Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

February 25, 2013

in Blending a Family

complicated relationshipsBefore Sean and I met he had discovered a new community ten minutes from work and the same distance from his two youngest kids. The spacious, city-style brownstones are a short walk to the downtown area, featuring a grocery, movie theater, great restaurants, the gym he already belongs to, a wine bar, and lots of unique shops. The community is also near a great bike trail and the extension of the Metro in Virginia; it was perfect.

Enter Kelly.

Sean was still waiting for the particular lot he most wanted to open, hoping he would be able to secure it. By the time it was available, we were far enough into our relationship to give him pause. But we were not in a place relationship-wise where I felt he could alter his plans. When asked, I was always supportive of the purchase. It was what he wanted before we met, and, objectively, it was a perfect location for him. A few months after the deposit was made and the build-out design decisions were made, we became engaged.

Now what?

That’s what we have discussed a few times in the last several months. What do we do about our living arrangement when we are married was an important decision to make as construction crews broke ground on a home we don’t actually need. We ultimately decided to maintain two homes.

As complicated as my answer may seem to others, it was actually a fairly easy decision for us to make. It was simple because the decision was rooted in what is best for our four youngest kids. One to two school nights a week (it alternates every other week) his two youngest are with us.  We didn’t feel it was fair for them to commute over an hour to school on those mornings. For my two, we didn’t want to uproot them from a community in which they were raised. And, moving over an hour away from their father would mean no more weeknight dinners and a difficult schedule for their dad to attend weekend sports events.  My five-bedroom home could fit us all, and yet it would put an unnecessary hardship on our kids. That is something neither of us wanted to do, and why we made the decision we did.

maintaining two family homesIt will mean one or two nights a week we will be apart, but there are additional benefits to having this second family home. We both love the area and the brownstone. One of my closest friends (and Princess Daisy’s lifelong friend) lives 15 minutes away. Sean and I look forward to interior design projects in the second home.  Cooking in the spacious, light-filled kitchen (see inset image) is one much-anticipated activity for both of us. Enjoying the cool mornings reading with a warm cup of coffee in front of the outdoor deck fireplace is another.

But I recognize it’s complicated.

When asked about the wedding and our plans for the future, the assumption is always he will remain here or that I will move to Virginia. Maintaining two family homes isn’t the norm. We accept that, but we also know what is best for us. “Us” being our family–not just Sean and me.

My wise daughter once said to me when trying to convince me it wasn’t too complicated to rescue a second dog, “Mom, if you really love someone, you will figure out a way to make it work.”

Sean and I love each other and our kids.

Complicated or not, this works for us.

Have you had to overcome a challenge or obstacle to make a relationship work?

If so, please share!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

@bluenotebacker February 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

SO important to look and think beyond the “normal” when it comes to our relationships. Doing what works best for *your* lives is what’s important, regardless of what anyone else does or says. Keep loving each other and your family and you will find things work the way they should, eventually.
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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Thank you, Sean. Sean and I are keeping the focus on the family as we make each decision so far. It’s working for us, as will our “complicated” living situation.

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Lee February 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Well, you know how mine ended up. And, I am still sad about that ending today. I wish it could have worked and who knows, maybe one day it will again, but for now, we still have the same issues. But, yours sounds like a good compromise. I would just say don’t ever escape there in anger. Make that a rule.
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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm

You bring up a great point, Lee. I will discuss not using the two homes to escape resolving an issue. Thank you.

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Dani February 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Never worry if what you are doing is what the ‘norm’ of society does. (I know you already know this). Each and every family dynamic is different and you have to do what works for you!

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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 5:33 pm

You are right, but until I posted this, I didn’t know of any really non-traditional stories to find comfort in. I am so happy Jester Queen shared some examples in her comment. Readers to the rescue! Thank you for the encouraging words.

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Jester Queen February 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Kelly, that is so fucking awesome. And it’s actually more common than you might think. In academia, if you have two PhD’s in the household, there is a serious problem. It’s DAMNED HARD to find a university running a job search for two tenure track positions either in the same field or in two different fields that are actually both of YOUR fields. (I have a Master’s – I’m not, nor have I ever been pursuing a tenure track job. Scott and I thank GOD don’t have this problem.) So the family either winds up choosing to follow one partner’s degree while the other slumps along pretending like it’s OK that they only get to teach intro level courses, even though they have identical qualifications and just don’t happen to be the person the university was hiring for right then, all the while hoping that the university WILL hire for that position. Or you live in separate cities.

We have a friend who flies to Ohio a couple of times a month to see her fiance. He’s a dean at his college. She’s a full time member of the faculty (she may even be tenure track – Scott’s job isn’t, but it is pretty damned close) at the University where Scott teaches.

We have another friend who is a geneticist (trying to teach genetics in the South = stress, though she swears her students aren’t as bad about the evolution question as some.) Anyway, her husband actually works in construction and gets stationed around the country at various builds. So weekends, she and her daughter shuffle up to see him because that’s how it works best for them.

It’s similar in the arts. The director of the ballet down here is married to a talented ballerina. There’s no way in hell we could afford to hire her. We can barely afford him. (Note: I think he probably compromised heavily because he really wanted to come here, and he’s worth every penny.) She’s running her own studio in Chicago. They commute to see each other whenever possible.

You and Sean absolutely don’t have to feel like the only complicated couple out there, and, in fact, you should feel fucking proud of yourselves for figuring out that “married” comes with different needs for every couple.

Also, if you ever get sick of it, I totally want your brownstone.
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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

THank you for taking the time to respond to this post with real life examples and encouragement. Sean texted me, “I love Jester Queen” after reading this. I feel comfort in these other non-traditional families. Thank you for sharing. As for the brownstone, we will keep you in mind. :)

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Siobhan February 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm

IMHO, when you have more people to love, you have more love to give. With all that love comes the generosity of spirit, creativity and energy needed to make all things possible.

When my husband and I blended our family, it was him, I and his son and we moved in with his parents. It was supposed to be for a short time…well it turned into the best 19 years of my life. We lost Grandma in 2006 and just lost Grandpa a few weeks ago. I honestly have to say that our family (ALL of us) benefited tremendously from our unique living situation. Giving up a little bit of our own freedom and providing open ended access to Grandma and Grandpa is a gift we will never regret giving to our kids.

Kelly and Sean, you guys are in for some challenges, but in the end, they will be well worth it and they will benefit your entire family. BRAVO!

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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Thank you for sharing your unique family dynamic. I found comfort in knowing there are others who have thrived in a situation that was also not the “norm.” I am happy to hear how life has been good for you, and I am so sorry for your recent loss.

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Kimberly February 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I love it when the solution is out of the box. That’s usually when the win/win comes into play!
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Naked Girl in a Dress February 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Maybe I am crazy, but I really do see this as the perfect solution for all of us. It seems logical to me.

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Charlotte February 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I love that in the end, you both went forth with an arrangement that became a FAMILY situation. No one else is allowed to weigh in here; everyone intimately involved (ie, your children, Sean’s children, you, Sean) are the ones who can decide what is right for you. It sounds perfect to me (as long as you’re not overburdened by maintaining separate homes!)
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Naked Girl in a Dress February 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Thanks for the encouraging words, Charlotte!

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