Travelling for business always sounds glamorous – fancy hotels, company-paid dinners out and no family responsibilities for a few days or weeks (every mother who travels for business will tell you their guilty pleasure is ordering room service and eating dinner whilst watching junk TV in bed – completely alone!). The reality is very different – hotels, offices, airports, delayed flights, long meetings and jetlag. It’s all you can do to keep up with the office emails as well as prepare for presentations and meetings whilst you fight your body to be on the same time zone as everyone else. You get home – exhausted and just want to flop on the couch.
Meanwhile… your partner has been keeping everything running at home. If you have kids, they’ve had to shoulder all the parenting and household responsibilities, potentially whilst working themselves. If a child has been sick while you’ve been away then they’ve had to handle that on their own too. Worst of all is if they get sick themselves and have to look after kids whilst feeling like death warmed up (my toes are curling just thinking about it).
Travelling for business takes a heavy toll on relationships, particularly if it means the travelling partner is away from home for a high percentage of the time. The comparison between the glamour of dining with foreign colleagues in a fancy restaurant and arriving home to a grumpy partner, covered in baby vomit, standing in a sea of laundry and toys is rather stark. Neither of you is having fun at that point. Your partner wants to hand over the kids and go to bed and you want to turn around and run!
What’s the secret to keeping the romance alive in your relationship when you travel a lot? Bottom line – it’s the same as all romantic endeavours – making your partner feel that they are the most important thing in your life.
Here the four specific things you need to do each time you travel on business. Some of it you can outsource or schedule ahead of time so you can set and forget. Now, before you leave a comment about how it should be mindfully done in the moment etc, etc let’s get real. If it were easy to do romantic things whilst travelling then it would be happening already. But it’s typically not, so let’s automate it to make it happen.
1. Organise romantic gestures before you leave
As part of your pre-trip planning, think of ways you can show you care while you are gone. Have a standard checklist that you refer to so that you don’t have to think about it too much while you are frantically getting ready to leave. Use a list app in your smart phone so that you can easily access it each time you travel.
Keep a notepad in the suitcase you normally take away. It can be as simple as a sticky note pad or you can buy something fancier. If you keep it in the case you’ll be reminded to write some love notes when you open it to pack. Write 4-5 notes that tell your partner what you love about them and what you are grateful for. Stick in them in places they are likely to discover them after you leave – in their favourite coffee cup, in their underwear drawer, on their car steering wheel or inside the bathroom.
Letters for emergencies
If you want to really blow it out of the water, write some letters to your partner that are suitable for certain crisis situations e.g. overwhelmed by kids, bad day at work, lonely etc. Label them with the situation and give them to your partner before you leave – to be opened in case of emergency! If you have no idea what to write or have poor writing skills, find someone on one of the task outsourcing sites or do a Google search for ‘copywriter + your location’ and work with them to write them. If there’s no emergency while you are away your partner can keep them for next time!
A helping hand
If your credit card comes with a free concierge service use it to organise small gifts or services to be delivered while you are away. Make the concierge service work for you – ask them find the best value for the thing you want (or ask them for suggestions on what to buy – I’ve found them to be an excellent service). (Not sure if you have a concierge service ? Do a Google search for ‘Name of your credit card + ‘concierge’ e.g. Commbank Diamond Awards card concierge)
Task outsourcing websites are your friend. Use them to quickly organise services to lighten the load of your partner while you are away. If you have chores you normally do when you are home then try to outsource these in your absence e.g. walking the dog, putting the rubbish bins out for collection, doing the laundry. The best approach is to use a task outsourcing service to find someone you can trust to use each time you travel. If money is tight try to ask family members or friends to help out and repay the favour when you get home. Spending money to make things easier for those left behind is a much better investment than grabbing an overpriced gift at the airport on the way home.
Match.com’s 2017 Singles in America survey found that couples in long term relationships regarded taking care of your partner when they are sick as the top sign of love and commitment. If your partner gets sick while you are away on business either try to get home early or organise someone to provide care in your absence. If you have young children this is critical as there’s nothing that will build resentment faster than your partner having to care for them whilst they are sick themselves.
