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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.