Traveling is an incredibly challenging experience. Whether a road trip upstate or a three month journey to a foreign country, traveling puts the same stresses on individuals. Add to that a travel partner and you have the potential for your marital bonds to be tested. Our editor, Naomi, travels frequently with her partner and shares some hard-earned lessons for keeping cool and loving while traveling with your spouse.
Repeat after me: Traveling is hard
At home your brain can put on autopilot all the knowledge that you are familiar with, for instance, where the supermarket is, what time dinner needs to be started, how long it takes to go to the bank, etc. This frees up brain power for focusing on the changeable aspects of your life that require attention, such as work, new social engagements, and putting extra effort into your marriage.
During travel both your brain and body are working twice as hard. Gone is that comfortable ability to put on autopilot. Every cell is responding to new stimuli and new challenges. You’ll be sleeping in unfamiliar beds, driving new roads, your things will be arranged in suitcases, and you won’t know where or what you are having for dinner. These simple changes result in an enormous amount of stress on your bodies systems as well as your mental state.
Stressed gives our bad habits a chance to flare up. You and your spouse may bicker or snap at each other. Keep in mind that this is an exceptional situation you are in. Refrain from making any conclusions or big decisions about your relationship while on the road. After all, most of your time together isn’t traveling. However, if issues you notice on the trip continue months into resuming normal life, then you might have a problem that needs addressing.
It’s not about you
Again, traveling is hard. When your spouse seems exhausted, agitated, or upset, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is because of you. Most likely the negative mood is a result of the trip. If it’s not explicitly about you, don’t make it about you. That’s needlessly creating an argument. Let you spouse self sooth and don’t bring up marriage problems when you are both at the end of your ropes already.
Practice infinite compassion and empathy
You and your spouse’s moods will fluctuate up and down. One day when you are exhausted and crabby, your spouse may be ready to paint the town. The next day your moods might be reversed. On one hand, this opposition can be frustrating. It’s best when you are both on the same energy level. Still, keep in mind how terrible you feel when you just can’t handle the trip and need a break. Hold this understanding dear and use it to ignite compassion when it’s your spouse’s turn to feel low rather than being annoyed or angry for his lack of enthusiasm. You were just there yourself!
Don’t be afraid to split up
The best solution for all the ails of traveling together is to spend some time apart. A good half-day at the minimum. Take time to see sights that you are interested in but your spouse isn’t. Or just sleep all day, or spend the afternoon reading a book in the park, or visiting friends on your own. Never hesitate to split up for the day. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, do everything together.
Think of traveling as a bootcamp, a time to practice all the marriage skills that you learn at Power of Two. At the same time, it’s a extra challenging period so cut both of you some slack. Be prepared, overall, to practice forgiveness.