When you are a frequent traveler, minding the home front is key to maintaining healthy, happy relationships
Married to Your Job – When you are a frequent traveler, minding the home front is key to maintaining healthy, happy relationships
When you took your wedding vows, chances are you didn’t promise to “love, honor and fly off to another country, leaving your partner to cope on their own on a regular basis.”
Yet, that’s the reality of family life when your job demands frequent travel. According to our 2014 reader survey, the average Business Traveler reader spends 56 nights a year in hotels on business. That’s an awful lot of time away from home.
For some people, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Comedian Bob Hope ascribed the success of his 69-year marriage to his only spending ten years of it at home, but for others it can necessitate a split personality. Each partner must be self-sufficient and self-contained when alone, yet flexible and open enough to work as a couple when together.
It’s a juggling act that’s challenging, no matter how successful or financially secure you are, as actor Damian Lewis admitted in a recent interview when talking about time away from his wife, fellow actor Helen McCrory:“Helen and I are strong, independent people and you become single very quickly again. She soon feels like a single mum if I’m away for a period of time. I feel like a single man. It’s disconcerting. So coming back, you’re keen for it to just take off exactly where it left off. It never does, it’s never that smooth, and there is no shorthand or short cut.”
Being apart can create a level of stress in couples that they may not be aware of, according to a 2008 study from the University of Utah.
Social psychologist Lisa Diamond looked into the effects of frequent, employmentbased separation on a relationship and found minor withdrawal-like symptoms, such as irritability and sleep disturbances, along with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol in partners after they were separated for four to seven days.
Those who had high anxiety about their relationships had the biggest spikes in cortisol levels, but even those who reported low levels of stress showed some increase in cortisol and related symptoms.
Many parents also battle with guilt at being away from their children. When the former chief financial officer of Uber, Brent Callinicos, resigned recently, he said,“It is time to do what I have desired for a very long time: to keep a promise to my wife of not missing another school play, swim meet or academic achievement of our daughter’s childhood.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, while more than 2,000,000 couples in the US tied the knot in 2010, more than 872,000 relationships ended in divorce or annulment. Almost half of divorces involve children under 16. K1ngston, a contributor to our online forum (businesstravelerusa. com/discussion) is going through his second divorce, which he attributes to “excessive travel.”
“It is always difficult when traveling great distances to slot back into the family unit, which does put pressure on. Jet lag and demands on your time through time zones, when managing a global organization, make the situation worse,”he says.
“I have three wonderful children, aged 25, 22 and 16, who are balanced and adorable, but I always regret the time away from them as I strove for the corporate dollar to ensure they had things that I never had. I guess when I look back on my career I will be able to say I was successful, but at what cost?”
A Healthy Distance?
It’s not all bad news. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication found that people in relationships that involved time apart often had stronger bonds from more constant and deeper communication than normal partnerships.
“There are benefits in spending time apart on a regular basis,”says relationship counselor Andrew Marshall, author of I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You: Seven Steps To Saving Your Relationship. “It allows each of you to develop a sense of independence and the ability to rely on your own strengths.”
Time apart can also help you to retain a degree of differentiation as a couple that can keep the chemistry alive.
“Sexual attraction is built upon being attracted to someone who is different from you,”says Julienne Davis, co-author of Stop Calling Him Honey… and Start Having Sex. “We are attracted to those who seem elusive, who we cannot totally control and understand. It is the friction and fascination of being two separate people that keeps the fire alive.”
The key to making it work is to stay flexible, Marshall says.“By necessity, athome partners become very efficient at coping on their own but they must let go