By Chantelle K. Dockter,
MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW,
Question: My husband travels a lot for business, so we end up spending a lot of time apart. Sometimes I worry about that…what can we do to keep our marriage healthy?
Answer: The answer is to place safeguards around your marriage. Any marriage needs to have healthy safeguards in place, regardless of if there is travel or not. The divorce rate is over 50% for marriages, and I would venture to say that no couple standing in front of one another pledging their marriage vows wants to fall into that category. Yet the majority of couples do not try to protect or put appropriate boundaries around their union.
There are temptations all around us, for both men and women. This is especially true of sexual temptation. Our culture and society do not uphold the value of marriage and commitment well. In general, we as humans resist boundaries, for they provide restriction or regulation which we do not like, even if they exist for our own good. None of us are above temptation. If we take the “anything goes” attitude, the question is not if but when we will fall. Affairs typically start out innocently, and then turn into a massive ball of destruction.
Let’s take Suzie, who feels distant from her husband, partly due to the demands of work and three small children. Life to her feels mundane and taxing. She starts having lunch with Todd, a male co-worker. They become fast friends and he begins to meet all of her emotional needs. She confides in him and he knows just what to say to comfort her. They start working late together, texting, and emailing one another. What started out as an emotional affair eventually grows physical. Do you think that either thought at those first lunches it would be more than a friendship? Probably not.
Am I saying not to ever have lunch with a co-worker of the opposite sex? Not necessarily. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, but if it is possible it is a wiser choice to be in a group. It is also important to let your spouse know who you are with, for accountability.
Another safeguard for traveling spouses is to agree ahead of time on parameters that make both spouses feel safe and comfortable. These can include agreements on the amount of alcohol consumption, interactions with co-workers of the opposite sex outside of business requirements, and phone calls to one another to start and end each day. Business conventions are notorious for being breeding grounds for inappropriate sexual behavior. The spouse who is at one might also bring a picture of the other to place on the nightstand at the hotel and one in the wallet to be a visual reminder of what they have at home. Making email accounts and phone activity open to your spouse also provides accountability. Open communication daily about each other’s activities keeps spouses connected, which not only provides accountability but also grows and deepens the relationship.
Every couple has to come to their own decision on what healthy safeguards look like for their relationship. Not all couples will have the same boundaries, but those who don’t have any are leaving themselves wide open for attack. The devastation of affairs is far-reaching, way beyond the adults involved. Spouses, children, parents, friends and communities are all affected. Take the time to talk to your spouse and make sure you are on the same page about what will protect your marriage.
Chantelle K. Dockter, MA Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW
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