6 ways to make your relationship work while traveling solo

1. Remember you’re not single.

There’s a difference between how you travel when you’re single — “I think I’ll just buy this last-minute deal ticket to Hong Kong because why not!” — and how you travel when you have a partner. Before you go, discuss your plans and make sure you aren’t going to their dream destination without them, or scheduling your trip at the same time as an important event they hoped you’d go to together. A woman I know had a newborn and her wife had taken three random solo trips without consulting her since the baby was born; not cool. You’re an adult, you know how to be in an adult relationship — take your partner’s needs into account, treat them the way you’d like to be treated — so just take that relationship and do it when one of you is temporarily in a different place. If you’re away because you’re traveling a lot for work, that’s different; a job that keeps you away 5 days out of 7 per week with no foreseeable end date in sight might be cause for some renegotiation. But otherwise, just…don’t be a jerk.

2. Work on yourself.

Doing things separately is a mark of strong people with interesting and varied personal lives; you will be a better partner if you maintain your own interests and activities, without relying on someone else to be your sun, stars, and Netflix binge buddy. You like your partner because of who specifically they are — not because they’re a carbon copy of you. They feel the same way. Both of you can cultivate and encourage different hobbies, interests, obsessions, and destinations for each other. Then you can come home and tell stories and look at pictures and be happy to know that you and your partner are both varied humans with a wide range of experiences. Also neither of you will be lonely when the other one is away if you cultivate friendships and experiences outside of each other.

3. Keep in touch as much as possible.

Trying to schedule regular Skype or FaceTime chats is a great idea, but you may not be able to manage the same time every day or week (depending on how long you’re away). You or your partner might be on unmatching time schedules — working late hours, waking up early, diametrically opposite sides of the earth — which makes trying to figure out a time to Skype even more difficult. I actually prefer regular check-ins throughout the day to one big scheduled chat, since you can keep up a stream-of-consciousness conversation based on the million tiny details of your day. IM or texting is great for this; you can send a quick message when you hear something funny or see an interesting monument. If my husband can text me from the trash fence at Burning Man, you can probably find signal in a hostel in Marrakech. If this just isn’t feasible (say, you’re not getting a local SIM card), be creative: send letters and postcards, email photos, or write a private blog that only your partner knows the password to.

4. Be clear on your rules and boundaries before you leave.

If you haven’t had a sit-down talk about what each of you are comfortable with, now is the time. You might need to decide if you’re comfortable with your partner going out to parties or special events without you… or having guests… or, heck, going on dates, if that’s how your relationship works. Obviously, things might change as you experience being apart and decide you don’t really need to video chat three times a day or that you really do like that last text message before bedtime. Remember: more communication is always better than less, especially when you’re temporarily long-distance.

5. Make your partner feel important and special.

Being away and doing fun stuff, it’s easy to forget that the person at home might feel boring and dull compared to the time they imagine you’re having (reality is usually a little less scintillating, even if you’re someplace really cool). Make sure your partner feels valued. Write them special notes or organize a book club for two. Are they having a hard day at work while you’re away? Order some groceries through a local delivery service and have them sent to your partner at home. Take a bunch of pictures of yourself being cute and make them into a .gif. Don’t just add them as a CC to your generic “having a wonderful time” email that you sent to your fifty closest friends. Bring them back a nice souvenir: my husband gave me a bag of viking ship candy when he went to Sweden for a few days. Tastes like Scandinavia!

6. Coming home might be different.

So…you’ve been away doing your own thing at your own pace, probably somewhere exciting, and you’re ready to come home and spew a bunch of fun stories all over your partner. Your partner has been comfortably making your home space into their own personal lair, and relishing that they can keep it as clean or as messy as they like without argument, and also nobody but them will eat that last bit of Cherry Garcia. Returning home might not be the perfect meeting of two minds with swelling orchestral soundtrack that you’ve been picturing; it might be full of arguments, passive-aggressive bitching, or your dog hiding from you under the bed. Home might not feel like home right away. And that’s okay…for the sake of your relationship, and yourself, allow for a slow easing back into your “normal” life. Your paths diverged briefly instead of burbling along in parallel, so getting back in sync can take some effort. Be kind to yourself, and your partner (and your dog).

Tips for the Emotional Side of Things

Having a spouse who’s on the road a lot can be downright lonely, and can be hard on the kids, who miss dad, don’t understand why he’s gone, and don’t have much sense of time. Here’s what we do in my family to help us feel connected.

