The Pros & Cons of Our Long-distance Marriage

Mr. FAF and I have been in a long-distance marriage for about three and a half years.

Many of you have asked me why we don’t live together. It is definitely not a secret, and I would love to share our story with you all.

I currently work in Washington DC. Mr. FAF lives in a city more than 10 hours away from me.

Every month, he would drive a total of 20-22 hours back and forth to visit me.

Many people gasp when I tell them that. The drive is long and exhausting.

But that’s something Mr. FAF has done for almost four years to maintain our marriage. I can’t be any happier or feel any more fortunate.

I wish we could live a normal life under the same roof like many couples that I know.

But life has another plan for us, and we just try to make the most out of it.

How it all started

It all started five years ago in the city where Mr. FAF currently lives.

Mr. FAF and I met through a mutual friend at a dinner party. Both of us went to different universities in that same city. We stayed friends for a year before we started dating.

When I finally decided to come to DC, Mr. FAF told me he wanted to get to know me more than just a friend.

I hesitated since he told me two months before I headed to DC to start a new life.

I am not a big fan of a short-term fling or anything along those lines. But Mr. FAF said he wanted to have a future with me and would come to DC to see me every month. And he did.

I still remember his tired but happy face every time I greeted him with a big smile at the door all those years.

Mr. FAF is in a PhD program, so his schedule is more flexible than mine (I work an 8-5 job). Mr. FAF can come to stay in DC for a long time (usually 2-4 weeks, especially after he finished his coursework).

Many people have asked me why he doesn’t just fly to DC since it’s less tiring. There are three main reasons. First, Mr. FAF sometimes has unexpected meetings or plans with his advisor, so it’s not easy to buy tickets in advance.

Second, we have only one car which Mr. FAF drives. If he flies to DC, we won’t have a car to get around easily (i.e. grocery shopping, eating out, sightseeing).  Zip cars are just too expensive to rent on a regular basis.

Third, Mr. FAF thinks it’s cheaper for him to drive (~$80 in gas both ways compared to a $200 or so ticket). Mr. FAF is a frugal man, and he wants to save money for the family when he can.

When we started dating, many of our friends supported us. But some also told us it wouldn’t last since long-distance relationships are difficult to sustain.

They cited stories of their friends, siblings, and colleagues to prove their points. We just smiled at them and told ourselves only time could tell.

It’s been almost four years since we decided to make a commitment to be each other’s special half. Looking back on what we’ve been through all these years, I see 4 major pros and 7 cons to our long-distance marriage.

Pros

1. More time for ourselves

I am a pretty independent person who’s good at finding projects to do or ways to entertain myself. ‘Clingy’ is the last word someone would use to describe me as a partner/girlfriend/wife.

I do get lonely sometimes and want Mr. FAF’s attention. But most of them time, Mr. FAF would be the one wondering where I am or what I’m doing.

Some of the things I do outside of work are (1) blogging, (2) reading about rental property investment and property management (2) listening to podcasts about such topics, (3) watching YouTube, (4) cleaning the house, and (5) window shopping.

Sometimes I feel like I have the best of both worlds: being married while enjoying the freedom of a single life.

When Mr. FAF is in DC, however, I feel that a large chunk of my time is spent with him. Although I’m happy we’re physically in one place, my mind wonders about blogging and other things I normally do when he’s not with me.

I know Mr. FAF works out a lot more when he’s not with me. He also gets more work done even later in the evening since he’s not distracted by me. I actually don’t interrupt his work, but he would start talking about random things, and then the studying stops.

2. Feeling the love from a distance

This sounds cheesy, but when I get a series of missed calls from Mr. FAF or texts asking where I am, I feel pretty happy and cared about. It’s usually because I’m too busy cleaning or eating after I get home from work, and forget to update Mr. FAF on what I’m up to.

Sometimes when Mr. FAF hasn’t messaged me for a couple of hours  because he’s proctoring an exam for his students or is at the gym, I also get worried.

When Mr. FAF finally answers my call, I feel happy and reassured that everything is fine. I know he also feels warm and fuzzy inside knowing his wife cares deeply about him.

3. Building trust

When Mr. FAF and I first started dating and being married, I felt insecure about our relationship and tended to get jealous easily. Mr. FAF always told me he trusted me and never showed any jealousy when I went out with my friends.

