I should have known from the start that I married a traveler. Days after we got engaged he jetted off to Iraq while I made wedding plans. When my husband was a kid he moved a whopping total of 13 times. It’s in his blood.
Through the years he has had almost always had a job that required frequent travel. Add to the mix the fact that we are Memphis transplants – when we moved here we did not know a single person. He was my person; literally my only person. So when he started to travel I didn’t have family to visit or friends to talk to.
Fast forward to the infant years, and his traveling started to wear on me. I’d barely notice as he walked out the door, with a baby on my hip and a toddler at my knees. Seven minutes after rocking the baby to sleep I’d be passed out in my bed in 3 day old clothes, not even knowing whether or not my husband had called or texted. When he got home I’d promptly hand him the baby and GO. Go anywhere – Target, the gas station, Kroger, anywhere that I could be alone. These were rough times, not only for me as a mom, but for me as a wife.
When my husband would call me and tell me how bored he was as he ate his takeout on the hotel bed and watched Netflix, I would curse him under my breath. I felt so angry when he left and so under appreciated when he came home.
Physical space quickly morphed into emotional distance as I dug my heels into the ground, insisting that I was “fine.” As our kids grew and became more independent I became more accustomed to the travel – and then I realized something had happened. Something worse than anger and bitterness – I became apathetic. I did my thing when he was gone. The kids could feed themselves (for the most part), dress themselves, walk, and talk. Sure I had to break up some arguments but I started to really enjoy my nightly solitude.
He came home from a work trip and I caught myself feeling… disappointed that he was home. Even now I am ashamed to write that, but it’s the truth. I knew he’d come home wanting what all men want, and that after days of wiping butts and snot and cooking and cleaning, I just didn’t have any more to give.
There are moments in every marriage where you find yourself at a crossroads. Do you stay the way you are and settle for what it is, do you give up, or do you fight for more? I believe it’s the culmination of these moments that in the end will define what kind of marriage you have. Will you end up like roommates that tolerate each other, or friends that love each other deeply? I want the latter, but as the years go by it becomes more clear to me that we’ll have to earn it, to work for it, and to sacrifice for it.
Here is what has helped me rekindle the flame with my traveling husband:
- Send pictures and videos: Get your minds out of the gutter; I mean pictures of what’s happening in your life. Did your kid go to the treasure box today? Did you spill coffee all over your shirt? Share the details of your life just like you would if he was right next to you. Also, for good measure, send a sexy pic too!
- Be honest about your needs: When my husband comes home he wants to spend quality time with me and I want to be alone. Instead of begrudgingly giving him what he wants, I tell him that I’m happy to spend time with him after I’ve decompressed. Marriage is all about compromise, right?
- Don’t talk about being TIRED: This goes both ways. When my husband travels he comes home exhausted and, in all honesty, I have no sympathy for him. We’ve gotten into our fair share of “who’s more tired” matches and we both come out losers. We have a tried and true rule: No one talks about being tired. It’s just assumed that we both are. While traveling alone may seem like a luxury to me, changing planes, meeting work deadlines, and providing for our family are legitimate burdens that he carries and his exhaustion is real too.
- Talk to the kids about Daddy-habits are more caught than taught, and how you talk about your circumstances and your spouse gets absorbed right into those sponge-like minds. Also, the more you talk him up – the more you make him a hero to the kids and tell them about the good work he’s doing to give your family this wonderful life – the more you’ll believe it too.
- Talk on the phone: This one seems obvious, but back in our dating days we’d talk for hours. Now we’re lucky if we can get in a full sentence without being interrupted. When you have the time at night don’t talk about the kids or the to do list, just talk. This can be a rare opportunity to reconnect to the people that fell in love years ago.
If physical separation is inevitably part of your story, there are ways to connect from thousands of miles away. Look at the world today. Strangers are falling in love through a screen every single day. Who’s to say you can’t fall in love with your husband again from a distance? I might even go a step further and say that long distance can add a certain element of excitement and a layer of depth that being face-to-face doesn’t offer.