If you read Part 1 of this geobaching saga, you know all about the plethora of circumstances that led to my multiple stints as a geobachelorette. To summarize: kids, school, work, sanity—check, check, check, erm…TBD? If you haven’t read it yet—what are you waiting for?? Consider this your formal invitation to get inside the thought-process of a self-admitted misfit milspouse frantically grasping for all the straws and stubbornly attempting to persevere in the pursuit of my goals despite the obstacles of military life.
Choosing the geobachelor life is never an easy decision to make, and rushing into it without the proper forethought is sure to result in a wholelotta hard lessons learned. The first time around, I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into—but you never really do, I guess. I had more awareness going into rounds two and three, but each still presented their unique challenges. Husband and I haven’t yet done a deployment separation, so I can’t speak to what I’m sure are many similarities, however, there is a subtle nuance to geobaching that I think would set it apart: the fact that you have the option to be together, but you choose to be apart. Lots to consider when weighing the options, so without further ado, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of living the geobach life.
No one would geobach if there wasn’t any benefit to doing so. Aside from taking advantage of the main reason causing your decision to live separately, there are some added bonuses.
Spouse appreciation. We don’t take the little things for granted. Chatting about the goings-on of the workday, having a great conversation where you feel really connected, making dinner for the two of us to share, binge-watching Netflix shows, snuggles on the couch. We try to cram all of this into the weekends when we’re together, and there’s a different urgency to it than when we lived together all the time–like we are trying to soak it all up because we know it won’t last. When I’m home, I try to enjoy every moment. I wish I could say this was the case ALL the time, even when we do live together, but I’d be lying. When you’re around someone all the time, you get used to it–it’s just another day. They get on your nerves sometimes. When you’re forced to spend the majority of your time apart, silly arguments get resolved more quickly, or just don’t even happen. You savor your time together.
Professional experience. Being newly graduated, I had little relative work experience. By geobaching, I am able to gain work experience that directly utilizes my degree. Job satisfaction is very important to me, and working in the accounting field is helping me to build up my knowledge and experience. If I had stayed to work where my husband is currently stationed, I would have had to work a job that was outside my career field or a position that I was highly overqualified for, thus not broadening my professional knowledge in ways that help me to reach my professional goals. Beyond that, the job I took is a federal GS position. From what everyone has told me, these jobs are gold for military spouses. Getting a GS job makes transferability easier for those of us that have to move around every few years. Taking advantage of these opportunities now will be beneficial for us at future duty stations. So even though it means a sacrifice in the present, it will hopefully be worth it in the long run.
Crash pad. We have a place to crash when we want to hang out in the city for the weekend. If there’s a show we want to see or just want to be in the city for the weekend, we don’t have to fork out extra cash for a hotel. This gets us out of smalltownville for a bit, but doesn’t cost us a buttload of money.
Finances. I can contribute to our financial obligations. When I was working on base in Altus (where we are stationed), my wages were so minimal that my husband took care of basically 100% of the bills. I know this doesn’t bother everyone, but being someone that has historically been very financially independent, this was difficult for me. I hated having to ask him for money for any reason (not that he ever minded). I know every couple has their own financial philosophy that works for them, but this whole ‘he pays for everything’ was not something I was or ever could be okay with for a permanent situation. Now that I have a decent paycheck, I can contribute and take care of some of our bills. To me, this seems more equitable and I feel good about being a contributing member of the family.
Relationship strengthening. Over the course of your time separated, you will be forced to learn how to communicate and solve problems over long distance. Once these skills are built up and formed into habits, they can be utilized when living together. Beyond that, just getting through a period of separation is strengthening. You build up your resilience, your ability to just. Hold. On. Some days are really tough, and sometimes those days turn into weeks. It builds confidence in yourself and your partner to come out on the other side of that period and see that you were able to do it. You realize what your relationship is capable of withstanding and it feels good to come out stronger as the result of the challenge.
Less expensive/easier meals. Eating alone is not a fancy affair. I meal prep all of my meals for the week on Monday night, so that’s the only night I have to cook. I portion each meal in its own tupperware and stick em in the fridge. Then in the morning before work, I grab one for lunch, throw it in my bag and I’m out the door. Easy. I can usually get away with spending $20ish on meals for the entire week. When we were making meals together, we would usually spend anywhere from $50-100/week, and they were nowhere near as healthy as what I’m making myself now. Plus, we would eat out probably once every week, so that is additional savings.
