Last summer, when my husband of twenty-three years told me he had found the perfect job, I was thrilled. When he told me it was in a town two hours away, not so much. Neither our children nor I had any great desire to move. But, this was his dream job: clean tech start-up with a great management team and the good chance for financial upside. After the Great Recession cleared out our portfolio (such that it was) and with three looming college tuitions, a dream job sounded good. So, my husband took the position and moved. We didn’t.
Apparently, we are not alone. According to the US Census in 2006, 3.6 million Americans were in commuter marriages, a 40% increase since 1999. With the Great Recession, it is more than likely this number has significantly increased. There’s even an acronym for it, LDR (long distance relationship), and a whole industry is developing to offer partners technological hugs and mirrored experiences in an effort to replace the partner as ghost. Hollywood has even gotten in on the act. The recent movie with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long called Going the Distance offers a humorous take on LDRs. I have to admit though, this is one bandwagon I would have preferred not to have jumped on.
We’ve done this commuting thing before. In our dating years, we lived in different states and spent our time negotiating trains, planes and automobiles. Later, well into our marriage, I was transfered from California to Dallas for six months when I took a new job. In both of these situations, we learned our relationship could weather the distance, but it wasn’t easy and certainly wasn’t something we wanted to do again.
Our friends think we’re crazy. “What about the children?” they ask. Sure, it’s hard on them. My husband is an active and involved father. When the kids were younger, he coached their sports teams and was the go-to guy for homework help. No more. Now, he connects with them via technology: Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and even the good old telephone. However, he is home every weekend and every Wednesday for family dinner. With three teenagers, the truth is, between their club teams, activities, and hours of homework each night, he might actually be seeing more of them these days. Daddy time is now sacred time.
“And what about your marriage?” you might wonder. One close friend asked if I really knew what I was getting into. “I’ve seen many a marriage fall apart by distance. Roving eyes and all that,” she kvetched. I’ll be honest, after twenty-three years of marriage things were getting a little stale. Don't get me wrong. We have a good marriage, but we were starting to take each other for granted (rather, he was taking me for granted; I, of course, was the perfect wife). I believe it is this very kind of boredom that leads to problems. Lucky for us, this move shifted our dynamic.
In some very important ways, I think this separation has brought about a renewed commitment to our marriage and to each other. Now, we work particularly hard at understanding one another. We don’t assume, as we once did, that we know what the other is thinking or even doing. We are forced to communicate (what a concept!) in order to stay connected. We have mid-week date nights once a month when I hire a babysitter to watch our kids. I drive the two hours, we have a delicious dinner out at some new and interesting restaurant, and then I spend the night. I can’t remember when we had this much regular one-on-one time. Before, life just seemed to get in the way.
It hasn’t all been peaches and cream. We’ve had our share of “misunderstandings.” Like the time he went a full week without calling. Yeah, that’s a no-no. Or the time I told him we were doing fine without him and to just stay there and not come home. Yeah, another no-no.
Being in an LDR takes a lot of maturity, sometimes more than either of us have. We’ve learned to give each other a wide berth. He can sense if I have had a bad day (maybe he can sense it because I am yelling at him that it’s hard to be a single parent -- what do you think?). I can sense when he is sad and questions his choice. These are the times when I remind him the kids are fine, more than fine, thriving even. I remind him our goal is to have children who grow into independent young adults who have the courage to pursue their dreams, even if the sacrifices seem daunting. I remind him he is modeling what it means to have a dream and that hard work and commitment is part of marriage. The good news is, our kids clearly understand. When I asked them to read this post, they told me to end it with..."You go, Dad!"
Check out these other long distance relationship survivors:
- Blogger and author, Sylvia Shipp pays homage to the long distance relationship and shares a beautiful collection of love poems for free. She asks only that you “pay it forward” by giving love to another. Now, that is true giving.
- Food blogger SheR of Ur Resident Chef, writes compellingly about her long distance relationship.
- Long Distance Diva offers advice on her blog and will answer your questions. So, write in!
Finally, follow these links to some interesting research about LDRs and some tips as well. If you are in an LDR, remember patience is essential. If you aren't, you might consider pretending you are because, as I have been reminded, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Gloria Steinem once said, "The first problem for all of us, women and men, is not to learn but to unlearn." I am working on unlearning each and every day. How about you? Lisen www.prismwork.com