I am done week one of long distance marriage. Another few days to go before we are reunited for a few weeks again. It has become our routine. Apart for a few weeks, together for a few, then repeat. We aren’t the only people who do this. We have friends who work away for months at a time on boats or construction projects, or who had to move to go to school or get teaching jobs. That is much more difficult than what we are doing now. Nonetheless, it is not so much a time.
Medical school is one of those institutions that, well, does not really take into consideration that people are married and possibly have children or lives. I think it dates back to the old boys club days where the students were expected to be married to their jobs and wives and families came second. They are working on it and now there are support groups at some schools for spouses and families, and they encourage us having outside interests. The format of our education, however, can make it difficult to manage. We are expected to live in the city of a medical school. That is fine. Sensible. However, the fine print… The thing that isn’t as openly talked about is that the local hospitals may not always be able to accommodate you during certain rotations and you could be asked or forced to go elsewhere. Some rotations have required rural components. Though you can do almost everything locally, if you want to go to another school for your residency, it is probably a good idea to do some aspect of your training there too, especially if it is a competitive program. Interviews take you away on adventures too. In the end, it means, despite efforts to stay close to family, you jump around a fair bit and can spend periods of time away from home.
I opted to selectively schedule things. So, I am never away for more than four sequential weeks and tried to get rotations closer to my home family during times that Patrick could visit or close to other holidays. It’s a bit disappointing that I didn’t get to go see all of the programs I may have otherwise wanted to, but I feel it was the better decision for the sake of my sanity and that of Patrick.
We are professional long distance people. At least that is what we want to think. We started dating just before Patrick moved away to do an internship with InterVarsity. He moved back permanently a few months before I started medical school. We figured marriage would be the time that we would finally be in the same place aside from a few weeks. It turned out to be more than just a few weeks. But nonetheless, we have survived. Actually, since being married the separation stints are much shorter. Instead of times of anywhere from two to five months it is one to four weeks. Much better. The problem is, I am convinced I have become soft. I feel like I am more sad now when we are apart than I was when we were dating or engaged. My theory is that we became accustomed to being together. I know, ridiculous!
When we are going to be apart, I always wake up the first morning with a terrible sinking feeling. Its strangely familiar and yet disconcerting. Even when I am home with all of my friends and family, I find myself with that feeling. Its not the same. Talking on the phone, Skype, emails, texts… they help. But they don’t make it better. Plus, it is very difficult to adjust our schedules accordingly to make time to talk with the time differences and schedule differences. Quite frustrating at times. I’m not always the best talker either. I can talk someone’s face off, but if I am tired or sad or mad… I can shut down. Suboptimal.
Another part that can suck life out of you is explaining to other people the whereabouts of your significant other. People care, they want to know. I would ask, so I appreciate it. But, it is tough to explain how you have to travel and he has to work. And when you will be together. And nod knowingly while people say things like, “wow, that is tough,” or my favorite, “well, that is good for your relationship, tests like this.” I don’t know what is better to say. My response when I hear people are in long distance is generally a “that sucks, and I’ll pray for you (where socially acceptable).”
A perk to being apart is that eventually you are back together. It makes you more grateful for the time you have together. Also, you get alone time. I am a flaming introvert, as is Patrick, so having some time without someone else wandering around asking questions or playing music or watching TV is nice for a period of time. I looked at the time I was away earlier in the fall as a rebuilding time. I spent a lot of time looking at my relationship with God. I prayed more, I did my devotions. I felt like I reconnected with Him more. And I feel like I have been able to maintain my relationship with God better since doing that. It helped to readjust my focus. I feel that is good both for my “me and God” and my “us and God” relationships.
Marriage was intended to be a partnership. I think we can be partners from a distance. I think we are more effective when we are in the same place. Its just not as effective to high five or back seat drive from a distance. The emotional support is still there, but it doesn’t seem to be as tangible as it is when you get a hug and a kiss to send you off to work. I can drive singing in the car by myself. But its much more fun with Patrick playing air piano in the seat next to me. Phone calls to tell me to quit working/reading and go to bed are not as effective as actually wrestling the book away. Even when I go to sleep, I miss the extra body heat that keeps me from having to crank the heat that extra notch.
People say, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” I suppose. I could do without the distance, though. I won’t have to for a few weeks in just a few short days!
I remember things and events from songs and such. This song is one of my long-distance theme songs (I probably shouldn’t call it a theme song… its not really, but I don’t know what else to call it other than it reminds me of long distance relationship-ing).