Health. I used to love getting off work and rushing home to enjoy my night with my husband. Now that we live separately during the week, there’s less incentive to rush home after work so it’s easier to get my ass to the gym. Increased endorphins? Always nice. Killer bod suddenly taking shape? Hell yes.
There’s no way around it: parts of geobaching suck. You don’t have to have done it to recognize some of the obvious cons, but the little annoyances are not likely to be considered until you’ve lived it.
Spouse vs. Career. The constant battle of feeling like I have to choose between investing in my relationship with my spouse vs. advancing my career. Often I feel like I’m not excelling at either. And personally, I think it sucks that it appears I’m choosing one over the other. I fully recognize that I would be a more productive employee if I was able to live with my husband and benefit from the support I get from being around him at the end of the workday. And I would be a better wife if my husband and I were able to live in the same place.
Community. Being away from my husband means I miss out on taking an active role on base. When I lived in Altus, I would bake cakes and pies for squadron birthdays and go out to lunch with them. I was made aware of volunteering opportunities and base events. I could throw a question out to the spouse group on Facebook if I needed some info. I was a part of a community there and now I feel a bit like I’m on an island.
Housekeeping. I come home on the weekends to piles of laundry and dishes, dirty floors, a kitchen table covered with paper and mail, an empty fridge and garbage cans that have not seen the curb. Needless to say, my husband is comfortable with a different level of tidiness than I am. I function very poorly when surrounded by clutter, he manages just fine with it. When we lived together, no big deal–I tidied up as things got messy, but now that I am home only on the weekends, that clutter builds up and drives me absolutely bonkers. I really don’t want to spend the little time I get at home catching up on the cleaning. Or getting groceries, cleaning out the fridge of forgotten leftovers, taking out the trash, etc. I want to relax and catch up with my husband. Why doesn’t my husband take care of these things, you ask? Because he just can’t be bothered to do it–and I mean that in the most understanding way. He just isn’t bothered by the mess or lack of food, so he isn’t triggered to take care of it. It’s these little annoyances that you only discover when geobaching.
Constant back and forth. I currently rent a room in a house with a couple of other young professionals in the city. Which is great because it saves me the extra expense of renting a place on my own and then furnishing a second home. That being said, I basically live in someone else’s home during the workweek. It’s very comfortable, but it’s not my home. I miss feeling ‘at-home’ during the week and it’s a bit of a pain to not have all my shit in one place. Sometimes I’ll want to wear that one shirt, but oh wait, fuck, it’s at home. Or when I’m home for the weekend and I find out we’re going to an event but I forgot to haul my hair tools or makeup brushes back with me. One week I forgot my contacts at home so I had to wear my glasses all week. Not a huge deal, but annoying nonetheless. I have this big box-bag thing that I cart all my shit back and forth with, but inevitably, things get forgotten. Le sigh.
Family stuff. Maybe this is a weird thing to share with the internet, but I think it’s an important factor to consider. When I got offered this job, we were starting to formulate a timeline for possibly growing our family. Well, obviously we pushed the pause button on that due to geobaching. I suppose we’re lucky in the fact that we didn’t already have kids full-time (his kids are only with us over summer break). And I suppose we didn’t have to push the pause button on it, but I know myself, and I foresee being a complete mess when pregnant (as if I’m not already). So being separated from him during that time doesn’t seem like the smartest plan. We did get a new puppy though, and I am missing out on all the fun that comes with that because he stays home with my husband. It’s a bummer that I’m not around for a lot of this silly puppy stage.
Lots of goodbyes. Going into this one, I thought Hey it won’t be so bad–at least we’re only separated by a couple hours vs nine, or a flight! Well, while that is true, it also means I make the drive every single weekend. I am so thankful that option is available. Yes, it gets old, but I’d much rather do this than the alternative–spending the weekend apart knowing we could’ve been together. All that being said, we are forced to say goodbye every. single. weekend. There hasn’t been a dry-eyed Sunday yet… It’s painful to leave even though it means only a few days apart. Maybe my husband and I are just a couple of needy bitches, but I have a hard time believing other couples wouldn’t experience the same. It tears at my heart to drive away from the love of my life and my sweet little furbaby sitting at the door watching with puppy-dog eyes.
