LDR Fifty Percent of the Time
June 26, 2015 6:10 PM   Subscribe

My partner, with my full support, is about to take a job that involves traveling 50%-60% of the time. What can we do to keep our relationship healthy?

After discussing it together, my partner recently accepted an offer for his dream job. This job means he will be traveling anywhere from 50% - 60% of the time. I am very excited for him and it's very important to me that he is happy in his working life as I can see it means a lot to him. We are both very independent people.

Here are things we've been doing/agreed to do:
We have a date night on the night he gets back from his travel to reconnect.
We text while he's away and chat online to keep in touch. Neither of us are big phone people.
This trip we said we were going to video chat, but it didn't happen. No hard feelings on either side, but it's something we'd like to do for future trips.
We agreed we'll completely reassess if we decided to have kids.
We agreed that we would have an "official" check in after a year, but, of course, can bring up any concerns at any time.

Here are thing things that concern me:
I quickly adjust to having the house back to myself and when my partner returns it sometimes takes me a bit to readjust to having him back. I enjoy having the bed to myself, for example.
I get depressed periodically (I am treating it) and can get very hermit-y without my partner there, who offers a different, more realistic perspective when I am depressed. I have trouble reaching out to people when I am depressed.
We have learned that my partner needs more "warm up" time for sexual activity (more cuddling, talking, spending time together) than I do. This is fine now, but I am worried in having less time together, our sex life will wane (this has happened before & we worked it out together with some counseling).

I do not have a problem talking about any of my concerns with my partner; we've talked about all of them.

What I'm interested in:
What things have you done to keep your relationship healthy when one partner was traveling a lot?
Are there things we should avoid doing?
Any other words of advice?
posted by CMcG to Human Relations (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would reschedule that planned date night for the night after he gets home. The night he gets home may be overwhelming: the stress of travel, the exhaustion, the need to decompress after an all-in work experience. I'd make that night a purposeful couples decompression evening at home -- a meal you both like (maybe via delivery), a movie you both like on the TV, or quiet time on the sofa, etc. And then your official Date Night the next night.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2015 [42 favorites]

Going to say the same thing, the night he gets home is take out, un pack/laundry, TV night. The next night is date night.
posted by saradarlin at 6:47 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife asked for the night before I left to be dedicated to her. Of course I was always frantically getting ready for the trip, and that caused a big conflict. The day before departure and the day of homecoming need to be for packing and unpacking. Use the nights before and after for dates.

Of all the little communication tricks we tried, the simplest one worked the best: every morning on the train or before starting on the jobsite, I composed an e-mail on my phone with a brief summary of the day ahead and some little mundane detail of my day; what I got for breakfast at the bakery, the success of my host country's football team, beautiful sunshine or soaking rain. The content wasn't as important as her knowing I was thinking of her every single day.

Nightly good-night text messages worked too, especially many time-zones away. "Safe in bed at hotel. Osaka police are so polite !".

I wrote a bunch of little cutesy notes and hid them in various places before I left; closed inside her laptop (first day !) in the microwave (first night !), in a roll of dog-poop bags (um, too much info?). Notecacheing became A Thing.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:32 PM on June 26, 2015 [12 favorites]

We have a date night on the night he gets back from his travel to reconnect.

As others have suggested, the night after returning (and/or the night before leaving) might be better. As in all things personal, your mileage may vary, but when I come back from a trip I am tired and usually am more interested in a glass of wine on the couch than I am in a big date night.

Lots of deliberate communications really help -- don't let calling/texting/skyping/etc be accidental or "if there is time" -- make it a planned and expected part of the day. Many of the people I work with have set times for calling their partners (and kids if they have them) every day; it's understood and no one bats an eye when someone leaves a work dinner to do their spouse call.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:50 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been spending a lot of time travelling lately and nothing what everybody else says - he'll be dead on his feet when he gets back and he'll be frantically getting stuff done the night before he departs so schedule one of the other nights as date night.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing and emphasizing the reconsider-the-date-night advice. I used to travel 60-70% of the time, and I would have eventually murdered my partner if date night was on the night I returned.

Daily messages or even voice chatting via Skype-- just to let the other person know I was thinking of them. I also had the routine of buying a small nice local treat as a kind of recurring gift. (candy from denmark, tea from China, whatever). Not every single trip, but enough to let the other person know they are a priority.
posted by frumiousb at 10:59 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I travel about 50% of the time. Here's some things you can do to keep your love life happy.

Good morning text, goodnight text - every day.
A text before the plane takes off, and when it lands safely.
Have sex as soon as he returns - it resets the intimacy of the time apart. Even if not full blown sex, we head straight to bed as soon as I get in, for 30 minutes of cuddles and chats before doing anything else.
Comfort food & night in on couch on night of return.
My husband always grabs my dirty clothes and throws them in the laundry for me, whilst I unpack other stuff - I always love this small gesture because I'm usually dead tired.
I most times take a picture of my hotel room when I check in so he can "picture" me when I talk about things. I also do a selfie when I'm on route to work for the day so he can see what I look like amongst the scenery!
We FaceTime/Skype every few nights.
I'm the same way with having trouble reaching out to friends, so I "book in" a couple of social occasions if I am in the house alone. Usually one of those would involve friends coming over and filling the house with some warmth and cheer.
posted by shazzam! at 11:50 PM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

I am the traveling partner - all good advice above. One of the things that makes my transition home easier is that most of the activities of daily living I typically do when home are addressed when I get home. Not a perfectly clean house mind you, but I don't feel overwhelmed by all the household chores needing to be done the second I walk in the door. It gives me time to relax when I first get home before changing my mindset to being home.

