Archive for the ‘LJ & Mr. J's Story’ Category

Shifting Sands

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

As someone who has been in a long distance relationship for over two years an odd thing has happened: the balance of power has shifted between my husband and me. I have now taken a job away from Mr. J. I’m now the one driving weekly to spend the weekend with him. The career path I’ve recently chosen has more fully made me responsible for the two of us living apart.

Another small shift in our perspective is now I’m the one offering comfort to Mr. J during a family crisis. Until this situation with my stepson it has always been crises in my family. We’ve cancelled vacations overseas due to medical emergencies in my family. Mr. J has burned up precious vacation time to accompany me home for the funerals of my grandparents, and my uncles.

Here is what I could not fully appreciate before now: living in two places is exhausting. The travel between two cities basically means I’m never settled anywhere, never in one place long enough to rest. I have a new respect for people who commute on a weekly basis or travel for their jobs weekly.

And offering moral support on a more long term basis? Also harder than I realized. Regardless of how tired I am now is the time for me to step up: to bite my tongue when Mr. J’s tone is sharp. I try to understand the stress he is under, even though I personally have no frame of reference. I choose my words carefully, wanting to offer up whatever comfort I can be during this stressful time. Curling around him while he catches a nap in midday, feeling his body relax into mine, teaches me that sometimes comfort comes in saying nothing at all.

To anyone who knows Mr. J and me as a couple I’ve always said Mr. J is the nicer one of us. As I transitioned into this new job, even with all his worry and concern about his son he has been phenomenally supportive of me. He listens to me as I explain the new culture of this company. He listens when I grouse about how hard it is to piece together a myriad of new systems, learning who is who in a corporate maze and how to handle my new challenging responsibilities. He soothes me, allaying my fears when occasionally it seems overwhelming. Mr. J reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t afford him the same courtesy when he started his new job two years ago. I was barely civil. Hurt beyond words, I refused to be supportive. I didn’t ask about his new role. I didn’t even know what he was working on the first six months we lived apart. I was the worst kind of spouse.

Frankly, I hope we never have to live apart again. On the other hand, I am optimistic. I believe I’ve finally matured enough that should we once again reside in different domiciles I could live the example I’ve had my husband live for me: to be more selfless, to encourage at every turn, to basically be the life partner everyone deserves.

2

When Bad Things Happen

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

In any relationship, but even more importantly in a long distance relationship, it is imperative that you have a plan for when emergencies arise. Because unfortunately, they will: that’s just life. Not to sound all Negative Nellie but we’re all only one phone call away from a crisis.

Since Mr. J and I have been apart I’ve lost two grandparents, three aunts, one uncle, and very painfully: my three cats (before Alex and Jamison, my current cats).

This last week we had one of the most feared phone calls that a parent could ever take:

“Your child is in intensive care and may not make it.”

Now I know that if you’ve checked my “About Me” page you’ll see that I said Mr. J and I were DINKS: Dual Income. No Kids. And we don’t have any children. Together.

But Mr. J has a son from a former marriage. And he got that dreaded phone call last Wednesday evening.

His son was in intensive care: H1N1, his lungs so filled up with fluid impairing his breathing to the point that his lips were turning blue. Because of his compromised situation, he was placed into a drug induced coma.

Mr. J’s son is in TX – far, far from where we live (either of us) in the Snow Belt.

To further complicate matters, Mr. J and his son aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been since his parents divorced. But estrangement doesn’t mean that Mr. J has ever, for a single second, forgotten his boy. The pain I’ve seen in my husband’s eyes makes my own heart ache. The fear I saw when I arrived at his apartment, five hours after I received the call, made my blood run cold.

I wish I could say I empathize. But I can’t. I don’t have any children. Medical issues prevented me from carrying a child and ironically from being able to adopt one either. There is no way that I could understand what it means to get a call that says your child may not live. I didn’t even try.

I just held Mr. J while he tried to process this terrible truth and to understand how to act: should he go and risk upsetting his son still further? But there was really no question: he had to go.

Early the next morning Mr. J headed for the airport and I packed up his cat to bring back home with me.

Because of the estrangement from his father, I’ve never really considered Mr. J’s son my stepson. But that all changed the moment we got the call.

In a flash I was on Facebook, asking for positive energy and prayers. My parents, who’ve never even met my stepson, were on the phone around the clock, asking for updates, talking to Mr. J, worrying like he was their own grandchild. Over a hundred people Mr. J’s son doesn’t even know were pulling for him.

