Updated: Feb 21, 2020
I am back in my rocking chair thinking about you guys and itching to write part 2 of my Please Leave a Message After the Tone post. As I sit here, I ponder how my husband has not been out of town this week; however, I know the time will be coming in which he will have the need to travel again. I reflect on my first post Please Leave a Message After the Tone, and although I covered 5 important points of how to handle the exhaustion, the toll, and the emotional strain having a traveling or absent spouse, there is another important topic which must be covered: How to Handle/Approach the Spouse's Travels.
This may sound like a strange area to cover, but read me out.
My husband and I were married at the early age of 19. His first job in the United States (he is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. from Germany) had him traveling around our state changing air filters.
It was a labor intensive job which took him out of town occasionally but not consistently. He moved up in this particular company adding more and more time out of town with each job promotion until he was traveling 5 days a week 3 weeks out of each month. Needless to say, it was difficult for our family. The years in which this transpired, I completed my college degree with an Education Degree, had three kids, worked part-time at a church, and substituted at the local schools. He was, eventually, offered another job with no travel and I was more than relieved! Fast forward and he moved to another company which has taken him out of town once again. Keep in mind, the extensiveness of travel is not compared to what he did at the air filtration company; however, any amount of travel is hard on a family. The schedule when Daddy is home vs when he is traveling is not drastically different but it does change to accommodate the lack of one parent.
During these times of his absence, I cope as a single parent through the ways listed in the Please Leave a Message After the Tone. One area I did not cover is the personal emotional issues wives have dealing with their husband's travel. I imagine these emotions can happen if the tables are turned and a woman travels while a husband is left at home. The following emotions are not all my own. I have met many women who live with the travel of significant others so these are a compilation of several issues and suggestions from different women from different walks of life. Ready? Let's jump in!
1. The Feeling of Inadequacy:
Every woman deals with the nagging feeling of inadequacy whether it pertains to motherhood, her clothing, the latest house décor, her intellect, or her physical fitness. Inadequacy is a feeling Satan knows he can trick any woman into feeling depending on the current circumstance in their life. Is your kid being disrespectful over breakfast? Maybe you haven't raised them to respect others. Did your co-worker get the job promotion you were also in line for? Maybe you aren't good enough in the metrics, professional enough with your presentations, or appealing to clients in your PR. The list can go on and on.
The feelings of inadequacy when a husband travels range from the physical to the intellectual. Women fear a husband will not find them appealing compared to co-workers/clients based on everything from their physical beauty to their sense of adventure. But they can also feel inadequate when it comes to intellect and the inability to carry an engaging conversation about the latest technology, products, and/or political affairs.
These are real fears and can genuinely affect a marriage. The key thing to do in these situations is to talk to your husband. Remember, in the end, he chose you.
He married you because he saw a person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. The key to spending the rest of your life with someone, though, is to keep an open line of communication at ALL times! Remember my post about boundaries? This is an important topic to keep on the tablet of conversation too.
Husbands do not want to feel their line of work is the source of marital strife or feelings of inadequacy just as you don't want your line of work (whether as a stay-at-home mom or an entrepreneur) to affect your marriage. You and your spouse are a TEAM! Compromises will need to be made, conversations had, but the most important thing you must realize is only YOU are in control of your thoughts. You must take your thoughts captive and dwell on those things which are positive!
The Bible is very clear on this in these verses:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
The key thing is this: you cannot let Satan get the high ground. You must keep yourself bathed in the Word of God and prayer during these moments alone. And when your husband is home, these thoughts need to be highlighted so that he understands what you are going through. Now, this shouldn't be a weekly session with your husband each Friday night. If you are dealing with severe thoughts of inadequacy, I encourage you to seek out other women walking through these same circumstances, a professional counselor, or people who have "been there done that." You need the support of others as well and who better to support and uplift you than a group of women. Keep in mind, "you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with [Pastor Noah Ray from Christian Life Church, Birmingham]" so make sure your friends are not "Debbie Downers" but uplifting cheerleaders in your corner.
2. The Guilt Trip:
I admit I have fallen into this category several times; however, I immediately began to hear myself, had to take the stance of humility, and apologize for my selfishness. Ladies and gentlemen, do not put a guilt trip on your spouse for their needed professional endeavors. True, the time either spouse spends away from the family must be kept in check; however, putting a guilt trip on a spouse for a job which takes them out of town/away from family is not going to strengthen your marriage. I can guarantee it will put your spouse on the defense, make them feel bad, cause strife, and lead to feelings of hostility and resentment.
Communication is, again, very important. My husband knows the difference of when I need to vent about a particularly trying day and when I am trying to make him feel guilty because he was not there to help me with that particularly trying day. How does he know this? Because I have been naively guilty of this in our early marital years. I did not see the damage I was doing to him as a person or to our marriage as a whole. We have both matured in our relationship and have since had many talks. He has learned that most times, I just need an ear to listen to my day and this is in no way a reflection of me trying to make him feel guilty. Does he feel bad that he can't be there for me? Sure. Can he help it? No. He has; however, learned how he can be there for me. He listens. He asks questions. He even offers advice. And so our conversations are honest about my day, he gives empathy, and I give my thankfulness he is there to listen.
