Commuter Marriage

HH and I have been married for 30 years and we’ve lived apart twice before – for six months each time. 

The first time was when we were newlyweds – which was weird because many couples live together before marriage and we didn’t even live together after marriage – for six months.  At month three, we learned we were expecting our FBC so it seemed wise to speed up the let’s-move-in-together plan.

The second time was when HH had a new call, all three kids were in college and I needed to get some things done – professionally and personally – before joining him in Chicagoland.

This third time will happen in April and there is no time limit in terms of how long we will live apart.  HH serves a great congregation in Chicagoland.  I’ve just been called to a great position in Charlotte.    Sometimes couples have to live apart to stay in their profession.

In the course of discerning if we could do this, I talked with:

  • God
  • HH
  • Our kids
  • Other people doing commuter marriage
  • God again

And while I am pumped for this new position and know that God has called me to this ministry, it is bittersweet.  There are hundreds of things I like about being with HH every day.

So, here’s what I’ve learned in my two previous stints in a commuter marriage and in my term as a denominational leader (which involves quite a bit of time away from home) and in talking with commuter couples who offer their own Pro Tips:

  1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and reunions are sweet.
  2. I get a ton of work done when I live alone.
  3. I need to remember to stop working when there is no one around to remind me to stop working.  (I got a dog in my first call when I was single just to be able to tell people “I have to get home to my dog.”  Some people expected me to work 24/7 and I bought into this unholy idea for a while.
  4. HH and I plan to have coffee together every morning via Facetime.
  5. I talked with the search committee (and will be talking with other leaders in Charlotte) about “going home” to HH twice a month, if possible – leaving Thursday nights and returning Saturday nights/ Sunday nights once a month.  This will have to be flexible according to church schedules of course.  (People tell me it’s easier when only one person does most of the back-and-forth travel.)
  6. I will need a true home in Charlotte too with familiar things. (And I have one.  Moving into cute apartment next to a BBQ place.)
  7. Spense needs to stay in Chicagoland but we will also be talking via Facetime.  #Yard
  8. A healthy marriage makes me a healthy pastor.  I’m best if my marriage is happy so feel free to encourage me to take my Sabbath/see HH as often as possible.

I’m happy to accept further Pro Tips for any of you who commute between two homes in your marriage.  Especially for clergy couples who take God’s call to professional ministry seriously and cannot always find calls near each other, living apart can be a reality.

Some of you will disapprove of this arrangement for whatever reasons.  But my hope is that most of you will hold me and my HH in prayer that this will only make our marriage stronger and more fun.  It’s will kind of be like having a love nest in Plaza Midwood.

5 responses to “Commuter Marriage

  1. So excited for you! I work at the Episcopal church just down the street from Myers Park Presbyterian.

    Welcome back to North Carolina.

    Wendy Mauney

    Parish Administrator

    Christ Church Charlotte

    704-714-6953 direct

    704-333-0378 main



    Jan – Just want to say thank you – for this message and all the others. I look forward to seeing them pop up in my inbox and find so much wisdom, depth, and spiritual maturity in your reflections. Blessings to you and your husband during this next season of marriage and ministry. Peace, Jacqueline


  3. Blessings in this! I hope it will feel like your early married days, in fun ways. And living next to a BBQ restaurant is never bad!


  4. Pingback: Where We Live | achurchforstarvingartists

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