have a willingness to continue to do the effing work while apart, however long that may be, and whatever that ends up looking like.

    I found this while we were apart, and it could not echo my sentiments about long-distance any better, especially during those all-too-short visits:

    “What is it my dear?”

    “Ah, how can we bear it?”

    “Bear what?”

    “This. For so short a time. How can we sleep this time away?”

    “We can be quiet together, and pretend – since it is only the beginning – that we have all the time in the world.”

    “And every day we shall have less. And then none.”

    “Would you rather, therefore, have had nothing at all?”

    “No. This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere.”

    ― A.S. Byatt, Possession

  • Mel

    My now-husband moved away about six months after we got engaged, and since then has lived in three different towns, between two and eight hours drive from where I am. We knew if would be difficult, but I would never ask him to give up his career aspirations to stay with me, and he would never ask me to kill my career by going with him.

    We’re coping with this as best we can. But the judgement of others has been hurtful, and has made me doubt myself at times. When people asked if I would go and live with him immediately after we were married, everyone from my Grandma to my work colleagues were shocked when I said no, “But your first year of marriage is such as special time”.

    Getting married is the best thing we’ve ever done, and our love and our bond have definitely grown stronger. But having that marriage certificate didn’t change our circumstances in the slightest, and couldn’t overcome the practical difficulties and complications of our lives.

    As we stepped off the plane for our honeymoon we got confirmation that he would have to spend another year away. We hugged and tried not to cry as we waited in the arrivals hall. We got angry at the medical training program which seems to have so much control over our lives. And then we had a wonderful honeymoon and made the most of every second we had together.

    In two months time, we will finally be living together again, although not in the apartment we bought soon after getting married. For the first time, I can get a transfer to the town where he’ll be posted.

    We know we’ve done what’s best for us, and really, no one else’s opinion matters.

    • Jane

      Those judgy people are the worst! We moved apart for six months right after we got married and I heard a lot of the same bs about the “special time” we were going to miss…but we had been living together for two years before we got married! People just project their own insecurities when they stress about others doing things differently.

  • Anon

    We are finally (hopefully) coming to the end of our long distance but I recently counted it all up and of 7 years together I believe just over 4 have been apart. As close (and yet so far) as a 4 hour drive and as far as half way round the world. I am so so thankful that the stars are finally aligning to put us in the same place for a while but it has also been an adjustment. I have to remind myself not to be so covetous of his time, for example, because we are actually going to be here, together, for the foreseeable future. We are also pre-engaged and I think this last year has been the hardest yet because those ‘should we get married’ conversations had to be based on our experience of our relationship to date (I insisted), not based on ‘well things will be better when we’re in the same place’. Because who knows? Something might very well separate us again in the future. I wholeheartedly agree with whoever said above that it’s hard to even know what kind of a relationship you’ve got when spending so much of it apart.

  • This part really reflected how I feel: “It makes me wonder if there is a best way to do this, or if our muddling along is really what everyone in this situation does.” And then I thought, “surely we all just muddle along then, if I’m not the only one who thinks this.”

    My husband is in the military, and I’ve made mistakes in the past involving geography and boys, so when it was time for me to go to grad school, separating made sense to me. It’s a little easier for me to explain to people, I think, since he’s military, but that doesn’t change how much it sucks to be apart. And yet, somehow, I’m also grateful to my past self for making a decision to do my own thing, and to my husband for supporting me in that decision.

    So…thank you for writing this, for putting it out there, for opening up this conversation.

  • Liz

    I rarely comment, but this one hit really close to home. Like most of the commenters, my fiance and I have been long distance pretty much since we started dating 4 years ago with 3-4 month bouts of cohabitation sprinkled throughout. Over the last 4 years we’ve managed to cut the distance from LA and Kuala Lumpur (12 hour time difference! Surprisingly the easiest of the time differences…) to Italy and San Francisco (worst of the time differences) to Connecticut and DC (a 10 hour train/bus journey, but at least there’s wifi?) to Connecticut and Upstate NY (only a 3 hour drive!).

