16 October 2013, 12:11
A few months ago, I was asked by a reader how my marriage can survive the amount of travelling I do. She wanted to go on a holiday with her girlfriends, but didn’t want to upset her husband. At the time, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think I had any real wisdom to share!
But after my most recent trip, which kept me away from home for a little over two weeks, I realised there will never be a definitive answer to that question, because relationships are constantly in flux. Our needs as individuals differ from day to day, and sometimes the bond is closer than other times. What worked last week may not work this week. It’s just like the relationship status on Facebook: it’s complicated.
Whether it’s business, recreation, or some mix of both, sometimes travelling by yourself is necessary. Whatever the reason, the truth is that going on a voyage without your partner — whether you’re married or dating or anywhere in-between — is tough on the relationship. There are a number of factors at play, which can have a varying amount of influence on the connection you share.
Not all of these things will apply to you and your circumstance, but some of them will. Some I’ve pulled from my own personal experiences (both with my husband and relationships of the past), and others are things I’ve observed other couples struggle with.
Does your partner really support you? We have to address this one first, because without this crucial piece of the puzzle, everything else on this page is irrelevant. The most important part of travelling alone is that your lover is on the same page as you.
Sometimes your partner will say they support you in fleeing the nest, and they may want to support you with all their might, but are battling with feelings of their own. They might feel left out or unimportant. They might be mad that they’re not invited or feel like if you really loved them, you wouldn’t be able to bear being without them. Or they might just be really bored at home without you. These feelings can manifest themselves in lots of different ways.
The only way to deal with this stuff is to talk it out. That might be painful, but it’s a necessary evil. And ultimately, as long as both of you are making sure your partner is always your priority, you can’t go wrong.
Once you hop on a plane, there can be resentment and jealousy on both sides. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s relatively common for the person at home to feel envious of their beloved’s exclamation mark-filled emails, droolworthy Instagram snaps and ecstatic tweets, especially when they’re faced with everyday drudgery. Travelling certainly isn’t all glamour all the time, but it’s easy for your sweetheart to feel that way, based on what they see.
And the envy doesn’t just flow in one direction: if the person travelling is reluctant about doing so, or hates being away from the familiarity of Whereversville, homesickness can have you aching for a flight back.
How to deal with it? Sometimes, just being aware that your partner is capable of feeling this way — and learning to be comfortable with expressing these feelings — can be a massive help.
SARK says that one of the best ways to deal with jealousy is to simply say to the person, “I am so jealous!” Then you can laugh and just get on with it, as opposed to letting the unspoken emotion dictate everything.
It’s important to make sure your paramour still feels important and valued. For example, when you book your tickets to Costa Rica, don’t throw up your hands in glee and scream, “I can’t wait to leave you and get out of this stinkin’ city!”
Sure, you may feel that way! But don’t rub it in their face. Don’t make them feel like they are some kind of ball-and-chain, a person-shaped punishment. They will just feel shitty and that will make your time apart even more difficult.
Discuss your travel arrangements with them. Make sure the dates don’t conflict with anything important on their calendar. Have an actual conversation about your plans, rather than storming into the living room and announcing, “Just FYI, I’m going to Aruba for three months on Monday!”
Remember, relationships are about equal partnership and being considerate of one another. It has taken me some time to stop acting like a single girl (“I do what I want!”) and begin acting like a married woman, and even today, I’m not perfect. It’s all a work in progress…
Make sure both people have their own lives. It’s always going to be harder to deal with someone leaving if you are one another’s entire world.
Work to cultivate your own lives all the time. Encourage your lover to have his or her own friendships, interests, hobbies and obsessions. And don’t forget to have YOUR own friendships and stuff that you like to do with other people!
As tempting as it is to be one little unit, just the two of you against the world, it never really leads to anything good. It’s much less terrible when your main squeeze leaves if you have another social scene to bounce into.
You gotta have trust. If your lover is the jealous type, or if you take a good, honest look at yourself and realise that (shock! horror!) you are prone to the green-eyed monster, recognise that travel is going to put a strain on your relationship.
