Surviving a Long Distance Marriage
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, I excitedly wrote that T and I would never be long distance again. Even if I could, I wouldn’t tell that younger version of me that she was wrong. I needed to believe it! I never expected to be in a long distance marriage, but here we are.
The general arrangement works fairly well: T pays $800 month for a room in NorCal. He spends most weekdays there. I work near LAX and would drop him off Monday mornings and pick him up on Friday evenings. Some weekends (generally once a month or less), he does not come home and we spend the weekend apart. (That is the hardest.) Once a month, he spends an entire work week working remotely from L.A. and spends the weekend on either side here. He spent most of the time between Thanksgiving and New Years with me (working remotely), with the exception of a few days in NorCal and a week long trip to China. He didn’t pay rent during that period, but was able to have his room held for him. He spent most of June, and all of July and most of August working from L.A. (again, without paying rent).
This year we are changing it up a little. He paid for 1 month of rent in NorCal, then he’s spending 4 weeks on the east coast. We’ll each take a long weekend, one here, one there, so we’ll only go about 10 days apart. He has arranged a mishmash of lodging for that portion, including staying at a friend’s for free. When I visit, we tentatively have a place to stay for free in NYC, so we’re meeting there.
After that stint, he’s thinking of trying to arrange Tues – Thurs in NorCal with some sort of temporary housing 2 nights a week. He also mentioned getting a van or motor home to live out of, but I’m hoping he isn’t serious.
But… HOW DO YOU PAY FOR ALL OF THOSE FLIGHTS?
First, let me say I love Southwest. LOVE.
The cool thing is, we haven’t paid for many flights. The NorCal — SoCal flights have been largely covered by the huge chunk of bonus miles we got on some credit cards (Chase Sapphire, Southwest Visa, and another Southwest Visa). You get 40k – 50k points, and we used to be able to get round trip flights for about 5,500 points if we caught them on sale. Lately 8,000 has been the rate. This isn’t sustainable indefinitely, but it should cover us for as long as we need it to.
We did pay some in annual fees for these cards, and bought a handful of flights (literally less than 3 RT) with actual money. Occasionally, he can get a flight paid for for a business reason, but this hasn’t happened often.
For my east coast trip, I paid $150 one way and used up some random miles on another carrier I had laying around. He might use cash for his trip home, because Southwest is really flexible, reasonable, and he can earn miles that we can turn into shorter flights. His east coast trip is covered by his job.
And double rent?
The double rent is really annoying. However, when he started this gig, he got a raise that more than covers it compared to what he was making when we lived together…. I’ve just accepted it and I try not to think about it too much. We’ve been really lucky with his landlord. She likes him, and has been beyond reasonable with him not paying for long breaks.
How long is this for?!?
No later than June, thankfully. It’s been hard, but we still think it will be worth it. It is longer than originally planned, but we decided we’d to extend his assignment to have more time to focus on research before having the additional burden of teaching.
And the non-financial aspects?
Honestly, those are MUCH harder. Communicate as much as possible, spend as much time together as possible, try to spend long durations of time together (not just short bursts), don’t treat every time you are together as a “vacation”, and remember it will all be worth it in the end. We both have been really busy, so that helps and hurts. It helps keep our minds off the fact that we have to be apart, but it also makes it hard to balance everything.