Thankfully, Mr. J’s son has made it “over the hump” per his pulmonary doctors. They believe he will make it now. But he has a long road ahead.

I hope that somewhere along the way, he and his father can sit down and work out their differences. I keep hearing a line from a Don Henley song in my head, “You see a lot more meanness in the city….the kind that eats you up inside.”

Meanness, anger, bitterness. Don Henley had it right: they will eat you up inside. My fervent prayer is that this crisis will open the door of communication between two men who haven’t spoken in over ten years.

If anyone has a spare moment, I’d appreciate positive energy sent my stepson’s way. May he grow strong in body and in understanding of how precious life and the lives of those you love is. May he open his heart to recognize how much his father loves him. And may he know that he has a whole community of people he’s never met who wish him love, joy, and sweet, sweet recovery.

2

You Do What??

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I cook meals for Mr. J to take home with him. People look askance at me for this practice: like they think I’ve lost my mind. “Why would you do that?” I’ve been asked repeatedly.

Let’s be very clear on this point: I’m no Julia Childs. I’m cooking plain food that can travel well. Meat loaf, chili, beef stew, garlic chicken breasts. And I guess I should clarify: I’m cooking the entrée. He is responsible for side dishes and by side dishes I mean vegetables.

As we’ve already discussed in an earlier post nutrition is not Mr. J’s friend. When Mr. J and I met his eating habits were questionable at best. Everything was processed, and there was not a green vegetable to be seen. To him the four food groups were: sugar, whole milk, coffee and beef. Bless him.

I’ve spent years cleaning up his food act (along with my own) and I’m not going to lose ground by having him revert to Dinty Moore stew five nights a week. Has anyone ever even smelled that stuff? That goes double for Wolf Brand Chili. Yuck.

On the weekend he is home we shop and then I prepare him two entrees that he can take back and alternate and/or freeze for the next two weeks. We also discuss and then pick up which vegetables that will go best with the main dishes.

Cooking for him solves several problems:
1. Cooking for one is difficult and most people just won’t do it. Cooking for two is just easier.
2. I get to keep an eye on both of our diets and ensure that we aren’t subsisting on frozen meals or just snacking our way through the dinner hour.
3. It saves money and our diet by eating in instead of picking up take out on the way home.
4. Mr. J has said that eating something I have cooked for him is a little bit like me being there.

I will never be taken for Martha Stewart but at least I can say that I put together nutritious and (hopefully) tasty meals on both of our tables, states apart.

Bon Appétit!

P.S. I’ve very excited to report that my next blog will be a guest blog from a fellow LDR’r. In her own words you’ll get to hear her story of how she and her husband met online, met in real life and ultimately fell in love and married. Stay tuned!

1

Nutrition Fairy?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

One of the best things about being married to Mr. J is that he is so easy when it comes to food. He’ll eat anything I put in front of him and be glad he got it. I know plenty of women who don’t have it that easy.

Of course, the down side of that is, when he is on his own, he’d just as soon open up a can of Campbell’s soup – sodium be damned – and eat that, with saltine crackers, naturally. And he’d call that dinner.

A reoccurring discussion we have involves nutrition.

I’m always amazed when I realize that people have such little nutrition savvy. While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, we began the well-worn track of our refrain: “Who is responsible for teaching us nutrition?”

Mr. J doesn’t understand why what he learned 30+ years ago in elementary school in Iowa (land of the corn and potato starring as “vegetables” on a dinner table near you) isn’t still relevant today.

I mumble something about accountability and ask if he’s ever heard of “Google.”

“Well the government ought to – ”

I cut him off, “Did you just say ‘the government’?” I laugh out loud. “You’re joking, right?”

But he’s not. And if he’d spent even 10 minutes searching the web for nutritional information and dietary requirements, I’d feel a pang of sympathy for him. But stubbornly he hasn’t.

One of my favorite bloggers, Cindy Sadler, summed it up nicely in her somewhat ranterific posting “There Is No Magic Health Fairy and If There Were She’d Be on the Take,”

I forwarded Cindy’s blog to my husband who after reading it responded, “Do you suppose she has our car bugged?” (We’ll talk about his conspiracy theory tendencies another time.)

My question to you is: how would you rate your nutrition savvy? How do you keep up with what is healthy and what only looks healthy? Is being separated from your sig other making it easier to be healthy? Or is it an excuse to run through a drive through? Enquiring minds want to know……

Cheers!

