Making a Marriage Work When A Spouse's Job Requires Trips
The typical picture of married life looks like this: one or both spouses get home from work, share dinner, tell each other about their days, pursue a hobby either together or separately for an hour or so, and then crawl between the covers together to repeat the routine the next day.
However, for spouses of consultants or other professions that require frequent travel, that picture of routine could not be farther from the truth of daily life.
For marriages in which one of the spouses takes trips for work, the other spouse is often left at home running the household (and working, if that spouse also has a job). The duties of keeping house and holding down a full-time job--and raising children--that fall so heavily on the spouse who doesn't travel can result in feelings of intense loneliness, resentment, and anger if the couple doesn't take steps to avoid them.
Read on for tips on how to cope with a spouse who frequently travels, as well as how to keep your relationship strong.
Loneliness and Stress When a Spouse Travels
When a spouse travels for his or her job, the spouse left at home will have to deal with not only loneliness, but the stress of handling everyday life situations alone. For instance, if the car breaks down or the dishwasher floods the kitchen, the spouse at home will be the finding an alternate ride to work or finding a repairman. If one of the children gets sick, the spouse at home will be the one ferrying the child to the doctor and taking sick days to act as caretaker.
Those situations can lead to short and snappish phone calls, finger-pointing, and blame--and those feelings of anger and resentment will seep into the relationship when the traveling spouse comes home.
Furthermore, the spouse who stays at home may also be coping with anxiety and depression from spending so much time alone--eating dinner alone and finding ways to amuse yourself when you're longing to see the person you love can be very disheartening.
So, how do you cope with all of these emotions?
Prioritizing Work and Setting Routines When One Spouse Travels
One way to avoid a stress avalanche when one spouse travels for his or her job is to prioritize work.
For instance, don't feel that you have to do all the cleaning and run all the errands when your spouse is out of town. If you're really feeling tired and worn thin, the dishes can wait for a day; those weeds in the garden don't need to be pulled; and you have about a month before the dry cleaner donates your clothes.
To take some of the load off of yourself, sit down with your spouse and divide up the household chores and errands so that they don't all fall on you. It can be hard to do this, because you may worry about the spouse being tired from traveling all week; the natural inclination is to not ask him/her to do anything around the house. But that's not fair to you! Keep the burden as even as possible.
To avoid loneliness, develop routines and stick to them. If possible, text frequently throughout the day and have quick chats, with a longer talk around the same time every night. Set aside one day and one night on the weekend where you ONLY see one another--no friends, no family, no interferences. Just use the time to reconnect and enjoy each other's company.
For the spouse who stays home, also set several "friend" dates throughout the week--go to a movie, go to dinner, pursue a mutual hobby. Then, look at the other nights as "you" time--the time to do all those things you don't get to do with your spouse around, like watching trashy reality TV.
Deciding if Traveling is Right for Your Marriage
Some couples don't mind when one spouse travels--perhaps one partner enjoys solitude, and they appreciate their time together on weekends all the more. However, for some couples a relationship where one spouse travels can be misery.
In such instances, it may help to seek counseling for how to cope with the loneliness and stress, as well as how to re-connect during times when the spouse is home. Ultimately, however, if one spouse cannot handle the travel, it might be time to evaluate what's more important: the career or your marriage. Part of marriage is sharing a life, and having a present spouse only two days a week just may not be enough.
You're not alone, though--many marriages have one spouse who travels, and you can reach out for support through groups at church, family and friends, or community groups.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Elle Garner on March 29, 2019:
Traveling is doom for a marriage
You or your kids will spend the rest of their lives in therapy or divorce court.
SaffronBlossom (author) from Dallas, Texas on April 26, 2013:
I totally agree, commitment and selflessness are key to a happy, successful marriage! It's just harder when one person travels and one person is left behind...some people can make it work, some can't. Thanks for the comment!
I.W. McFarlane from Philadelphia on April 21, 2013:
I believe that in most marriages it's usually the two people who are involved as opposed to the situation, that really makes a difference. There are always going to be some mitigating circumstances, however, people who are willing to compromise seem to have less stressful relationships. In other words, what works for one couple may not work for another. Some couples are more understanding, selfless and are also more committed to their marriages than others.