A healthy marriage = a happier family
Out of sight, out of mind? Not so fast. With today's multiple ways to connect, frequent business travel is no excuse for you and your spouse to live like ships passing in the night. From technology to thoughtful gestures and old-fashioned letter writing, distance can make the heart grow fonder.
• Talk. Debbie Mandel, a stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, suggests couples send each other flirty emails and schedule a time to talk on the phone, Facetime or webcam after the kids go to bed. Discuss problems concerning the children and household and weigh in with suggestions.
• Listen to each other. If one partner seems angry, bitter, frustrated, stressed and exhausted, resentment may be brewing beneath the surface. Empathize and show gratitude toward each other. "At least understand and appreciate each other's contributions. Many unresolved conflicts are due to inattentive listening," Mandel says. "For a marriage to really go the distance you need to perceive you and your spouse as a team—each with a specific skill set. Sometimes you carry the ball, and sometimes he carries the ball."
• Discuss challenges. If resentment is deteriorating your marriage, call a meeting when you return home. "Suppressed and silenced, stress will propel 'road rage' in a home," Mandel says. If the situation is simply not working for your family, discuss financials and decide if better options exist.
• Tap technology. Carrie Petruncola, Ph.D., who normally travels between two and five days a week for her job training schools in e-learning capabilities, exchanges frequent text messages and uses a webcam on her laptop to stay in touch with her husband and her two young children. (Skype.com offers a free webcam service.) "It's possible to have just as strong a family, if not stronger than those who don't have traveling spouses," she says.
• Pen a love letter. Rediscover the lost art of love letters. Leave a thoughtful note where your spouse will find it later, like in his suitcase, on her pillow or on a Post-it stuck to the bathroom mirror. "Writing down how we feel about each other—we could all explore that a little more," says Laura Murphy, a certified parent coach and president of Real Families, Inc., who helps families all over the country work through parenting, marriage and financial issues.
• Serenade your mate. Who says your favorite songs should only be reserved for your wedding day or anniversaries? Over the years, you've probably discovered a variety of tunes that you both love. Email a link to a meaningful song from YouTube to your spouse.
• Nurture your relationship. Plan date nights and time alone as a couple. Don't neglect the most fundamental part of your relationship as a loving couple. "Sex bonds a couple," Mandel says. "Parents who are in love, have regular sex, present a strong unit to children which increases their stability and happiness."
Work-related travel is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Choose to put a little oomph in your communication tactic and you'll both enjoy a stronger, more deeply committed marriage with many happy homecomings.
Lots of talk—and the occasional gourmet popcorn—keeps the home fires burning for Christa Melnyk Hines, freelance journalist, and her road warrior husband. They are the parents of two sons.
Love Your Road Warrior
• Thoughtful send-off. Prepare a small flight survival bag with gum, earplugs, ibuprofen or aspirin, antacid, candy, pens and hand-wipes. Include a meaningful note, a funny memory or joke, or a traveler's prayer or blessing.
• Video Journal. Help your partner feel more connected to the family as a whole. Email a video of you and your kids talking about the day; your tot saying something cute; relaying a funny story; or your child reading a book.
• Text Photos. Help your spouse feel involved with the family by sending along picture messages of you and your family engaged in activities he's missing out on.
• Welcome home. Hang a welcome home sign on the door on the day your spouse returns. Fill the house with the smells of a favorite homemade meal or baked treat. Stretched for time and patience? Purchase prepared cookie dough at the grocery store or pull out ready-made lasagna from the freezer. Simple is still thoughtful.
Send Love Home
• Considerate gestures. Order a dinner that you prepay for with your credit card and have it delivered to your family one evening while you're away. "Showing thoughtfulness is so important. When parents do this, it's a model for the kids that Daddy loves Mommy and Mom was thinking of Dad," Murphy says. "I knew of a soldier who went to Iraq and had flowers delivered every Friday for his wife."
• Small tokens of affection. Every now and then, bring home a small, affordable gift showing that your partner was on your mind. My husband has come home with gifts as varied as a bag of my favorite popcorn from Chicago, a silver necklace from Mexico and chocolates from Germany.
• Give your partner a break. When you return home, give your partner the gift of time alone, away from the kids. Whether she takes time to unwind on her own or with some close friends, getting away for a little while can be a re-energizing mood booster and stress reliever.