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Living Apart: Part IV January 8, 2015

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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My fiancé lives 2,000 miles away. We get to see each other twice a year for two weeks at a shot. My separation from him causes my heart to ache, but there are blessings as well.

Our time apart has strengthened us in ways we never expected. It has required that we exercise and expand our communication skills in ways which simply wouldn’t have happened if we lived near one another. It has tested the strength of our friendship, expanded our ability to think creatively, and confirmed our love for one another.

In two years, my fiancé will finish his education. Thanks to where he lives and the school he attends, he will be able to secure not just a job, but a good one. He’ll have the opportunity to pursue graduate level studies and have the satisfaction of knowing that he can support his own family with his skills. It’s a long wait, but in the end, it will be worth it.

In the meantime, here’s my own advice on long-distance relationships:

1. Mark the milestones. It helps if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Break your time apart into easy to handle blocks, and celebrate when you’re half-way through or there’s only a week left.

2. Find friends. Even if they don’t entirely understand your situation, a good friend can do a lot towards helping you keep your time apart in perspective.

3. Communicate. Few things build communication skills as well as distance. Set aside some time each day to write, phone, Skype, or Facetime with your significant other.

4. Find things you can share long distance. My fiancé and I read books together. Sometimes he reads to me, other times I read to him. Sometimes we both read separately, then discuss what we’ve read. However we choose to do it, knowing that the other is absorbing the same thoughts and ideas can go a long way toward building a sense of connectedness.

5. Learn to date. Dating via Skype or Facetime is easier than you might imagine… if you’re willing to think creatively. Get dressed up, light some candles, and share a nice supper together. Watch the same ballgame on TV or the same shows on Netflix and text each other as you do.

In the end, separation from your significant other isn’t easy. It tests the strength of your relationship and your commitment to one another. But when used properly, the distance can build up rather than destroy. I have chosen the former.

 

Living Apart: Lori’s Story January 1, 2015

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Finances can be a major issue when spouses are forced to live apart from one another. That’s why this week, we’ll be taking a look at the story of Lori. Unlike the other two women in our series, Lori didn’t meet her husband until her late forties. They had been married for just three years when Joe was laid off and, when he couldn’t find work locally, he was forced to move out of state. “I thought we’d be looking forward to retiring in 10 or 15 years, buying a little RV and seeing all of the National Parks in the country. It had already taken me a long time to find this man. Now we were going to be separated and I was going to turn 50, too! This isn’t what I thought it would be!”

The separation was only supposed to last for a year while Joe adjusted to the job and Lori tried to sell the house, but what started out as a brief time apart turned into ten years… ten years in which they faced an intense financial struggle. “When we got married, Joe went over our finances. We didn’t have a budget. We didn’t look over the bills together. We just bumbled along like 80% of Americans.

During that time [when he was laid off], all of our expenses doubled. We got discouraged and went back to living from paycheck to paycheck and not saving for the future. I almost didn’t let myself dream anymore.” And that’s when God intervened.

A financial class at their church helped to put Lori and Joe back on the right track – starting with the creation of a budget. “If we were going to change anything in the budget, we would have to call an emergency budget meeting. We’d talk on the phone and change the budget. It was helpful.”

Lori would agree. At the time she and her husband began living apart, she believed in God, but had lost the sense of personal connection. “To be perfectly honest, I was mad at God. I’d ask, “Why did Joe lose his job?” “Why is the only job we can find 200 miles away?” “Why are we in this position?” “Why when he lost his job and we came to you begging and praying that we would get something here did it take so long?” The last 2-3 years have been a huge time in my life personally as far as growth. I’m becoming much better in my prayer life, being able to talk to God and knowing that He’s always there.” As Carol would put it, “sometimes God is doing a lot of stuff in spite of us.”

Asked for her top advice for couples who are separated through no fault of their own, Lori replies:

  1. Keep your relationship with God vibrant. “You never have to be alone by yourself.”
  2. Pray. “God doesn’t mind us telling Him what we want.”
  3. Voice your respect. “Let your husband know that you cherish him. He needs to know you support him and respect him.”

Where does all this leave me? Find out next week when we conclude our series on living apart!

 

 

Living Apart: Cathy’s Story December 25, 2014

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Last week, in Part I of our series on couples forced to live apart, we listened to the story of Carol We heard about her experience as the mother of three teens forced to live at a distance from her husband. And we heard some great advice on how to cope with this unusual situation.

This week, we’ll be talking to Cathy, a military wife. Like Carol, she and her husband have been forced to live apart on multiple occasions – first when he was in the Marine Corps and then again as he pursued a career as a civilian helicopter pilot. “We lived in a military community, so there were a lot of examples of what you were supposed to do when your husband wasn’t there. There were people whose husbands, if they weren’t on the same cruises your husband was on, were gone at other times. There were a lot of us young wives just getting through. We hung out together and that kept your spirits up.

I think there was more frustration the second time because we’d started a family and he wasn’t there to help with a lot of the little day-to-day decisions that you don’t necessarily think about like establishing a bedtime or deciding when to put the child on a certain type of food. I never expected to be a single parent!”

Taking time to make such decisions together is important. “When Don and I were first married, when he was overseas, I just made decisions,” Cathy explains. “I didn’t worry about trying to consult him as long as they weren’t big things. A lot of the little decisions I just made on my own. Then, after I got saved, it seemed more important to me to make sure that I was consulting Don on as many of the decisions as I could.”

Fortunately, living apart also has its blessings. “I think if Don and I hadn’t lived apart the second time, I never would have gotten saved,” Cathy explains. “Don was living away an awful lot and I wanted it to stop… but no matter how hard I tried, I could not control that situation. It was the first time that I had to really accept that there are things that I have no control over. That’s a very scary place to be. I think that’s why I started reading the Bible. I was scared and I was lonely.”

When asked for her top advice to other women living with equally difficult circumstances, Cathy replied:

  1. Put your spouse first. “If you put the other person first, it keeps you from feeling sorry for yourself.”
  2. Live each day. “One day at a time, one step at a time.”

It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Sacrifice and focus play a key role in maintaining healthy long-distance relationships. And both of those elements feature in the story of Lori… but her tale will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts on living apart in the comment box below!

 

Living Apart: Carol’s Story December 18, 2014

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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!

 

 
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