My husband and I will have been “together” for 10 years this July. Of those 10 years, we have lived about 3.5 in the same city. It’s a hard gig.
We met when I was an undergrad and Steve was a grad student (scandalous!) over the summer when I was home from college, working in a water chemistry lab. He made goofy jokes about the carbon analyzer and wore Wallace and Gromit t-shirts, and our first date was to go see Mulan (no kidding. We now consider Disney to be bscs=blood-sucking corporate scum, an opinion we recognize we can only hold for now because we don’t have kids who love them yet.). We hung out for the rest of that summer, but there wasn’t much of it left as I spent a couple of weeks ’round Vancouver (family) and then had to go back to school in Montreal (McGill). When I left, I hoped we could see each other again maybe at winter break; what I didn’t anticipate was that there would be emails from him in my inbox by the time I got back to my apartment, and that he wanted to come visit me in the fall.
Fast forward somewhat a year and a half that we spent emailing long missives (including choose-your-own-adventure emails that took 3 hours to write), talking on the phone for hours, IMing from his lab to my lab, and the occasional visit (care of various cyberfares). I graduated and had a semester off before starting graduate school. I had applied to both the University of Wisconsin (my hometown school, where my parents lived, where I could find someone who would let me study engineering education, AND where Steve was still a grad student, bonus!) and University of Minnesota, and stuck with UW because I was tired of living away after 1 year in France and 4.5 years in Montreal.
That was the beginning of our first two years in the same city. I lived at home for the first year while I saved enough money to buy a car; then I got an apartment for the second year and we shuttled backwards and forwards between his place and mine. Then he started looking for a job because he was ready to graduate.
He’s an environmental chemist who loves to teach (and is really good at it), and so was looking for a job at a small school. I was only 2 years in to graduate school, but we knew we were both a) still crazy about each other, and b) not looking forward to a long-distance relationship that involved airplanes again. He interviewed all over the Midwest, and then got a bite in central Illinois, near the city in which he grew up and where is folks still live. A mere 3.5 hours from where I was, yay! Ack.
He got an apartment there for the first year, we bought cell phones for the road, and we shuttled back and forth on the weekends – I know just about every rut and exit on that highway. Then he bought a house (very small, but lovely), and I think that’s also the summer we got engaged. Another year of shuttling back and forth, but at least it was now to a house. And we were planning our wedding, which happened in September of 2004. (I hope I haven’t counted these years wrong – someone check, will you? )
More shuttling. I discovered that, even though we had been commuting for years already, that living in a different place sucked more once we were married. Way more. I gave up my apartment and moved back in with my parents as I hadn’t quite been able to make ends meet the year before on my graduate salary, plus now we had these house expenses. I think it wasn’t until spring of 2006 that I decided I needed to give up my job and get my damn dissertation done, and once I had my data collected, I decided I could do that from where Steve lived.
That was the 3rd year we lived together. It was at once lovely and really difficult – lovely as we were together and (it turned out) still liked each other (also a relief), and difficult because I wasn’t earning any money, felt dependent, had no friends in town, and was having a hard time with my dissertation entirely alone too. Therapy turned out to be a good thing at this point.
Wow, this has gotten really long. I’ll finish this story tomorrow.