On the Road: How to Manage Marriage When One of You Travels
If you had told me that I was going to marry another man who had to frequently travel for his work, I would have told you that you were crazy. Okay, so I probably would have been more tactful than that – a “No, I don’t think so” followed by the thought, They must have accidentally licked that poisonous toad because they’re obviously having hallucinations.
Because, after all, my ex used his many business trips as an opportunity to behave badly and then later on, he used the excuse of business trips to court his new wife. Ugh. Just ugh.
This time around, I thought, I want a man that stays where I can see him.
But that’s not what happened. I ended up falling for a man who is often out of sight during the week as he travels for business.
And with some intention and effort on both of our parts, it turns out to be just fine:)
Here are some of the things we discovered and implemented along the way to manage and nurture our marriage even while we are apart:
For the Traveler –
My husband is lucky with his current gig – he spends most of his away time in the same two cities, where he has “his” hotels, “his” restaurants and even a martial arts class that he teaches. The element of routine and known places and people helps to alleviate some of the stress and boredom that can so easily overtake life on the road.
Obviously, many people are required to travel to different cities every week (or even every day. shudders.). It is still possible to establish and follow some routines and find familiarity along the way. Design or find a structured workout program that can be followed in your hotel room. Or commit to a daily 5-mile run, regardless of your location. Find something portable or easily found in a variety of locations that you can use to fill your evenings with so that you are not always bored in a hotel room or drunk in a bar.
Find your balance between structured enough to stay focused and flexible enough to bend to the demands of your job and your location. Find the sweet spot between enough down time to relax and not so much that you become restless. A little planning can prevent a lot of problems.
Develop Healthy Road Habits
Even if you’ve traveled for work for years, it can still seem like an opportunity to “treat” yourself. Yet when these treats happen every week, they’re not treats, they’re habits. So make an effort to develop healthy ones.
I see it all the time – a promotion is followed by extra travel and is soon followed by extra pounds. The partner that used to want to be active and engaged in life is now overweight and sluggish. Food and drink are used as an escape on the road and the impact is then felt at home.
Lose the idea that travel is an anomaly for you. Let go of the idea that you need a treat or a distraction to get you through the trip. Instead, set and follow road habits that may even be a little more restrictive than the ones you follow at home. For example, my husband has a “salads only” policy for himself when he travels. Not only does it keep him trim, but it makes the steak once he’s home that much better.
Provide Supportive Verification
In our early days of dating, my now-husband forwarded an email from his boss that had his flight information on it. That email meant nothing to him. It meant everything to me. After a marriage with a husband hell-bent on deception, this innocently-sent message was verification of veracity.
If you’re the one on the road, be aware that your spouse (especially depending upon their background) may struggle with trust and insecurity. Don’t provide “proof” of every little thing (not only is this crazy-making and controlling if your partner expects this, it can also be interpreted at working to hide something), but also be mindful about occasionally providing proof that you are where you say you are and doing what you say you’re doing. A little goes a long way here to making the one left at home not feel like they’re left in the dark.
For the Homebody –
Be careful not to put your life on hold until your spouse gets back. This is especially true when they’re gone over the weekend or over a holiday. Develop your own interests. Cultivate your own friends. Ensure that you’re not dependent upon your partner for all of your social contact.
If your partner’s travel is consistent, you can be consistent with your plans. If their schedule is more variable, you may find that you want to more adaptable to maximize time together.
Develop a Support System
I know I can get frustrated when the dog is being especially needy and everything in the house seems to need attention when my husband is out of town. And I can’t even imagine the toll with kids in the picture. It’s an unfortunate side effect of frequent travel that the one at home often feels like a single parent – even if it’s just of a human-sized pit bull:)
So take a suggestion from single parents and build your support system. Have go-to people for kid-watching, dog-pottying, house-fixing and anything else you may need. It will help alleviate guilt and pressure on your partner and frustration and overload on yours.
From the perspective of one who doesn’t travel, leaving town can seem to be exciting. Adventurous. Romantic even. Yet the reality of business travel is often the exact opposite – tedious, boring and isolating. Be sensitive to what conclusions you reach and how you respond. Remember – this isn’t a vacation, this is your partner making sacrifices for the benefit of both of you.
Also be mindful of how you greet your partner when they return. Some people like a strong and fervent hello. Others need more time to decompress and readjust to life at home. Few prefer to walk into chaos and demands. I know that you’ve felt like you’ve had to do it all and you’re ready to have help again. Just let it slide for a few minutes to let the road warrior fully return home.
For Both –
FaceTime is the bomb-diggity for marriages on the road. It’s quick. It’s easy. And you can even use it to have your spouse check out that weird spot on your back. No matter your choice of connection software, use it. There is no excuse otherwise these days.
It’s easy for any marriage to become focused on the day-to-day tasks that need to occur. And it’s even easier to slide into that bad habit when the element of touch is taken away. Remember that technology? Use it to flirt. Sext. Get jiggy with it. I don’t care if it feels awkward. It’s important.
There will be times that one partner needs more attention than usual. And the marriage should be a safe place to make that request and have it received kindly. And remember, your spouse cannot read your mind. Make sure to ask for what you need.
Celebrate the Good
A marriage on the road certainly has its unique struggles. And it also has its blessings. The relationship is kept fresher with more time and experiences apart. Both partners are forced to be independent and also have to learn to work together. Boredom is easier to keep at bay when the routine is expanded beyond town. And if nothing else, a kiss hello is always something to smile about:)