  • Schedule a time to talk. I know, it seems silly to have to schedule a time to talk to your spouse, but when my husband is on the road, he pretty much eats, drinks, and sleeps work. He’s often busy at meetings most of the day and when he’s in a different time zone it can be virtually impossible to talk. Still, I can count on one hand the number of travel days he’s had when we haven’t talked, at least for a few minutes. Check in with your spouse before they leave to figure out what times of day will be the best to talk. If you need to, make an appointment.
  • Figure out rituals that work for you. My husband never leaves the house (sometimes at 4:00 a.m.) or returns (sometimes at 2:00 a.m.) without giving me a kiss on the cheek. I usually don’t remember it, but somehow knowing that he will kiss me when he comes home make me happy.
  • Tell the kids about travel plans. I guess this is a no-brainer, but every time my husband travels he has a conversation with my kids before he leaves, letting them know that he’ll be gone for a few days. Importantly, he reminds them that they need to be on their best behavior and they need to “help take care of mom.” Well, it’s worth a shot anyway!
  • Take dad to the airport. Whenever it’s possible (usually only when my husband travels on the weekend - drag!), we try to make an outing out of taking him to the airport. My kids love it - there is so much to do and see. We have a quick dinner at the burrito place and send dad off through security. It gives my kids (and me) a chance to really say goodbye and lets them see in real time dad going off on a business trip.

  • Use voicemails and skype. My husband often leaves a long voicemail for my kids when he’s on the road. They get very excited when I tell them there is a voicemail from daddy. Not only does it help them stay connected to their dad, but it’s a great way to motivate them to get ready in the morning (e.g., “After you’ve brushed your teeth you can listen to daddy’s voicemail!”) and keep them busy while I’m doing the dishes. My husband leaves great messages for them, and often asks them questions about their day, leaving a pause after each question. I love watching them yell out answers at the computer screen! We do also sometimes skype, which is harder to arrange, but lots of fun when we can pull it off.
  • Remind your kids every night that dad (or mom) will be back soon, and that she or he loves them. As they get older, kids can fill out charts or be reminded about how many more nights it is until dad comes home to help them get a sense of when to expect the other parent.

12. Have Patience and Acceptance

Dave and I have been traveling together for extended periods since 2000.

Some of our first trips were tough. And there were times we wondered what we were doing? Can our relationship survive this?

There was a time when I locked myself in the bathroom because we didn’t have another room to go to in the middle of the night, and there were times we were so mad at each other, we couldn’t look at each other.

Remember, travel couples are going to fight and you’re going to annoy each other.

We found that when traveling long term for the first time, we needed to get over a hump.

There are stages to traveling as a couple. Yep, there’s the honeymoon stage, the annoyance stage, the I can’t stand the sight of you stage and then there is acceptance.

Work through it and you’ll come out the other end stronger than ever.

If you slow down when traveling, take the pressure off one another, and are aware of each other’s feelings and actions, traveling as a couple can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Save to Pinterest for future inspiration for traveling as a couple.

And you’ll find after your travels that you are closer than you ever thought you could be.

How To Survive The Sh*tshow When Your Spouse Travels For Work

September 3, 2017 Updated June 30, 2018

Javier Cañada / Unsplash

My husband’s travel schedule has slowly snuck up on us over the years, kind of like a silent-footed thief in my house who steals away the only sane person here. I’m left with only children in my home, and we all know how incredibly helpful they are.

When we first started navigating his new travel schedule, I wasn’t prepared for how much I relied on him to be there for me — just to do things like pick up that last ingredient from the store, be another body that can wake up in the middle of the night when a kid has a nightmare, and just be another adult human to talk to about how amazing/annoying/terrifying/thrilling it is being a parent to our children.

The first few times he left, I floundered. The kids didn’t seem to notice that he was gone, all of their needs were still being met, they were just being met solely by me. After a couple of days, I was exhausted, and defeated, from trying to do everything.

(A side note here: Military spouses and single parents, you are obviously operating on a whole different level than me, and you are my heroes.)

Over the last few years, I’ve had great experiences and not-so-great experiences doing this parenting thing alone while my husband travels. Here are some tips for you if your partner also travels a lot for work:

Talk it out beforehand

How often will the travelling partner be away? For how long? To prevent simmering anger and resentment, the parent at home needs to be fully aware of—and on board with—the parameters of his or her partner’s work travel, says Debra Macleod, a Calgary mediator and relationship coach. If the non-travelling parent isn’t totally onside, it may help to understand why the work travel is important. For example, it might advance her partner’s career in a way nothing else can, or the job might pay a lot more than a position that doesn’t require travel. In some cases, it may be the only job available.

Watch the video: 10 tips to make a long distance relationship work

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