Married, yet apart? BYU married and engaged couples face tough choices

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Whether it’s six weeks, two months or four months, dedicated married and engaged couples at BYU are living a few hours or states apart to support each other and balance different schedules.

Jamie Neeley, a senior from Salt Lake City studying exercise and wellness, is just one example of someone spending time away from her fiancé. Neeley is currently completing an internship in Florida, while her fiancé is here studying and playing lacrosse at BYU.

“It’s been tough,” Neeley said. “But we are getting used to it, and there are reasons to be apart right now.”

Neeley planned and committed to her internship well before she met her fiancé. As they began getting serious, she considered canceling her plans.

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Married students weigh the decision to temporarily live hours or states away to meet education and career requirements or goals . Graphic by Lizzie Jenkins.

“I prayerfully began to weigh my options, although we hadn’t been dating long,” Neeley explained.

The couple had been dating a few months when they decided together that Neeley should move to Orlando for her internship and all would work out eventually.

A few weeks after she arrived, her now-fiancé came to visit with a surprise proposal. They set their wedding date for January 2014 and will be apart until two weeks before the wedding.

“It’s hard being here; I have felt guilty because I know that I’m the one causing us to be apart,” Neeley said. “But through Skype, phone calls and texts, I am reminded that we made this choice together.”

Neeley is focusing on the positives and said, “Spiritually we both feel good about it, we keep the end goal in mind, and we are closer than ever.”

Other couples have had similar experiences. Kaitlan Doying, a BYU graduate in political science, recalls her experience spent apart from her spouse this summer. Her husband accepted a position with Teach for America and needed to train in Mississippi while Doying had a job in Provo.

Teach for America offered to pay for her husband’s room and board but would not cover Doying’s expenses. All in all, they decided they needed the income from her job, so Doying stayed behind.

“We avoided the choice as long as we could,” Doying said. “At the last second, we decided that it needed to be that way.”

The newlyweds of three months spent six weeks apart.

“I bounced back and forth a few times, but it got expensive quick,” Doying said. “I began to have a bad attitude.”

The couple decided to come up with a routine to keep in contact. “We decided on a call around dinner time, a text in the morning, and a Skype session at night,” she said.

Doying said during their evening Skype conversations, they would study the scriptures together. “That really helped the day end on a positive note and made it so much happier, although it was super difficult.”

By the end of the six weeks, the couple planned to meet up at the airport in New York City before their big move to North Carolina.

“It really was so nice to be together again,” Doying said. “We made it through.”

Many others at BYU face similar difficult situations, but Landon Peay, a junior from Centerville studying business, wants other couples to know there is no right or wrong answer.

Peay and his wife, Sharlee, spent about two months apart this past summer, although they were both living in California. He worked for Vivint in Rancho Cucamonga, while she attended a ballet intensive in San Francisco.

Originally, Peay had planned to work near his wife in San Francisco, but it ended up falling through. Thus, the couple lived a few hours apart for almost two months.

“It was hard being away; she is my biggest motivator,” Peay said. “Downtime was rough, because nothing ever beats spending time with your wife.”

The Peays kept in touch with daily phone calls, even if they had to be short. They also reminded each other that they cared through text messages.

Peay is a former member of BYU Vocal Point, and Sharlee is on the Contemporary Dance Theater team. Peay said since they both came from performance backgrounds, they understood each other better, making the separation a bit easier as Sharlee spent long days on the stage, while Peay worked a few hours away.

“She needed to leave and was crazy busy at times,” Peay added. “I understood the intensity of her performing and felt that helped us.”

If anything, Peay wants couples considering this decision to know, “It doesn’t give you an excuse to not be supportive; you need to be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader no matter what. Your relationship is number one. Always.”

He also discussed that things don’t always go as planned, but couples can move forward and stay positive.

“There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to being apart or not,” Peay said. “If you feel it will help you as a couple and individuals, go for it, but know it will be hard.”

Peay said, “It was worth it. Sharlee came away a better dancer, and I also improved individually. We were more than thrilled to be back together when it was over.”

BYU couples face decisions like these every semester. Trying to balance two schedules can be a challenge, but these couples and many others have made it work.

“The positives outweighed the negatives, and we are happy,” Peay said.

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