Reconnecting with your partner after they have been away for work is one of the biggest challenges of the expat life and business travel. I have been faced with it in my own life with my husband, as well as it being a recurring topic in coaching classes and interviews.
How can you ease the transition back to life together? What can help the returning partner to fit back in quickly to the family? And what about the needs of the partner who has been holding the fort?
My husband and I kept coming up against the same conflicts in our relationship, mostly due to our strategy (or lack thereof!) to reconnect. Expectations, habits, cluelessness are just some elements that fed a growing frustration following his returns. We realized that we were failing to reconnect properly and decided to do something about it. So we came up with the idea of using set questions to ask each other when we were reunited.
I would ask him if he felt included. This was often a struggle for him, as we have been living together in a little bubble, we have our inside jokes, he just didn’t feel a part of the unit and so it was hard for him to find his place. I would also ask him if there was anything he would like to put in the diary. As he often comes back to our normal life and busy schedules, it can seem like there is no time for him. So I intentionally see what he would like to do, and then create space to make this possible.
On the other hand, he would ask me if there I anything that he can help with. Even just him asking the question is enormously appreciated! After a long time of holding the fort and solo parenting, it makes such a difference to have an extra pair of willing hands! He will also ask me if there is anything in the diary that he should be aware of.
The best thing is for you and your partner to take the time to chat and create your own set of questions, with what each one wants to ask or be asked. It is such a helpful aid to communication and getting back on the same page! Do be aware though that you don’t use the questions or answers to manipulate each other. Always be loving in what you ask of them or tell them. Lastly, but very importantly, you need to actually be prepared to listen and then make the effort and space to meet their needs!
Tips for reconnecting
- Create your own set questions
- Ask and answer each other
- Don’t manipulate
- Listen and be responsive
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.