One of the biggest challenges of a spouse being away on a business trip can be the transition as they return home. One travelling husband in Canada puts it this way: “Get used to transition. The before and after is harder than the being away.” He lists his challenges when returning home after a trip as ‘feeling included back into the family’, ‘emotional intimacy’ with his partner and ‘loneliness’. Another dad acknowledges the challenge of both partners being tired when he returns from a trip. What is difficult, he writes, is “tiredness from travel, whilst my wife feels tiredness from solo parenting.” (from the Holding the Fort Abroad Survey)
Readjusting to having your partner around can sometimes be less obvious than it may seem. Perhaps you couldn’t wait for them to finally come home, but now that they are here, it feels like having a stranger in the house! You can both be left disappointed and frustrated, and the joy you thought you would have just ends up turning into negative emotions.
It’s okay if it feels strange. It’s normal it can be difficult. They have to readjust to being in a family setting, with the roles and responsibilities that entails. You have to readjust to them being around, and to give them space to fit back in. My husband call this ‘the docking period’. There are ways of making the ride smoother and more enjoyable.
It is good to be mentally prepared for the possibility of them messing up your routine! Robin Pascoe, in her book The Moveable Marriage, explains the importance of the 24-hour rule: her and her husband had no expectations of each other for 24 hours after he returned from a business trip. This allows time for both to adjust, to enjoy having the other one back, without plunging straight in the deep end or expecting them to slot straight into home life and routine. It takes off the pressure of perfection from the get-go, and lets the readaptation happen more organically.
I have also found it helpful to have a fixed set of questions to ask each other at least once, if not more, in the days following their return. For example, every time my husband comes home, I ask him: 'Do you feel included?' and 'What is important to put in the calendar?'. He, on the other hand, will ask me: 'What can I help with?' and 'What is already planned?'. It may help to have a conversation with your spouse a few days before their return and see what questions you think you could ask each other to help smooth the transition.
IF you are a travelling partner or if you are the partner who stays home while your partner travels, add your voice and take the Survey here.