Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Questions Answered Part IV: Love & Long-Distance

Thanks for all of your great comments so far, everyone! I hope I'm not boring you with these posts because I'm rather enjoying them.

This set of questions comes from Torilynn.

What was the most difficult time in your long-distance relationship and how did you overcome it? And also, was there anything that you learned to appreciate during that time when you both were apart?

For those of you who haven't read our story, I'll provide a little bit of context. Robbie and I were together for a year and a half before he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an airborne infantryman.  Up to this point we had certainly spent time apart, as there was an hour drive between our respective houses, but we were not prepared for what apart really meant.  From April until July 2004, Rob and I spoke on the phone twice, for two minutes each, and otherwise communicated solely via letters.  After OSUT he moved on to Airborne School, where we had somewhat more freedom in communication, and finally he was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.  In October 2006 he deployed to Iraq during one of the most chaotic times of the war.  He had far too many a few close calls but happily returned to me in November 2007.  He has been out of the Army since May 2008.

(Happy sidenote: his official no-more-Army-forever date is next Thursday! I wish I could convey my excitement in something more than italics)

Can't deny how sexy that uniform is.
I think most people would imagine that I would say the most difficult time was during the deployment.  We were averaging maybe a week of sporadic phone calls for every two weeks of no contact whatsoever, at least during those initial months of the deployment.  Before he called me to tell me he had been shot and was receiving a Purple Heart, we hadn't spoken or emailed in two straight weeks.  Keep in mind that during this time I was going to college and studying abroad in Moscow. But, perhaps surprisingly, the deployment was one of the easiest times communication-wise.  I can't remember a single argument or a single misplaced word.  It was as if we both had come to a mutual, unspoken understanding about where we were as a couple and what was going on.  Our conversations were filled only with love, kind words, and understanding.

Sidenote: I'm also very lucky that my husband knows me extremely well and kept all of the horrible stories to himself, at least while he was overseas.

Pew pew pew
I would say that the most difficult time for us was when he was in Alaska prior to the deployment and I was in Beloit, Wisconsin.  I am a far more dependent/needy person than Rob is, and I found it hard to get out of my own head and have fun while he was so far away.  To be honest I didn't really enjoy college to its fullest extent for this reason.  I didn't connect with a lot of people because I was wrestling with being a crazy girl a lot of intense emotions.

As a result I definitely was an obnoxious harpy girlfriend sometimes.  I would get annoyed if he would go see a movie with his friends because I assumed it meant he didn't want to talk to me.  I'd play stupid passive-aggressive emotional games with myself.  I'd hang up on him when I got pissed. I acted out because I ached for his presence and his closeness and I couldn't have it.  It wasn't all bad and we were still pretty damn happy during his entire enlistment, nor did we ever question that we would stay together despite the bumps, but there were hard times and they were objectively mostly of my doing. Honestly it's a wonder the man stayed with me so long.

Another difficult time for us was immediately after he returned from deployment, when he was still in Alaska and I was still in Wisconsin.  Because of school and money I couldn't make it to his homecoming ceremony, a fact that will haunt me for all of my days and something that to some extent upset him as well, though he understood the circumstances.  All of a sudden the emotional baggage bullshit reared its head again after laying dormant for 13 months, and this time Rob was not in an emotional position himself to handle it as he always had.  We had a few huge blowouts but nothing breakup-worthy, and when he came home and we moved in together it was if nothing had ever happened and he had simply been gone on a weekend vacation.  A really long, really dangerous weekend vacation.

And Stalin watches over us all.
In terms of what I learned to appreciate, I think that our time apart, particularly during the deployment, made me realize how fragile life can be, and how amazing true love is when you find it.  Going through hell with someone and making it out even stronger on the other side makes you look at that person completely differently; Rob and I agree that we are so far from the people we started out as and I honestly believe it shaped how we communicate with each other and deal with our marriage on a daily basis.  Having the context of such a harrowing experience is helpful when you find yourself getting needlessly wrapped up in the obnoxious minutiae of daily life, and I don't think I would've learned to appreciate how amazingly awesome my husband is without having gone through what we did together.  I know that we can get through anything together, because we've been through everything together.

Fabulous question, Torilynn, thank you!  And thank you, readers, for getting through this somewhat rambling post.

P.S. - I was interviewed for Ashley's feature, New Friend Friday, over at After Nine to Five! Check her out, she's amazing!


  1. I loved reading this. It is like you are your Robbie have the exact same story as me and my Robby! Crazy! I hope you're doing well girl. I miss having dinner with you! :(

  2. Thank you so much for responding to my question, and with such depth. I can definitely relate to many of your experiences and in a way that's comforting. Over the years, I've realized just how much I appreciate the small things because my boyfriend and I are long-distance that I don't think I would have noticed or cared for otherwise. And I know that the end of being long-distance will be whole new journey in itself. Thanks again for sharing! :)

  3. I watched Battle LA last and night and cried through like the whole (alien) movie because my cousin is joining the Marines soon and I'm sad about it. This post just made me start bawling all over again.
    I'm sorry you guys had to be so far apart and miss each other so much but I'm so glad you made it through even stronger

  4. I think your story with Rob is one of my favorite love stories! I just love how you guys have been through so much and your feelings never ever wavered. I can only hope to find such a passionate love with someone, one day :)

  5. Once again, thank you for that super honest post!

    While I was in college, my boyfriend and I maintained an on again off again long-distance "relationship" for almost 6 years (ok, that sounds INSANE now that I type it out! haha). Since graduation a year ago, we've come back together full force and are now living together. I also believe that had we not gone through all of the trials we went through, we would have very little perspective. Let's face it...we've seen the worst in each other (and the best), and now we get to enjoy our relationship on OUR terms, in the most authentic way possible. We talk about it sometimes and laugh that when we get married there will be few surprises on the negative end...all we have left now is impressing ourselves with how damn far we've come and that's a greeeaattt thing! YAY for enduring love! So glad you've found yours, Caitlin :)

  6. It's always a good thing to be open about those deployment feelings. And to remember that it's ok when those old feelings or memories pop up. My husband has been home for 7 years, and some days I still wonder if something will happen to him while he's at the grocery store. But having him in Iraq for 13 months messed with my mind at the time, and I have to acknowledge those feelings when they come up.

    I think you are so brave for sharing your experiences. I'm sure you are helping a lot of people!

  7. I can't even imagine knowing my man would be somewhere so dangerous. I'd go bananas with worry.

  8. Great answer and what a wonderful story to have! Your children will really appreciate it someday, especially when they are struggling with long distance and relationship issues of their own.

  9. don't get me wrong, i can absolutely appreciate anyone's military service, but i'm so happy for you knowing that his time in the army is almost up! i couldn't imagine going through the stress you must have felt having someone i loved so much in such a dangerous situation.


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