However, it was more difficult for me to learn to trust him. I think it had more to do with my insecurity than anything else. Mr. FAF never did anything that called for caution from my end. But I tended to overthink everything and overreact.

As time went by, however, I realized I have trusted Mr. FAF more. Before I’d be jealous if he went out to lunch with a female colleague. But now I’m totally ok with it.

If Mr. FAF was fine with a male friend picking me up to go to social events together since I don’t have a car in DC, I don’t see any reason why I can’t do the same for him.

4. Valuing our time together more

Since we usually just talk on Gchat, seeing each other in person is special. When we’re together, we talk about everything in the world, especially our future. We laugh at the silly things the other person does, something we don’t see often when we chat online.

I particularly like the short walks Mr. FAF and I take after we finish dinner. That’s when we share with each other what we do during the day and what we want our short-term and long-term future to look like (i.e. retirement, investment, Baby FAF’s school, future children, travel).

The long and winding road of our marriage

Together with the great pros above, however, there are serious cons that we have come up against.

Cons

1. Constantly readjusting our lifestyles

When I’m by myself in DC, I have a set schedule which includes getting up early, going to work, and doing my projects in the evening. I go to bed at exactly 10:30 PM and get up at 6:30 AM sometimes even on the weekends. My life has a rhythm that helps me stay productive.

When Mr. FAF comes to visit, everything changes. I go to bed later since he works late and we spend more time hanging out at night. Mr. FAF also has a snoring problem, so I just can’t sleep well at night.

Once I get used to his snoring, tossing and turning, Mr. FAF leaves. I slowly return to my normal schedule until the next time when he comes. I can’t remember how many times both of us got up tired and grumpy in the morning since we kept each other awake at night.

Every time Mr. FAF comes back, I feel like we just got married and have to get used to each other’s habits and quirks to live in harmony.

2. Trust issues

We started dating two months before I moved to DC. Initially, I had a hard time feeling secure about our relationship.

I kept wondering who Mr. FAF might have been talking to that day, if there were new and pretty colleagues in his department, or if he had met someone at a dinner get-together he went to with his friends.

Those thoughts really tired me out and put a huge strain on our relationship at some points.

Mr. FAF, however, was different. He never asked me if I had met or talked to any guys at a party. He was fine with me going out with a male friend.

He believed in me to the extent that I had to re-examine my behavior and how I treated him. Mr. FAF has taught me one of the most valuable lessons about a happy marriage: trust your spouse in the same way you want them to trust you.

3. Insomnia

This is mainly a problem with Mr. FAF. He often has problem sleeping when he’s not with me. At first I thought he was stressed out about his work. But whenever he comes back to DC, Mr. FAF would be able to sleep like a baby.

My friend laughed when I told her that. She said Mr. FAF can’t sleep without his wife next to him. Mr. FAF always denies this, but I have observed the pattern and do think my friend was right.

4. Not being able to raise our baby together

We have a two-year-old son. But he’s currently not living with us since Mr. FAF and I are in two different cities. My in-laws have been kind enough to take care of him in China so that both of us can focus on our work and build a more financially secure future for our family.

Sometimes I get upset when I think about how Baby FAF could be with us if Mr. FAF weren’t still in school. But I know Mr. FAF has done his best to take care of his family, and I just need to be more supportive.

However, I do feel a bit sad when I see other couples playing and laughing with their kids and ours is half way across the world.

5. Higher costs of living

Living in two places has put a huge dent on our budget. Mr. FAF has to rent a separate place in his city. Although he’s found an average small room for $250/month including everything, it’s still money we could save ($3,000/year) if we lived together.

It’s not to mention the higher food expenses since it’s more expensive for two people to cook separately than together. Mr. FAF is also more likely to eat out when he’s alone since he’s too busy and not motivated enough to cook only for himself.

Every month, Mr. FAF needs to spend at least $80 on gas (~$1,000/year) to drive back and forth between DC and his city. When gas priced increased a while back, it was roughly $100/month (~$1,200/year).

6. Misunderstanding

Mr. FAF is not great at communicating his thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I do feel like he expects me to read his mind, which is even more difficult for me when we’re apart.

We have had so many arguments because we misinterpreted what each other was saying through a message. Something meant as a joke could easily be taken as a criticism and upset the person on the receiving end.

