How To Keep Your Marriage Close When Travel Pulls You Apart
Throughout the course of our marriage, my husband Troy has consistently traveled about 30% of the time for his job. The struggle to stay connected while he is away has been one of the greatest challenges for us over the years. To this day, we still struggle, but we have learned and developed some valuable strategies and tools over the years that have enabled our marriage to thrive even when Troy is gone. This past year his travel has gone from 30% to 60%. More than ever in our marriage we have had to fight to keep our spark alive and our marriage growing.
First and foremost, it is vital to know and speak your spouse’s love language. If you are not familiar with the five love languages, I would highly recommend reading Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages: the Secret to Love That Lasts. In it, Chapman explains five different ways that people feel most loved. They are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. What makes your spouse feel loved? What is their love language? Typically there is one love language that is predominant and that is the one that makes an individual feel best loved by another person, and in particular by their spouse. Usually the love language that you prefer receiving is the language that you are most comfortable giving.
My love language is quality time. It is not that I do not recognize or understand when Troy speaks another love language, but I just feel loved at the deepest level when he listens to me and spends quality time with me. Troy’s love language is physical touch. For both of us, speaking each other’s love languages when we are physically apart from one another is not completely possible, which means that when we are together we have to work extra hard to communicate love to one another in our respective languages as often as possible.
When Troy arrives home after a trip, I try to make sure I greet him with a warm embrace and kiss. Throughout the few days that he is home, we make every effort to have date time. We usually go out to eat, go for walks, and stay up after the children go to bed so we can spend time together alone. We make sure that we connect at a deep level so that when we have to be apart again we have those memories to hold us throughout the next week of travel. Staying connected during the time we are away from each another is vital to the health of our marriage, and means that our connection when we are together needs to be strong.
Here are a few tools that have helped us keep our marriage strong during Troy’s frequent work travel:
- Pray together over the phone. Stay connected to the source of grace for your sacrament of marriage so you can stay connected to the one God gave you to love!
- Communicate through texting, calling, e-mail, or whatever works for you. For Troy and I, we text a lot throughout the day. We are not always able to get right back to one another, but we make sure when time permits to acknowledge each other’s texts and if need be, discuss it later in the evening when we are able to talk on the phone. Troy likes to get pictures of what the children and I are doing throughout the day, so I text a sampling to him. I like to see where he is at, so he texts me pictures of the conference room he is in, the hotel he is staying at, and sometimes the restaurants he eats at. It may sound silly, but for me it makes the distance between us feel less overwhelming. We also just text fun pictures – pictures that we know the other person would like to see.
- Troy brings a small crucifix with him to put in his hotel room as a way to stay focused spiritually and as a reminder that his strength comes from God alone.
- Miscommunication can easily happen when you and your spouse are not physically together. Troy and I have learned through our own tests and trials that we need to nip our miscommunication in the bud. We have witnessed how miscommunication can cause our emotions to run high since we are not together to help dissipate the anger and frustration that comes from not being properly understood. For us it is important to talk as soon as possible on the phone and before we are completely exhausted at the end of the day.
- Recognize each other’s needs and respect them. For my husband, frequent travel is exhausting, and for myself being home alone with five children is overwhelming and lonely. Both of us make every effort to try and understand the needs associated with the challenges we face when we are apart.
- A willingness to say “I am sorry” and to forgive is especially critical with the strain of travel pressing on a marriage.
Whether you and your spouse are apart from one another often or together all the time, the goal is to always be growing. As you grow as a couple your roots become deeper and your marriage becomes stronger. When the storms of life inevitably pass through your marriage, you want your roots to be deep enough that no matter how devastating the storm may be, it is unable to uproot the love you are growing.