Shortly after our engagement, my fiance told me he found a great job. I was excited! How could I not be? I was still in college, and he, not long out of the Army, had been trying to find a job he enjoyed. When he told me he’d be working 5 hours away, I wasn’t so excited anymore. I’d soon be moving across the country for him, from North Carolina to California. And I certainly had no desire to live in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. But this was what he wanted: a small geothermal company, honest hard work, and a chance to make good money. It sounded awesome. So, Tim took the position. Nearly 8 years later, we make our home in Colorado, and he works for one of the largest drilling companies in the world … in North Dakota.
We did this in the past. In our dating years, we lived in different states and spent a lot of time and money on road trips and plane tickets. We know our relationship can weather the distance, but it isn’t easy.
Our family and friends think we’re nuts. “What about Maile?” (Maile is our 19 month-old daughter.) Yes, it’s becoming harder on her. Tim is an involved dad. He takes her to the park, reads stories, is her go-to for rough-housing and squealing games of chase. On hitch, he connects with her through technology: videos of him talking to her that she watches again and again, the good old cell phone, FaceTime, when possible. He’s home every two weeks, for two weeks. Dada time is special time.
And our marriage? Even my closest friends have expressed doubt. Everyone seems to know that distance makes marriages fall apart. Resentment. Wandering eyes. And I’ll be honest, letting those things happen would be easy; I believe it is the ease of the blame game that leads to problems. Or, you can choose to use the distance to keep up an exciting, dynamic relationship.
By being separated for weeks at a time, we are constantly renewing our commitment to each other. We work incredibly hard at understanding one another. We try our best not to make assumptions about thoughts and feelings. The distance forces us to communicate (what a novel idea!) to keep our marriage strong. When Tim is on days off, we have two mid-week, baby-free date nights. We have a delicious dinner, watch a movie at the theater, tool around Barnes & Noble, or even Walmart. We have one-on-one time.
No, it hasn’t all been daisies and rainbows. We’ve had our share of misunderstandings and scary happenings. Like the time he sliced open his finger at work, and I didn’t hear from him for more than four hours after his usual call time. Yeah, that was a no-no. Or the time Maile vomited blood in the middle of the night, and I didn’t call him from the emergency room because I didn’t want to interrupt his sleep. Another no-no.
Being in a long-distance marriage requires maturity. Sometimes, I don’t want to be mature. Tim asks about my day, and I yell at him that I hate being a single mom. (Can you say drama queen?) Sometimes I pout, I ask if he even wants to talk to me at all, when he is really just feeling sad, questioning the work that takes him away from his family. These are the times I buck up. Grow up. We start our conversation over, or I remind him how much we love him, that we are fine. I tell him that he is a model of what it means to work hard, to be committed — both to his job, and to his family.
A long-distance marriage is hard work. Having kids makes it that much harder. But even when the sacrifice seems daunting, it’s worth it. Every kiss goodbye, every phone call, every cry, every welcome-home embrace. Our family is worth it.
Katie lives in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where she raises her sweet daughter, Maile, who will be 2 in the spring! Katie has been married to the love of her life for going on 6 years; every one of those years as a roughneck wife. The family also includes two spaniels, and a very persnickety old cat. Katie spends most of her time reading books with her little one, going down the slide at the park 10,000 times, painting and playing pretend, and dreaming of growing all her own food. You can also find her at her family lifestyle blog, Standpipe and Sprinkles.