Ignore the temptation to operate as a single person. Major decisions should still be made together. Don’t surprise your partner by painting the house lavender while he’s gone, or turning the basement into a poker room while she’s away.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but for my friend Deanna, this concept had gotten ridiculous. Deanna and Mark had been married for three years when Mark’s position at work changed. It was a promotion, good for the family since they’d just had their second child, but there was one problem: he’d be traveling for this new position. A lot.
Mark and Deanna made the decision together that this was a step they were both willing to take in order to gain a more stable financial foundation. At first, it seemed like Mark would be the one making the major sacrifice, being away from the comfort of his home and the arms of his loved ones. Soon, after a few of the business trips, Deanna realized she missed Mark, but she was also envious. Envious of all the new places he was seeing and, frankly, all the adult conversations he was having.
Deanna also found herself jealous of the inner circle of friends it seemed Mark was making on these business trips. Based on photos she saw him tagged in on his colleagues’ Facebook pages (they were now more than just business partners, they were Facebook friends!), it looked like Mark was, yes, working by day, but attending what appeared to be summer camp for grown-ups by night! There were boozy shots of Mark side-by-side with attractive women Deanna didn’t recognize. Worse yet, she saw in one of the shots that one of these women wasn’t wearing her wedding ring, although Deanna knew from a friend of a friend who knew her that the woman was ‘happily’ married. What was going on at these conventions? Her imagination was running wild.
Deanna found herself feeling ‘stuck at home’ with her two young boys, unable to sleep, drinking wine from a box at three in the morning and evaluating every tiny detail of texts, emails and voice messages she’d receive from Mark. He wasn’t holding back information, he’d pass on funny stories and gossip about the people he’d run into and spent the evening getting to know, but this only served to make Deanna more insecure. She began to believe that the women Mark was becoming acquainted with were better than she was—they were professional, had time to work out, didn’t have baby weight to lose, had time and money to get their hair highlighted. These were smart women, talking to her husband about things other than the electric bill and whether or not their older son’s runny nose should keep him out of preschool for the day.
In today’s economy, a lot of families and couples are playing tag team—there just isn’t as much time for being all together as there used to be as we all scramble to make ends meet. Losing this connection, and watching as our partner goes on without us in everyday life without shriveling up into a husk, can bring about a difficult mixed bag of emotions. There are some ways to deal with these issues, enough to get you through the tough part until things turn around and we can all start enjoying more quality time again.
I’m like a broken record, I know. But I’ll say it again. Communication. Communication is key to any situation. Keep in touch with a daily check-in (not an obsessive hourly check-in) and be honest and open about what’s going on. This goes for both the stay-at-home partner and the away-on-business partner. Talk about who you’ve met, what they’re like, who they are to you (is this a new friend? Just a good business contact?). Not only will this serve to downplay insecurities, this will keep everyone honest. If you communicate, you’ll never have to ask yourself, is this something I’ll be willing to share with my partner? It will become nature (if it isn’t already) to stay true to your relationship. By that same token, it’s helpful to know your spouse’s itinerary—knowing where your loved one is precludes any crazy surprise photos you might run across on Facebook or any questionable credit card charges.
Quit Feeling Sorry For Yourself
Shut down the pity party and make sure you’re filling your time at home with rewarding activities. Make your own new circle of friends, or strengthen bonds with the ones who fell out of the loop when you fell into love; this is your chance. Alone time can be great! When else are you so free to go out with the girls for sushi, or see that new movie your partner would die before seeing? Would you sit in the living room across from your partner and read a book? Here’s your opportunity to sit around and read!
Just In Case
As for the nuts and bolts of life on your own, it’s a good idea to keep a list of phone numbers of people and companies who you can contact when you don’t have the back-up of your partner. I’m not being sexist! This goes for men whose partners travel too! We rely on our partners for help in all sorts of areas. For example, when I go out of town, I make sure the refrigerator is stocked with things my husband would never think of buying but will eat if it’s in there…like spinach. And other things that aren’t frozen pizza rolls. By that same token, since I’m a writer I rely heavily on my husband for help with my son, so when he’s out of town I make plans for my mom to spend time with my son, or plan for an overnight with his cousins. Don’t get blindsided and feel helpless. We’re so lucky to have partners we can rely on, but we don’t have to crumble when they’re not at our immediate side.
You’re Still A Team
Ignore the urban legend of what happens in Vegas (or Baltimore, or Philly, etc…) stays there—despite the distance and separation, you and your partner are still a team. Separation is not a get out of jail free card for your partner (or you!) to do what you want. There is accountability. These distances are geographical, and on a finite timeline. Ignore the temptation to operate as a single person. Major decisions should still be made together. Don’t surprise your partner by painting the house lavender while he’s gone, or turning the basement into a poker room while she’s away. Look ahead to when you and your partner are side by side on the couch again, operating as the unit you work so well within. Know that the separation is temporary.
Enjoy Each Other
And since it is temporary, make the best use of your time together when you are reunited. It might be a good idea to make a list of nuts and bolts things to get out of the way, so that you can cross them off and get down to the business of what made the two of you fall in love in the first place. Visit favorite restaurants or watch movies you saw in the theatre together when you were first dating. Take time to reconnect. It can almost be like falling in love all over again.