long distance marriage to complete college

ameliacbSeptember 20, 2007

My husband and I have only been married a year. We dated for three years long distance before getting married and in the last year we have moved back and forth between his home state and mine. I did not have a plan for college, but now that I have a goal my options are either to pay a lot for school or to move six hours away and go to a more affordable school. My husband wants me to go to the affordable school as opposed to taking out lots of loans, but he does not want to go with me even though they have his program there. If I moved away He would stay with his parents while I am at school for two to three years. I have, since we got married, been without him for a month straight and I was just fine. I just don't know if leaving my husband so I can go to college is too bizarre. some people have asked me why we even got married in the first place then, but I think doing this would be much better for us in the long run. I just want some outside opinions or advice if anyone would be so kind. Thank you!

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honestly, the first few years of a marriage are the hardest. that is why you see so many divorces early in marriage now. even though you have been together for a while, these first few years are the foundation that determines teh strength of your marriage.

there is no way i would do it. your situation may be different, but my gut feeling is that it will put a major strain on your relationship.

my vote is that either he goes with you or you go locally.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 10:02AM
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Ditto davidandkasie.

If your marriage survives this, you will be exceptional. You're the only ones that know how it's going, but I would advise against. Why did you get married if you intend to spend all your time apart?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 2:24PM
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I think you need to treat the marriage with respect. You work as a team and live together.

That said, I would put your thinking cap on and really explore other options. Can your DH move with you to the far away college, for instance.

I am a great supporter of education, and if you have the opportunity you should go for it. It is early days in the marriage, and I think if you don't get this education, now, you might always regret it. It is a lot more difficult, and costly to pay for further education, when you have a mortgage, family costs etc. Somehow, your needs as a wife and mother, will come second fiddle to the children and husband. Thats the reality of it all, in my experience.

I have that regret, myself, I wish, that I had hopped into a uni course, when I was younger, but I married young, and bought a house, and worked like a slave, the years flew past, the children arrived, and bingo I am nudging 50 and gee, where did the time go ! The tragedy is, for me, that uni cost were free, back 30 years ago...and now it cost lots !

There is a way to get what you want, explore those options.

Let us know what you do.

All the best to you.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 11:02PM
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Only you know what's right for you. My college roommate moved half way across the country for med school (4 years) while her husband lived in their home here. It's now been about 7 years since she came back and they're still married, 2 kids, happy as can be.

You know the strength of your own relationship and if it starts off on a non-traditional footing, that's ok - as long as you're both ok with it and committed to finding creative ways to make it work.

Whatever you do - do NOT sell yourself out for this marriage. I firmly believe that you must keep a strong sense of self and be able to pursue your own dreams instead of always being the one to follow your partner.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 5:18PM
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Most of the people I know who finished school and were separated had at least started that school and did not want to lose credits. In your case you are selecting a school which is 6 hours away. Unless you are in the middle of Montana or some foreign country and are pursuing a degree in some obscure field I cannot imagine why your only choices are an expensive school or one that is 6 hours away. In 6 hours you can drive from LA to San Francisco or Illinois to Wisconsin. Believe me there are schools in between.
Since you didn't have any college plans before, I agree with your husband--don't run up any student loans. Why not start with a local Junior college and see if you like college. The two of you can get a small apartment, maybe one or both of you can work part time.
Now that you are married-- living in a dorm is going to be a drag--everyone will be talking about meeting guys, drinking, etc. and it takes money to live away at college. Why would it be cheaper to go away to school?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 6:11PM
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This is where the rubber hits the road for your marriage vows - big time. For both of you. Regardless of the smaller logistical questions (e.g. how far is too far? how much money is too much?) the bigger question must always be: can I/we do this and still keep our marrige strong? Some couples might be able to, others wouldn't. Only you and your husband know where you are in this season of your lives together.

I agree with most of the other posters, but do want to offer one thought that differs from one of them: Choosing to put your marriage first - even if it means waiting a few years to go to college - is not "selling yourself out." It's investing in your future with your husband. Through the years of our marriage, my husband and I have had various moments where one of us has had a great opportunity come up. Sometimes one of us will give up what's most comfortable or desirable for us in order to see the other grow and be happy. Sometimes one of us will choose not to pursue a desire we have (a "dream" if you will) for the sake of the other. When my husband makes a sacrifice for the sake of my happiness, there is no more humbling gift that he can give me, and it only makes me want to do the same for him in return. In the long run, a marriage is built on the many moments of give and take that two people share with each other. When my husband went back to school a few years ago, he did so with the promise that if it ever became too stressful on our marriage he'd give it up. There were many hard moments, but just knowing he'd be willing to go that far for me made me more willing to stick it out. Eventually he finished and we were both happy. A healthy, long-run marriage can never be built if each person is focused only on putting himself or herself first.