2. Keep in touch while you are away
It’s tough to keep in touch if you are travelling to a different time zone. Even tougher if you are changing time zones every few days. When you first arrive check the time zone difference and put a reminder in your calendar for the time just before your partner typically goes to bed so you can call them to say goodnight. Try to do this each night.
Before you fly out, download an SMS scheduling app onto your phone. Use time at the airport or in the air to setup a series of messages to your partner to be sent while you are away. There are also hacks for scheduling messages in other messaging services e.g. WhatsApp. Can’t think of what to say? Here are some suggestions (or download my list of 40 romantic messages that aren’t corny):
“Thinking of you gorgeous. Can’t wait to hear your voice again. I want to wish you goodnight and thank you for everything you do for me.”
No idea what to write on a love note or in a text message?
Daily habits back home. If you normally enjoy a cuddle before you get up in the morning then schedule a message to be sent at that time and tell your partner how much you are missing that ritual e.g. “Good Morning! Wish I was snuggled up with you right now.”
Dreams and hopes for the future – remind your partner of the dreams and plans you share for the future. “I know it’s tough now but I’m dreaming of us sitting on our future porch overlooking the lake and I’m so glad it will be with you.”
Countdown until you are back together e.g. “Only 5 more sleeps until I’m home! Can’t wait.”
What attributes, features and abilities do you love most about your partner? Maybe it’s their ability to make you laugh, their sexy smile or the feel of their skin against you? Send a series of messages listing them. For the most impact, try these guidelines on how to give the best compliments.
Memories from your shared past – recall a fun or romantic or exciting time you shared together. Include how it makes you feel. For example: “Remember when we walked along that gorgeous beach at sunset in Bali? I felt so connected to you.”
To remind you to take action, set the wallpaper on your laptop and your smart phone to be a photo of your partner or of the two of you. Don’t know how? Just do a Google search for “How to set the wallpaper on an android/iOS phone” or “How to change the Windows 10 background”! If you are thinking…”Really??!! Like I’m going to forget to call home?” then think about how easy it is to get bogged down in the meetings, events and social engagements associated with business travel and forget what time it is back home until it’s too late.
3. Reconnect when you get home
After a tough trip away it’s tempting to flop on the couch and steel yourself for returning to the office (and the 300 emails that you haven’t answered yet). Remember to return the focus to your romantic relationship and plan an activity to reconnect with your spouse when you return. Again, your credit card’s concierge service might be your lifesaver here. Before you leave on a trip or while you are away, give the concierge service the task of finding a date night activity for when you return. Ideally, make it something novel – not just dinner or a movie (here’s why).
Make it for a few days after you get back – so you have a chance to get back into the time zone. Give the concierge a budget, how far you are willing to go and what types of activities you both like (use our treasure trove of date night ideas to find something novel). If you need a babysitter, set that up ahead of time too.
Every now and again (and preferably more frequently), take your partner’s face in your hands and express sincere gratitude for what he/she does for your relationship. This might be earning money to contribute to the household, taking on most of the parenting responsibilities, or just putting up with you when you are a pain in the butt. State the act that you are grateful for and how it makes you feel e.g. “Thank you so much for being such a great parent to our kids, I’m so proud of how they are turning out”.
4. Build empathy by living their life every so often.
If your business trip is particularly long or you’ve been travelling a lot, think about organising a weekend away for your partner when you get back. Ask them if they want to go on their own or take a close friend or family member. You take over the domestic responsibilities and they get to be free for a weekend. The aim of this weekend is to give your partner a well deserved break but also for you to experience what life is like at home when you travel. It’s time to build empathy for what your partner goes through each time you are away. You get bonus points if one of the kids is sick!
At this point you might be thinking “But I’m too busy with work to do any of this!” or “My partner doesn’t complain about my business travel so why should I bother?”
Think about it this way – what will give you a better return on investment:
Spending 30 minutes scheduling some text messages, calling your credit card concierge or outsourcing a task so that your spouse feels loved and cared for.
Spending 30 minutes answering work emails. More will just flood in to take their place anyway!
Science says that it’s your relationships that will keep you happy and healthy over the long term, so putting effort into your romantic relationship might just be the best investment you ever make!