7. Negative effect on health

The toll the long drive takes on Mr. FAF’s short-term and long-term health is immeasurable.

The first time Mr. FAF drove 11 hours to DC, it took him 2-3 days to fully recover from the fatigue. Sometimes he would drive throughout the night to avoid traffic and cut the drive to 9 hours. Yet, his sleep schedule would be turned upside down.

Now Mr. FAF is used to the long drive and usually arrives in DC late at night (10 PM – 1 AM) depending on his work. It takes him a day to recover if he has a good sleep. By the time Mr. FAF gets used to the new schedule in DC, he hits the road again.

Conclusion

When Mr. FAF and I started dating, we knew it would be a long journey ahead of us. At that time, we just thought love could conquer anything.

We never thought that it would be so exhausting both physically and emotionally to be so far away from each other.

We never thought we would have a baby when both of us were two broke grad students and had to seek help from our parents.

And we never thought our relationship would become stronger after all those years of challenges, fights, tears, anger, fear and sometimes doubt.

Mr. FAF is scheduled to finish his PhD program this summer and recently got a job offer in DC. Both he and Baby FAF are coming home soon. The long wait is finally coming to an end.

I won’t say long-distance relationships will work for everyone, but it will definitely work for anyone who’s willing to deal with the cons and cherish the pros.

If I were to start over again, I would undoubtedly choose to walk on this same bumpy yet happy road with Mr. FAF. He has helped me explore life in such challenging yet rewarding ways I never thought I could. And for that, I want to stick with him for the rest of my life.

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45 thoughts on “The Pros & Cons of Our Long-distance Marriage”

  • Wow, this is a really eye-opening and honest post! When I read the Pros, I thought, “having more time and autonomy would be great!”, but the Cons are definitely a sacrifice. I’m really impressed that you, Mr. FAF and Baby FAF have been able to keep such a solid connection while living miles apart. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, Mrs. Adventure Rich! It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes we do question whether this is all worth it. But at the end of the day our answer is always Yes. Sometimes I’m also surprised we’ve come this far. But there’s definitely a lot more to do from now on. ^^

  • Wow, love truly does conquer all – especially distance! 😉

    LTR’s are hard work – similarly to you, my boyfriend and I were together for about 3 months before I moved away. I wouldn’t change that year apart for the world though – it’s provided a strong, trusting foundation for a fantastic relationship. 🙂

    Do either of you have plans to move closer to the other in the future, or are you both content with how it’s working for you both for the foreseeable future?

    • Thank you for the great question! Mr. FAF recently got a job offer in DC, and he’s finishing up his degree in the summer. Both Mr. FAF and Baby FAF are coming home soon! 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing a very personal situation. That’s very brave and earnest. The situation sounds really tough, but I’m glad you’re making it work somehow. I can’t imagine not raising our kid. He is such a big part of our lives. I can work through the other things, but that one might be a deal breaker.
    What’s your plan for the future? Will you keep living apart? I know a couple who did this for a decade now. The kid stays with his mom and the dad comes live with them in the summer. He’s a professor…

    • Thank you, Joe! A lot of people (both on the blog and in real life) have asked us what it’s like to have a long-distance marriage. I thought it might be helpful for some couples who are experiencing the same things we do.

      Mr. FAF is getting his PhD this summer and already got a job offer in DC. Both Mr. FAF and Baby FAF are coming home this summer! ^.^

  • It seems like you guys have been able to thrive through your arrangement. I was once abroad on a short-term assignment (around 4 months) and that was difficult for us. But you’re right, if you’re willing to work through those cons, your relationship will continue to thrive.

    • I totally agree with you. It’s not easy being so far away for so long from someone you love. But sometimes we just have to make the most out of the situation and keep smiling! =)

  • Thank you for sharing. This is very personal and must have been nerve-wracking to put out into the world. I’m glad that you have figured out how to make the situation work for you and that you are able to focus on the pros of distance rather than seeing only the negatives.

    • Thank you, Matt! I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to share in this post. Many people have asked us about our situation, so I’ve gotten more comfortable sharing our stories with them, including you all. =)

  • Wow! Very open and honest post, which seems like it mirrors your relationship.

    I’ll be honest… Did the long distance thing once. It wasn’t that bad, though we were less than three hours away. It does have its advantages and disadvantages. But I can’t imagine how much more difficult it’d be with a kid in the mix!

