The Dynamics of Having a Husband Who Travels


Once upon a time, my husband worked in an office, with other office folk, on a regular 7am-4pm schedule.  He came home for lunch every afternoon, and was home every weekend.  Maybe three, four times a year he would travel out of state, but it felt exotic to him, and like a chance for me to step up and show I could handle things on my own.

Then he was promoted.  And we move across the country.  And he began traveling all the time.

Several weeks at a stretch, he’s in a hotel bed more than his own.  The quart-sized bag of liquids and gels rarely leaves his carry-on.  His hotel reward points covered the lodging costs of our 4-week road trip this summer, and we’ve been able to fly ourselves home and family here on his frequent flier miles.

We’ve had periods of great concern, when it felt like his frequent travel was becoming too much a burden on our family, pulling us across too many miles to feel engaged and connected.  But then, thankfully, the travel will lighten (as it has this past handful of months) and we’ll get back to “center.”

Often the affects of his travel begin before he even leaves, with a survey of the calendar and the realization of what events he will miss, or how I might need to cover three bases at once.  Then there is an initial liberation once he leaves.  A deep breath as I think to myself, “Ok, here we go!” and look forward to DVRd episodes of my cheesiest favorites and a king bed entirely to myself.  Quickly, though, the scene changes to me puzzling over drop-offs, pick-ups, grocery runs, online work, entertaining the 3yo, bedtimes, scripture study, homework checks, laundry piles, dishes, cooking, and all the other things that…guess what?…I need to make happen, on my own.

My husband calls often from the road to check in.  Sadly, he is usually met with either disinterest – because I have thirty things pressing in on me that can’t be held for a chatty phone call – or frustration, as I unload the day’s events on him.  He’s been given strict instruction to stop regaling me with tales of the fine dining he experienced the night before, or the comfort and quiet of his hotel room.  Our mutual inability to say the right thing means our conversations are short, but at least we try to stay connected.

We also struggle at the point which I call “re-entry,” or the time leading up to and including when he returns.  I’m so tired that I’m looking for relief, he’s so weary of the road that he just wants to relax at home.  There is a confusion of roles and expectations, and though after these three years it’s become a bit more synchronized, we still stumble as we step around each other’s needs.

It’s a different lifestyle, that’s for sure.  Many wives I know confess they can’t sleep alone; if I had trouble sleeping when my husband was gone, I’d be no use to anyone.  Most spouses know the general location of the other; I hardly remember which zip code my husband is visiting in a given week.  Our kids have even learned to adjust – the 3yo says with clarity “Dad took a plane.  Dad’s on a trip!”

With today’s economy and too many families left to struggle, I’m grateful for my husband’s job and the security it offers.  His travel requirements looked innocent enough on paper, but after three years it’s become something that lives and breaths with us, almost like another member of our family.  We make room for it, try to understand it, adopt it into the routine of our daily living.  It’s changed the dynamics of who we are as a family, but we are stronger than my husband’s need to be away, and so far we are figuring out how to make it work.

  • I could have written this post myself. Actually, I’m going to be writing a series about just this topic. My husband travels for his job too, and we just went through a really long stretch when he was gone more than home for 6 weeks. It’s tough. Really tough.

  • Motherhoodandme

    I feel this way and my husband rarely travels! With that said, he is going to be gone for 2.5 weeks this October and I have two wild kids, so I may have to check in with you at the end of next month. It is hard when we are stuck, or feel suck, in babyland. I feel that they just don’t get it and conversations turn into “who has it harder”, which I hate. It is tough and if they are either working long hours (like my husband) or gone it makes up feel like we are all alone sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    My poor brother’s marriage almost broke up over his traveling for the company he used to work at. His wife really couldn’t adjust to it, so after a couple of years I think he took a lower paying job somewhere else doing something else he hadn’t gone to college for. That way he was able to be home so she wasn’t so overwhelmed with their little boys.
    It’s good though in this economy your husband does have employment and if he likes his job basically that’s another plus. Maybe in the future he won’t have to travel as much.

  • Kylie

    You have such a way with words. My husband is in the military and I know how you feel. He was recently home for two weeks and we too stumbled around each other a bit at first. There was also me looking forward to a lighter load, but being frustrated with him “doing things wrong.” We are young though, we’ll get the hang of it.