I had always viewed long engagements in a negative light. In my mind, two people who were in love ought to get married as soon as possible. To wait was a sign of doubt. For this reason, I was deeply surprised to find my own engagement dragging into its second year. My fiancé and I had chosen to postpone the nuptials to allow him to finish school. The only problem was that doing so left us struggling with being deeply in love while living 2,000 miles apart.
A few decades ago, such situations were uncommon. Today, however, more and more women find themselves living apart from the men they love. Reasons for these long-distance relationships can range from war to finances, family issues, education, or employment. The difficulties we face as we deal with that “missing part”, however, are often the same. Loneliness, financial planning, child rearing, and even the household chores can become seemingly insurmountable burdens to those left behind. In situations like these, it helps to have a friend who understands our struggles… and that’s exactly what I found in the three women you’ll meet over the course of the next few weeks! All three have been forced to live apart from their husbands at various times in their lives. And all three have plenty of advice for those walking the same path.
This week, we’ll focus on Carol and her story. Mother to three teens, she spent her days shepherding them to various events, counselling them through difficulties, and advising them on their futures. Her life was fairly normal until her husband lost his job during a government cut-back. After failing to find adequate work in the local area, he moved the entire family across the country… only to become the victim of yet another workforce reduction. With few available options, he ended up taking a job in another state, leaving his family behind. And as the government sequestration made finding jobs in his field of expertise a challenge, the situation at home was growing more difficult as well. While it wasn’t the first time that Carol and Mike were forced to live apart, this time was different.
“When Mike was in the military, he was gone all the time, but we didn’t have any children. His being active duty was more of an adventure.
It’s a whole different ballgame when you have children. Wanting to somehow be sane and stable and keep your kids sane and stable is a lot more of a challenge. It’s hard to see it as an adventure when people come downstairs crying because they don’t want to move or they miss their dad or, “What are we gonna’ do about my lizard?””
But as Carol explains, such consultation isn’t always easy. “You talk to him all of the time, but when he comes home, he doesn’t always have a sense of what went on there. Things have changed. There are a lot of little things he does that I don’t do the same way or at the same time because I can’t.”
This can lead to difficulties for both parties as they try to readjust to the “new normal”. “I wish I’d recognized how frustrated Mike was getting,” Carol continues. “At least we could have talked about it. When you’re the 24/7 parent, you would love to pack your bags and get on a plane and fly somewhere. That sounds pretty good to you after a while. You’re like, “Well, great. I’ll go to work and you stay here. We have two dogs and two cats and a lizard and three teenagers and my mom, so have a nice six weeks and I’ll see ya!”” Carol confesses that she really didn’t understand just how tiring it was for Mike to be living out of a suitcase. “I wish I’d been a better communicator.”
Asked for her best advice on living apart, she offers the following:
- Don’t panic. “Sometimes you do something that’s just going to be for a couple of months and it turns out to be a long time. God knows about it, so don’t panic.”
- Take care of yourself. “If while you’re apart you can do things individually that really help you to grow as a person, it makes the little bits of time that you see each other a lot more valuable.”
- Don’t take it personally if people don’t understand your situation. “It’s a unique animal to live that way and stay married this way.”
Next week, we’ll hear from another woman living apart from her husband. But for now, feel free to share your own experiences with this unusual situation in the comment box below!