“Distance is not for the fearful, it’s for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It’s for those who know a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough.” – Meghan Daum
A little over 6 months ago, when I exchanged my wedding vows with my husband, I knew full and well that he would soon be leaving me and our life at home to begin his own journey into the Marine Corps. I was very vaguely educated on the process of it; I knew enough to put my mind at ease, but not enough to actually say I even mildly understood the in’s and out’s. Something I was 1,000%, without a doubt certain of, though, was the fact that we were going into this and beginning our life as a married couple apart: taking the plunge, not only into marriage, but into a long distance one at full force.
He was off a mere 37 days after we’d tied the knot, and we’ve spent a total of 15 days physically together since. And in fact, this isn’t our first go around with the long distance thing, either – Tim and I began our relationship in the very beginning at 15/16 while living over 1,000 miles apart. Obviously this bout is not the most strenuous or impressive on the grand scheme of things, but for someone who’s spent the past 5 of my 21 years with this guy (just shy of 24/7), the separation is definitely palpable. While I wouldn’t particularly go out of my way to wish this given circumstance on anyone else, I’m truly surprised myself at how far my own thoughts, feelings, and overall perspective on long distance relationships have come along the way.
1. Patience is not only a virtue, it’s everything.
In a society that centers predominantly upon instant gratification, it’s hard having to wait for most anything – much less something as ordinary as basic contact with your significant other. My opportunity to even exchange simple texts or FaceTime with Tim is only a relatively recent luxury again; throughout boot camp, we were reduced to mailing letters back and forth. During his next phase of training, I didn’t hear from him whatsoever (I never thought I’d miss snail mail correspondence so much in my life). And even throughout the day now, there are restrictions to when and how we’re able to interact. Prior to this change in lifestyle, I would get upset if Tim didn’t pick up my call on the 2nd ring. Now, I am grateful for so much as a single text message or 30 second long phone calls. And while some days I do still struggle with adapting, for the most part, I am understanding of the fact that I no longer take priority for him – and patiently (as patiently as I can) wait for when he is able to devote time and energy my way with a smile.
2. Absence DOES make the heart grow fonder – and even stronger, too.
There is something to be said about a relationship that not only sees through this given circumstance, but completely flourishes in it. I had shared an apartment with my husband for over a year before he’d left. We spent probably an excessive amount of time together, in addition to a vehicle and living quarters. And while I would say our relationship was good then, it is somehow even better now. I know what you’re wondering – just how can that be? How can a relationship somehow grow and become, dare I say better, despite being separated by states and seemingly endless miles with next-to-no physical contact? In the beginning, I often wondered the same thing. But witnessing firsthand how diligently he still invests time and energy into our relationship on top of everything else he has going on on any given day has shown me a completely new side to him that I’d never experienced before. Surprise texts and FaceTimes just to let me know he’s thinking of me, staying up late to chat even when he’s falling over tired, sending photos and videos of what he’s doing all helps me feel a little less far away from him – and he’s somehow rather impressive at doing those things just when I need them most. Tim has always put everything he possibly could into our relationship, well before he went anywhere, but the fact that he does it just as passionately (if not more) while away further ensures that we can truly do anything, together or apart. And completely melts my heart.
3. Modern technology = Godsend.
I am totally and completely committed to my husband, of course. But I am also in a serious relationship with my iPhone 6+. While I would still undoubtedly use my phone to scroll aimlessly on my various social media accounts regardless, the fact that it is now my main form of connecting to him makes it that much more important to me (and worth the obscene monthly bill). I have a new found appreciation for modern technology in all of its forms – which is nothing if not abundant in our point-and-click, “I-need-it-now” society. The snail mail AND no contact at all routes both make me realize how good I have it these days and how much worse it really could be/once was. Thank you, Jesus. And Steve Jobs.
