Living Apart

Before we moved to Atlanta, my husband and I thought about living apart so that I could keep my job in Rhode Island, while he worked in Atlanta.  In the end, we realized it wouldn’t be right for us.  I left my job and followed him here.  But for some couples, living apart is the better option.

Our friends Casey and Jade have decided to live apart.  They met in 2005 at an Army Officer Basic Course.  Jade is a captain in the Army, and she lives and works in Washington, D.C.  Casey left the Army a few years ago, and now lives and works in Atlanta.  Casey talked to me about his relationship with Jade and how they make it work as a couple living 600 miles apart.

Casey and Jade

1.  How did you and Jade decide to live apart?

In 2006, I was deployed for 9 months.  Between deployments we could only spend holidays and short periods of time together.  The first time we could really live together was December 2009 when I got out of my second deployment.  We lived together for a year while I was in grad school.  In order to do this, she had to do a 6-month training course and get a job in a military hospital near where I lived.  She had been working at Walter Reed Hospital in DC, and could only transfer if there was an open position that she was qualified to do.  For us, living together always comes down business.

Then Jade had a Permanent Change of Station (you have to switch locations every two years)  Our choices were Korea, Germany, Hawaii, or Fort Riley, Kansas.  We chose Kansas.   I was in Denver, and we owned two houses in Colorado Springs.  We rented out the houses.  It was too expensive to fly from Denver to Manhattan, Kansas so we tried the Greyhound Bus.  The first time I ever rode it, it was four hours late, and so crowded.  I got to Kansas, and Jade couldn’t pick me up because she was at work, and the bus was four hours late.  I hauled my stuff four miles to her house.

2.  What has been the hardest part of living separately?

I feel like after two weeks apart we lose the romance because it becomes more of a logistical and administrative task to see each other.  But we are so used to being apart that we recognize when we need to try to get together on the weekends.

Also, she kept seeing all these movies without me.

3.  What has been the best part of living separately?

If we were always together, Jade and I would spend most of our time together, but when we live apart we each build a more robust friendship network.  All our time together feels like a honeymoon period.

4.  What circumstances might get you to change your mind and live together again?

We’re still feeling it out.  Between finishing grad school and moving to Atlanta we lived together for 7 months.  I didn’t have a job, so I went to Starbucks with the moms every morning and read my newspaper.  What would have to happen for us to live together again would be having a baby.  I would move back with her to be a dad.

We have always tried to compromise, but it’s not always a good thing.  It has to be left or right.  Either I have to leave this job and move with her, or she has to give up her military position, leave her PhD program and come with me.  It’s moving in the direction that I will be the one to leave my job and be the trailing spouse.

We’re also trying to see if she can get a transfer to a base in Georgia.

5.  Do you feel like other people judge you for your decision?

No, not at all.  My mom has her preferences, she says “You’ll have to make hard decisions.” Everyone knows we are trying to do the best with what we have.

6.  What recommendations do you have for people who are considering living away from their spouse?

Have a long-term emotional and budgetary plan.

Be happy with the work that you are doing.  If you aren’t 100 percent happy with it, it’s not worth it.

If you aren’t happy because you aren’t seeing each other enough, then see each other more often.  We decided 2 weeks is our max time apart, so we try to see each other every two weeks.  It’s a lot of planning.  I try to take a three-day weekend off work that matches up with times when she has a long weekend off.

Buy plane tickets so you have the commitment, or something will always come up.

7.  Any final thoughts?

I left the military because I was going to be deployed again.  In my position I was able to see how many separations and divorces had occurred in my unit and also for the whole army.  Tons of guys had financial difficulties with their wives, or they cheated on them, or they divorced because they had separated emotionally.  The amount that Jade and I were fighting at that time made me realize we were heading in that direction.

I was overwhelmed with the separation, but what made me feel better was typing male military spouses into google and finding a lot of other guys who were there.

We’re seeing the effects of women’s liberation.  Men are going to have to adapt, especially when women make more money.   It’s a trend and it’s not going to stop.

It’s also pretty cool to think that dad’s will have more influence on their children, which is appealing to me.  When I have kids, I will probably build a chicken coop, teach my kid farming stuff that I learned when I was growing up.

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