Your relationship is great. You two have a steady and predictable schedule of shared weeknight dinners, cuddles at bedtime, and plenty of quality time each day—that is, until your partner rolls out their suitcase to pack for an extended work trip. Suddenly off they go, and your comfortable IRL life together shifts into a temporary long-distance relationship. Having a partner who travels for work can be challenging, but the distance doesn't have to affect your emotional connection. We reached out to couples' therapist Antonia Di Leo, LMFT, to learn a few therapist-approved ways to cope with a traveling partner and continue to nurture the relationship:
1. Communicate about how you want to communicate.
Try to take the time to talk about what you need from your partner before they go out of town and vice versa. Some people find it laborious to text throughout the day; some want to feel connected every hour. For a relationship with distance to flourish, it's essential that the baseline of communication is defined early on and that your preferences are clearly stated.
2. Ask about their work.
Even if it's not the most interesting thing to you, ask about your partner's meetings so you don't build up a romanticized notion of what they are up to. It's easy to let your imagination run wild imagining that they're off having fun while you are holding down the fort. Also make sure to share what you are doing on a regular basis so they are aware of what's happening at home. By giving and asking for these small day-to-day details, you're both able to visualize each other's experiences and stay close.
3. Actively listen to your partner.
Since your catch-ups can become more infrequent, maximize the limited time you have together by actively listening to your partner. When the intention is set to thoughtfully absorb your partner's thoughts, you are helping them validate their own experiences to feel truly heard and less alone. By savoring your conversations and staying attentive to your partner, it adds a mindful presence back to the relationship.
4. Get creative with technology.
If correspondences grow stale, find a way to spice it up so it remains a fun way to stay in touch instead of a chore. "Create interesting ways to communicate with your partner. FaceTime daily, send silly Marco Polo videos. This way, you will feel connected even when you are physically far apart," Di Leo suggests. "By connecting this way and seeing each other's faces, you will still feel like you are a part of their life."
5. Surround yourself with different dimensions of love.
According to Di Leo, romantic relationships shouldn't be the only thing that makes your world go around. Don't stay at home and put your life on hold while you wait for your partner to return. "Connect with family and your friends. Attend community gatherings," says Di Leo. "Inviting these experiences into your life helps create a holistic sense of being."
Of course, we all know this intuitively, but it can be a powerful reminder when our partner goes out of town that life goes on. By purposely filling up your time with a strong support system, you'll be reminded that you are more than just the other half of your significant partner.
6. Take yourself out on dates.
When you're in a long-term relationship, it's easy to carve out space for your partner in your schedule. Why not extend yourself the same courtesy? Regardless of your relationship status, being happy alone should always be a top priority.
Ask yourself: What are the things that I enjoy but wouldn't normally do with my partner? Is it the new exhibition you've been wanting to go to, but art isn't their thing? Dying to go to that new restaurant they're allergic to? Now's the time to go. These business trips can serve as built-in periods of practiced interdependence when you get to return to what you want, without having to worry about anyone else.
7. Maintain a routine of mind-body practice.
Cultivating a daily practice of meditation and yoga can be a beneficial way to ground you as they take flight. "The objective is to feel whole with your partner as well as on your own. Developing a sense of inner peace through a meditative practice allows for the individual to practice breathing, awareness, and consciousness throughout their day," Di Leo says. "This may help decrease anxiety, bodily tensions, and an overall self-awareness for a way to rely on yourself for calmness and a sense of peace."
8. Create rituals around their travel.
The anticipation before a trip can be sad, so it can be fun to start a shared routine to prepare for the trips together. Help pack their suitcase and leave little Post-it love notes pressed between their clothes for a little surprise. Send funny memes throughout the day to make them laugh. Choose a book or a Netflix show to get into together so you have one thing in common to share while you're apart, even when your schedule drastically differs. This little bit of romantic effort can go a long way in sustaining your partnership.
9. Bridge the physical long-distance gap with empathy.
Remember: It's not all fun and sun for your partner. While they get to travel the world for work, it can still be lonely living out of a suitcase and sleeping alone in a hotel room every night. It's inevitable that feelings like sadness, abandonment, resentment, and bitterness will bubble up from both sides. Instead of stuffing it down—which only leads to more tension down the road—take the time to acknowledge your emotions.
Laying it out on the table and being vulnerable enough to say things like, "I really miss you and feel abandoned when you go out of town" can seem scary at first, but it opens up the door for a meaningful and honest discussion to take place. As your partner continues to travel and insecurities come out, know that these conversations aren't just one and done.
By feeling safe and comfortable enough to keep the lines of communication open, you are both showing up to your relationship to say, This matters, and I want to work on this with you. Opening up the dialogue will also help prevent future fights down the line, so when it's reunion time, you can stay focused on each other.
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Julie Nguyen is a writer, certified relationship coach, Enneagram educator, and former matchmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. She has a degree in Communication and Public Relations from Purdue University. She previously worked as a matchmaker at LastFirst Matchmaking and the Modern Love Club, and she is currently training with the Family Constellations and Somatic Healing Institute in trauma-informed facilitation.