By Dennis Rainey
Have you heard the old saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? I think that saying misses the mark. If anything absence can make the heart wander. In reality any problems you experience when you are together are exacerbated when you are separated by travel. And our adversary uses these problems to diminish your oneness.
To disarm travel-related issues—and this is critical—it’s critical for the two of you to agree that the work necessitating the travel is important and God’s plan for both of you and for your family. If after prayer and discussion you both agree that the job is God’s will, then dealing with the stress and inconvenience will be easier.
With that said, here are some ideas that can reduce the damaging effects of business travel on your marriage:
Planning and preparation
As much as possible, don’t leave packing and preparation until the last few hours at home. If you’re rushed and feeling stressed, the chances of upsetting your spouse and provoking conflict rise steeply.
If conflict or an argument (been there, done that) occurs, do your best to resolve tensions before you leave. The next best thing is to call from the airport or to stop immediately along the highway at your first opportunity. Say those powerful words: “I’m sorry.” Don’t let a negative situation fester.
When you say goodbye, always kiss, hug, and say tender words from your heart. Leave a memory that speaks loudly of your love and commitment.
It’s not rocket science to understand that separation is the worst part of the road warrior scene. Probably the best communication tool for the road warrior remains your cellphone. Texting is okay, but then your spouse can’t hear your voice. When I’m gone I try to call home once a day; when we were raising our children I tried to do it more often if there was a lot happening with our family. And if I’m in my hotel room when I call Barbara, I turn the television off—no ESPN with the sound muted!
Don’t forget the ultimate communication method—prayer, which is a superb way to end to each phone conversation. As much as prayer binds you together when you are at home, it’s needed more when you are separated.
Every person on the road has come back after dinner to a sterile hotel room and thought, Oh, man, I wish I could be home. I feel so lonely. It can be a time of real vulnerability. The tempter will attack.
Cling to God’s truth as you confront any desire to sin. Remember this promise found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
To keep from feeling lonely, be with people … but be careful about the company you keep. The verse “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33) is not just for teenagers battling peer pressure.
A friend gave me this idea: Take a bit of “home” with you by packing a framed picture of your spouse and setting it on the stand beside your bed in the hotel room. It will remind you of your love and commitment.
Dealing with temptation
When you’re away from home, you’re more vulnerable to temptations. Pornography is often available on hotel cable systems, for examples. Other road warriors may signal their openness to illicit sex. Coworkers may encourage you to do things and go places you’d never consider at home.
Here are some thoughts on avoiding temptation and walking with God while on the road:
· Be accountable. A man needs to find a sincere Christian brother who will keep him honest by asking what television shows or movies he’s watching, what kinds of business entertainment he’s pursuing, what other choices he’s making that are a problem. Tip: When you check in, ask that all movie channels in your room be turned off.
· Do not neglect your devotional life. I know how hectic it gets, but schedule an “appointment” for at least fifteen minutes of prayer and Scripture meditation each day.
· Remember that it’s far better for you to spend an evening feeling alone in your room, seeking the comfort and companionship of Jesus, than to find fellowship with the wrong crowd.
· Seek outside spiritual support. Jim Cote, coauthor of the book On the Road Again, advised on our radio program, “Give yourself some structure out of town that helps you to grow and mature in Christ. Go to a Wednesday night church service … If you go to the same cities, develop an accountability group of people in those cities that you can meet with when you are there.”
Decisions and emergencies
Before you leave, talk with your spouse about what to do if there’s a family emergency—like taking a child to the hospital to treat an injury. Check with a friend or two at home who can be available to help out … say, by helping babysit your other children.
An immutable law of life is that the washing machine will spring a leak or the car will die when the road warrior is away. Be prepared. Keep your cars well maintained. If your washing machine sounds as if it’s about to hemorrhage, call the repairman when you are home. And if something happens and you need to make a decision concerning a family member or an emergency, don’t wimp out on your responsibility. Do what you can. Focus on the most critical, pressing items first. If you can, help make phone calls to make necessary arrangements.
It’s always nice to bring home a surprise. Be creative—you don’t have to buy an overpriced coffee mug at the airport gift shop. Maybe your surprise will be a love letter you wrote that night when you were lonely in the hotel room. Maybe it’s a single rose you bought from the corner vendor. Do something! It always says, “I care enough to be thinking of you in this way.”
At the same time, remember that the road warrior’s arrival at home can be a letdown. The anticipated welcome-home-honey embrace may instead be a scowl from a weary spouse. Lower your expectations. Go home anticipating reality.
Check out the situation and the mood. Do what you can to serve your spouse instead of expecting royal treatment. And don’t initiate lovemaking within the first 30 minutes of your arrival. Waiting a night may say to your wife, “I love you more than I love me!” After crises are resolved, bruises bandaged, and the tire changed on the car, some of your expectations can be met.
If business travel regularly separates you and your spouse, the two of you must have candid conversations about expectations regarding sex. God’s plan is that both husband and wife share their bodies for the purpose of sexual pleasure. If you are both at home most of the time, how this happens can be more spontaneous. But if one person is gone frequently, you need to communicate honestly your needs and work together to make sure they are met.
Neither wife nor husband should feel slighted, or the enemy will exploit this healthy desire for sexual intimacy. It is neither less romantic nor exciting to schedule a sexual encounter with your spouse. Do it right, and it is just the opposite.
Travel is a necessary part of life for many of us. God knows that, and He will protect your marriage and family in the process. But if you ever sense that a demanding travel schedule threatens your marriage, ask God to help you find another job. This choice is excruciating, but there will always be another road warrior to take your spot.
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