One last thought: my husband is very good at looking at options that aren't openly apparent at first, and that's been very helpful for us when we reach a crossroads or a major decision like the one you're talking about (for example, do you have to do this now, or could you wait a couple of years?). There may be creative solutions that you haven't yet considered, so I encourage you to ask others who know you both well for their input, too.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:29PM
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halfdecaf: too many times the woman agrees to set aside her goals to support those of her husband. And too many times, that woman ends up divorced with children, bitterly regretting what she gave up for what she thought was "investing in her future with her husband." A cynical person (which I am) could re-word that to be "investing in her husbands future."

There is a fine balance to be found and maintained - that of compromise for a healthy relationship and that of pursuing your own dreams. Education is often the very foundation on which women can build their self esteem and financial potential. Let's face it - half of all marriages end. If that happens, what are you left with? Bitterness or regret, or some sort of foundation of strength you built through getting an education and pursuing a career choice that will lead to stability in the event you find yourself alone - whether through divorce, death, spousal disaiblity, etc. Choosing over job assignments later in life is the building block on top of the foundation and not nearly as difficult as a "compromise" of forgoing a higher education. My advice to the OP was not to give up the foundation. Listen to your heart, know your relationship, and pursue your dream.

I think I write my posts sometimes from the perspective of the man. I would encourage women to be strong in themselves, not give up dreams for marriage and not give up pursuing the goals that will provide them with stability in the event that they are left alone one day with children to support. It happens everyday. It's the fine balance of love versus brains. Love your husbandly deeply, but pursue your dreams with your brain.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 4:01AM
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Halfdecaf - While I totally agree about investing in your marriage and 'his turn' and 'her turn' seasons, I've also got to agree with Hlmhr that very often, the wife's 'turn' gets delayed and postponed and reprioritized until it never ever happens, and the rest of her life is compromised by he earlier "investments."

Are there really there only these two college options? That is really a very unusual circumstance. And if your college options are truly so narrow, why is your husband so reluctant to come with you?

OP did say her husband would be living with his parents -- so that's reassuring as far as what influences would work upon him. But Marge's point about college life for OP is right on target. There is so much dating and hook-up pressure at most colleges that a married co-ed could easily feel very out of place.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 10:06AM
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Hlmhr and Sweeby - great comments!

Hlmhr, I do hear what you're saying - it sounds like you've seen some very poignant examples of women who have been left high and dry after a divorce with kids to care for and fewer skills/less experience than she would have had had she been able to pursue some of her own life goals. That's a sad, and too common occurrance. Marriage shouldn't be a one-way street like that.

Marriage can't / shouldn't be about putting one's goals over the other's on a consistent basis, but it may be about being willing to give in and give up at times when the marriage needs it. And giving up or postponing a personal goal for the sake of strengthening a marriage or family isn't a bad thing. When big life decisions come up, a couple has to factor in so many things - timing, the strength of the marriage relationship, the kids... It's not selling out when both spouses are willing to give in for each other.

Here's a flipside example - a husband who is willing to give up a dream of his for his wife: A few years ago a friend of mine was offered his "dream job:" a professorship at the most elite university in his field. It was truly a once in a lifetime job offer. However, due to the season that his family was in at the time, he declined the university's offer because, after he weighed everything out as best he could, he felt that moving his family halfway around the world for his career would take too much of a toll on the rest of them, and, very possibly, on his relationship with his wife. So he declined the position. Today he says that where he is is "just fine." It's not the dream, but it's good enough, and he still has his family. Had he pursued the dream, he might well have lost his marriage.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 8:19PM
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Sounds like you have a fantastic husband HalfDecaf; I do too. My husband has made sacrifices for me, I have done the same for him, and it's been best for our marriage. But I think it takes a strong and secure man to sacrifice his own career for his wife's needs. And sadly, I haven't seen it too often...

Some friends of mine addressed this in an interesting way when they were contemplating having children. The husband had a nice professional job with decent pay and hours; wife's career was very high-paying but also very demanding in terms of time and travel and she was a rising star. They both felt one parent should stay home with the kids while they were young, but acknowledged that it would be severely career-damaging for either of them. They opted to have him be the stay-at-home-parent and signed a post-nup stipulating that he sacrificed his career and that in the event of a divorce, she would pay him spousal support (not the norm in our state) until the kids were out of high school plus five years beyond so he could re-establish himself.

Sounds like a fair agreement to me --

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 11:19AM
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I know one couple who did this. They had dated for a couple years, and then were married. They explained at the wedding that he would be leaving to finish his education, while she stayed behind and lived with her parents. She was fine with this decision. They were divorced within 2 years.

I cannot imagine anyone making such a choice, and I happen to agree with your friends. If you wanted to continue your education, it seems you should have waited to get married, or want to be together enough to live in the same place while you pursue this goal together.

A lot can happen in 2 - 3 years apart, when you are simply "choosing" that this goal of yours is more important to you than your marriage.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 8:58PM
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" I think it takes a strong and secure man to sacrifice his own career for his wife's needs."

That is so very true. Glad you have a fantastic husband, too.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 3:28AM
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What about Distance Learning? Many colleges offer this option now. You do your classes over the computer and then for finals you go to any regular school where you are proctored during the test. Maybe you couldn't do it all that way, but you could do some of it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 3:35AM
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