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If your spouse travels for work, welcoming him or her home with open arms seems easy and obvious. But when youve done the lions share of the parenting, housework, and kid-schlepping for the last few days or weeks, welcoming your spouse home isnt as easy as it sounds. Youve established your rhythm and rules. Suddenly having a helpful parent around whos not on the same page can be hard. Here are 10 ways to keep the peace.
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1: Connect while you're apart
When my husband was in China for over two weeks, Skype was invaluable. Being able to see each other while we talked even just a few times made a huge difference in how we connected. But even when you dont have time to sit and chat, you can steal a few minutes from the daily chaos to check in with your honey. Facebook and texting are quick and easy ways to say Im thinking about you.
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2: Write each other old-school love letters
There are few things sweeter than reading, in their own words, how our spouses love us. Take ten minutes before he or she heads out the door to channel your inner Emerson. Write each other a note to be opened during the absence. While you may not pen thou art to me a delicious torment, your words to each other can be just as impassioned and go a long way towards fanning the flames when he or she returns.
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Your spouses first night back should be a celebration. If possible, clear the calendar for a family dinner and game night. Keep it simple. Dont stress yourself out with fancy meal preparations; lasagna from Costco is fine. Pour a glass of wine (juice for the kids) and enjoy relaxing and laughing together. Real life can start in the morning.
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4: Fly the coop
The second or third night after your spouse returns, get out of Dodge. Take yourself out for dinner, to a bookstore, get a pedicure, go out to drinks with friends. Leave enough time so that you can sit in a coffee shop and hear yourself think. Journal, if you like, or read a book. Breathe. Your husband or wife can handle the kids solo for a night.
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5: Ditch the rules
While youre out enjoying yourself, things will not go as planned at home. The kids will have juice before bed. Theyll leave toys all over the living room. And bedtime will be late. Accept these facts upfront and save yourself some heartache and an argument when you get home. Try to graciously accept that when another parent is in charge, his or her rhythm and rules will be different than yours. Getting away is about re-connecting with yourself; enjoy the moment and deal with the rest another time.
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6: Date night
Yep, youre going out again. This time, your spouse is coming too. Within the first few nights of their return, schedule some time to rekindle the romance. Date nights dont have to be fancy-dinner budget-busters. The two of you can walk around the lake or take a scenic drive. The idea is to make time to laugh with the person you fell in love with, which will help you both survive the bumps and bruises of business travel reunions.
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7: Expectations Meetings
One of my former bosses used to schedule regular expectations meetings with his staff to make sure we were on the same page as he was regarding our goals and expectations for the year. This is a great tool for a marriage, too. I find that some rules I create for the kids when my husband travels exists simply so I can stay sane during his trips. Those rules arent really necessary when there are two of us in the house. Still, its easy to cling to my rules and create unnecessary conflict. Sitting down regularly to talk about these things setting expectations can help you and your spouse establish what really matters. You dont have to do things his way, and he doesnt have to do them yours, but you want to generally be on the same page in terms of childcare and household maintenance.
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8: Care about each others lives
Reunion conversations can go something like this:
How was your trip?
Fine. Tiring. How were things here?
While true, these same old lines wont move your relationship forward. Instead, focus on specifics. Ask about the details of some of the meetings or responsibilities. If your spouses job bores you, ask about the people instead. People drama is always interesting! By the same token, have some stories to tell. Share a funny story about the kids or some juicy neighborhood gossip or something that went on in your days apart. Talk about about the good, bad and ugly not just the bad and ugly.
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When exhaustion strikes, empathy isnt the first attribute to step forward. But putting yourself in each others shoes is a good idea. If youre the parent at home, its easy to glamorize the trip away: meals out, full nights of sleep, adult conversation! But your spouse might be looking at it this way I missed the bedtime stories, the bubble baths, and wasnt there for my family when they needed me. Business travel is hard for both of you. The sooner you both understand that, the quicker youll be able to put the resentment-monster to bed.
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10: Be Prepared
The boy scouts have it right on this one. Think ahead before your spouses next trip. Scout out local events (Does the Childrens Museum have a free night? Is there a special kids time at the library?) and put them on your calendar. Plan a few simple outings that are different from your ordinary routine (leaf-gathering, anyone?). By getting out and about, youll keep your kids occupied and find new ways to have fun until youre all together again.
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