A Long Distance Marriage

When Shawn was interviewing for the job he has currently, they told him that it would include traveling. As an (almost) newlywed, he made it known that he didn’t want to constantly be on the road going from installation from installation at the drop of a hat. They agreed that he shouldn’t, and wouldn’t go through that– especially since he had a really awesome wife he didn’t want to be away from he was going to be newly married and in a new state.

They said they understood that marriage is important, especially in the beginning years. They’re formative and can really set the tone of the marriage. And our tone wasn’t going to be Lonely Melissa, that was for sure.

So they agreed to 20-30% travel out of a year and both sides were happy.

In the few short months Shawn has already been at this company, he saw a very regular trend among the other men in his department doing installs like him. Almost everyone was single.

And not just single, but divorced.

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He quickly learned that this wasn’t some weird coincidence among the project engineer group– the traveling had taken a toll on their marriages. It became easier to ignore their problems. Wives looked for love and affection elsewhere because their jet-lagged husbands felt like they  had none to give. Husbands let themselves go– becoming consumed with work. Communication was hard, phone calls were short, and everyone felt like they were getting the short end of the stick.

Shawn saw it deteriorate marriages and he was even more adamant that we wouldn’t go through that. He didn’t agree to it and he would make sure our connection and intimacy wasn’t put on the back burner for some job.

“Nothing is more important to me than this marriage.”

So every time traveling was brought up, he was the first one to remind his managers that he was hired for 20-30% travel. His direct boss even made a point to have a meeting with Shawn to calm his nerves, if you will. He made Shawn felt heard and respected; even reassured him that the 20-30% travel was still the deal.

He came home from work that day happy and reassured– and honestly, so was I. I was calmer and felt safe. I wasn’t going to have my husband stripped away for months at a time, we weren’t going to end up like the other couples. We were different!

My husband wasn’t going to be out on the road 80% of the year like the rest of them. Maybe it was because his great uncle owned the place or maybe it was really because they respected our newlywed-ness, who knows. Either way, though, I was happy because my only friend in the entire state wasn’t going to be leaving for weeks at a time.

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But within days he saw his projected traveling schedule for the rest of 2018, and I honestly thought there had to have  been a typo. They must have confused him with another Shawn because there’s no way they could promise to keep their promise of 20-30% travel with this schedule.

Starting March 26th, he was going to be gone for two months in New Hampshire.

Then, after about a month break, he’d head to China for another two months. And after another break, Japan for a few months. Then back to China. And I think a few weeks in New York were sprinkled in, too.

“I’m sorry, but for a bunch of engineers, they sure are sh*tty at math.” 

Now, when he travels domestic, he’s able to come home on the weekends. His traveling schedule looks like:

Leave Monday @ 5am and come back Friday at either 10am or 12pm. It’s not that bad when he’s still in the States. But international travel? Yeah, there aren’t any weekend privileges or “marital” visits, if you catch my drift.

(Disclaimer: And before anyone says it, we know we don’t have it that bad. We know that military families have it much worse– you have no idea if your spouse is alive sometimes. That’s hard and you’re stronger than I’ll ever be, but please do not diminish someone else’s pain because someone is going through something worse. Now that that’s done with.)

Doing long distance isn’t fun, and it’s especially not fun when you’re in a new city without friends. It”s especially not fun when you’re living in a hotel room, away from your family. It’s definitely not fun when you were promised something different.

And it’s really not fun to watch your husband break down, look at you with tears in his eyes, and admit that he’s scared that we’ll end up like everyone else. Scared that we’ll fall out of love, we’ll lose our connection, or everything will just fall to pieces. But I keep telling him we won’t, that we’re better than that.

I remind him, and myself, that we know what we have to do to make it work.

And now that we’re two weeks into our first two-month-install, I’ve noticed that that wasn’t far from the truth– we really are different. And maybe it’s because we are newlyweds, or we’re young, or we’re just unnaturally needy. Either way, we noticed that the other men, married or not, would pick on Shawn for calling me as soon as he could after a day installing. He’d FaceTime me before dinner if he had a chance, we’d FaceTime in the morning before breakfast if I woke up early enough. Throughout the day, we were always texting, calling on lunch if possible.

Even if we knew the call would only last for a few minutes, we still hopped on just to say hi. Just to hear him laugh, say I love you, and know he’s okay.

The other guys, though, teased him about it, and to my luck, Shawn was unphased.

“You’re making fun of me because I miss my wife? I think the joke’s on you, bud.” 

It didn’t stop him from calling and texting, and I honestly never felt more loved. He made sure time was still made for me, even when he had every excuse in the book to ignore my call.

And now, when I see him on the weekends, he is even more intentional about making sure we have quality time. He’s sure to fill my love plant, watering it with all the morning cuddles, random Hobby Lobby dates, and lunch with just the two of us.

And I make sure to scatter love notes throughout his luggage and backpack so he can find them throughout the week while he’s away.

We’re better now, more than ever, at making sure these love plants are fed because we understand that those marriages didn’t end because of travel, busy jobs, or demanding lifestyles. They ended because they made excuses for themselves– they let someone else take care of their spouse’s love plant.

And I’m not letting that happen to us and I know Shawn is with me on that.

This whole thing has me truly living for Fridays now. 

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