How to have a successful marriage with a spouse that travels

Success in marriage when your spouse travels

As we continue to enter a world of wireless technologies and significant improvements to telecommunications; more employers are asking middle managers and higher to cover larger regions. Business is no longer silo'ed by state boundaries; it's gone national and even international and will continue to do so as we progress and become more efficient. 

This changes how we look at the 1950 ideals of family. One person working a 40-hour work week while the spouse stays home and tends to the children is becoming the unicorn of family ideals. A time when both individuals are home every single night to parent, take care of the house, and physically be there for each other just doesn’t happen anymore.  

More often that not, both spouses work, and if one travels extensively it can be a complete disaster in a marriage. The error for lack of communication is extremely high. 

We are going to talk about how both individuals feel in this situation and then talk about some tips on how to transition better in and out of travel.

1. Awareness: Both parties believe that they do more than the other

Jack works anywhere from 10-12 hour days and this doesn't include travel time. This says a lot about a human being. He is incredibly hardworking and is very loyal to his job. He wants nothing more than to provide for his family. Unfortunately, he constantly rushes his wife off of the phone to take calls from clients and consistently has tunnel vision when in “work-mode”. His company loves this and he thrives in this mental state.

Jane is the CEO of the home. Often times she is feeling overwhelmed with kid duties (homework, activities, carpool, trying to add 'fun') as well as her own full time job). She gets up every day to rush the older kids off to school. Rush is actually the biggest word in her vocabulary. Constantly hurrying everyone up, pushing the limits of the “to-do” list, trying to be a part of the kids' life and still work a full-time job, as well as managing all of the fires of daily household maintenance and the kids is exhausting. Jane hits the sack at 9pm most days.

Tip: BE AWARE. Both people are equal. Both people have to respect and communicate their respect DAILY. This is so important in a "traveling spouse relationship"; more so than any other marriage. You have to connect without expectation at least twice a day.

2. Time. 

Jack travels with a Fortune 500 company and is a National Sales Manager, he is not available very often as he overbooks his time when he travels so that he can rush home to his family. He has to be “on” all day and is typically on the phone with clients and employees 80% of the time. Every time Jane calls him, he cuts her off to take another call. Making her feel unimportant. Jack is constantly under pressure to meet sales goals and believes that EVERY single second he needs to be saturated with business.

Jane is exhausted at the end of the day and crawls in bed and is fast asleep at 9. When Jack calls her after his client dinner, she has been long in bed. She fell asleep exhausted from the day and didn’t text Jack. Why should she? He ignored her all day. He texts her at 11:00, and she doesn’t answer. He realizes what time it is and feels like he has failed for the day. He now assumes that Jane is probably upset with him.

It's important to have respect for your spouse and what their day is like. If you can be cognizant of this throughout the day; even if you just send a text; it helps. It is up to both parties to acknowledge that they need to check-in. If Jane had sent a text with highlights from the day and said “I hope your day went well, I love you, goodnight” it would not snowball. Just as Jack should write highlights of his day and say I love you. These small adjustments really show that you both genuinely care, and it helps keep open lines of communication.

3. The Transition: The Weekend Spouse

Living in a household for 4-5 days with a spouse that is gone and switching to have them with you for 24 hours a day can be remarkably hard to execute.

Jack has just arrived home after being gone for 4 days. He is on the phone in the driveway with an irate client that he can’t get off of the phone with; inside the kids are crying that daddy is home, dogs are barking and Jane is just trying to hurry and clean up the piles of dishes and throw the laundry in.  Jane also notices that she didn’t shower and has no makeup on-so she feels like the day has creeped up on her and she starts to talk negatively to herself in her head. Immediately she feels very down and feels like she is failing as a mom and wife.

Jack walks in and the kids go bananas with excitement.
Jane is quiet. (she is immediately more irritated that the kids seem so excited to see daddy when she takes care of them all week).
Jack says "hey." in a monotone voice. He already can tell by Jane’s body language that she is upset. Instead of hugging her (He doesn’t want to deal with her right now because he is exhausted from traveling all week)he goes straight to his office and continues his work day.

