How do you keep your relationship healthy while traveling long-term? Circumstances can change very quickly on the road as opposed to a domestic routine, and I worry we might start taking things out on each other if we don’t have some kind of a ‘plan.’
A plan is exactly what is called for no matter with whom you are travelling. Being able to have guidelines, set up when things are going well, is a great fallback when things deteriorate. My husband and I created one before we competed in our first endurance rally, and have used it in every subsequent competition, ride, and even non-motorcycling vacations. We’vehad to pull it out more than once, and have been glad every time that we had that template to guide us when we personally weren’t at our best.
The first issue to address is what’s most important to you in your relationship that you do not want to jeopardize no matter the circumstance you find yourselves in. This becomes the basis for all other discussions. With my husband and me, it’s always that the relationship comes first; we will give up any adventure before we let it threaten our marriage. Once we remember that, we can decide if the issue we are dealing with is more, or less, important than us as a couple. That clarity puts a lot of problems in their proper perspective.
Next is to look at what your goals are as a couple for this adventure. Are you on the same page or do you need to clarify your differences and find ways to accommodate them? For example: how hard do you want to ride each day; how often do you need to stop for an extended break; or when are you sightseeing vs. pushing on to the next place on your agenda. Are you both able to communicate your needs directly in order to avoid confusion or mixed messages? The clearer you are on these things before you leave the easier it will be to remind yourselves of your agreements later when things inevitably become stressful.
Explore how you handle conflict, sudden changes, or unexpected complications. What are your individual strengths, what are your flash points that set you off in negative ways, and how do you, as a couple, navigate these when you are in your normal routine? Do you take a break from each other for a bit and then reconnect when you’ve cooled off? Do you, like my husband and me, sit on the side of the road and hash things out until you’ve both felt heard and understood, and then find a common solution? Understanding how you both operate, and being able to draw on your strengths, can be valuable in focusing on solutions rather than blame and anger when things out of your control turn ugly.
Finally, the same strategies you use at home can be applied on the road if you know what works for you, and you build in some creative ways to accomplish them in foreign environments. For example, if you need a break from each other, but you aren’t in an area where physically that makes sense, can you simply agree to not talk for a time, do your own thing, and not be offended by the silence? Can you decide ahead of time who should make which decisions in which circumstances, such as the one who gets tired more easily determines how long you push on, or the one who is most comfortable dealing with strangers handles interactions in awkward encounters.
The best-laid plans won’t cover every challenge you face, but having the discussion before you leave provides a template for you to use when things inevitably go wrong. Having tools in place to rework your agreements as you learn more along the way can help prevent future landmines, and reminding yourselves that your relationship is the most important thing will give you the strength to persevere when the stresses of the road do hit home. Rather than tearing apart your partnership, by successfully navigating those issues you can actually strengthen it.
PHOTO: PAUL STEWART