My wife’s name is “Wendy” which means “wanderer.”
So I blame her…
In our thirteen years of marriage, we have moved 12 times. Or is it 13 now? Who can keep count?
And no, we are not a military family. And no, we didn’t use a moving company. We did all the packing and unpacking ourselves, which is no small feat, especially since my books and her teaching materials fill over half a Ryder moving van all by themselves.
In all of those moves, we have learned a few things.
- Don’t be a book lover or marry someone who loves books. It just makes moving more difficult. The number of books a person owns is a deal-breaker in love and marriage.
- When nearing a move, stockpile cardboard boxes. They are worth their weight in gold. To help with this, become best friends with the Grocery Store manager, as he can help you score lots of big banana boxes.
- Make friends with lots of weight-lifters. In a few of my moves, my only friends were weakling seminarians like me. Most of us have bad backs and cannot help you move.
- Remember that just as there is a sock heaven, there is a movers heaven also. When you move, things that you had in your previous will somehow magically disappear during the move. You will empty every box in the new place, and the item will not be in any of them. Where did it go? Movers heaven.
- Your new home will have “quirks.” In one place we moved into, the bathtub was filled with black sludge. In another, two hours after we got there and started unpacking, the city inspector showed up and condemned the house, so we had to pack everything back up and go get a hotel while we figured out what to do next. When these things happen, just laugh and enjoy the ride.
Those are some of the lighthearted things we have learned in our moves. Below are some of the more serious ones.
1. Moving is Hard on Marriage
I’ll be honest. We’ve had some marriage problems. Most of them are my fault. But one of the things that has caused extra stress over the years is the uncertainty of how long we will be living in our current location, where we will be living next, and how we will get there.
If you are looking at a move, here is my advice: Know in advance that heated words will come, and disagreements will surface. But make a commitment in advance that no matter what, you will stick with your spouse through the move, through the difficulties and disappointments, just as you promised you would on the day you got married.
We have now been living in a place for one year, and while our marriage isn’t perfect, in many ways it has never been better. I think the commitment to love each through through the stresses of a move helps a husband and wife grow more in love with each other.
2. Moving is Hard on Family
Several of our early moves were just the two of us. No children had come along yet. But the last eight or nine included children. Children need stability and familiar surroundings to feel safe, and moving does not provide this. Furthermore, if your children are older, they might have friends in the neighborhood, at church, or in the school, and moving away from them will be traumatic. Though our girls are younger, they have lost friends as a result of our moves.
We have learned to make sure that family is the first friendship. My wife especially is good at this. She does everything with the girls, making them feel that although bedrooms, and yards, and streets, and stores change, our family does not. We will stay together. We will make memories together. We will retain customs and traditions, even when the location changes. Making sure that your family is centered on such things rather than on a particular neighborhood or shopping mall will help families transition better to a new neighborhood, with a new shopping mall, because what is important stays the same.
3. Moving is Hard on Friendships
In all of our moves, we have had people who became pretty close friends, and when we told them we were moving, they swore up and down that they would keep in contact after we moved. Of these, the vast majority never wrote and never called, even though we sent emails giving them our new address and phone number, and occasionally even called their house to leave messages on their phone. I have come to believe that saying, “We’ll call and write to you” is just a nice way of saying, “Good bye.”
However, a few people did call and write, some of them for up to a year. This was nice, as it helped us feel somewhat connected to the previous places, while we were trying to transition to the new place, and find new friends.
There is one friend, however, who has kept contact with us for many years. We will probably never see her again, but she and my wife exchange letters, phone calls, and emails on a regular basis. Curiously enough, of all the Christian friends we have had over the years in the churches I have pastored and the schools I have attended, this friend who continues to maintain contact with us is not a Christian, does not attend church, and makes no claim to either. I am not sure what this means… if anything. We just find it interesting.
But recognize that when you move, despite what people say, you will probably lose all your friends. Yes, even that life-long fishing buddy of yours. He will never write. Not ever. And the women from the weekday luncheon might write a letter or two, but don’t expect too much more.
4. Moving is Hard on Finances
Have you ever moved yourself? Not by hiring a professional moving company, but by packing up all the boxes yourself, loading them into a moving van, driving across country, staying in hotels as you go, and then staying somewhere temporary while you try to find something more permanent, and then when you do, moving all of your stuff into the semi-permanent location. And then there is all the set-up costs for your new location, and fixing or replacing stuff that was damaged in the move.
We have done a version of this 12 (or 13 times). We figure that on average, such a move costs between $2000-$10,000. I’ll let you do the math on how much money we have spent just on moving. It makes me sick to think about it too long.
If you are planning on moving, try to save up some money to cover the expenses, as the last thing you need on top of a stressful move, is the stress of moving debt.
5. Moving Provides Perspective on What is Important
Moving helps you realize what is most important in life. And what is that? Well, I just listed two of them. And one of them is NOT finances. And of the remaining three, friendships usually don’t travel with you, unless your best friends are your spouse and your children.
I have come to see that no matter where we live, no matter where my job takes me, no matter what life throws my way, my wife and my three girls are what I am living for. They are my primary source of happiness. They are my primary source of friendship. They are my primary area of ministry.
Every move I make, I thank God for my wife and my family.
And speaking of Wendy…my lovely, wandering wife… although I hope we’re staying here for a very long time… and I hope we don’t become like the Israelites with 40 years of wandering… I am excited for the next step in our life together, for our marriage and our family, wherever it is we go.
How about you? Have you moved a lot? Have you traveled? What have you learned in the process? If you haven’t moved much, realize what a blessing it is to have the stability, friendships, and additional finances that go with being able to stay in one place.
This post is part of a series of posts centered around the theme of “Travel Writing.” Here are a list of some other contributors to the series: