Good morning, beautiful! Saturday I said good-bye – again – to the love of my life and headed to my little corner of the world in Bethel. It’s a balmy -4 this morning, but this is where I make my home for about 80% of the year, while Mark holds down the fort 500 flight miles away.
This is the fifth year we’ve been doing this, and it doesn’t get any easier. It started out as an adventure on my part – wanting to be a principal in a Yup’ik village. But then “one-to-two-years only, honey” turned into three to four, and well, here we are!
It turns out, we’re not alone in this long-distance relationship thing, especially for those in the empty-nester stage. The Today Show ran a feature that said an estimated 3.5 million married people live apart.
The reasons vary, but it works for many. Lise Stoessel, author of Living Happily Ever After – Separately, and her husband needed their own physical spaces (one was a piler, the other a purger, basically) to keep from arguing. For many, it’s financial – they are nearing retirement, haven’t put enough away, and have to go where the work is (we see that here, where the pay is good and many “older” teachers come up to either supplement retirement income from another state or pay off some debt before retirement). For us, it’s come down to two things: getting things paid off before retirement, and both of us loving our jobs!
And while to many this arrangement may seem crazy, even perplexing, most couples view their situations as temporary. Dave and Mary from Colorado said, “We’ve been doing this for about six years, with Dave going up to Alaska to teach for the school year. Hopefully, this will be his last year, as we miss each other. But the health insurance has really helped, and it has allowed us to get ready for retirement, knowing we can spend the next phase of our life together!”
There are actually many benefits to living apart. The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships (yes, that’s actually a thing!) put out a report stating that couples who live apart tend to be healthier – both physically and mentally! There is less depression, and more movement! They do, however, say that it works best when no children are involved.
Living apart has actually changed our marriage! Mark and I had been in a rut after 30 years of marriage – still loving each other, but pursuing our own interests with all the perfunctory communications necessary to share a household. Now the communications are meaningful, real. Mark is by no means a chatty guy, but now we talk WITH each other, not merely the drive-by AT each other, because that’s what it takes to make this work. We appreciate our time together more – and we appreciate each other, who we are as individuals and what we bring together to the marriage.
Is it easy? Heck, no! It takes a lot of coordinating, communicating, and caring, but for us, it works – and for now, that’s all that matters!
Could you do the long-distance marriage thing? Are any of you making a long-distance marriage work now?