My line of work requires me to travel all around the world. I’m on the road constantly, and life is busy at home. As a result, my wife and I don’t get nearly as much time together as we’d like.
I don’t claim to be a couple’s therapist. But I do know from living the life of a traveling spouse and watching what seems to be a solid half of our community get divorced that together, life, work, kids, stress, and time all conspire to erode the quality and depth of what should be our best and strongest relationship.
My wife and I have come up with what we think is a pretty slick plan to combat all the stress in our lives while helping us grow closer together and reconnect. We try to get away, just the two of us, 2–3 times a year — something I like to refer to as the traveling spouse relationship hack. (Sorry kiddos!)
The key is always having what I’d call a “carrot” on the calendar that is just for you and your partner. The next several weeks might very well suck. Work obligations might seem overwhelming, and the kids have a zillion things to do with school, sports, and extracurricular activities. When the calendar is a brick wall for weeks or months on end, I start planning the next getaway.
Commit to a Getaway
It’s not enough to just have a vague plan of what you might do a few weeks from now. My wife and I have found that putting events down on the calendar as we head into tough stretches of time helps us overcome any obstacles. Our getaways become little rewards we’ve earned by persevering through difficult and hectic periods — like that beer at the finish line after running a marathon.
The getaways are strategically placed on the tail end of super busy or stressful blocks of work and family life. When we’re in the middle of it and want to scream our lungs out, my wife and I both know that there is something to look forward to — a time to reconnect, fall deeper in love, and have some fun.
It’s a lot more fun than therapy (although that’s a good investment, too!).
Planning a Trip
We’re definitely fortunate that both of our parents are still around to watch the kids from time to time. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Not everyone has that luxury and I realize that. We’re also super lucky that our kids can handle hanging with their grandparents and they all have a good time together! Not everyone has the same arrangement and this “hack” could get expensive if you have to pay for child care, so perhaps the solve is weekends or stay-cations more than getaways in that case. Many families also have two working spouses, where both getting time off on the same schedule is challenging. So, take all of this as inspiration for your own version of the hack. The key is that you have something on the calendar for just you two and it’s scheduled at the end of a crazy busy schedule.
No matter your specific situation, you can almost certainly make something work. You might just have to get a little bit more creative.
One solution we have come up with that only works once in awhile is to tack on a few extra days to one of my business trips. For example, I recently spent a few awesome days in Lisbon at WebSummit and in Berlin for work. I was lucky enough to have my amazing wife and favorite companion by my side. I got a lot of work done, and spent some quality time with my wife in-between.
More often than not, however, it’s near impossible for my wife to join me on a business trip. Life happens. Someone has to hold down the fort, make lunches, and run carpool. That’s okay, too. A random weekend away somewhere special will do the trick or even a surprise stay-cation has worked in some cases.
When it comes down to it, there aren’t that many people in our lives who have our backs 100% of the time. Our spouses and partners are supposed to be our top advocates, supporting us in all our endeavors.
While work, kids, and the rest of life might stress us out, we shouldn’t let them blind us to what’s really important in life. Don’t let your career ruin one of best and most rewarding relationships you’ll ever have. Give the traveling spouse relationship hack a try. You’ll be happy you did!