4. Growing apart in addition to growing together is so much more important than people would think to acknowledge.
I have always been an independent woman. I was raised by one and come from a long line of them. Tim has always encouraged that in me, but something I have been horribly guilty of in the past is losing sight of myself in others. All people, throughout our daily lives, take on a variety of roles; mine include Taylor Swift fan, wife, writer, dog mom, full-time employee, daughter, sister, in addition to countless more. And something that I’ve done in the past is lost the ability to balance all of those hats, instead devoting too much of myself to one title or person and allowing that one to consume me. I am MORE than just Tim’s wife, and by living apart, I have not only tapped confidently back into that motherboard but have also perfected the balance I so desperately needed once upon a time. Who I am is comprised from all of those different aspects of my life coming together as one and I’m not sure I would have ever gotten to that point without this opportunity to reconnect and reestablish myself on my own. At the same time, Tim and I still both put in the required work/maintenance to keep our relationship healthy and thriving constantly, despite us both having regular lives to tend to while apart. We still find time for all of the appropriate romance and gushy stuff among every other direction we’re being pulled in. At least for me, that stuff is my calm within the chaos, the highlight in my day. This balance is not only encouraged but required for us both to keep from losing our minds too much one way or another.
5. Long distance has only intensified my already insatiable love of traveling.
I’ve only traveled to see Tim twice at this current point, but I do plan on making more trips before he’s on to wherever he goes next. Anyone who knows me knows that I would pack up and head out on a trip anywhere at anytime, given the option. I would live in an airport if I could (not entirely sure which one is my favorite just yet, so I’ll take any at this point). The only thing that could make traveling any better than it already is? Traveling to once again hold my other half in my arms. I would and absolutely will follow him to the end of the Earth, now and forever. What might heaven for Jessica look like, you may ask? Being on a plane on my way to him – where specifically is irrelevant. I may or may not already be booking my next trip back to you…
6. Their quirkiness (annoyances) is cute again (or at least tolerable because it is observed from afar).
I have known Tim since my awkward high school years – sophomore, to be exact. We’ve watched each other grow up over these years, so there are very few things left to the imagination between the two of us. There are some things he used to (and probably still does) that would make me want to rip my hair out. Some of his not-so-funny jokes would make me completely cringe. The way he’d constantly bite his nails would make me want to punch him in the head. Now, I could watch him tell an arsenal of terrible jokes and eat his fingers off on FaceTime because I’m completely captivated in taking him in, totally and completely, and haven’t yet been around them long enough to find them irritating again. Yet.
*This does not include farting into our FaceTimes, Timothy. That will never be cute.
7. Being forced to face how much I’d previously been taking for granted is a painful but necessary blessing.
I will be the first to tell you that I am spoiled. Not even materially (okay, somewhat materially, too, but that’s beside the focal point here). But my husband, well before he was even my husband, has been far better to me than I sometimes ever even deserved. I’ve never felt unappreciated, unimportant, or unloved for even a fraction of a second – Tim’s always had a knack for making me feel like I was on top of the world on any given day. He speaks so highly of me to others and to me on his own. He always knows what to say, and when and how to say it. Nothing and no one else in this world can make me smile and laugh the way he does. The biggest eye-opener this time apart has served for me, though, has been how undeserving I’ve been of someone so wonderful in the past. While in the past 6 months I’ve wept tears of joy over a tiny dried bundle of flowers in a letter envelope from Parris Island and felt as though I’d won the lottery after hearing his voice for less than a minute after weeks of nothing, there were more times than I’d like to admit to that I’d erupted over a text message not being returned in what I considered a ‘timely’ manner. I missed out on so much because I was uninterested or outright lazy. I cannot adequately express how many times I missed out on trying new things with him, letting him teach me something he wanted to, or simply taking for granted sharing my bed with him. The list of things I would go back and change if I could is embarrassingly long. But at the end of it (if I ever see the end of it), I am grateful for my eyes being opened to these. It absolutely kills me to have to own up to that behavior, but doing so allows me to know what to work on going forward – the things NOT to let slip past me the next time I have them, because I know now that I definitely won’t forever.
At the end of the day, I would not give up a moment of my marriage for anything. We may have spent more time apart now than we have together, but if I’ve learned anything along this journey, it’s that these tough times don’t last, and I’m usually reunited with the one I love at the end of them. And for that reason alone, I’d do this for the rest of my days if that’s what was needed of me for you. Waiting is hard. But I’ll spend as much time alone as I have to if that means getting to spend the rest of my life with you.