Love (and technology) conquer distance for Grand Forks couple
Apr 02, 2013 (Grand Forks Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
She was a college student in England. He was serving in the Navy, stationed in Japan.
Living on opposite sides of the world did not keep their friendship from growing, nor did it cool the attraction that grew more serious with time.
In fact, the ability to connect only via technology may have been the very reason Jennifer Barnes and Cory Carivau came to understand each other so well, freed from distractions by things trivial or superficial.
Their long, in-depth conversations -- "we talked about everything," Cory said -- formed the foundation for feelings that eventually led to marriage.
"Communication became the basis for everything because that's all we had. It laid the groundwork for everything in the future."
The Grand Forks couple has been married nearly three years. While they were dating and again during their marriage, they were separated for lengthy stretches of time.
They don't take for granted the time they share together now, and they attribute their ability to communicate effectively today to time spent apart in the past.
"I think for so many people who date and eventually get married, the conversations about money, expectations, all of that, sometimes get skipped because you're so in love," Jennifer said.
"But when you're apart, you engage in that communication, and maybe sooner" than couples who live in the same place.
The two met in 2002 and were friends for several years when Cory joined the Navy and was assigned to active duty in Japan. Jennifer went to England to pursue graduate studies.
"We kept in touch," she said. "We began chatting online." It was nice to be able to converse with a friend from home because each was so far from Grand Forks. Sometimes, they "chatted" for six hours a day, Cory said.
By December 2006, the friendship had grown to something more.
"We talked about what dating would mean (before) we decided to start dating," he said. They decided that, for them, it meant dating only each other. Separated by such a great distance, it also meant watching TV shows and movies together while connected by their camera-phones or playing online games together.
It wasn't until September 2007 that the couple could be together. "Jen was back here, and I was home on leave," he said. But the reunion was temporary.
Cory had nearly two years left on his commitment to the military. They were engaged in March 2008. While he was stationed in Japan, he was able to come home a couple of times, Jennifer said, and she visited him there once.
During their separation, it was difficult to find times in their schedules when each was awake at the same time because of the 15-hour time zone difference.
For his late-night calls, Jen had to be up at 5 a.m. "We had a lot of conversations I don't remember having," she said, with a laugh.
On his return home from Japan in June 2009, having been discharged from the Navy, Cory joined the Navy Reserves, and the couple married in July 2010.
Deployed to Africa
They would have another separation when Cory was recalled to active duty and deployed to Africa from January through September 2012.
There were tough times, they recall, especially for Jennifer and her daughter, Ally, 13.
"Between my daughter and myself, we each had our days" coping with Cory's absence, Jennifer said.
"There were some days when we didn't miss him so much. We knew we'd be OK." Those were days she and Ally kept themselves busy.
Others were not as easy.
"I didn't know you could miss someone so much that it would hurt physically."
Cory too was keeping busy in Djibouti, a Navy outpost in the Horn of Africa. "I was working very hard," he said. "At that point, the hardest thing was, I had gotten used to coming home to her and my family.
"Suddenly, you're in an environment where you're constantly surrounded by people, you have no privacy, but still very alone."
It was his first experience away on active duty while being married.
From home, Jennifer and Ally kept in close touch with Cory through emails, online chats, Skype and video-calls.
"We sent a lot of physical cards, too," Jennifer said, "so he'd get mail."
She and Ally "would have him up on the phone and video-chat," she said. "He would join us for dinner."
Cory said, "Overall, we found it to be a little bit easier" to communicate as a married couple than when they were dating and engaged.
Jen agrees. "You've already committed more of your life to someone," Jen said.
When they were dating, "we weren't sharing a life together," Cory said.
As husband and wife, he and Jennifer talked about their apartment, their jobs and family health problems.
"It was better to have that kind of support at home," he said.
As a married couple, "we had so much more to look forward to."
Cory and Jennifer have realized that the breadth and depth of their communication, and related skills they developed during periods of separation, are serving them well in their marriage.
They talk through everything, they said.
"We have noticed other couples that do not have that kind of communication," Cory said. "It seems to be harder for them. It's kind of baffling to me."
"That's not to say that we don't have disagreements," Jennifer said. "If that happens, we may take a break and come back and talk later."
"We disagree in a healthy manner," Cory said. He calls it "post-game analysis," he said.
"We say, 'OK, what went wrong here What could we have done better ' We do that with a lot of daily things."
"Communicating with someone is a skill," Jennifer said. "If you decide to make it a priority, you can do well."
'Different type of appreciation'
The appreciation that she and Cory have for one another is a "different type" than what other couples who are never separated have, "because you miss out on things," she said.
"That other person may not be here next year. There's a different level of appreciating things that happen -- at anniversaries, birthdays. Maybe we didn't get to spend that together last year, and we may be not able to celebrate it next year. We appreciate what we get.
"It's just that knowledge that something may be different in the future. (Whereas) other people just assume (their loved one) will be there next year and the year after that."
Looking back at the circumstances that brought her and Cory together, Jennifer said, "It's amazing the role that technology can play in long distance relationships.
"I think about my grandmother, in World War II. Some were in relationships that entire time, and had to communicate with letters. That's all they could do. Even if you wrote to someone every day, they might not get a letter every day, or at all."
Being separated from someone you love "is not so pleasant but technology makes it easier."
Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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