This is the tipping point for the weekend.

Jack needs to mentally take a minute before he gets home to transition his mental state from business to home. Coming in and immediately kissing his wife and saying the house looks great and I missed you, is a great start. His attitude of when you walk in the door is critical to set the vibe for the weekend. 

Jane needs to plan better. She needs to set an alarm for her phone to be prepared for Jack to come home. She needs to give Jack a break. She needs to realize that the house being perfect is not crucial. She needs to stop what she is doing and be happy to see her husband and hug him and tell him she misses him. 

Success starts this very minute. It's both individual’s responsibility to stop what they are doing and be respectful. 

4. Engage each other: when both spouses are home 

Jack has literally worked 50+ hours in 4 days. He is worried about a contract with a big client. He has been talking all day every day and he has been entertaining all week. Jack just wants to veg and be with the kids. He wants to sit in his recliner and watch football, he has caught flack from his clients all week- he hears Jane say something about going to church and fixing the garage door. He rolls his eyes and turns up the volume on the tv without even realizing it.

Jane has the house in order all week long, her schedule with the kids is based on a very tight schedule. She has been a taxi for the kids all week and she is completely spent with zero ounce of life to give anyone. On the weekends she really hates to be on a schedule. She craves adult time. Her love language is actions. She has asked Jack for weeks to fix the garage door, she is sick of constantly reminding him.  The house needs cleaned, she needs to grocery shop and meal prep for the week- she is anxious and overwhelmed. She knows that if she doesn’t work all weekend to prepare for the next week it’s a complete disaster.

It is imperative that you plan your week and weekend together-typically Sunday nights are a great time to do this. Try not to pack the weekend full of more than you can accomplish. Each person should choose one thing that they want to do-and they should be able to do it guilt-free.
When the traveling spouse is home-you are responsible for the work of the home as well. It’s not fair for one person to take care of the maintenance of the household by themselves on the weekend.
Divide and conquer. It works if you both split up and try to accomplish some tasks and then come back together for intentional family time. Quality time over quantity still matters. It is better to plan a family activity together for a few hours and have both individuals be happy than it is to have a forced weekend with negative energy.
Communication is key- what works for one couple-may not work for another.

6. Code words. 
I have seen fights escalate quicker when couples have a traveling spouse. This is typical of two independent people internalizing what they THINK their spouse is thinking. It’s crucial that if this sounds like you, you get out of this habit.
How do I do that?? Well, I call it a code word. Life is cyclical. We talk about communicating and we do really well for a couple weeks or a few months and then we naturally go back to our old tendencies.

Come up with one word that is ridiculous. It has to be something that makes you both laugh. If Jane feels Jack ignoring her-she can laugh and say “Burgers and Fries” and it takes both of them back to their first date where they ordered burgers and fries. She has immediately changed the game. He snaps out of it and they can laugh and move on.

Tips that will make you happy in your marriage!!

1. Make life easier-hire a cleaning lady or someone to mow the yard. It’s important that the weekend time is as stress-free as possible 
2. Over-communicate. I don’t believe you can over-communicate. Always be honest and have an open dialogue of where you are mentally. Good or bad.
3. Each person should call or send a text in the morning and in the evening. Write enough to tell the other person how your day was
4. Know that the other one cares- always have a date planned or a vacation planned together-we all need to have something that we are working towards
5. Respect each others’ roles
6. Never say divorce
7. Set up a weekly 20 minute call. I like to do this mid-week during spouse's travel. Get it on their calendar.  Yes. It's not romantic-but its tactical and sets you up to have a winning week and keeps both of you connected. Have an agenda and communicate a plan during this 20 minutes (bills that need to be paid, max's soccer schedule changes, teacher conference for olivia, weekend plans/chores, budget)
8. Shared calendar
9. Don't feel guilty about making time for yourself-communicate it’s importance to each other
10. Spend 30 minutes on Sunday planning the week together. 
11. Know your love language but know your spouse’s better.

“I’m not perfect, but I’m perfectly made”
Jenna Petri
coach/detective of purpose