This morning my husband left for Hong Kong. He’ll be gone for 10 days. Right now Mike is somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and I’m thinking about him, wondering how his flight is going. It won’t be long before he arrives and joins Doug and Ching Yu, who are already there. These leaders from our church are preparing opportunities in Hong Kong that will be a venue for building relationships and reaching people for Christ. But this means that Sharon, Susan and I will be without our husbands for days. It can be difficult when husbands travel.
I’m happy that Mike can go on this outreach. I really want him to be there, yet his absence brings a cost and a challenge. The cost is loneliness. The challenge is keeping our unity. It’s so easy to drift apart when we’re in separate cities. Not only do I miss his presence in giving direction to our family, but I also become lonely for his friendship.
Several months ago Susan and I were talking about the challenges we face when our husbands go on extended trips. We discovered that we face similar battles. And it’s not just us. We talked to Sharon and other wives. Whether it was a mission trip, a business trip, or any other kind of trip, our marriages went through similar patterns.
Challenges When Husbands Travel
Somehow knowing we were not alone in these challenges brought comfort. We weren’t weird and didn’t need to feel ashamed. There are typical patterns that husbands and wives face when one of them travels. Then we speculated: “Since it helped us to talk to each other, maybe it would help other wives to hear what we’ve discovered.” So if your husband travels…read on.
Susan, Sharon and I have noticed that the challenges can be divided into three time periods, each with different struggles: Pre-Trip, The Trip, and Post-Trip.
Have you ever noticed that in the days leading up to a husband’s trip, things go wrong? These are Pre-Trip Challenges. This time for Mike and me it was sickness. We both had colds. Other times it has been disagreements. Or unusually needy children. Or being extremely busy with trip preparations. And often I’m just a little “blue” the day before, anticipating loneliness. There can be an unconscious pulling away from each other. Or a temptation to cling and complain. Satan wants to discourage us and to devour our marriages—and Pre-Trip is an opportune time.
Going it Alone When Husbands Travel
And then The Trip comes. He’s gone. I’m alone holding down the fort. Since I don’t have the excitement of the trip, I’m more aware of being alone than he is (which can make me extra lonely). Not only am I lonely, but I can also become independent. When the children have issues, I’m the only one to make a decision. When husbands travel it’s survival mode. And the only way to survive is to become decisive because my husband isn’t readily available for consultation. Marital unity can seem a thing of the past.
Also, I may go through times of worry. Sometimes during our husbands’ travels Susan and I have faced fears of widowhood that are more intense than usual. When the husbands travel and we are alone, we feel the reality of what it would be like to lose our husband.
And then there are the struggles of managing our children while their father is absent. When trying to handle it all I may become inflexible with excessive structure for the children. Or I may swing the other way and become overly permissive in a way that would shock my husband if he were home. I also may feel overwhelmed when my teen is facing a huge emotional struggle or there is a major life decision and dad isn’t home to help them.
Post Trip Struggles
After enduring days or weeks of Mike’s absence, he finally comes home. Joy, oh joy!!! But wait. Post-Trip struggles now arrive. After the initial thrill of reunion, we still face challenges as a direct result of his absence. You see, even though he is with me, I may stay mentally separated in my independent mode. I survived for days without him and made it just fine. I may charge ahead with decisions without even thinking to consult my dear husband. Or I might feel emotionally aloof. That doesn’t help our unity!
Or conversely, I can become clingy when he returns (because of emotional depletion from loneliness and taking care of children). Imagine my frustration when I find that HE still needs some time and space apart from me to mentally process the trip and to physically recuperate. Plus he needs to catch up on mail and everything else that has been waiting for his return. We are reunited, but it still seems we are miles apart.
So is there hope? YES! Susan and Sharon and I would like to give you these ideas that have helped us cope with trip loneliness and disunity. None of us use all of these suggestions for every trip, but these ideas have been helpful to us and we want to pass them along.
When Your Husband Travels:
• Admit challenges you are facing. Acknowledgement is half the battle. For example, when things go wrong before the trip, recognize them as pre-trip temptation for disunity. “Oh, these are just the-day-before-the-trip-hassles.” Somehow recognizing it for what it is helps you to face it down. “Uh-oh, I’m in my independent mode now.” When you recognize the problem, you can ask God to help you with your attitude and to give you His perspective. (Rita)
• Ask people to pray not only for your husband, but also for you and your children. Take initiative to find a prayer partner who will pray specifically for your family. (Susan)
• Ask them to pray not only during the trip, but also during the days before the trip (Susan) and even after the husband returns home. (Sharon)
• There is often up to a week of physical recovery for the husband after an international trip. The wife may have to carry the burden of the home during that time. Prayer is needed for this period of time as well. God’s strength and grace are available for Pre-Trip, The Trip, and Post-Trip. Tap into HIM!
Have a “go to” scripture for worries—a promise that you can hang on to when fear hits. Also, use this time of separation to enjoy the Lord as your Friend and Lover. Keep a Bible handy, such as on your nightstand (or even on his pillow), while he is gone. A trip can be a special time to remember that your Maker is your husband. Isaiah 54:5 (Rita)
More Tips for Wives When Husbands Travel
• Put your full trust in the Lord for your husband’s protection. He is in the Lord’s sovereignty. Whatever happens, the Lord is in total control. (Susan)
• Keep an itinerary of his trip and pray for him. Stay mentally with him. (Rita)
• Agree to try to stay in touch by email or phone. Even if he doesn’t succeed at making contact, it helps to know that he is trying. (Sharon)
• Have a person to contact if there are problems with the house or car while your husband is away. (Susan)
• If you tend to feel you don’t belong at church events where other families are intact, think of a person to sit with or to invite to be with you at these events. This is especially true on weekends. (Susan)
• When making decisions at home, ask yourself “What would my husband do?” This helps keep you supportive of him in your spirit. And it helps give perspective to the issues. (Rita)
• Be completely behind your husband and his work. Realize that you are a part of your husband’s work by staying at home. Help your children understand the importance of Daddy being gone. (Sharon)
• Reach out to others. Follow the Spirit’s nudge to contact someone you have been meaning to reach out to, and be alert to others’ needs. The Lord often prepares special work for me when my husband is on long trips. There is joy in listening to His Spirit and reaching out in new ways. I also become more aware of the needs of my single friends. (Susan)
Finally, When Husbands Travel
• When husbands travel it’s good to make some different or special plans for you and your children to look forward to. Some examples: a trip to grandparents, a girlfriend or sister to come visit you, a home project to finish, a good book to read at night. (Sharon)
• Do something fun for yourself. (Sharon)
• Keep yourself and your house in order so that he doesn’t return to chaos. (Sharon)
• Keep yourself rested so that he doesn’t return to an exhausted wife. Be rested and ready for his return and for that wonderful embrace. (Rita)
• When your husband returns, plan a special dinner or welcome home party with your children. Also arrange a date time alone with him to “debrief.” (Sharon)
• Apart from the trip, have a firm foundation in your marital relationship. Then the separation during the trip will only be a bump in the road, not major reconstruction. (Sharon)
Susan, Sharon and I (Rita) have experienced the fruit of God’s grace during these times of travel. We pray that you’ll experience His love and closeness in the days ahead as you face challenges when your husband travels.
Rita Bergen wrote this article, along with Sharon Brown, and Susan Wang. It was previously posted on the Great Commission Churches web site. We pray you will find the tips these ladies gave to be helpful. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 15:5-6)