When one spouse works out-of-town, it can be challenging in a relationship. Being away from each other for extended periods of time requires open and honest communication. Without this, negative emotions can take hold and get worse over time. There are many emotions that may come into play – guilt, anger, loneliness, depression, and anxiety are among them.
There are two sides to the story when one spouse travels while the other stays home. The one traveling may be busy with work obligations, without much time for staying in touch with their spouse at home. It may appear like a glamorous life of dining out, visiting new and exciting places, and social gatherings. In reality, working away from home is often exhausting and can be quite lonely. The spouse at home may feel resentful or angry that they need to be the one “holding down the fort” and dealing with issues at home.
The travel in itself is not a problem. In other words, it’s not the physical distance that puts a couple at risk – it’s the emotional distance. Coming up with ways to maintain an emotional connection and a strong bond are key to making this type of marital arrangement work. This may include things like texting each other often throughout the day. A quick “I love you” or “How are you today?” will go a long way. Talking over video chat is a wonderful way to maintain closeness and make it feel like you’re not so far apart. Whatever works for your relationship, try to remain consistent in your communication before complacency sets in. Don’t fall victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome.
When you do get the chance to spend time together in person, it is more important than ever to make that time meaningful. It doesn’t mean you need to plan elaborate outings. It does mean that you should try to remain present with each other. Try to put down your phones and reduce time on social media. Look for activities that you can do together that will strengthen your bond and create unity.
Coming up with a communication plan is essential when trying to overcome the struggles of a spouse working away from home.
Here is how one couple explained their situation:
STEP ONE: How do we define our issue?
We need a consistent communication plan when one of us is working out-of-town.
STEP TWO: Why is this important to me/us?
Bride: Consistency is important to me, and I get nervous and anxious when I don’t know what’s going on with you. If we relax on our communication while you’re away I feel it opens the door for opportunities of infidelity and less of a connection to our commitment to each other. Sometimes our communication is great and at other times it’s more relaxed and I tend to get nervous, especially when we’re apart.
Groom: We don’t talk or text much when I’m out of town working, and I’m not able to be home all the time. Maybe getting an iPad, so we can FaceTime whenever we want.
Bride’s Feelings: Guilty, ignored, uncomfortable, depressed, hopeless, weak, threatened, powerless, lonely, negative, overwhelmed.
Groom’s Feelings: Sad, open, excited, positive, confused, determined, motivated, annoyed, stubborn, encouraged, afraid.
STEP THREE: What will a better future look like for us when this is resolved?
Bride: I feel like this is an issue that we will always be working towards to make better. Towards you I will have less fear while you travel and towards myself I hope I will feel more peace. But we need to come up with a communication plan, and then stick to the plan. I need to be more patient and open with you when I start to feel anxious. We could both be more proactive in our communication by texting, expressing our feelings more and letting the other know if we’re feeling anxious instead of getting frustrated with each other.
Groom: I could answer my phone throughout the day and let you know when I get off work. I would be happy to set a time for talking every day when I’m gone.
STEP FOUR: What are our best ideas?
Idea One: Have a set time to talk, and communicate through text when we set plans or plans change.
Idea Two: Be more open and expressive when we communicate
STEP FIVE: What will I/we actually do?
We will both be more expressive and stick to our set time to talk.
STEP SIX: How will we know that we’re making progress?
We’ll both feel less frustrated and anxious.
REAL Couples – REAL Issues – REAL solutions
This blog is in a series inspired by real conversations between real couples preparing for marriage. Their words come for a self-guided, self-paced marriage prep eCourse available at www.OnlineMarriagePreparation.com.