Both my wife and I work professional jobs where occasional travel is part of the package, though Holly has to travel more frequently than me. We’ve mostly been pretty fortunate in that we haven’t had to lean on nearby family too much in these times as we’re generally able to schedule travel so one of us is home with the kids. In a past life, before marriage, I traveled much more extensively. Some assignments I would be gone for 3-4 months at a time living in hotels, maybe able to travel home for a day or two every second or third weekend. That sucked big time as Holly and I were engaged at the time and phone calls just don’t have the same impact as face-to-face contact does, but was something you sort of get used even if it did have an impact on the relationship. Here’s an ABC News article on the plight of traveling spouses. They refer to not only the psychological adjustment of separation for the partners but also re-entry back into their lives. As one who’ve lived through long distance relationships it really can be an emotional roller coaster, though after 10+ years of marriage it’s easier to deal with than when we were single. Just a lot more foundation to lean back against for comfort.
For those who travel extensively for work or have a spouse that does I tip my hat and wish you luck. I would describe our travel frequency “manageable” and in some ways it’s harder for the person doing the traveling than the person staying at home. Since we share parenting and household responsibility pretty equally, adding a few more duties to the mix requires slightly more work and some modifications to daily schedules but overall it’s the same routine. When one spouse is away, it usually means things are so busy for the stay-at-home spouse that there’s actually not that much time to ponder love and happy thoughts about the traveler until bed time. It gets to be like being a single parent after a few days.
Traveling away from spouse and kids can make you feel like a whole new person, free from responsibilities. Your work personality and relationships with colleagues, clients and subordinates are different than your home ones. This “separation between church and state” in the mind allows the high-flying corporate woman to come home and be a loving mom and wife (and if she’s smart, let the husband be in charge at home). Required with business travel are various social functions which include dinner, drinks and some light and fun social vibes. People let their guard down, sometimes get isolated from other known friendly faces and do things they wouldn’t normally do if they knew they’d be getting up early for their normal exercise routine or to get breakfast ready for the kids. Like the movie Cedar Rapids (starring Ed Helms from the Office/Hangover fame, funny movie), traveling spouses can cheat relatively easily if they so desire. It’s almost like a mini-vacation – no “real” responsibility, no nagging spouse, only freedom and fun. Holly and I have both seen cheating happen in person. The script is usually husbands/wives having fun away from home on a business trip, drinking, then pair up and hook up. It’s not a big secret or surprise, especially when you hear about things such as “work spouses” that are together 40+ hours a week and provide daily banter and comfort aspects away from home.
For a fire triangle, if you combine the three ingredients (fuel, oxygen, heat) you get flame. For an affair, I’d call the three ingredients isolation, alcohol, desire. Two out of the three it could still happen, but add all three and it will happen. So the onus is on the traveling spouse to A) Put themselves in good situations B) Keep company with multiple people and not isolate themselves with members of the opposite sex that either party finds attractive C) Not get drunk; and the onus for both spouses is to D) have a solid marriage so the “Desire” part of the Affair Triangle is never there. I’m guessing most affairs happen not because the marriage is necessarily “bad” but because the spouse is bored, or the classic “I love you but I’m not ‘in love’ with you”. The onus is then on both spouses to make the changes so boredom is not an option. Whole books and blogs (see MMSL) are written on adding the spark back to marriage and this post won’t get into this except to make those uninitiated aware of what they’re up against.
The next couple weeks both Holly and I have trips for work, in fact she’s already left for a few days. I know she gets hit on overtly and covertly on these trips, I’m sure every attractive woman who travels for business does. Indicators of interest towards me have been noted several times on my own business trips, but always in a group environment and were easily deflected. We communicate about this subject explicitly now, and understand what boundaries are expected of both of us when we travel and we trust each other. It doesn’t mean I don’t keep aware of how both of us act and keep my spidey sense alert, but she’s never done anything that I’ve seen to make me believe she’s anything less than trustworthy.
A solid welcome when they return is also always appreciated, as is a “thanks for taking care of the kids and house and everything” on the flip side. Take a time out and kiss them passionately and show them how much they were missed as you or they reenter the atmosphere. For my part in welcoming her back in a few days, especially after last week’s “adventures“, I plan to show Holly how much I missed her with a good old fashioned bedroom rodeo. Yee, haw!
[Quick Note: In case you were wondering, Holly has said multiple times she’s planning to register and post responses in the comments section but hasn’t to date. We talk about some of my posts but she hasn’t really felt the need to pre-read them or add her thoughts to them at this point. I know she does want to guest post stuff from time to time but hasn’t worked up anything yet. We’re kind of still figuring this stuff out.]