In some ways, this might be good. It may force one — or both — of you to examine what’s really going on, because jealousy is not a standalone problem. It’s the symptom, not the cause. And maybe you will learn to trust one another. But I’m not going to lie, it might break you up.
Either way, it’s important to test these boundaries and stretch the relationship. If you can only be happy when your partner is within earshot, your relationship is doomed. Doomed, I say!
Communicate as much as you can possibly bear! This is probably the one I have to work on most, especially when it comes to Skype. When I travel for The Blogcademy, personal time is at an all-time low: literally the only time I get to myself is when I’m in the bathroom!
I used to get on a plane and practically disappear off the radar, which was pretty uncool. These days, I’m much better: I send sweet daily emails and photos, but I’m often so distracted by everything going on around me that I kind of forget that my husband hasn’t heard my voice in days.
Some important things to keep in mind when communicating on holiday: keep it loving and personal (i.e. don’t just CC them into the e-blast you send to 100 of your nearest and dearest!), do your best not to argue (it’s always more difficult when there’s an ocean between you), and carve out some time to devote to your lover as often as you can. It depends on how long you’re away, of course, but on our next trip, I’d like to be Skypeing with my babe as regularly as possible.
I mention this last point because when I’m at home with Mike, of course I don’t have to think about making time to talk to him — he is just in the next room, and we are pretty much together 24/7. But when I’m in a different city, I need to actually make time to stay in touch with him. Otherwise, your frenetic pace and somewhat haphazard scheduling will stomp all over your sweet notions to Skype.
You gotta be able to let go. If you, like me and most of my closest friends, suffer from perfectionism, control freakery and if-you-need-something-done-right-you-should-do-it-yourself-ism, travelling can challenge many of your notions.
What will your husband eat? What if he gets sick? Will you come home to a sink full of dirty dishes and several new pets?
Trust me: your partner will survive. And more importantly, your ego might just need that little knock when you’re reminded that yes, life ticks over quite nicely without you. You don’t need to have your fingers in every pie!
Make your time together as fun as possible! Yes, I know, I get it: life can get messy, busy and the romance can lapse. But you have to make an effort to keep the spark in your love life. Otherwise, it will all start to feel very pointless.
Mike and I have made this a priority, and we just keep getting better at it. There’s rarely a dull moment in our house. We are always wandering around the city, trying new restaurants, meeting with friends, going for motorcycle rides or heading upstate to get a taste of nature. We love to roadtrip and go on adventures.
It’s important that your life doesn’t feel like you’re just waiting for your next vacation. Make an effort to make your daily life fun, too. Keep a list of places and things you want to do as a couple, and stick it to your fridge. No excuses for boredom now!
You might also like to take a gander at When The Magic Fades & The Doldrums Set In: How To Avoid Becoming One Of THOSE Couples!
And then there are the challenges which assail you when you get home. When I leave, our house turns into Mike’s personal space, and all of a sudden, I’m back in it, throwing glitter and blasting music.
And personally, I’m exhausted from travelling, pretty much incapable of socialising with anyone outside my immediate family, and almost always experiencing the post-holiday blues. Full disclosure: the suckiness factor was particularly gruesome after coming back from the sheer glory of Greece.
It takes a little adjusting, and it can be taxing, for sure.
I was talking to my husband about all of these things, and I told him that I feel bad about getting post-holiday blues.
“It just makes me feel really spoiled,” I said. “Greece was so amazing and then I come back to NYC, and even though my daily life is so good, I still feel inexplicably bummed out. And then I just feel guilty for feeling that way.”
“It’s chemical,” he told me. “When you go on holiday, you’re seeing new things all the time, meeting new people, having amazing experiences. Your endorphins are whizzing around and you feel incredible. And then you come home, your routine changes, and you’re forced back to reality a little bit. Your brain is just missing that endorphin rush. It’s okay and it’s totally normal.”
He’s right. I just need to be gentle on myself. And his words alone made me feel so much better, which just brings me back to my original point: it’s vital to be with someone who truly supports you.
Photos by Solve Sundsbo.