written by Emily, a current graduate wife
My journey begins probably much like many others who have, along with their spouses, made the decision to attend graduate school. John and I were college sweethearts and had the wedding of our dreams soon after we graduated from Samford University. After our honeymoon, John and I fell into a wonderful rhythm of living and working in Memphis, TN, and enjoyed a season of sweet friends and family there. We bought a house and spent months renovating and decorating it, planning on staying there until we had a few children of our own. Well the Lord had different plans for us and a fire was ignited in John’s heart to pursue his dream of going to graduate school to earn his MBA. We prayed, and prayed, talked and talked, cried and cried (ok, just me), wondering if this was the right decision. We decided to uproot our comfortable lives and move twelve hours away to North Carolina. We left great jobs, great friends, our first home, and a wonderful church, not knowing what the future might hold. We did know however that we were in this together. Our little adventure, we liked to call it. Something so ‘out of the norm’ and something so challenging, exciting and new.
Here we are 1 1/2 years into business school, and we are very much still living in our adventure. We have gone through the ups and downs that come with moving and going back to school. Such as: John staying at school until 10pm every night, only to come home and do more work, adjusting to a tiny apartment where we can hear our neighbors sneeze, me finding a new job and having to work for 52 straight weekends in a row, the we’ve suffered through the stress of being apart for an entire summer as John went away for an internship.
Spending the summer apart might have been one of the hardest things we have done together as a couple. Since I wasn’t able to pack up and leave my job here in NC, John had to gather up his things, his side of the sink, his pillow, and drive 10 hours north to Philadelphia…without me. For eleven full weeks. I still remember the day he left, not knowing how I was going to make it without him. We had never been apart over the 7 years together (3 1/2 married). Could we survive with just phone calls and skype dates, and only 2 visits over 2 1/2 months? I seriously contemplated hiding in his suitcase and just quitting my job all together. The first week was definitely the hardest. Going to bed alone, cooking dinner alone, and seeing his face on skype brought tears to my eyes every time I saw him. BUT, the first week came and went…and so did the next two. each day, I felt stronger and my love for him began to grow in a new light. I could DO this! Our conversations were deeper and more meaningful. Our skype chats were long and mushy. My trip to visit him in the one of the following weeks was one of the sweetest times we’ve ever had together. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I am now a 100% believer in that. Being apart made us cherish our time together so much more, and although we had to face trials and frustrations, I am so grateful for last summer. If I had to give any advice to someone who is gearing up for time apart from their spouse (whether it’s an internship, or residency, etc.) I would say these 3 things.
1. Start a new “tradition” with each other for that time (whether it’s calling to say goodnight, a “good morning” text, a weekly piece of snail mail, or sharing a daily scripture verse). Having something to look forward to each day together is fun and exciting and it will bring at least some form of consistency to your life.
2. Listen to each other. Phone and email conversations are probably not what you are most used to in the daily communication with your spouse. It’s really easy to misunderstand or mis-communicate when you are not sitting right in front of each other. Sarcasm is sometimes very hard to interpret in a phone call. Listen well and make it a point to let each person talk about his or her day. Ask questions. It’s a new and different way to communicate so treasure learning these new ways to share and grow.
3. Enjoy the present. It’s very easy to just mark off the days on the calendar until you are together again, and constantly look towards the future, but try to enjoy the ‘in between’ phase. Spend time with your girlfriends and watch “the notebook” 15 times in a row. Light candles and eat popcorn for dinner. Take long baths and buy yourself fresh flowers. Sometimes it’s the little things that make you enjoy the day. Take time and do that for yourself, trust me you’ll be glad you did. You will be refreshed and happy when you have your phone call with your spouse later that night, instead of feeling isolated and alone.
Through our entire graduate journey, we have learned a lot and have grown in so many ways. We have learned to never take a single moment together for granted. We have learned that our cozy little apartment makes us cuddle that much more. We have been reminded of the importance of encouragement and unconditional love in a marriage. We have re-learned our love languages and have strived to put them into practice every day. We have learned how necessary it is make decisions together and for us, to pray together. We have been through weeks at a time where a quick meal at the dinner table was the only time we had together that day — and have learned to turn off our phones and tv’s during those times. We have been shown that having friends that are in this same phase of life can make such a difference to your sanity. And, we have learned what it means to be TOGETHER every step of the way. Homes may change, friends may come and go, doors may close, and dreams may change, BUT, no matter what — it’s our little adventure. It’s one of support, sacrifice, and unconditional love. And as long as we are together, there is nowhere else I’d rather be.
Have you had to live apart from your spouse for an extended period on your graduate wife journey? How have you handled the transition?