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Long Distance Marriage: If you give a husband some support…

September 17, 2012

Moving to California when T got into graduate school here was exciting.  I rolled my eyes (secretly… or not) at collegues and aquaintences that asked:

….if we were engaged (nope!)
…..if I liked the job I was leaving (yup!)
…..if I was moving “for him” (among other things)
….. if the beach I was going to live by was even a nice beach  (Seriously?!  Enjoy your snowy land locked state!)

Sure, I liked my old job, but there was a new job waiting.  I didn’t like living in in the city I was in.  It was  much like the small city I grew up in, except without my family.  I was still an 8 hour drive from my parents.  It was cold.  The day I left, it was sleeting & slushy and I was scraping ice off my wind shield.  All I could think was “good riddance!”   The people were nice and all, but a new life awaited.

T being a grad student while I worked (and also was a M.S. student) was only a minor annoyance in most cases, a perk in some cases.  Still,  he made much less money than he could have if he was employed.  Not that our life hasn’t been pretty grand, but it would have been extremely comfortable if he had a regular job.   He wanted to pursue acedemia, so I supported it, without much complaint.  I’m for it!  Big goals, life dreams, passion and all that.

By “supported it”, I mean emotionally supported it.  I got annoyed at those who implied that I was the breadwinner, his sugar mamma, that I was putting him through graduate school.  Some meant it as a compliment and saw it as a nice thing to do, others probably worried I was being taken advantage of.  Either way, I felt compelled to tell everyone (over and over) that he was going to school for free, and getting paid a stipend, and that is NORMAL for science PhD students, especially at good schools.

We thought he wouldn’t do a post-doc unless it was international (for fun!).  As his graduation approached,  it became pretty clear that  he’d need one if he wanted to be a professor.  We started talking about post-docs in town, or about taking an academic-like job for a year while he beefed up his resume.  Then, an opportunity with two really great schools basically fell into his lap.   Well, that’s a lie.  He worked REALLY hard for it and he impressed the professors at those places.   And who says no to these schools?   I mean, how could I say no?  We would make it work.

As recently as 8 months ago, I was much more ambivalent about my job.  I liked it, mostly, but I was willing to look elsewhere.  Things really changed for me this year, I got a lot of new opportunities, so we decided I’d stay in L.A. for the duration of his 1 year position.  It was just NorCal.  With Southwest at our beck and call, we could make it work.

Then he talks to his new professors more, and they talk about a strategy of only applying for the best of the best schools the first year, in order to maximize his chances of getting a position overall.  The second year, if he didn’t get any offers, he’d widen his search.  I freak out.  Two years?  We can’t do this for two years!  We talk about me moving up there now, just in case it takes 2 years.  But I don’t want to leave, not unless it is for good, not unless I have to.

We abandon this strategy.  We talk about the possibility of him doing the post-doc primiarly from L.A. if it does end up taking 2 years.  We hope it doesn’t come to this.  We abandon talking about this possibility at all, and just assume we’ll get what we want: a tenure track job for him, in California, maybe in L.A.  We know this may not happen, but there is no use in trying to solve problems we don’t have yet.

I tell him that I feel like it’s always moving a small step further, he’s always asking for just a little bit more support.  I tell him that I feel like eventually he’s going to tell me about a really good research opportunity on the moon, and he’ll want me to support it.  “But wouldn’t it be cool to visit the moon?” he jokes.   If you give a mouse a cookie….


I wrote the above a while back, before T started is position.  Since it is a little more personal than I usually post here, I kept it to myself.  Now that things are further along, I felt comfortable sharing.   We are about 1.5 months into this “long distance marriage”, and… it’s not ideal, but it is working.  We’d rather be together, but we think that it will pay off.  We have LOTS of trips booked to see each other.

(Though this post doesn’t focus on it, T is also very supportive of me, my career, and my personal goals.)

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2012 8:08 am

    You using the word ‘moon’ made me think of APW’s post last week where the moon was actually just Canada!

