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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Help! My Husband Hates That I Travel

Dear Fran,

I have a great job and a great husband, but they don't seem to be very compatible as of late. I've been working at my current position in PR for almost five years, and I absolutely love it. We have a huge client base and I travel all over the country—we’re constantly in NY and LA doing photo shoots for the magazines, working with celebrities, and going to events like the Emmys and the Oscars.

Of course, this requires a lot of travel, and in any given month, I’m on the road 50-75% of the time. That's where things get a little tricky. My husband of three years, who travels maybe a couple days each month for work, would prefer that I were home 75% of the time instead of on the road 75% of the time. I understand—of course I would love to spend more time with him, too! But my job is so amazing and I work with such great people that I can't imagine the thought of quitting or even slowing down at the office and risking my growth within the company.

How can I let my husband know how much I love him and want to be with him, but still maintain my great job? Surely, in 2012, a woman doesn't have to give up her dream gig for her husband?


Going in two directions

Dear Going,

Wow! Movie stars! Celebrities! The Oscars! That does sound like a dream gig!

I have four important words to frame my advice for you: caution, balance, compromise, and, above all, communication.

Here’s a little story to help shed some light. A few years back, I met a big-time Hollywood producer who was doing his next film with one of the biggest male stars on the planet. The producer and I got into an interesting conversation about creativity and where it comes from. At one point, I expressed my glowing admiration for the star. The producer looked at me, shrugged, and said, “You’d be surprised what an ordinary person he is.”

I tell you this not because I want you to give up your dream gig, or because I want to rain on your parade, but because at least once every week I want you to take the time to clear away the glitter that might be clouding your eyes, and spend at least an hour thinking about and appreciating what’s real and true and lasting in life for you. It sounds like this job is your passion, but since it’s causing a rift in your relationship, it’s important to take time to make sure that’s indeed the case (and for the right reasons). And at the risk of sounding old-fashioned in a celebrity-obsessed culture, I’d say a little perspective couldn’t hurt.

Next, you’re right that in 2012 you certainly don’t have to choose between a husband and a dream job, or at least I hope you don’t. If your husband insists you choose, well then, you might have a problem. But there are lots of intermediate steps between choosing your husband or your job, so instead of thinking about this as an either/or, let’s consider balance instead.

To introduce compromise into the mix, perhaps you could ask him what percentage of travel time he’d realistically be content with, figure out if you (and your job) can live with that and act accordingly. Maybe you could scale back to traveling no more than 50% of the time, or ask for more trips to either NY or LA (whichever is closer to you). If he sees that you’re willing to give up some time on the road, maybe he’ll be willing to concede a bit and the end result will leave you both happier. Or maybe he just wants you to promise you won’t take on more in form of a promotion or more traveling.

Consider the “business of your relationship,” too, and be honest about whether you’re both contributing at home. If you’re away from home 75% of the time, it’s possible he feels the burden of the household chores (feeding the dog, taking out the trash, buying the groceries), and that’s where some of his frustration lies. If you can pitch in more when you’re home, he might feel at least a tiny bit better.

The bottom line is, communication is key in any relationship, and the underlying theme to maintaining balance and creating compromise. I simply can’t say this enough.

Were you traveling this much prior to getting married? Or is this a new development in your work schedule? This is an issue that's equally as important as whether you’re going to have children or whether religion is a big part of your life. At the beginning of a relationship, it may seem like something you can surmount “someday,” but couples must be on the same page about subjects of this magnitude.

Make a date with your husband to discuss all of this. Begin by telling him you love him, and then try to find out what he’s thinking and feeling—not just on the surface, but underneath. Does he miss you? Is he afraid you’re going to dump him for a more glamorous partner or life? Is he jealous? Is he dissatisfied or bored with his own job?

Also, try to figure out how this job contributes to sustaining your partnership. For one thing, are you bringing in great money? Is there any chance that you’re going to be spending more, or less, time away from home in the future?

Spending 75% of the time apart is significant in a marriage of three years. Which doesn’t mean it can’t work—plenty of people make such arrangements work—it just means you have to talk about it, lay out how you’re going to make it work, decide what you can change to make him happier and still keep your job, and then stick to your plan.

And most importantly, beware of resentment. It’s possible he resents (or will grow to resent) your job for keeping you away from home so often. On the other hand, if you give up your job because he wants you to, you many never get over it. And resentment is the worst of poisons in a marriage.

Proceed with caution as you try to balance the demands and needs of this very seductive and exciting gig with the demands and needs of a successful marriage. This is a tricky situation, for sure, but as long as you keep communicating with your husband, allowing him to express his concerns, and compromise as best you can, I think you are in for a happily ever after.

All the best,


Photo courtesy of Matthew Olivolo.