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Staying apart is not that good...

As more and more couples are separated by frequent work-related travel, how do their marriages survive? Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi talks to a few couples...

sex and relationships Updated: Jun 13, 2009 21:07 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi

Rajiv and Richa Mehra, both corporate executives, have a “blissful” married life. “There is no bickering, there are no arguments,” says Richa. This sounds amazing. After all, most of us, returning home tired after a hard day’s work and commute, find ourselves embroiled in petty battles with our spouses. So could Richa and Rajiv tell us the secret of their success? It’s simple, it turns out. “Both of us travel constantly,” says Richa. “So we rarely meet long enough to even have a conversation, let alone quarrel.”

No communication because the couple rarely see each other? This can’t be good. But as more people work in jobs that mandate frequent travel, many couples find themselves in that position. What happens to the marriage?

Independence day
“When the frequency of staying apart is more than the frequency of being together, it is bound to create problems in married life,” says consultant psychologist Ratna Dhir. “Both partners start adjusting to a life independent of each other rather than with each other.”

College lecturer Neha Srivastava’s consultant husband, Ratan, is constantly on the run. “Ratan travels nearly 20 days a month,” Neha says. “And even when he is home, he starts work early and finishes late. It leaves him with no energy to even have a decent conversation, leave aside anything else. Now I am used to him not being around and I am happier alone.”

Neha’s story is echoed by journalist Apoorva Sharma who’s been married for nearly 12 years to a frequently-travelling IT professional. “I like having friends as a couple, going out as a couple and so on. But since my husband leaves every 10 days for trips as long as three to four weeks, I have no choice but to live an independent life,” she says. “I can’t stop living my own life simply because he isn’t around.”

Show and tell
This sounds bad – but not as bad as all that, say experts. “Situations like these make the partner left behind far more capable of handling things on his or her own,” says Dhir. But there is the fear that the couple may grow apart. “It is a difficult situation,” says Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, lifestyle management expert, Artemis Health Institute. “But not unworkable. If you are inclined to work on it, you will.”

Step one, then, is communication. “It is essential that couples take decisions together on most matters, however trivial,” says Singh. “Most people make the mistake of not sharing their day-to-day activities and problems. Over time, it distances and disconnects the couple, who end up leading separate lives.”

Journalist Arpita Ghosh agrees. “A relationship isn’t about finding solutions to problems, it’s about feeling connected,” she says. Arpita rants, cribs and shares laughs with her husband, even when he travels abroad. “It could be the regular irritation of not finding an auto, but I tell him about it via SMS or phone,” she says. “Obviously he can’t do a thing about the situation from where he is, but one message in return to ask if I found an auto after all is enough to make me feel that he cares. It is expensive, but it’s important to communicate.”

That apart, the sense of togetherness must be reinforced by all possible means. “Couples should be part of each other’s lives,” says Dhir. “If they become too independent, there are chances they will start liking the absence, and the presence may start feeling like infringement of space and privacy.”

Good work
Experts feel it is important to accept the situation as it is and find ways to work around it. “Both partners must learn to appreciate the other partner’s space,” says Singh. “While the travelling spouse must appreciate all the issues that the partner is handling at home, the person at home must acknowledge that travelling constantly is not the most relaxing of things.”

Vivek Verma, a consultant who is constantly on the move, decided to work from home when he isn’t travelling. “It was a shock when my two-year-old didn’t recognise me when I got home after a month-long assignment,” he says. “I decided to just be home for them. I work from home the 10-15 days that I am here, and travel when I need to. It’s really helped.”

Also, the couple needs to ensure some alone time when the travelling spouse returns. “Extended family, parents, kids and friends all want to catch up in those few days that the person is back,” says Singh. “This leaves the couple with not enough time together. So a short weekend off, a dinner alone or even a long drive together is a must.”