Within my growth through the "guilt trip" period of my life, one important aspect I learned is that my husband is not my source of strength. In the past, I had blindly had set my husband on this pedestal which he was never supposed to be placed. After so many times of being let down because of his absence, I realized the error of my priorities. I learned to lean on The Creator. In turn, my readjustment of heart and thoughts strengthened my marriage.
"How did it strengthen your marriage?" you may ask.
Well, my husband was not designed to be my sole provider of strength and wisdom. To carry this burden is unfair and not healthy for my husband. This privilege is the sole responsibility of Jesus Christ, but He only takes it when I willingly allow Him to be my source. My husband's absence or presence does not dictate whether I will have a good day, will make it through the day, or will survive the day. My husband is my teammate and he makes things easier; however, God is my source of strength and realizing this has made my husband and I stronger together. I heavily rely on God who does not go out of town, does not fail me, and keeps all of His promises. My husband does not have this ability because he is not God and I should not put him in this position.
Once my priorities were realigned, it was easy for me to avoid the "guilt trip" I once put upon my husband. Now, I simply missed my teammate.
3. The Green Eyed Monster:
Honestly, for any woman who has a spouse out of town and says she's never dealt with this, I would be tempted to call her a liar. I have spoken with many people over the years men and women alike and this is a common emotion which has tried to claw its way into marriages. We all know it for its evil name: Jealousy.
Oh, it has hit, wanted to hit, tried to hit, and accomplished its hit on me a number of times; however, I have learned, as written earlier, to take captive my thoughts. Several times have been harder than others but I keep the word TEAM front and center when I am praying. There is no "I" in TEAM and when I am focused on "me, myself, and I," I am guilty of selfishness. The Bible is very clear through its writers how God feels about such an emotion:
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
James 3:16 (NIV)
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 4:1-2 (NIV)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
I have learned to take a step back from my situation and view the circumstances outside of my own emotions. For instance, I am allowed the privilege to watch my children grow up, eat snack with them every day, and be a constant part of their lives. I get to see each of their milestones, comfort them on a hard day, praise them when they walk into the door, pray with them each night, snuggle with them for naps, and attend most of their events. I get to be there more than my hubby does and it is an honor. This also means that I get the dinner preparations, the dishes, the sicknesses, the discipline, the attitudes, the doctor appointments, the homework, the shopping, the school meetings, the whining, the complaining, and the daily household maintenance. I go to bed late, get up early, and do not get promotions or bonuses. It is not always a glorious job, but it is an important one because I am investing in the future.
On the flip side, my husband has gotten to go skiing, stay at resorts, fly on a private jet, hike out west, visit iconic landmarks, meet new people, try exotic foods, drive fancy cars, and not have to make his own bed or clean up his dishes. While this may all sound exciting, fun, and thrilling (of course, it is), I have also seen the drawbacks. My husband has missed important days with our kids, slept alone often in a bed not his own (this is a big deal to me!), had to live out of a suitcase, sit in countless seminars, work hard manual labor, work 15-16 hour days, get up extremely early, work with little sleep, eat fast food more than he'd care, go hungry, and only get to visit with his family over the phone. His job is not always a glorious job, but it is an important one because he provides for our family and he delivers services to our present day community, state, and region.
When I began to look at all the sacrifices my husband has made so that our family is cared for, it made me look at the hotel stays and iconic landmarks differently. We have both given up something in our lives, but we both love what we do and we know each one's duty is important and has its perks. When my husband gets to do something very cool, I am excited for him rather than jealous. For instance, last month my husband got to travel out to the Western part of the United States. It is one of my dreams to go see the West's beautiful landscapes. While he was away, he went hiking to visit an amphitheater carved from the natural rock formations of the area. It was gorgeous! I wished I could have seen it with him; however, I was so happy he went. I "oohed" and "aahed" over the photos he sent me. I celebrated his adventure because my teammate was able to experience joy after a long day of seminars. As an added bonus, it has never been his dream to go out West; however, after viewing the beauty of the landscape, he sees why I have always wanted to go and he wants to take me one day. Score!
I genuinely want my hubby to find joy in each trip just as I want him to genuinely pray for my time apart from him to be joyful with the kids as well. Jealousy is a green eyed monster and it does nothing to create a healthy marriage. One thing it will do, though. It will prevent your hubby from sharing his experiences with you and you with him. Distance will begin to form between you both. Being jealous is a quick way to shut down communication which will quickly kill a marriage. Don't do it! You want your communication lines to always stay open and that only happens when you can celebrate the wins and mourn the losses together.
Living with a traveling spouse is challenging; but, sometimes the most challenging thing we need to do is to grow in our situation, submit ourselves to God, and step back from our circumstances in order to gain perspective. Keeping communication lines open with your spouse is key to maintaining the health of your relationship. What other issues have you dealt with when it pertains to a traveling spouse? Have you tried communicating the issue? I would love to hear the top thing you learned while your spouse travels. Simply login as a member to comment and subscribe here to get the latest updates and messages from yours truly! I look forward to reading your top tips!
* Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, therapist, nor a nutritionist. I am a licensed teacher and mother of four children. The information given above is strictly my own opinions and life experiences. If you have questions and concerns about yourself, your well being, or your child, you should address these with your doctor or your child's pediatric doctor.