Travel. Door to door my drive is 132 miles and about 2 and a half hours, which means I’m putting 264 miles on my car weekly –and that doesn’t even include my commute to and from the office. That’s an additional thousand miles every month due to geobaching! This will eventually lead to more frequent servicing, more wear and tear on my car, more monies spent. Plus, there’s the cost of fuel. Beyond that, when I get out of work Friday, there’s no cracking open a beer and putting my feet up. I spend the first few hours of my weekend on the road. Then when Sunday rolls around, I have to pack up and spend the final precious weekend hours commuting. I don’t get to just relax on the couch with my love to prepare myself for another week at work. All the driving and packing and mental preparation to leave really eats into one’s time for re-charge. So not super fun, but like I said before, I’d rather do this than spend more time apart.
The questions from other people. We often find ourselves having to explain how we function when asked ‘So, how does that work?!’ accompanied by a raised eyebrows skeptical look. Ugh. Seems pretty straightforward to me… I live where I work and he lives where he works. We hang out on the weekends. No it’s not ideal, but when you’re forced to choose between multiple shitty situations, all you can do is try your best to go with the least shitty one. I don’t know if these people trying to get to a different point, or what, but the feeling of having to explain yourself gets old. Some people have very strong opinions about a milspouse’s duties and keeping the family together. Luckily, we haven’t run into anyone who has been in loud opposition about it, but those people are out there. My husband and I don’t feel the need to defend our choice. It’s the option we’ve committed to make work for us at this time in our lives and we’re just trying to do the best we can with the lackluster hand we were dealt. That being said, I enjoy exposing the people around me to a different way of thinking and new solutions. The most well-beaten path isn’t one size fits all.
Little annoyances aside, geobaching can cause a real shit-storm if you allow it.
The toughest part is the loneliness. Coming home after work to an empty house. Meals for one. A twin bed pushed up against the corner of a pathetically sparse bedroom. I chose to rent a room in a house with a couple of roommates, so at least there is company in the house–but they are not my partner, my heart, my best friend. I haven’t found anything to make it easier–to distract me enough to take my mind off missing him. Along with loneliness is a lack of support. When one of us has a rough day at work, we can’t go home to a partner who will listen to us vent or wrap us up in a big hug. There’s only so much comfort you can offer over the phone or video chat. It’s just not the same as being there physically.
Trust. You’re not around each other all the time so there’s no way of knowing what the other person is doing when you’re not around. If you don’t completely trust your partner, there’s a good chance that this will drive you batshit crazy. Jealousy is no joke friends. It will eat away at your commitment and ability to communicate productively. If there is even the slightest question in your mind about your or your partner’s ability to be loyal through separation—I would not suggest testing it via geobaching.
Resentment. If your spouse isn’t 100% on board with living separately, you’re gunna have issues. A tiny crack can quickly cause a major rift if you don’t make a continuous effort to stay on the same page with your end goal. Things can get hairy if they start looking at the situation like you made the decision to prioritize something that isn’t them. Some days you will have to remind your partner of the reasons why you decided (together) that living separately for a short time was the best option. Some days your partner will have to do the reminding. Point is, make the decision together and then support each other in seeing it through together.
Self-doubt. I question whether this was the right decision for us at least three times a week. For me, it’s hard not to constantly re-evaluate and plague my mind with woulda-coulda-shouldas. This job is by no means my dream job, so oftentimes I wonder if it’s worth all the hassle. There’s no resolution to this because the long-term benefits of this short-term sacrifice are just that—long term. Like, not now. There’s always the possibility that this will have been all for naught. There is no way of knowing. So we just crack on with it and hope for the best. Don’t count the days, make the days count is a mantra I’ve seen to get through times like these. Let’s be real though, reminding yourself of a cute quote doesn’t always cut it when you’re a perpetually anxious person.
Mental health. I deal with ADHD, which contributes to my anxiety. Over the years, I have learned how to mostly manage these issues, but I’m not perfect at it. I still have bad days. We all rely on support from our spouses to get through trying times, so when they aren’t around like we have grown accustomed to, things get to feeling impossible very quickly. I am often surprised at how quickly my mental health takes a dive when I don’t have my normal support system. If you find yourself struggling, seek help through your family physician or counselor. There is a mental health section of the clinic on base. Go there to get the information you need to find someone to talk to. Do not hesitate to get help. There is absolutely no shame in taking care of yourself in this way. Your mindset rules your continued success, so take whatever steps necessary to have a solid one.
GeoBachelor(ette)s: What did I miss? Tell me about your experience in the comments!
This post got long in a hurry–if you’re still reading at this point, you’re probably considering geobaching as an option for yourself. I hope this information was helpful in painting a realistic picture of what it’s actually like IRL. If there’s anything else you’re wondering about, hit up the comments! I’m happy to elaborate or answer your questions!