    Now that we are so close (can we pause for a second and let it sink in that most of us commenting here consider living in neighboring states “close”?), I am actually the unhappiest. There is no end in sight to our current separation, as I have years of dissertation writing ahead of me and he is at his dream job. I am getting married in 4 months and simultaneously looking for an apartment with some random girl on craigslist, not the person that I have chosen to build a life with. We are considering buying a house, a house that I would only be at 4 days of the week (but interest rates are so low!). We have 2 kitchens. Very regularly, I reach for the microplane and realize it’s in Connecticut, or make a cream of something soup only to remember at the last minute that the blender lives in New York.

    All of this is fine, we see each other every week, which is better than we were doing 4 years ago when we didn’t see each other for 6 months at a time. What is really bothering me, even reading through these comments, is that this is expected. It’s expected that both my fiance and I should do whatever it takes, get whatever degrees we need, take whatever job we want at the expense of our relationship. Where are all the ladies (and gents) speaking out for NOT living apart? Why do I feel like my classmates, my friends, family and APW family would judge me for choosing being with my husband over getting my phd?

    Meg, can we get a counter post?

    • First, I totally identify with reaching for, say, the citrus juicer and realizing “oh, crap, we only have one of those in the other apartment!”

      But I’m not sure I read the comments as saying “yay commuter marriages! Sacrifice everything for professional goals!” Most of the comments here are from people who identify with Lily’s situation in some way, but I think the APW community would be equally supportive of someone who wrote about giving up a professional opportunity because they refused to do long-distance, or someone who tried commuting and then decided that a career change was preferable to living apart from their spouse. (Heck, give me a year and I might be the one writing that second post!)

      This may be overstepping a bit, but it sounds like you’re pretty conflicted about whether you really want to do long-distance for the sake of your PhD. If you ever want to chat about academic careers or commuting, shoot me an e-mail (petitechablis [at] gmail [dot] com).

      • Hlockhart

        Absolutely, what Petite Chablis said. My husband and I have been long distance for a number of years (started before we were married), and his moving for work was the best thing that could have happened for us when it started. Having my partner depressed and unemployed and living with me was far worse, for him and for us, then having him working hard, fulfilled, and many hundreds of miles away. But after a number of years, it became very important for both of us to actually live together again, and we were and are prepared to accept some sacrifices to make that happen. Long-distance was worth it for me and my partner, but I don’t feel it will be worth it forever.

        • Jane

          I also agree. Every person has to weigh the risks and rewards, and take stock of when the balance tips. We did six months after I moved to take my dream job. We both agreed that it would be silly for him to quit is job without something lined up the new location. We didn’t know how long it would take for him to find a job, but after a few months it became clear to us that this could only be a temporary thing. We hated it and it got harder, not easier, so we decided to give it a year, max. Luckily he found a job after six months. I guess my point here is that it is a matter of what works and what doesn’t for each couple. Just because it works for others, doesn’t mean it has to work with you, nor should you have to put up with it if you don’t like it. Good luck!

          • sarasbluegroove

            My fiance and I can relate to what Petite Chablis wrote. We both graduated in Chemical Engineering (we had been together for 5 years when we graduated), we started the desperate search for jobs, and i was able to land one within a few months, but he wasn’t so lucky. After months of being unemployed and depressed, he finally landed a contract navy job doing technical writing (NOT engineering). He hated his job, was getting paid terribly (for the amount of work he put into college) and i was more successful than he was, and he was the one to help me through my studies (most of the time). It’s a hard pill to swallow.

            He finally got a job offer in Georgia in the industry he only dreamed of. He took it, and i had no problem with him taking it, and we were both fairly happy.

            Now fast forward 9 months to today. I’ve been trying to get a job near him for over 6 months (it makes sense since i want to live in the south with him, and i’m not particularly fond of my job here, although it offers huge amounts of opportunity and experience). He doesn’t have much of a chance getting a job up here in the field he’s working in now, and in order to get a job in the industry that is in this area, he would need experience in the industry first (nice catch 22 right?).

            I’m trying to use my network to get him a job, and i’m trying to use my experience to get me a job down there (and his small network) to no avail.

