Q: How to balance work travel and a relationship?

4 min

Starting a new relationship is hard enough. But throw in traveling for work and you have a whole different battle ahead of you. That’s not to say it’s impossible. When there’s a connection, there’s a connection. So, here are some tips to making your traveling work life and relationships easier.

Dear Ellie,

I travel for work and I just started to date a guy that I really like. How do I balance this new relationship and keep it fun and exciting while I am gone all the time?

~ Traveling Tina in Tempe

Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, breaks it down for us:

Dear Long-distance woes,

Are you telling me that you may have found love during a world pandemic? I think that in and of itself is worth celebrating before we get into any logistics.

Kudos to you! With the thought of travel picking up for work, I can understand why you may be anxious. I’m here to help share a few tips and tricks that may help continue the romance and build your relationship.

Zero in on your love language

One thing to consider is treating your new situation as if you are in a long-distance relationship. Shifting your mentality and perspective right from the start may help you focus on your partner’s communication style and love language. If you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend it and think it should be a prerequisite before entering any relationship. Understanding your love language and your partners can help you recognize how you show love and create realistic communication expectations.

For example, if your love language is gifts and your partner is touch, he may be much more interested in the hug you give him when you return from a trip than the trinket you picked up at the airport. Understanding each other’s love language may have you engage in an extra-long embrace and save your money on a gift that would not mean anything to him. If you think it’s a little too early to discuss love languages with your partner, explore your own and start to observe the way he displays his affection and thoughtfulness.

Set up virtual dates

Just because you are away for a few nights does not mean you can’t go on a date. Be creative with the ways you communicate. 2020 has taught us that you do not have to be in the same room to share an experience. Even though most of us are ‘Zoomed out,’ there can still be an opportunity to share experiences from afar. Especially if you have a work trip that keeps you out of the area for a week +. Here are a few examples:

  • Play an online game together and share in some laughs. A little healthy competition can go a long way in a relationship. Consider checking out this article for ideas.
  • Set up a virtual tasting. With a little pre-planning, you can set up an alcohol or food tasting. Hint: make sure you have access to a grocery store with the same selection in your new city.
  • Time away can make most reflective and longing for their loved one. Engaging in a video session or phone chat with some thought-provoking questions like these may be a fun way to continue building your relationship and get to know each other.
  • Send each other on a Goosechase digital scavenger hunt and share results in the feed. This activity can be hilarious and tap into your guy’s sense of humor.

Understand each other’s comfort zone

Does your guy act a little different in person than on video or the phone? Remember that everyone has a specific mode of communication preference, but most can develop new comfort levels in time and with practice. If things seem a little awkward, lean into it, and be patient. A little kindness and space can go a long way in a relationship.

Hello, planning!

When I first started dating my now-husband, I knew he was the one when he wanted to create a shared calendar so we could pre-book events and be on the same page. Is your guy a planner? If so, feel it out with a few calendar invites and see if he appreciates pre-planning or would rather be more spontaneous.

If he is not a planner, suggest a balance of a few pre-planned activities and weekends with no plans. Depending on how your relationship moves forward, planning weekend getaways and an extended trip can help you both have something to look forward to in the future.

Don’t overbook yourself between travels

I know, I just said to pre-plan weekends and share a calendar, so where does this advice fit in? To build a successful relationship, you must know yourself. Most of us get caught up in trying to get to know our partners before focusing on ourselves, which seems logical, but can be detrimental. In this case, knowing how much time you need to decompress after a trip and run routine errands that keep your life moving forward is critical.

To present your best self to your partner and assume that he is showing his best self, most of us need a little time alone. Build some downtime into your hectic schedule, even if it means seeing your new guy for fewer hours. Doing this will help you be more present when you are together.

Revel in the mundane

Remember, every moment you spend together does not need to seem like you are on vacation. Find joy in mundane, everyday activities. Whether it’s drinking coffee together and enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, or having a Netflix and chill night, don’t put too much pressure on planning ‘perfect’ dates for the limited amount you spend together. Often appreciating silent moments together is a great way to know if you can be yourself and relax with your partner.

Frequent check-ups

Engage in a temperature check every few months. Check-in and see how your partner feels about the communication style and frequency. Most people do not want to disappoint. During check-in, you might learn that the frequency is unsustainable and make changes before someone gets burnt out and throws in the towel. Open and honest communication is vital, as well as being available for feedback.

If your relationship has potential, time away padded with insightful communication, planned time together, and self-reflection can build a stronger connection than if you had all the time in the world together. In this situation, you must pay attention and be present. Most couples may not implement the techniques I discussed above until something goes wrong.

With the limited amount of time you have together, you have the opportunity to build a robust communication framework that you can sustain for a lifetime if that is something you desire. Instead of thinking about how little time you have together, shift your perspective and focus on the quality of your time spent.

Put in the work, and you will see the results. Best wishes!

Hugs + Lashes,

Ellie + Lauren

Lauren Baxter

Lauren splits her time as an artist, writer, self-professed health and wellness junkie, and community builder. She is is most passionate about helping divorcees thrive and believe that great partnerships are still possible.


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