1

Those First Few (Horrible) Days

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

The first days and weeks after Mr. J moved away were the hardest. It reminded me of my divorce. Every morning I’d wake up and the pain would wash over me anew. Going to bed alone was difficult.

The first thing I did was buy timers for lights in our house. That way I didn’t wake up or walk into a house that was completely dark. That helped in some small way.

The second thing I did (or rather someone did for me) was get new sheets for my bed. Over the years I’ve been told that women are ready to move on from a relationship when they go purchase new sheets. I was grateful to receive the sheets, not because I was ditching my hubby, but because it was, symbolically a new phase in my life.

What can you do to make it easier on yourself? Pick up cheap timers? Buy a new set of sheets – take it from me: splurge! You’re worth it. Do whatever it takes to be kind to yourself in those first few days of separation. And do everything you can to ease the transition for both parties.

Regardless of how the decision to be in separate geographic locations came to be, I can assure you that you both are hurting.

Change can be difficult. Do what you can to ease that burden: for both of you.

0

How did this happen again? My Long Sad Story….

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Nothing could be so important.

A failure to disclose what we each really thought was going to happen is how I ended up in a commuter marriage.

Both Mr. J and I are 2nd timers to this marriage gig.

His previous wife was a stay at home wife. Therefore, in his prior life, when he came home and said, “Honey I’m interested in a job somewhere else.” She responded, “Okay, I’ll start packing.”

One of the things that drew Mr. J and I together were that we were both very driven at work. We shared the same passion for our areas of expertise. I assumed we both recognized that.

When he came home and said to me, “Honey, I’m interested in a job somewhere else.”

I think I responded, “How nice.” (I’ve been told by a reliable source that any time someone from below the Mason-Dixon Line says, “How nice,” they mean something else entirely.) While I’m not below the Mason-Dixon Line, trust me: I meant something else entirely.

Frankly, I didn’t really say much else. Other than “I don’t really want to move.”

Somehow he didn’t hear, “I won’t move.”

Perhaps because I didn’t actually say that?

After the ink was signed on the contracts and we both had the shocking realization that he’d just accepted another position in another state and had resigned from his (then) current job imagine the joy in our household when I stated that I wouldn’t be joining him.

Long dis-cuss-ions ensued. Tears, recriminations.

“Why didn’t you say something?” “Why did you just assume I’d go?”

Suffice it to say there was gnashing of teeth, a midnight run to the emergency room due to a flare up of stress induced issues (mine).

Later we’ll discuss why I wouldn’t just pick up and move. But for this post let me say it again:

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Save yourself some heartache. Say what needs to be said before it is too late.

0
Posted in LJ & Mr. J's Story |

What the heck is a Commuter Couple?

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I’d been living apart from my husband, Mr. J, for over a year before I realized that there was actually a term for people such as us: couples that lived apart.

The most common reasons couples live apart are due to military service or they met on-line they lived in different states or even different countries.

The first time I ever read the term “commuter couple” was in Microtrends by Mark Penn .

He states that per a 2006 study more than 3.5 million people are part of a commuter couple.

Penn’s entire book was an interesting read. You can check out his website here He acknowledged that many commuter couples are indeed military or involved in on-line long distance relationships but he pointed out that the largest growing segment of commuter couples were those who were separated because their careers keep them apart.

That is where I come in. My husband accepted a position out of state and due to a variety of reasons, I didn’t follow. Within weeks of his taking a better, more fulfilling job out of state, I was offered a promotion at my company. I took it. And our fate, for the time being anyway, was sealed.

We are two of the 3.5 million Americans living in a commuter marriage.

I’ll check back in soon with how that’s working out for me.

Generally we see each other every other weekend. We are within driving distance and every other Friday my husband pulls up stakes (grabs his suitcase and his cat) and comes home for the weekend.

Once I had that vernacular: Commuter Couple or Commuter Marriage, I found it much easier to find more resources. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject is The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Far Apart by Tina B. Tessina

Her website can be found here.

She takes the definition even further and includes people who physically live together but never see each other due to shift work or traveling, such as a long distance trucker.

Regardless of what you consider yourself: living together apart, a commuter couple, in a long distance relationship, spouse deployed for a finite amount of time, or just a friend turned up to support me, drop me a line. I’d love to hear about your experience in one of these wacky relationships that millions of people are making work!

0