Patricia had a two-year job contract in Paris. It was a great opportunity for her, but not for her husband. They decided she would move to Paris while he stayed in Toronto. Four months after returning to Toronto, her husband moved to San Francisco — for two years.
Here is a bit of her story…
How long were you married before you moved to France?
About fifteen years, maybe a little bit more.
Do you think part of the decision to move to Paris was needing that distance apart?
No. It was the opposite. My husband, Joe and I, are best friends. It was more of a, This is the right thing to do for our career growth. It’s a two-year time frame. Let’s see how we can make it work, and if at some point during that, it’s not working, then we’ll reevaluate and decide from there.
Does this mean your career was more important to you than your relationship?
For us, at that time, careers were important, but we also had agreed that if something wasn’t working well, that we would check in on that and make a decision as to what to do next. So I guess you could say, for a two-year time frame, we did put careers on a high level, but that wasn’t to say that our relationship wasn’t important during that time.
What was it like when you did see each other?
I think a lot of people romanticize the idea of living in different countries, when in reality for us, anyway, it wasn’t likeI think that the idea of it being a fantasy, when you do see each other, is overrated. It’s not very realistic, in terms of what it’s actually like — for us, anyway. It’s really not that way. Of course you’re happy to see each other, but you’re tired. But from a personal level, it was definitely challenging.
Was it strange visiting each others respective homes?
When he would come visit me, it was like he was in my domain, and when I would come back here to Toronto, it was like I was in his domain. If he had moved something, I would think, Hm, why did you do that? It’s a bit difficult to figure out boundaries when you only have a weekend together.
How often would you see each other?
We’d spend maybe three, four days at a time, together, every four to six weeks.
What would you say was the key in making it work?
I think you have to have communication, for sure. It worked better for us, with [him being in] San Francisco, because he was home every other weekend. Don’t get me wrong. It was definitely a challenge, living apart. I think you have to figure out the way to make it work, and if it doesn’t work, you have to say, This isn’t working and then figure out what to do next.
Was it devastating, when you thought the end of your stint in France was coming, and then to learn that he was going to be in San Francisco?
It was another good opportunity for him. I love San Francisco, so I saw it, also, as an opportunity to spend a little bit more time there. We’re pretty mobile people and we’re able to adjust to different situations. We weren’t thinking this was a long-term thing.
How do you think the distance strengthened your relationship?
I think it’s true that when you are away from someone, you realize the qualities that they have and how much you respect and appreciate those qualities. Of course, when you’re together, then you find out the irritating things you think you each have about each other.
I also think I developed this ability to do some things on my own that I didn’t do before. I realized that I can do these things that I didn’t realize I could have done before.
Has the appreciation faded now that you are living together again?
We have always had a pretty good respect for each other. Of course, we have those irritants, but I think the irritants were probably more apparent when we were visiting for a weekend. You think, I don’t put the soap there, versus when you get into the groove of managing a house together. I think it’s a little bit different.
Do you think the distance deteriorated your relationship at all?
No. I think that there are definitely challenges, but I think that our relationship is probably stronger today than it ever was. My husband said to me, one day, “You know, I respect you more and more every day,” and that, for me, was probably one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me. He could see that I had grown, and for him to recognize that and play that back to me was, for me, really rewarding.
It’s difficult to feel like you have a normal relationship when you physically have that distance, even though you try to make it as normal as possible by using technology and whatever.
How would you try to make your relationship normal?
We used to do silly rituals, like, on a Saturday afternoon — I had a Paris apartment which had beautiful windows that open up onto the street. It’s summer, and Saturday, and I’d open up the windows and I’d turn on some music, and we’d get on the phone. We’d have a glass of wine over the phone, as though we were sitting in Paris together, looking out onto the street, having a glass of wine.
Do you think there’s a case for long-term couples, or for married couples, to spend time apart, like this?
I really think that is a case-by-case situation. I think that some people, it would work for; and others, it would not work for. I couldn’t make that call for somebody else.
What about fidelity? Were there any concerns with that?
No, again, I think that’s a couple-by-couple basis, and you have to figure out what your level of tolerance is, and how you will manage that. You have great weekends together, and you find alternatives and ways to work around that.
Now that you’re living together again, what are the adjustments?
For me, coming back to Canada from France, the adjustment was, first of all, a cultural adjustment. I felt like I was moving back into his house. So there was that adjustment.
When you’re a couple, I guess you get used to the fact that someone wants something done in a certain way. When you’re on your own, you do it how you want it, and no one’s telling you to do it another way.
Has this changed your idea of marriage, at all?
No, I don’t think so at all. Not at all.
Would you say that your marriage is perhaps different than the norm?
Yes, but I would say that our relationship was always different than the norm. We chose not to have children, and that’s not very common amongst couples. We are best friends and when we travel, we travel together and spend a lot of time doing things together, so I don’t think we’re a typical couple, anyway.
So what would happen if tomorrow, one of you got a really good opportunity to leave, again?
Well, that’s quite possible. My husband is now doing a lot of consulting with U.S. companies, so that’s quite a possibility. We would just evaluate it, if it’s a good opportunity. Yes, we would consider that. For us, it’s about finding a way to make it work.
I think it’s a very significant possibility that, that could happen.
To see what Patricia is up to now go to: http://www.pangea-collection.com/