She Said, He Said: Strong partnership relies on working through marriage turbulence upon arrival
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My husband travels often for business, which in itself is not an issue. He loves his work, and I enjoy having my independence while he’s gone. Where we struggle is the adjustment period each time he comes back home. For several days we seem like oil and water before we find our groove. Once we’re back in sync our relationship is great, but these good periods are too fleeting because the next flight is always just around the corner. I’m sad that we waste so much time being short with each other. How can we reconnect more quickly to enjoy more of our time together?
Up in the Air
Lori and Jeff: Relationships in which one partner travels require more communication of needs and expectations. When we’re away from our partners, we tend to create stories about what they want from us. Even if we’re coming from a place of love and care, acting from those assumptions can lead to major misunderstandings. In order to reconnect more smoothly, you’re going to have to get real about how much you don’t know.
Lori: Oil and water can mix, it just requires you to put in a little more consistent energy to shake things up. Start by having conversations before he walks in the door. In the days leading up to his arrival home, begin checking in with one another about where each of you are physically, emotionally, mentally and energetically. Be direct about your needs and wants and cut through murky gray areas that are built on assumptions. I suspect you’ll quickly find patterns as to what each of you needs during that transition time — needs that have gone unspoken and have contributed to the tension you’ve been cycling through as a couple.
You also may need to take steps individually to shift into sharing mode. We all know that having a home to yourself brings about a unique sense of freedom: You do what you want, when you want, and can sashay through the day to your own rhythm. Twenty-four hours before your husband gets home, start being proactive about sliding back into cohabitation mode. Be mindful of the routines you have together and get a head start easing yourself into them.
Jeff: Look at your expectations. What are you wanting from your husband as he walks through the door? If you believe that he should be the one to initiate the re-engagement because he’s the one who’s been away, it could be making it more difficult to reconnect. Is there any resentment about his absences that might tip those responsibilities his way? Are there parenting roles or household duties that fall on your shoulders, because of his schedule, that you feel are an unfair burden? Spend some time listening to your inner narrative and see if there are whispers of discontent that might lead to the immiscible situation when your husband returns home.
On another note, your marriage is benefiting from the honeymoon-like cycles of being together for short periods of time and then being apart again. Although you struggle to reconnect when your husband returns home, you also don’t face the challenges of falling into the ruts and routines of taking each other for granted that many couples do. Learn to appreciate the freshness that your situation affords as it brings new energy into your relationship every time he comes home.
Lori and Jeff: The key to successfully navigating any unique relationship arrangement is to be really clear and direct about your wants and expectations. Don’t put the responsibility on your partner to be a mind reader, or stay in a pattern of just muddling through. Instead, create a culture in your marriage in which the norm is for each of you to reflect on your internal experiences and be proactive in working as a team to meet each other’s needs.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column. For more relationship advice, subscribe to our “Love Matters” podcast on iTunes.
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