The Unique Challenges Frequent Travellers and Their Loved Ones Face When Dating and Maintaining Long Term Relationships
In Hollywood films, business travellers are often portrayed as living extravagant lifestyles where they are away from home 90-99% of the time and enjoying exciting adventures, often which involve infidelity.
Of course what happens in the movies is not truly representative of what happens in real life. However the stereotypes of the business traveller that Hollywood has created for us, can on occasion, cause trouble for us frequent travellers in our real life relationships. In particular, for those of us who are romantically involved with people who do not travel frequently for work.
In reality, most frequent travellers are not away from home 90% of the time. It’s more likely to be along the lines of between 30-70%. What Hollywood films typically don’t show you is that you really spend the bulk of your time in transit, meeting with customers and working on reports in hotel rooms. As such, most of the people you are interacting with are either your customers, people in the service industry and other travellers who are also on the move. The lifestyle is transient. You go wherever your work takes you and never stay anywhere or with anyone too long. When you do engage with others, those interactions are most often brief and superficial. That being said, although you may be meeting a lot of people, most of them will not be dating material. Especially your clients! Don’t ever make the mistake of getting romantically involved with your clients. Need a refresher on why this is a bad idea? Read my previous blog post “How to Handle Clients Who Want More Than What You’re Selling”
So let’s say you’ve met someone special, now what?
If your career involves a significant amount of travel and you are romantically involved with someone, whether you realize it or not, you are in some form of a long distance relationship (LDR). After all, if you and your significant other are away from each other more than 30% of the time, does it really matter if you live in the same house, same city, are a short-haul flight away, or even live in the same time zone?
This frequent flyer lifestyle poses a unique challenge to not only dating but also maintaining long term relationships, and not everyone is cut out for it.
My longest relationships have been either long distance or with salesmen. What do these have in common? That travel is a fundamental, non-negotiable element of the relationship.
Setting Ground Rules For Communication
When you are in a relationship where one person is travelling a lot for work or if you are in a LDR, it is all the more essential that you communicate openly and effectively about everything. Setting aside even a small amount of time each day at a mutually convenient time for you to touch base, can be immensely helpful in solidifying your relationship, even if it is just to say briefly how your day was and remind your partner that you are thinking of them. Making sure you are on the same page about the amount of communication you will have is also key. For example, if you are busy travelling and in and out of meetings all day, your parter should be aware of this and not be calling you 10 times a day to ask you what colour you think the living room should be painted, or to give you updates on the weather back home. Setting ground rules and maintaining proper communication is essential to building and maintaining trust in your relationship. In my experience, this is often difficult for both individuals, but more so for the one staying at home.
Hollywood films have done us business travellers no justice in this department, portraying us as such a promiscuous bunch. In reality, this is so untrue. The travelling, the meetings, the reports… all of it is time consuming and exhausting. If you are in a relationship with someone you love and are committed to them, you won’t stray but rather look forward to returning home to their warm embrace. But yes, certainly there are people out there who do cheat and in most cases they do so because of problems in their relationship, not because of their choice in careers. Overcoming this stigma is not an easy task and hence why I typically date men who also have careers which require them to travel because they ‘get it’.
Dating the Non-Traveller:
Many people who do not travel for work may initially be “OK” with their significant other travelling often, but after a while, their tolerance dissipates and the relationship can break down. I’ve heard things such as, “Why can’t I come with you?” or “Can’t you just cancel your business trip or come home early to be with me?”.
I mean, I’m sure it would be a blast for my partner to sit and rot in my car all day long with nowhere to go while I’m in and out of sales calls and all, but really??? Just like it would be so awesome for us to not be able to go on that vacation because I won’t be making that commission on that deal I could have made on that business trip I cancelled, right???
But the problem is, if you say these things to your partner, it may come across as being cold, uncaring and make it seem as though you don’t want to spend time with them. That can create insecurity, suspicion and jealousy. Trust me, that is not a fun path to travel down!
The Long Distance Relationship (LDR):
Contrary to popular belief, true LDR’s aren’t so bad. I realize this may sound bizarre, but I find it easier to go to the airport once or twice a month to have a romantic weekend with a significant other than I do to drive to a nearby city several times a week. The reason being is that this way when we are together, I can devote 100% to my significant other which won’t be interrupted by work and other day to day distractions and when we are apart, I get all of the “me time” I need and I can give my 100% at work.
The only major setback to LDR’s is that if things get serious, which they ultimately will if things go well, is that at some point, one of you will have to make the move. That move may involve one of you quitting your job if you are unable to relocate with your current company. I seriously considered doing this once, but for various reasons, I decided that in the long term, that this would have been a very poor decision.
Overall, there are a significant number of challenges facing travelling businessmen and women when it comes to dating and maintaining long term relationships. It takes a lot of work to “go the distance” sort to speak. In reading this, I hope that I didn’t disappoint too many of you who were hoping to read the 50 Shades version of Up in the Air- Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it’s not all Hollywood cracks it up to be.
I would love to hear from other travelling business professionals about the challenges you face or have faced in developing and maintaining romantic relationships.
In the meantime, safe travels fellow travelling salesmen and women.