When One Spouse Travels: 5 Steps for Keeping the Peace
- Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Today's economy is having more of an impact on families than just their income levels. In many cases, one spouse now has to travel in order to get or keep a job. This can affect marriages and families in ways that have the potential to radically change relationships.
Throughout our marriage, there have been several times when one or the other of us has had to travel extensively. Being away from home brings a whole new set of challenges to a marriage. Household and parental responsibilities fall primarily on the shoulders of one partner. Insecurity, fear and doubt can creep into even the most stable of relationships. Fatigue and erratic schedules wreak havoc on attitudes and moods. And unspoken expectations can erupt into hostile conflicts.
If you or your spouse find yourselves traveling more often, you might find these tips helpful in maintaining the peace and harmony in your home and your marriage.
1. One of the most important things a family can do is to stay connected. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways and modern technology has made this easier than ever. Besides just talking on the phone, you can now email, have an on-line chat complete with webcam, use SKYPE, and keep in touch via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. These various tools can allow you to see one another while you talk, view the latest photos and even know what your teenager is thinking about at that very moment! It has never been easier to connect with people.
This can be an opportunity to get creative! Throughout our marriage, my husband has left me a note on the mirror each morning. These are little messages on post-a-notes that remind me he is thinking of me, values and appreciates me. So when one of us is traveling, he sends an email with "Note on the Mirror" as the subject line. That way, I never have to miss my morning affirmation.
The main point is to make the effort to keep the traveling spouse connected and a part of the family's life. Be sure to share the good along with the bad! Make the conversations as normal as possible, but guard against making them feel guilty for being gone. "I miss you and wish you were here" is understandable and even welcomed, but statements that start with, "If you weren't gone all the time…" should be avoided.
2. All marriages need to be built on a foundation of trust. But when one partner is often away from home; even the strongest bonds of trust are put to the test. They are having new experiences without you and meeting new people that you don't know. So it is imperative that you voice any worries or concerns. Bring them out into the open so that as a couple, you can discuss them and reassure one another. Reinforce your commitment to each other and your marriage vows and be trustworthy yourself. Both of you need to avoid compromising situations where your personal integrity could be called into question. Simple things like making sure that your cell phone is always charged so that if your spouse needs you, they can quickly reach you will go a long way towards fortifying trust.
And don't be overly suspicious! If you don't believe that you can trust your spouse, then the traveling is NOT your problem! Bottom-line: Whether you are the traveling partner or the one who stays at home — trust each other and don't breach it!
3. Traveling can also cause a change in responsibilities and even a shift in the balance of power. Guard against becoming resentful and blaming one another for these new duties and obligations. It is important to decide "who does what now" and to support one another with these changing roles. You can still discuss and make joint decisions on major issues, but day-to-day choices must be made by the spouse/parent that is "on site" and you can't undermine their efforts by second-guessing them. Just because they didn't handle things exactly the way that you would have doesn't make them wrong! Flexibility is the key here—there is more than one way to accomplish a task. So try to remember what is truly important here—your relationship, NOT how they trimmed the shrubs or where they had the oil changed in the car.
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