            I’ve hired a professional engineer career coach, and i’m hoping she can help me get a job near him, because if not, there’s not much hope on the horizon.

            He has it worse than me, because i’m living with my family (with an awful commute) he has no one down there, and wants to get a dog to keep him company, but on his salary, he barely makes enough to keep afloat down there, and be able to visit me once a month. He definitely wouldn’t be able to support me with my car payments and horse.

            He’s putting pressure on me to move without anything lined up, and find a job in anything i can get, but this seems silly since i have 2 years experience as an engineer, there’s got to be something out there! Plus i have the responsibility of a horse that i will never give up, and car payments, and now a wedding in our future. I’ve been contemplating going back to school, but close to him, but his area has nothing that i would ever want to pay to get a masters in. The only thing i could dream of would be Pharmacy (and they have a nice program there) but that would be 4 years our lives would be on hold. Sure we could get married, but not kids until i’m at least 30. I don’t know if i would want to do that, and i know he wouldn’t want to wait that long.

            I’m trying to make the best of our situation, it’s fun going to Savannah every other weekend (or other places like Charleston, DC, and Jacksonville) and we’re both happier right now than we were when he was unemployed and miserable. I’m afraid to take a huge leap of faith and move because there is hardly anything down where he is. And if i do that, i don’t think anything will be better, i will be unhappy without a job, doing something i probably don’t like (if anything at all), we won’t be making as much money, nothing will be solved. It’s so hard to admit that you’re screwed no matter what you do, so you have to go with the path of least resistance. (or in this case the one with the most pros and less cons, but how do you value one pro or con over the other?)

            So we’re stuck in limbo, not sure what the right decision is, wondering if our next break is right around the corner with a job in either city, or if we’ll be waiting in vain for that next opportunity. I’m hoping that the career coach will give me that extra boost, and i’ll be able to start getting call backs, and maybe end up doing what i really want to do, instead of what i’m doing now. I thought being engineers would allow us to be more flexible with jobs and opportunities, but from what I’ve heard, if both spouses are engineers, they will most likely never be in the same place with each other, and be employed as engineers.

    • Yes to the wanting to cook something then realizing the kitchen stuff you need is in the other apartment! (My husband did not have measuring spoons in his apartment!)

      I didn’t pick up any disapproval of moving to be with a spouse (and making career sacrifices) in the comments, but perhaps people are commenting more about their time apart and the choice to be apart, since the post was discussing that.

      My husband and I did not want to live apart forever, so I immigrated to his country and left the career I had been building to start over completely from scratch. My current “day job” is not in my field, but I like it a lot. And I have been very slowing trying to break my way into my field here in this new place, new country, and in a non-native language for me.

      But to me, it is worth it. Plus my husband has a great job opportunity in this location, and my work opportunities are somewhat similar between where I lived before and here. (Well, aside from the starting over from scratch where my previous work means nothing because of different cultural references and working in a second language, haha!) So….yes, I made some career (and personal) sacrifices for us to be together in the same country, and I am happy with my life. I have hope of one day pursing work in my field here, though I know that this might not work out like I would hope.

      I think each couple should make the choices that feel right to them at the time. And that’s something that I feel like APW encourages in my life- the ability to choose what is right for me and my spouse, even if others don’t get it… I wish you the best in your coming years, whether you and your fiancé choose to be apart or together (or some of both) as you pursue your life and your dreams together.

  • Justine

    This post is so, so timely and necessary. I moved 3,000 miles away for a 1-year fellowship. When we started looking into this, I talked with a handful of close friends and every single one struggled, even if they didn’t talk about it publicly. Some were considering transitions out of a really specific career track, another mentioned their parents were divided by a continent for 3 years right when she was born, another mentioned parents who did this during retirement. That gave a good dose of optimism.

    The best thing for helping us bridge the distance, I think, happened before our separation. We have each spent at least a year in the opposite city in the past, which means we’re really part of each others’ communities there instead of just a visiting boyfriend or girlfriend. That sense of community far outshines any of the annoying timezone/phone acrobatics. We’re 1/3 of the way through and feeling like we’re going to make it to the other side in style.