We talk every night I'm away at about 9 pm home time - text every morning when I get up - and usually have a short debrief call when I get back to my hotel. Also - if I go somewhere cool, my husband will come with me like a mini vacation ( LA, Puerto Rico, Hawaii etc) so he understands the stress of work travel that I deal with. So being supportive of how much traveling for work can suck and isn't glamorous really helps our relationship too, because he knows how exhausting it is to do it with me.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 4:16 AM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

All good advice so far related to a constant stream of texting. I would recommend WhatsApp which seamlessly links text, image, and voice notes.

I've been traveling 50-75% my entire 13 year marriage. It really id OK to do in a relationship. Just know that. I will add that, and this is unfortunate for the non traveller, eating out when home becomes such a turnoff when you eat out 3 meals a day 50% of the time. That's one sacrifice you will be faced with at some point. Other little things my wife does which I now realize are for her and that keep us connected: she has full transparency of my itinerary. It goes right on a shared google calendar which dings her phone. She gets a copy of all flight updates and hotel checkins automatically generated by the airlines/hotels etc. She is getting a constant stream of trip related info. She even notifies me when to check-in. She also offers to help with expense reports and buying spare toiletries etc ( because for goodness sake do not unpack them every week!) And the key is this isn't "wifely duty" stuff it's "partner supporting partner who is MIA" stuff, just as I am heavily involved in the kids lives while gone or manage household finances even though I'm gone. It keeps us both invested in our home family life.

Also one final note: it's a little thing but being greeted at the airport or dropped off by my wife/family occasionally is one of the greatest joys for me and definitely keeps us connected. When the trip becomes "yawn, oh you leaving brah? C u whenevs" as you walk out the door it makes the trip heavy and sad. A little nice goodbye or excited waving really keeps us connected....
posted by chasles at 7:29 AM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We did it for a year and something no one has mentioned yet is if I were doing it over I would hire cleaners or other help (yard work, etc.) to attack my spouse's share of the chores.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:40 AM on June 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

I had to travel quite a bit (nothing like as much as what you're talking about but more than I was used to) in my last job and here are some things:

1. Definitely drop off and pick up at airport! So much warmer and more loving.

2. I hated coming home to piles of undone chores waiting for me. Home-partner should try to anticipate. Don't have piles of dishes in the sink or undone laundry piling up in the hamper be the first thing your partner sees when they get into the house.

3. Traveling partner should pick up little gifts for home partner. Even if it's just a generic airport treat. Better if it's something somehow related to the place - airports will usually have some sort of local candy, etc. If not candy then earrings. Something.

4. Dinner waiting would have been a huge treat.

5. A spontaneous text or two saying "I miss you" would actually have been more useful to me than the scheduled video conferencing, but YMMV.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:00 AM on June 27, 2015

Best answer: There's great advice above. Do you and your honey have different love languages? It sounds cheesy but understanding any differences the two of you may have in that area will help you craft effective ways of staying connected. My partner and I live separately. I heard about love languages here on MeFi and asked him to take the quiz, which I also took. Now I understand why I don't get cranky if he needs to take a call when we are together (I'm Ms. Acts of Service) but he gets cranky if I do (cause he's Mr. Quality Time).

Nthing morning and bedtime texts as a way to feel connected. For longer communications, calls don't work for me. For whatever reason, it feels like I'm talking to a stranger. But FaceTime and Skype work like a charm for me personally. So experiment and make regular dates to connect when he is away. It's too easy to let it slide otherwise.

1. Keeping a log for several months to track what seems to work and what doesn't (I always think I will remember, but I don't).
2. I don't care about gifts. At all. So I wouldn't want to get them and I wouldn't want to shop for them for my honey (who, luckily, doesn't care about gifts either). But help at home? Absolutely! So figure out what will make your life easier and ask for it. If that's gifts, great; if that's home help, go for it.
3. It's easy to isolate. I go out twice a week (once to a regular volunteer group, once to whatever the hell I want) just to get my ass out of my apartment. Consider making it a habit to go out at least once a week, even when your partner is home, to help protect you from total isolation during a week you may become depressed and your honey is gone. Find something you like that you're not doing (or doing enough of) and do more of it. Join a choir, a maker space, a whatever. Volunteer. Your partner's travel is an opportunity for you to have more quality time with yourself and not just be alone and isolated if you don't want to be.

This is super exciting. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:58 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness yes, cleaners! Also I tend to schedule them for the day before I'm home so my partner doesn't have to worry about cleaning the house for my return, and I get fresh sheets. Super win!
posted by shazzam! at 5:04 AM on June 28, 2015

« Older Fare Thee Well...   |   Bookworm meets ADD Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.