A little background if you're new here: When we moved back to the states, G received a new assignment with his company that sent us to Washington DC. I had wrapped up my dissertation and finished my PhD while we were in Australia and I was raring to find a place to use it--ideally, a faculty position at a college where I could focus on teaching and mentoring. I was thrilled, then, when I interviewed and got that very kind of job! The catch: it was about three hours away from G's job.
We both decided to give it a shot and see if we could make it work. We found a 1 bedroom condo to rent just a couple of blocks from G's company (best DC commute ever!) and a house a short drive away from my campus (we found that rentals in the small town were hard to come by and the monthly payment generally as expensive as the mortgage payment on a similar or even better house). Originally the plan was to take turns driving to each other on weekends but G insisted that he enjoyed getting out of the city and over the last year usually made the drive to me, bless his heart. Even better--his company's schedule makes it so employees get every other Friday off.
Family and friends have been VERY CURIOUS about this whole deal. I would be, too! We get asked about it a lot so I thought I'd share some of our learnings over the last year:
Absence really can make the heart grow fonder. With G's military job early in our marriage and his frequent travel schedule for work since then, we already knew this. Weekends are sweet and savored. It's such a treat to be together and I get giddy counting down to seeing him again. It's like a weekend away together every week! In many ways it feels like our marriage is stronger than ever.
Frequent check-ins are sustaining and essential. We Facetime every night to talk about our days and read scriptures together. It's not quite like actually talking face-to-face or nestling up under his arm on the sofa but it's a good this-will-do-for-now practice.
It gives us both the opportunity for deep focus on our jobs during the week. Starting out as a new professor meant coming up with all those lectures, activities, assignments--for 10-12 different class sessions a week! It's a lot. In some ways it's been liberating to be able to give it the longer days and tunnel focus I've needed without that pull to get home and make dinner, etc.
I've never EVER lived by myself before--neither has G! We both went from living with our families growing up to roommates at university to marriage! In some ways it's been a really good thing to feel what that's like.
Often what that feels like is kind of lonely. This was surprising to me because I am someone who needs solo time to recharge so I thought I would relish it a bit more. The projects! The long baths! My night owl tendencies set free! Having cottage cheese and avocado for dinner at 8 pm! It's true that there are up-sides--and I've tried to make the most of it and not focus on the negatives--but I have new respect and love for people who live alone. It's probably obvious but I find I'm happier during the week if I'm not sitting on the couch watching tv but doing things: something nice for a neighbor, a new hobby, organizing those decades of photos, taking up a new exercise.
I remind myself how many people do this routinely--military members, pilots, flight attendants, consultants and sales people who fly all over the country to work during the week, church leaders who travel constantly away from family. I might be misreading people's reactions but think one of the things that surprises them is that it's me, the wife, who is instigating it.
Spouses who are willing to reciprocate flexibility and support for their partner's goals and dreams are KEEPERS. I truly don't take that for granted. I know Greg doesn't either.
Being together is still the best mode and maximizing that is what we aim for. Over Christmas I realized (again) how much better life is when he's be my side. G's work travel schedule has ramped up considerably this year (up to two weeks a month away) so we've adjusted the plan a little to make sure we're together as much as we can. I'll head up to DC most of the time now on weekends (and even during the week when possible) to get that time together. It's a make-it-work situation and...we're making it work.
Would we recommend it to others? That's a tough question--I think it depends on so many factors: your personalities, whether travel and being apart have already been a part of your history, your commitment to (and reasons for) trying it, whether there are kids still at home, etc. etc. It's definitely not for everyone.
Is this forever? Good question. Our marriage is! We can envision several paths that would bring us to the same place during the week again. I'm sure one of those will come through sooner or later--we've always made our decisions based on the feelings and inspirations we have about them and will continue to do that. Drawing on the peace we've felt about this decision has helped us follow through.
[This post also appeared on Nest and Launch.]