    I liked Tina Tessina’s book on this topic, The Commuter Marriage, a lot.

  • When I finally see my husband in July (less than 50 more days!), we’ll have been living apart for a year and a half. (He deployed immediately after finishing basic training.) I have to say, reading this and the many “me too’s” in the comments makes me feel much less alone. I have tried to look for the positive in the distance. Since we don’t see each other every day, we have to work harder to let the other person know how much we love them. My husband is great at sending gifts, e-mails, funny cards. We both put much more effort into our relationship then we did before. On the downside: I miss being able to text him. When I had a glowing review at work, there was no one to tell. When I wanted to cry because I slammed my h and in the dishwasher, I couldn’t tell him. I’ve leaned on my family and friends a lot during this time, but I don’t want to completely fill the void left by my husband because he is coming back. Those spaces he left can only be filled by him.*

  • This post was so brave. It’s so hard to tell people that you made an unconventional choice and admit that it hasn’t been easy — people are so quick to judge.

    Also, this was a very timely post for me. I’ve recently thinking about my career plans and wondering if I’ll ever find my dream job where I currently am (and where I moved to be with my fiance right after we started dating a couple years ago). I started to just entertain the idea of living separately for a period so I could purse the kind of work/title/income I want and I was thinking, AM I CRAZY!? THIS TOTALLY NUTS TO EVEN CONSIDER! Thanks for letting me know it’s not!

  • Melanie

    Thanks for this post! I’m getting married to my fiance in 2 months and we’ve been living apart for 4 years now and seeing each other around every 2 months. We are both doing a PhD, I’m in Canada and he is in Louisiana. We have another 1 year to go and although we are kind of ‘used’ to it by now I am really ready for it to be over so we can live together again. It’ll also be nice to not have people ask “So, when are you finally going to be together” and have to answer “Not for a while”
    He’s finished in a few months but we are so specialized that it’s going to be tough to find jobs together and there is no work for him around here. I think we have around another year or so to go. All I have to say is: Thank god for Skype!!

  • I know there are tons of comments on here that probably say the same thing I’m about to say, but I just wanted to say thank you for this post.

    My fiance and I have been doing long distance since December; I am in MN living at home to save money, and he is in KY finishing school. We were just dating when we started the long distance, but recently got engaged, and will be getting married June, 2013.

    This fall I will be moving, again, to Kansas to start grad school. Originally my fiance was going to move with me, but may have a great job opportunity in KY. Having not found any jobs in KS yet he will have to stay in KY should he get the job there. Which means that we may potentially be doing long distance for three more years at the very least, two of which will be after we are married.

    It is so good to hears stories like yours. I have tried to explain to people the situation my fiance and I may be in, and like you said, they don’t seem to be able to understand. I get so many negative responses to it, and we are just engaged at this point. I can’t even imagine what it will be like once we are married. I feel selfish for even slightly hoping that he doesn’t get the job in KY, and will instead find one in KS, but I just do not want to be apart from him any longer. But it is encouraging and helpful to just know that I am not alone in this.

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  • redfrizzz

    THANK YOU for writing and sharing this. I’m in the south, while my love is in the obscure midwest. We’ve done it before, we’ll be doing it for awhile, and it’s so hard to talk about it with other people. I feel shamed, I feel silently judged, and I fear that we’ve been crazy. Thank you thank you for sharing.

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  • Laura

    As someone who did the two years apart for grad school, I just want to say…it does end, and before I knew it, I was one of those people who didn’t think twice about getting to sleep next to my husband.

  • Bella

    Thank you for this post, and I would love to see more from long distance couples.

    My partner and I are coming up on 2 years apart, with another 1.5-2 years left to go before we can be sure of being able to live together, although hopefully it’ll come sooner. Until a few weeks ago, we didn’t have a choice. He is in the military, and I have been tied to my work. Now, I’m free and able to leave my job and move if I want to, but he is scheduled to move to another location in August (we know where this will be), then somewhere else again in January (but we don’t know where that will be).

    I completely agree that talking to others is the hardest part. Not only is it hard to explain that we’re apart, but equally hard to explain why it makes more sense for me to stay put, with a stable job, family and friend support, rather than move for such a short time and then have to move all over again. Spending a few months here and a few months there is possible, but far from ideal in my line of work.