    • Hi Dave, thanks for sharing your story! It’s certainly more complicated with a baby in the mix. Many times we felt like we were stuck. But I’m glad everything is finally coming together. 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing your story. And happy to hear that Mr. FAF and Baby FAF will be together with you soon. It’s a tough situation but you guys made it work out. Can’t wait to read how everybody readjusts when you guys are finally altogether.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Andrew! I’m also curious how we will readjust as a family. Definitely something to think about. 😉

  • Thanks for sharing your story with us! I was wondering how you made the logistics work but it seems like you have a good thing going! If you don’t mind me asking, how are you able to be away from your son for so long? How are you able to build/maintain a bond with him at such a young age? Very unique setup!

    • Thank you for the great questions, Mary! We Skype with our son every night. I honestly don’t know if he will recognize us when we meet again. It pains me to think about it. It’s been difficult, but we had no choice. I will publish a post about our unique setup soon. Stay tuned. 🙂

  • Just like everyone else on here, I appreciate you for being open and honest to us about your personal life. It shows how strong you and your husband are by being able to maintain a long distance relationship and also having your baby in halfway across the world. Being optimistic really helps in these types of situations and overcoming the cons have showed your marriage to be even stronger.
    When Mr. FAF and Baby FAF are able to live with you on a full-time basis, their will a lifestyle adjustment for all three of you but with the strong connection you guys have I think your family will adapt well. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

    • You’re always so nice, Kris! Many people have asked me about our long-distance relationship. Some have also asked me for advice. I’m more comfortable sharing our stories now than I was before. I hope it will inspire other couples in a long-distance relationship to be strong during tough times. I’ll be sure to provide an update. =)

  • Wow, thanks for sharing. Personally for me, I don’t think I could ever live far apart from my wife. She’s my strong foundation. I also can’t see myself being apart from my son either. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

    • I totally understand. It’s hard to live far away from our loved ones. We had no choice at the time, but it’s working out so far, and our family will be reunited soon! 🙂

  • Incredible. I often wonder if I could handle a long-distance relationship. (My love lives 3000 miles away.) I know for SURE I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But recently, I’m feeling stronger, more independent. After my divorce, I didn’t know how to be happy alone. Loneliness was debilitating. Now, maybe I could do it. THANK YOU for sharing something so personal. It must be hard not to be with Baby FAF and Mr FAF but how a family work is just as diverse as how to spend money. There is no true right or wrong and it seems you are thriving. And remember, everything is temporary.

    • Thank you so much, The Lady! There have been many points in my life where I thought I’d never be happy again. But life is full of surprises. You brought up a great point about being strong and independent. I’ve realized and many people have told me that unless we can be happy with ourselves first, we can’t make others happy. I’m sure you will be able to go through the tough times and make it in the end. =)

  • What an interesting post, thank you. Apart from all else, I must pass on my compliments and total admiration to your in-laws for caring for your two-year-old. Being a grandfather of a two-year-old ‘terror’ (whom I adore) I know the effort needed to care for a little one when you have reached the grandparent age group if you know what I mean. Mmmm I wonder if they spoil him? Regards Adrian

    • Hi Adrian, thank you so much for pointing that out! It’s been tough on Mr. FAF and me. But it hasn’t been easy for my in-laws either. They’ve been working really hard to take care of Baby FAF every day. I know they must be exhausted, but they always say it’s ok. And yes, they dote on him and do spoil him a little. 😉

  • What a difficult few years you’ve gone through! I am sooo glad to hear you will be reunited with Baby FAF! I truly couldn’t imagine having my babies so far away. You and your husband are so strong it sounds like you will get through any trials life brings you with flying colors! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Thank you, Laurie! I’d love to stay lose to my hubby and baby. But life is tough, so we just need to be tougher! ^.^

  • Completely unrelated- but your new graphic looks so good! I can tell that you’ve been putting work into Pinterest. 🙂 Thank you for being so open about your personal life- it is commendable how you and Mr. FAF have been able to sustain a strong relationship when you physically live so far apart. Mr. NavigatingAdulthood and I did long distance for a year and it was difficult- but similar to you, I did kind of like being able to have my own schedule.

