This article was originally published in November of 2016
ONE QUESTION I GET ALL THE TIME from married people is that the one writing me (equally often the man or woman) wants and needs to travel and be mobile, but the other partner does not. It’s tragic how often that happens! Of course, there is no way I can offer any genuine solution to this painful situation. Each of us must make our way through that minefield alone. However, I do have several advantages over the average person that gives me a little more insight and so in today’s post, I want to try to offer some thoughts about your choices and possible results of whatever you decide.
These are my qualifications: I’ve been there and done that. It was an extremely painful and bitter divorce that forced me into living in a van, so I know just how devastatingly painful it can be. My second marriage ended in separation and divorce for this very reason, I absolutely needed to travel and she needed to stay home. Ultimately we simply couldn’t compromise enough and we ended up divorcing. I can talk to you as one who has done it.
In my many years on the road, I’ve known many others in this exact situation, both men, and women. And I’ve seen that some were able to keep their marriages going by the art of compromise, and others simply had to end them.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but hopefully, I can give you some food for thought to help you make your best decision.
I’m not going to talk about what to do if there are children involved because that drastically changes everything and I think I can only do more harm than good by offering you any suggestions.
When a couple (married or not, same sex or not) find themselves with radically different needs (one to travel and the other to stay home), it rarely works out well. Anytime you are in a win-lose situation the long term prospects are not good. Almost inevitably, the one who fails to get his/her way will slowly build resentments and bitterness that poison the marriage even if they stay together. That means the one who got their way only appears to have won; in fact, they lost because now they probably have to deal with the passive-aggressive (and probably increasingly directly aggressive) feelings and actions of the hurt party.
A win-lose situation almost inevitably turns into a lose-lose situation! It’s by far better to search hard for a compromise so that both of you can be happy, a win-win. Neither of you may get all you want, but at the minimum, you need to get enough to live happily ever after.
The alternative I see very often is the one partner takes extended trips while the other stays home. The length of the trip will vary by the need of the partner with itchy feet. It might be measured in weeks, months or even seasons. I’ve had friends who go out 2 weeks at a time, 2 months at a time, or for the entire summer or winter.
I’ve seen that work very well for both partners, but I’ve equally often seen it end in divorce in the long run. The problem is the partner left at home can start feeling like they are the loser in the situation. After all, they got in a relationship to have a partner and instead they find themselves home alone constantly. There is a very strong risk of them developing their own resentments and bitterness which poisons the marriage.
So, let me tell you my story: in my second marriage, my wife needed to be in a home and with her hands in the soil. That’s what made her happiest. Nothing wrong with that, it was just what she needed to be happy. Unfortunately, it made me very unhappy! After living 6 years totally wild and free in a van, I could not re-adapt to living in a house. I despised it. But, we wanted the marriage to work so we tried making compromises. I started out with short trips of a week or two duration and then they slowly turned into ever longer trips interspersed throughout the year. Sadly we both soon realized that wasn’t working for either of us. For her, I was gone too much, and for me, I was home too much in a house I hated.
On my last trip, which was to last 4-6 months, we both knew I wasn’t coming back; I simply could not go on living that way. I literally spent my every day at home sitting in front of a TV waiting to die.
We cared enough about each other to let the other go, we knew our lives would ultimately be better and happier apart than they were together so we agreed we needed to separate. We each gave the other our blessings and hopes that we would both follow our very different dreams into our very best life possible. I believe we have both done that, and I am very grateful to her for her wisdom and courage.
No one can tell you what to do, but it seems to me that when there is only pain in the immediate (and even long-term) future, the important question is which path offers the most possibility of returning to a happy life? If not for both of you, then at least one of you. And, hopefully with the minimum amount of pain for both of you.
Here are some things for you to consider while making your decision: The Universe gave you two hands for a very important reason, one to take care of yourself, the other to take care of others. Keep them in balance at all times, giving equal care to yourself and others. Getting them out of balance probably means pain in the long run.
You deserve to be happy and you should ignore anyone who tells you differently. You don’t have any moral obligation to your religion, society or your family to stay in an unhappy marriage. Your first moral obligation is to be happy (that first hand)!
If you are a woman, ignore societal indoctrination that keeps screaming in your ear that only HIS happiness is important!! That’s a lie! You’ve spent your whole life serving others, it’s your turn!
Here are some scenarios and how it can play out in the long run: You stay together and do NOT compromise. One of you is guaranteed to be unhappy (and probably resentful) for the rest of your life and the other is unlikely to be happy either.
You stay together and compromise. It’s entirely possible that can work well for you–I’ve seen it happen. However, it’s at least as likely one or both of you will end up with resentments and bitterness and both your lives will be much worse off than if you had split. And then you finally divorce anyway, prolonging the pain.
It’s very possible that right now neither of you are happy in the marriage — you just stay together for convenience. Many married couples would rather be mildly unhappy together rather than go through the pain of divorce and then being alone. Sadly, fear of being alone in an unknown future is worse than being unhappy for the rest of our lives. It’s very possible that if you force yourself through the pain of divorce, you will both end up happier than ever and glad you endured the pain to make it happen. This was true for both of my failed marriages.
If you split and follow your heart of being a nomad, you will go through a great deal of pain now, but then very likely will ultimately be the happiest you have ever been. That’s what happened to me. But not just me, both of my ex-wives ended up moving on with their lives and being very glad we split.
There is no right answer through this situation, there is only making your best judgment call trying to cause as little harm and hurt as you can. The single most important thing is to set your intention to make your decisions and take every action as lovingly and kindly as possible, seeking the greatest good for the both of you with the least harm.