    People say all the time: “oh, that must be really hard” when they find out. But that is rarely followed up by “how are you going?” Even if it were, how can you really explain that talking every day is all well and good, but really you just want a damn hug from your chosen hug-giver? No one knows what to say if you admit how hard it really is.

    I appreciate getting this post on APW. I feel a lot less alone just seeing how many other people are going through the same thing :)

  • whylie2010

    At the end of the day, what people must realize is that we are living in different times (a tanking economy and war time) and couples living apart is one consequence of that. Don’t worry about what other people say or think. As long as the couple can make it work, good for them. :o)

  • abby

    Weve been together for 47 years 2 years while in veitnam and 45 years married. And we live apart all these years. I’ve owned my house for many years and he has a newer place accross town.We don’t even share last names, I use my maiden name always. When first married I found out he had a big hangup about, sex, intimacy and couldn’t really understand any kind of love. I was told marriage and love was mineless and disgusting And couldn’t understand to have sex you have to stick that where. He told me no way that was going to happen. He said he would like to stay married but not together. That way we have our own space and we can do our own thing. And to date the only time we get together is on a pre arranged day to file our taxes with the tax man. Then we go to lunch then our separate ways. I’m in my 60s now and its sad tthe way things worked out, for right now I have my health .

  • Rihab

    I wonder where you are and how you are now. Have you joined your husband? and was it hard to adjust to being together again?.
    I am living your story now, we got married last summer and have been living apart since then. In different continents, time zones and days at times. It is tough and at times seeing him over skype or talking to him just makes it more tough.
    But as you said, what was the alternative?. I remember life without my husband and with all the difficulties that come with being apart, my life is much richer and deeper.

  • Skittles

    My husband and I are facing something similar in the next few months. He was offered an amazing opportunity to earn his Phd in Germany. He’s been working so hard to finally get accepted somewhere and it’s finally here after working for it for three years!

    At first we were really excited because we thought, heck, going to Germany would be amazing! When reality began to set in though, we realized that it would actually be harder for all of us to do it together. In fact, it would hinder his research and abilities to travel as needed if he had to worry about a child and wife to support.

    We’re coming to the conclusion that it would be easier for him to go alone, so that he can focus. I have family and friends who keep asking if we’re divorcing, or if we’re unhappy. We are far from it, but reality is, for us to advance our lives and be able to be together in a comfortable life, we’ll have to spend some time apart. It’s hard to talk about it to others because they don’t ‘get’ it, and they always suggest that he can watch the baby while I work and I can watch her when he’s at school…they don’t get that earning a Phd is so intensive. He’ll be travelling so much that there’d be no way we could work a schedule with an employer as no week would be the same as the last. It would be easier to stay here at home while he’s gone. It will be hard, but there’s skype and emails and phone calls. If we can last 7 years thus far, it’s not that hard to do this for a year or so.

  • jay

    Good to know there are others out there. We are married for two years now, but both have children from a previous relationship. We can’t be together until they all graduate high school. Separated by 3,500 miles, it’s been 11 and 1/2 years. We have 3 and 1/2 more to go. I can’t even begin to describe how difficult it has been being separated for nearly 12 years because we need to do right by our children before we can think of ourselves. I hope this gives some consolation to those of you who at least can see each other on weekends.

  • Susan willimss

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  • NasvhilleBride

    I am living 3,000 miles away from my husband of 3 months, like you by choice and a country divides us, Canada and the US. THANK YOU for sharing..I Googled (on a night with a feeling I know you have experienced!) “How do you with your husband living 3,000 miles away?”…your post came up first. I totally know what you feel, we’ll make it through, I know we will (or hoping so…) because of our faith. But as easy as that is said, as you said NO ONE knows what it is like, sure they empathize but they truly have no clue..some days go by so easily and others are pure torture…of missing him and being married all alone. Again we will survive this….it’s a test and if we do we are stronger than all the ones who’ve lived together from day one! Thanks again for sharing!! Meant so very much!