For reasons you might not find interesting, my husband and I have lived on different continents for the last thirty months. I live in Sweden and after living in India for the first eighteen months of moving away, he relocated to Singapore. Yet further away.
I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked if we are still together. I usually give my typical answers, ‘ya so far, but who can tell’! Or ‘yes, but there’s still hope’’! Or some idiotic variation thereof, my idea of a joke, but I do get some quizzical looks back.
The principle of living apart is not abnormal to me. My father was in the army and my parents lived apart for years on end. When my father served in non-family station areas, my mother, sister and I stayed in another place. It all seemed happy and normal enough. Those were the rules of the army life and you did what you had to do.
This conditioning is coupled with the belief that the family must orient itself to meet the most important needs of any member. When my husband got a job opportunity involving a move to Switzerland, my daughter and I followed him. As we did again in a few years when he needed to move to Sweden. However, the last time around things were a bit different. Our daughter had just finished tenth grade and had the final two years of high school ahead. It seemed unfair to move her yet again, against her wish, at that juncture. Of course, it was a family decision we circled around this question endlessly, should we all go to India as the easier thing to do?
In the end, he went and we stayed.
Of course, couples stay apart temporarily due to children’s education or dual careers or yet other circumstances all the time. But in my experience usually, the breadwinner goes away and the rest of the family stays back. They live in familiar places surrounded by a support system of family and friends. In our case, I have elected to live in a truly faraway, foreign-to-me city, with very few, very new friends and absolutely no family.
We have just crossed the two-and-a-half-year mark of living apart. It’s hard to say exactly what we have done to try to adjust to this new system. But to anyone who is contemplating a long-distance partnership for a while, I would summarise my learnings thus.
Take a bit of your home with you. The household stayed with me if you know what I mean. My daughter and all our possessions were with me. So I was at home in a way that my husband was not. Some things that we associate with home help in a big way. I would advise the one leaving to take along some favourites.
Try to maintain continuity with your previous life together. My husband had been traveling a fair amount, so in the beginning I would tell myself that he was away on a long business trip. Frequent travel back and forth has sustained that sequence. We have our day to day lives but we do also anchor from trip to trip.
Build on the change in the grain of your interchange. If there is one thing that has benefited from living apart it is the quality of our interaction. There’s not much everyday administration to discuss so we talk about other things that touch us. Communication can be fairly non-sequitur, something I truly enjoy. Since we can’t fetch bread and milk for each other we share things we have read, seen or heard. Our selfie skills have improved enormously!
Remember this is your choice. There have been days I have felt low or wanted my husband’s company. Then I remind myself that we chose this alternative. We don’t always have the option or the ability. Thank whatever power you believe in for being able to exercise the choice. Even if that be your partner!
I’m not saying it is easy. I’m not saying you should go around looking for ways to do it. It would have been so much better for us as a family if we had lived together. How we will rehabilitate, I have no way of knowing. Perhaps there will be some hell to pay. Hopefully it will be minor, like adjusting to space on the couch or mealtimes. Hopefully we will help each other to pay it.
In the end it always comes down to the same things, doesn’t it? Are you ‘together’ in your mind? Are you a team if there is a problem? Do you want somewhat the same things from life? Do you have faith in each other’s bona fides?
If your heart says yes, then well, are the 10,000 miles and the eight time-zones between Sweden and Singapore really one too far?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.