Ask Gadling: Keeping your romance alive from the road

This week’s question comes from Natasha in West Hollywood, who travels frequently for work.

I have a personal assistant job that requires me to travel about two-three weekends out of every month. I like the travel, but it’s taking a toll on my relationship with my boyfriend. I know this sounds lame, but if you travel all the time, how are you supposed to have a life? I don’t want to/can’t quit my job for financial reasons. Am I being selfish? He gets really jealous and I don’t blame him, he doesn’t get to go out on the weekends like a normal couple. Should I just accept being alone until I can cut down?

Gadling: This is a question we totally understand at Gadling, as many of us travel all the time, too. It doesn’t mean we are bad people or any less dedicated to our significant others; it’s just our job — and one we happen to love. Here’s my advice, and though I’ll address this to Natasha, it works for men, too:

1. Communicate.

You will fight about the travel if you don’t talk about it. Hash it out in person. Listen to how he feels, tell him how you feel, and find a place where you and he can both accept the situation. If you have to/want to travel and he doesn’t make peace with it, you’re never going to be a happy couple. Period. It’s also a good idea to set boundaries and/or routines, like how many calls per day (or per week) is appropriate. If the two of you agree, or at least settle on a compromise and both hold up your end of the bargain, your relationship should be able to withstand time apart.

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

2. Lead by example.

What I mean by this, first and foremost, is don’t cheat. It’s good that you didn’t hint at suspicion that he may be playing around with Jesse James’ ex-girlfriends while you’re gone. Trust is really important in a travel-heavy relationship, which in some ways is like a long-distance relationship. What you surely know by now is that there are temptations out there in strange lands, and if you can’t resist, you can’t and shouldn’t expect him to. Assuming that you’re not cheating, follow the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Miss him, call him from time to time, tell him what you’re up to so he doesn’t worry; just try not to make it sound like too much fun. Let him know that he can do the same; that you’re interested in what he’s doing, too.

3. Make your time at home special.

When you travel a lot, it’s easy to collapse when you get home and only wear sweats for a week. Resist. Make an effort when you’re home. Go out together, do things he likes to do, and do things you like to do, too. Make sure you are always finding ways of getting to know each other better — and not becoming strangers.

4. Gifts.

A postcard from afar lets him know you’re thinking of him. A gift is even better; it makes your arrival at home more fun. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive — just a weird thing from the drugstore or grocery store that you can’t get at home is a fun surprise.

5. Find intimacy.

There are endless lists of ways you can um, “be intimate” with your loved ones online. If that’s not your thing, something like a naughty one-line email or teasing photo can go a long way toward keeping the spark alive. If that still sounds too racy for your tastes, consider a different kind of intimacy: a hand-written, heartfelt love letter is a rare and beautiful thing in this day and age.

6. Be realistic.

If every time you come home you’re having the same fight, if you’re blaming your problems on the travel, if you’re cheating and lying, if you don’t actually care what he’s doing and wish he’d stop calling (and he’s only calling as much as you agreed was okay), you’re doing it wrong. See #1. There is a certain comfort and safety in having someone at home waiting for you. Don’t let that be the reason you stay together, it’s not fair to you — and it’s really not fair to him.