    • Thank you, Ying! I spent pretty much the whole weekend last week making Pinterest images for my scheduled posts. I felt like I almost went cross-eyed afterwards. @_@ I think the more you play around with Pinterest images, the more you’ll realize what you like or dislike. You will get better at it. 😉

      I’m glad that you and Mr. NavigatingAdulthood are finally together after that difficult year! =)

  • Girl you are strong, beyond strong!!! I think I’m not the first one to appreciate the honesty and rawness of your writing. I don’t (nor do my husband write in that #3 tone.) We’re just tight people so I consider it a talent you can write so openly.

    I’m glad to hear about baby FAF and Me FAF both coming home. Next year is sounding seriously amazing!

    • Aww thank you, Lily! One thing I like about blogging is that I can just write about my feelings and emotions (unlike papers for classes or reports for work). I also find it easy to just write about whatever it is that’s on my mind since I don’t have to make sure I’m consistent from one post to another. 😀

      I love that you and Jared are working together to build such a great blog. Just read his latest post. It’s awesome!

  • I am so glad to hear your family will be reunited this summer! Thank you for sharing and being so open about your living situation. Mr. Beach Life and I have contemplated a long distance situation so that I can get a job using my degree. There definitely are pros to the situation but definitely a lot of cons to (as you know!) It’s good to hear about relationships that can make it work.

  • I can totally relate to the long-distance game. I spent 2 years in Brazil and was dating my now wife throughout that whole time. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done mentally for the reasons you mentioned – mostly trust issues. But it all worked out and we’re married now! So at the core of it, it’s like any kind of relationship – you choose to make it work or not.

    • Hi Matt, I’m so glad it worked out between you and your wife. It was probably even more difficult because you were overseas. I totally agree with you. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to decide whether to make it work or not. =)

  • Wow I can’t believe you’ve done this for four years. You, your husband and baby are troopers. Sounds like there is going to be a happy homecoming this summer when you all reunite together. I can’t wait to hear all about it!!!

  • First, welcome to the blogging scene! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m rooting for you both as well as Baby FAF. May you cherish your time together.

  • I’ve only read a few of your blog posts so far and I’m already a bit amazed at how strikingly relatable your life is to me. Everything from how your typical day is set up, your interest in personal finance and real estate and how you’ve been hesitating to share your thoughts with others for so long, to your long distance relationship and how your daily routine is disrupted whenever you see him. “Mr. FAF is not great at communicating his thoughts and emotions.” – I laughed reading this. Let’s just say I know exactly what you mean. I live and work in Europe and my boyfriend just started a new job in New York. We have lived in different countries for more than a year now. If you wanted to inspire other long distance couples, you definitely just did. It’s a relief to know others have gone through the same thing, and that it all worked out. Thank you for sharing.

    A question, if you don’t mind – how did you decide on being anonymous? At least from what I’ve read so far, this seems to be the case. I’ve thought a lot about starting my own space and anonymity is certainly appealing to me. But there are specific circumstances that could make it rather tough to remain anonymous in my situation (unless I’m sharing nearly nothing personal, that is). I imagine you must’ve reasoned around this as well. Do you have any rules regarding what to share (and not share)?

    • Hi Liz, I’m so glad my post inspired you to have more faith in your long-distance relationship. That’s exactly what I was hoping for when writing this piece. When we first started our long-distance ordeal, I was trying to find inspiration and advice from other couples who were doing the same thing. It was comforting to know that you were not alone. I’m sure if you guys work hard at it, you will be united as a whole one day. =)

      I thought long and hard about whether to go public with my identify. There are two main reasons why I decided to stay anonymous: (1) work and (2) family. First, I still have a FT job and plan to change jobs in the future. I don’t want my current and new employer to snoop around to see what my financial situation is like or what personal plans I have for the future. Second, we have a baby boy who I want to protect. I don’t feel comfortable just yet talking openly about the details of our family’s life online.

      I realized that the more I blog, the more details I feel comfortable sharing with the reader. It’s just like when you meet someone for the first time and are willing to share with them more as you get to know them better. However, I try not to share too much detail about our income and our baby unless I know for sure it poses no risk to our family. =)

  • Just take a plane. I did that every week for two years. Gas may be $80 but you haven’t accounted for wear and tear, maintenance, value of his time, toll on his health, and the risk of driving tired. Gas is nowhere near the largest expense.

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