From being alone at home up to managing a relationship in different time zones: This is how it feels being married to a business traveller.
My husband has been travelling for several years now. His business trips lead him to Asia, South America and to several destinations in Germany and Europe during “normal” weeks. While he is enjoying business class treatments, luxury hotels and delicious food in fancy restaurants, my life at home goes on as usual – just without him.
Counting the days
More than once I start to wonder: How many days do I have to spend without him this time? Usually the answer to this question is rather frustrating. That’s why I try not to actively count the days until his return and make the best of his absence instead. Unfortunately I don’t always succeed in doing so.
Monday morning is fatal in that regard. Dragging myself out of bed with yet another stressful week ahead, I usually look forward to the weekend. Just that a weekend without my husband suddenly isn’t that desirable anymore. No matter which activities I have planned, everything is only half the fun with my husband gone. That’s usually the moment when I start to do the math anyway. It’s especially demotivating when he’s away for several weeks. Instead of counting “five more days” I’m facing “one more weekend and two more Mondays like this before I see him again”. As I’ve said before, counting the days really isn’t a good idea…
Worries about his health and safety
Another difficulty about his travels is my concern about his health and safety. Depending on the destination, I worry about criminals, robberies, hygiene conditions, diseases, food poisoning, traffic accidents… and everything else I can come up with.
I know that I shouldn’t even start thinking about all those risks. But as it is, the more I try not to worry, the worse it gets.
Trust is essential
The only thing that helps is to have faith in my husband. To trust him that he won’t take any unnecessary risks while travelling. After all, he knows his way around in foreign countries and is usually cautious enough not to get into trouble or dangerous situations. On the other hand he really strains my trust sometimes, like when he chose Lion Air to fly to Bali! The airline has been involved in several incidents and had been blacklisted by the EU for years! It felt like a blow to my stomach when he told me about it.
As you might guess, I had to do a lot of talking over the past years to make him understand how I feel when he does things like that.
Unhealthy business travel lifestyle
What’s usually out of my husband’s control is the unhealthy business travel lifestyle. Cosmic radiation and dehydration during long-haul flights, jetlag, stress, lack of sports and business dinners with a lot of meat and alcohol – all the factors that are likely to cause a cardiovascular disease! So I cook extra healthy when he’s back home 🙂
Being alone at home
While hoping that my husband is fine abroad, I have to face my own challenges at home.
Basically it’s ok for me to spend time alone in our apartment. After the first emotional turmoil has passed, I try to make the most of my days while my husband is gone. That’ can actually be fun, as I’m able to do all the things I usually don’t do when he’s around. Singing along to karaoke YouTube videos is one of my favourite alone-at-home-activities at the moment. Although my husband claims he doesn’t mind, I could never sing along like that when he’s around.
Nobody would notice if something happened to me
But there are also situations that make me feel uncomfortable. Hearing a strange sound at night for example. Or, the thought that nobody would notice if something happened to me on my way back home from the city at night. In these moments I sometimes feel very alone and miss my husband terribly!
More often I’m annoyed by little things though. Buying heavy water bottles or putting the rubbish out for example. We usually divide these tasks between the two of us. But when he’s travelling, I have to both parts – so my workload doubles while he’s away!
Meeting friends and family
Attending birthday parties or other events alone is another downside of my husband’s travels. Invitations that would be annoying even with my husband by my side, range on a scale from boring to unbearable when I’m alone.
Typically these are invitations from his family or his friends. Don’t get me wrong – I do like them. Some of them at least. But it’s still different to meet these people without my husband and usually I feel a strong urge to cancel with an excuse. Most of the times I do attend though, leaving me with a bad feeling afterwards.
The reactions of the others
Even if I try not to feel incomplete or out of place without my husband, I’m constantly reminded of his absence by others.
“It’s a pity that he couldn’t join us today. Really bad that he’s gone yet again. It would’ve been great to see him again.”
… and so on. Yes, I miss him too! But why don’t you appreciate that I’m here instead of lamenting about my husband’s absence all the time?!
Sympathy is hard to bear and negative statements are even worse. Sentences like “It must be really hard for you to be alone that often!” or “Doesn’t he care about you at all?! I couldn’t do this. If I were you…” make me want to leave on the spot.
While thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a good company in these moments. Maybe I should indeed cancel more often…
Jealousy while he is away
At least jealousy is not a big issue these days. My husband works in a male dominated line of business and – at least at the moment – I’m in the comfortable position that our relationship works well and I trust my husband.
Still, there are moments when I can’t help but being jealous while he’s away. Sometimes I’m envious that he gets to see all these exciting places while I’m stuck in cold and rainy Germany. Not to speak of his luxurious business class flights and weekend getaways to Bali or the Philippines.
On the other hand I’m well aware that my husband’s business trips can also be very exhausting. I really wouldn’t want to change positions with him.
Living in different time zones
And finally, we have to face the challenge of living in different time zones. When my husband travels to Asia, there is usually a time difference between 5 and 7 hours. What might not seem to be such a big deal proves to be very difficult in my everyday-life.
While I’m drinking my morning coffee, my husband is already having lunch. Sometimes I get lucky and he doesn’t have to attend a business lunch, so that we can talk or text before I start into my own day of work.
During my lunch break, he is usually still engaged in meetings or business dinners. And when he’s finally done for the day and preparing to go to bed, I’m on my way back home from work. This is the only time of the day, when we might have a proper conversation – which means for me: Either postpone everything else, such as grocery shopping or preparing dinner for myself, to get the opportunity to talk to him – or not getting in touch with him at all. Because, when I’m finally done for the day, he’s already sleeping.
The further away the better
His trips to South America are even worse: When I get up, he’s still sleeping. During my lunch break, he gets out of bed and is usually in a hurry to make it to his first meeting of the day. In the evenings, it’s still mid-day in South America which means he is still working. In order to talk to him, I have to stay up late to catch him between meetings and business dinners.
Australia on the contrary is perfect. The time difference of 10 hours from Germany to Australia’s East Coast gives us the opportunity to talk/ text several times a day: When I get up, he is already going to bed. And when I return from work, he’s getting up again. So in the end, I get more real time interaction with my husband than during his other business trips, which in turn makes him feel closer than he actually is.
It’s up to both of us
In the end, both of us have to put in some effort in order to make our relationship work over a distance.
I have to be supportive instead of accusatory. To achieve this, I must honestly try to make the best of my time alone instead of just acting as if it was ok. Otherwise I end up giving him a bad feeling every time he leaves – which would be fatal for our relationship.
My husband in turn tries to support me the best he can, showing me, rather than just telling me, that he cares about me. This may be small things like buying a stock of water bottles before his departure or not taking unnecessary risks abroad.
Business travels as a chance for our relationship
No matter what we do – Mr Grumbert’s business travels still are quite a challenge for our marriage. When we’re separated from each other, sweet talking isn’t enough to make our relationship work over a distance. These moments reveal how we really feel about each other.
Are we honest to each other? Do we trust each other? Do I really want that my partner is doing well, even if it means I have to put in some extra effort?
At the moment, I can answer all those questions with a clear “yes”. And at this point I’m almost thankful about my husband’s travels because they bring us closer together than being around each other 24/7.