Well Be­ing

When you are a fre­quent trav­eler, mind­ing the home front is key to main­tain­ing healthy, happy re­la­tion­ships

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Sally Brown

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.”

Sep­a­ra­tion Anx­i­ety

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

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