Professors, students persevere through long-distance relationships

Long distance relationships can often put a strain on the couple, limiting their communication to letters, text messages, and video calls. Zack Wittman//Staff Photographer

Professors and students admit long-distance relationships are not easy.

Assistant professor of English language and literature Nathanial Smith moved to Michigan after he was offered a job teaching at CMU. Because jobs in education are scarce, Smith accepted the position knowing he would have to leave his wife and home in New York.

“It was a real sacrifice,” Smith said. “It was a real double-edged sword. On one hand, I’m really happy to get a job. On the other hand, I sort of have a life in New York. My wife is there.”

The couple was able to see one another every two weeks, but Smith said the worst part of living away from each other was when something would go wrong.

“When we were apart and she had a bad day, I had a bad day,” Smith said. “… It’s just a helpless feeling, because the person just wants a hug. They want you to be there."

Music professor Alexandra Moscolo-David has also been in a long-distance marriage. She said it’s not easy, but she and her husband know how to make it work.

“It has its challenges, but we figure we are the right person for each other, and we made a decision,” Moscolo-David said. “We made a decision to make it work regardless of any obstacle ... We do what we need to do to keep the relationship alive and good, which it is.”

Technology has been effective in their long-distance relationship, she said.

Moscolo-David’s husband works in Missouri, but they are able to communicate several times a day through Skype, telephone and email. The married couple visits each other every four to six weeks.

“It sort of gives you the illusion that you are together even though you’re not totally together, which helps certainly,” Moscolo-David said.

Moscolo-David said she and her husband consider their professions to be important aspects of their lives and happiness.

However, couples in long-distance marriages still have to make sacrifices.

“We made the conscious choice to not have children, given our situation, and it’s not something both of us regret, so we’re fine with that decision,” Moscolo-David said. “Now, I can see how things would get more complicated if we had children.”

Smith’s wife was pregnant with their child during the time they were living in different states, although they were both able to have support systems in their respective cities.

“A lot of my colleagues, other professors, started in the same year I did, (so) I got really close with those people,” Smith said. “I spent a lot of time with them, and she had a support system there, too. That was really important, to have friends there you can talk to.”

The married couple was living in separate states for almost two years. However, when Smith’s wife received a teaching job at CMU a few years ago, they were finally able to live together in Mount Pleasant.

Smith said their goal to live together by a future date helped them cope with the distance between them.

“What we said when I left New York was two years. ... to have a kind of deadline like that I think in the background always really helped," Smith said. "(It was knowing) this is not going to be indefinite; this is not going to go on forever.”

Many students invest in long-distance relationships, as well, and also recognize pros and cons.

“The pro is that Evan will always be there for me,” Howell freshman Caitlin Eldred said. “He’ll be there for me, even if he’s not physically there for me. Just talking to him makes me feel better if he’s feeling down. The con is that you don’t get to see them in person as often as you like.”

Eldred's significant other, Western Michigan University student Evan Norton, said it is vital for long-distance couples to find ways to communicate.

"If (the relationship is) strong enough, you really don’t have to worry about the long distance," Norton said. "You have to make it work … You just have to find ways to make each other laugh, make each other smile."

Moscolo-David said a long-distance relationship revolves around respect and community. She said anyone considering this type of relationship should know how to invest in it.

“It takes daily communication,” Moscolo-David said. “It takes commitment, and it takes unconditional trust. That’s where a lot of people have issues with. Several people let insecurities control them. Jealousy: that’s only a sign of insecurity and a lack of trust, obviously.”


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