I started traveling for work six weeks after I got married. The Home Warrior and I had been living together over a year, and prior to this job I wasn’t working full time for about a month. And I think the longest we’d ever been apart during our whole relationship was three nights. So we had a lot of together time, and then all of the sudden I was on the road every week. Talk about a huge transition! My first trip was so, so hard. I was gone in California for four nights. I missed my husband, and our dogs, and my house, and my stuff….. It got easier from there, but it took some major trial and error to figure out how to maintain our relationship while apart.
It affects my time when I’m home, too. During busy travel periods, I feel slightly frantic while I’m at home, because there’s usually not enough time to get everything done. Sometimes I miss out on things that are going on while I’m gone—friends’ birthdays, meetings for organizations that I’m part of, family get togethers. This had made much more careful about how I spend my time and the things I commit to. I’ve also had to learn how to let the little things go. Some days we won’t eat until after 8pm, or the laundry won’t get done, or I’ll have to bail on a committee meeting. But I make a point to maintain my relationships with my husband, family, and friends. Phone calls, emails, time spent together…. Even though it takes effort to coordinate everything, it is very worth it. Another thing that helps is to take care of some chores while you’re gone. A few things, like paying bills, shopping online for Christmas presents, or doing research about a bathroom remodel (what I’m working on right now) can all be done from your hotel room, and help maintain a sense of normalcy.
There are a few things that have kept me sane, and our marriage solid, during our separations:
- Webcam. Being able to see him (and our dogs) really made a difference, especially that first year. This was almost five years ago, so the webcam was kind of cumbersome, but it was definitely worth it. Now it’s built in to our laptops. Much easier.
- Talking every day. We both have busy schedules, especially when I travel. Home Warrior works long hours, and I am at the office or dinner meetings until late at night. But every day that I am gone, we talk. Without exception. It may not be a long conversation, or we may just have the phone on speaker while we answer email, but we talk every day.
- Emailing or texting throughout the day. Every day when I am at home we email throughout the day, so it makes us feel connected, and normal, to do the same when I am gone.
- Photos. In the early days, I really needed a visual reminder of my home life, so I had a photo collage I kept with me all the time. It had a photo from our wedding and pictures of our dogs. Now that I have an iPhone with photos on it and a lot more pictures on my computer I don’t carry it with me anymore. But it definitely helped that first year.
- Other suggestions. Exercising, pampering myself, and reading my favorite books and magazines always help when I’m feeling homesick.
The first year, I was gone a lot. Corporate meetings, learning my job, traveling around to visit clients…. It all added up. As time passed, it got easier. Now if I’m going to be away for just a night or two I enjoy it—the nice meals, the maid service, the pampering. Of course if I’m gone for long I miss my husband a lot. And he definitely misses me. In fact, I think that is the hardest thing—knowing that he is sad because I’m gone makes me sad. But overall we are very happy together. In fact, my mom has a running joke about us. We are so happy, she says, because even though we’ve officially been married close to five years, I am gone so much that it’s more like a year and a half. Good one, Mom.
Readers, what are your tips for maintaining relationships while on the road?