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WHEN A SPOUSE TRAVELS
Submitted By Elaine Thrower

Although both married men and women travel for business, statistics show that men are the predominant travelers. This means that among parents with young children, for the most part it is mothers who are left behind to manage the household. What impact is all this travel having on families? How can couples survive these absences and keep their relationship strong?

Frequent separations can leave couples feeling detached and angry. The person left at home may feel shortchanged having to manage the household alone. On the other hand, the traveler often feels as is he/she is being pulled in both directions, and that he/she is doing the best possible.

Whenever possible, look for alternatives to traveling

Unexpected travel in particular exacts a heavy toll on families because it doesnít allow for planning. To help families regain some sense of control, couples may try to draw travel boundariesí whenever possible and make it a goal not to travel on weekends and special occasions such as birthdays. Of course, some trips are unavoidable, but there are times when the need for a trip can be eliminated or reduced. Strategies include communicating with clients by conference call instead of in person, arranging for a coworker to go instead, trying to consolidate several short trips into one, avoiding excessive overnight stays by arriving early in the morning, and shortening trips whenever possible.

However obvious it may seem, donít forget that the most important thing a couple can do is sit down and talk. When it comes to each partnerís feelings about the stresses of business travel, there is so much left unsaid. The husband, for example, may rationalize his frequent trips by thinking, "Iím doing this for our financial security," not realizing how tough it is on his wife and children when he travels. And without understanding how stressful the traveling and job responsibilities can be on him, his wife may be focusing only on how hard she has to work in his absence. Acknowledging each otherís feelings can help relieve some of the tension.

Develop leave-taking rituals to alleviate stress

Couples need to prepare for the departure and all the emotions that go with it. Since you will miss your spouse in the daily routine, you may get clingy in the hours before he has to go. But, your husbandís way of dealing with the pain of separation may be to withdraw or fixate on work. The key is to recognize your pattern and discuss it as a couple. Just knowing what the other person is going through helps each spouse react with more sensitivity.

Create leave-taking rituals both as a couple and a family-shared activities such as driving to the airport together or going out for a meal beforehand.

Another element of separation anxiety may be fear. The person at home worries about the travelers safety. Knowing the itinerary, such as flight and hotel information, can help ease pre-trip jitters. The traveler can also call home once he/she has arrived safely or is settled in the hotel room. The partner at home may also have safety fears for the family. You may want to consider installing a security system, investing in good-quality door and window locks, or getting a dog with a loud bark.

Keep your outlook positive and the lines of communication open

As with any situation, there are advantages and disadvantages to separations. Families need to keep the positives in mind and look at the big picture. When you donít see any advantages, then itís time to reexamine your job situation. If itís viable, you may consider changing jobs within your company and relocating.

For most people these days though, these are not realistic choices. Making it all work may depend on how successfully you and your spouse can carve out a little time for yourselves amid all the mayhem. Couples should try to share something outside of family and careers, such as an occasional trip together without the children-that is, if your frequent filer doesnít mind heading out to the airport one more time!