    Good luck! I’ve done long distance relationships in the past, but I couldn’t imagine doing a long distance marriage…

    • September 17, 2012 11:26 am

      I would have said the exact same thing had you asked me! We actually did a lot of long distance early on in the relationship, but living together was SO GREAT that… I still can’t believe we are doing this, actually. 🙂

      I stopped reading APW awhile back (less relevant these days), but that post was great. I so relate. The moon (so far) is actually just SF for us. 🙂

      • September 17, 2012 9:15 pm

        I really enjoy reading the ‘Reclaiming Wife’ posts even when I was single. I haven’t had a lot of female influence in my life, so it’s really interesting to read all of the perspectives on marriage and womanhood!

        Haha, SF being the moon is pretty amusing too 🙂 I kind of imagined the moon as New Zealand or something from her post!

  2. September 17, 2012 11:55 pm

    T and I are so alike in this way! “just another nibble! I just want this next thing! And then another thing! But how about…!” Never satisfied 😉

    I know your time together is precious when you visit but if ever you would like, when you’re up, I’d love to see you for a little bit! I’m pretty flexible about time if not traveling and I avoid traveling too much right now except a little bit for fun now and again. Going home is muy stressful so I don’t do that much.

    I think it’s a little odd people don’t realize that science grad students typically get paid to go to school… But I guess unless you’re in the sciences you don’t know that?

    • September 18, 2012 7:09 am

      The funny thing is, I can be that way too! When the nibbles are impacting me rather than me getting the nibbles myself, I get a little grumpy 🙂

      Thanks for the offer – would be fun! With him just having a rented room there and a slightly more flex schedule, he’s mostly coming here rather than me going there. I’ll let you known though!

      Yeah, most people that ask those questions don’t know a lot about how grad school works in general. So they hear “in school for 10 years” and they hear DEBT. (And “homework”… T’s mom always asked how his homework was going…. As PhD student, you don’t have much homework, just research! Quite different!)

      • September 23, 2012 7:23 pm

        Also, if it makes a difference, I might have mentioned before offline, you are both welcome to our guest room if you like 🙂 I had WH over once, and she’s blogger-friend christened it. Though pay no mind to her effusions about it being cute, I don’t know what she’s talking about 🙂

  3. Maggie permalink
    September 18, 2012 4:03 pm

    I really feel for you. I left a comment to you previously about this, since I was also in a similar situation. My spouse and I spent 1.5 years apart while he finished a postdoc, and I pursued a good career opportunity. We both have PhDs in the sciences. My husband wanted a tenure-track position at a large research university, and we spent last year applying and going through the process. He had good success, but both of us finding jobs in the same city was a big issue (the “two body problem”). He has started a new tenure track job, and I followed him to our new city, but I am no longer working in my field. Because of the location, I probably never will again. I am slowly coming to terms with this. It is not easy following an academic, and I really wish you all the best. I hope that you are also able to find a good job in your field wherever your spouse lands an academic job! Please feel free to contact me (I’m leaving my email address- obviously a pseudonym) if you ever need to blow off some steam about the process!

  4. October 6, 2012 2:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. My husband and I will be facing some of the issues you discussed in the next couple years. He’s graduating first and we doubt he’ll be able to get a local postdoc. We decided that we would prioritize his career over mind deciding-where-to-move-wise (though our mutual goal is San Diego) but that’s mostly because I don’t have well-defined career goals. If I found a career I really loved, would I still want to prioritize his career if it came to moving? It helps just knowing others are in a similar situation to us!

  5. October 31, 2012 11:17 am

    It’s great that you and him support each other, at the end of the day that is what really matters. I know how difficult it is to being your position, but most issues people have with long distance is keeping trust, and of course missing one another. But in this case it seems as though you guys have a solid plan, and even though it is difficult, as long as you guys trust one another things will work out. Besides, if you survive this you can survive anything right? It’s always going to be one thing or another, problems will always be in our lives but having someone worth working out those issues with is a blessing. No matter how long he has to do this for, make yourself happy, push yourself to be better and when you guys can finally live together again you’ll both be satisfied in life and in turn satisfied with the marriage in a way you both never imagined.


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