Marriage is hard. All couples face their ups and downs, and fighting is a normal part of relationships. When you add an aviation career into the mix, it gets even more complicated. (Shocker!) Having a partner who travels for a career puts added stress on situations that may already be difficult.
Issues like chores, bills, and how to raise the kids are exacerbated when your spouse is sometimes not even available to fight with. (Dammit, get back here so we can argue!) And while the urge to choke your pilot through the phone or actually throwing it at the wall may make you feel better in the moment, it usually doesn’t solve anything. I don’t know about you, but I sure get sick of having the same fights over and over.
Read on to discover some of the biggest issues aviation couples face and how not to let them get the best of your relationship.
Division of Labor
This is a big one. What pilot wife hasn’t done the 15 minute cleanup scramble before her husband gets home? We all want to give the illusion that we have it all together when we’re managing the household by ourselves, but the truth is, it’s not easy. Especially with crazy busy schedules and kiddos in the mix. Hurry up, Dad is coming home, hide your crap!
I know you’ve had that fight. The “What have you even been doing while I’m gone, this place is a disaster!” “Well it would be clean if I actually had time to do anything besides chase kids around all day and fix every damn thing that breaks as soon as you walk out the door!” (I may or may not have had this argument once… or 452376 times.)
So what to do? You have a couple options:
- Hire a housekeeper. I’ve heard more than once that this has saved marriages.
- Divide up the chores to where you both agree that it’s manageable.
With a spouse who travels, toilets can’t always wait a week or longer to be cleaned. This is why the bulk of chores gets left with the one who is home the most; the household still needs to be run whether both partners are home or not.
If division of labor is something that you argue about, come together (obviously not during a fight) and try to figure out a plan you both agree to. Maybe it’s putting things on a chart to stay accountable, or maybe it’s a verbal agreement. Find what works for you and stick with it – it is SO worth it to stop having the same arguments over and over. And nobody wants to waste time fighting when your time together is limited enough already.
The key is to not get resentful or let things build up if they bother you – if you need help, ask for it! If you want your husband to help more in a certain area, let him know. Obviously you both need to be on the same page to find a resolution. Make it priority and it will happen!
This is another big one, obviously. A large percentage of divorces are caused by differences of opinion about spending and saving.
Maybe he thinks you spend too much while he’s gone, and maybe you think he should spend less on overnights. Whatever it is that comes up in your arguments, try to look past the argument itself and dig deeper to find out what’s really going on. Is he scared you won’t have enough saved for retirement? Are you feeling overwhelmed at home and that you deserve to have some spending money? Talk about it with each other to figure out what you’re both feeling. The couple who budgets together, stays together.
Being on the same page is vital when it comes to budgeting and spending. If that’s not working, or you can’t come to an agreement no matter what it seems like you try, going to counseling together can be worth a shot. Hey, it’s better than letting money come between you, right?
Ah, kids. Nothing brings us together and also tears us apart like the little people we’ve created together. I don’t think there is a pilot wife out there who, when making the joint decision to have children, imagined herself alone for most of the time with a new baby, handling all the
crap joys of motherhood for long periods of time alone. It’s hard, probably much harder than any of us imagined or expected.
Differences in opinion seem to come to a head when it comes to raising kids together. And when you’re the one shouldering the majority of kid duty, it can seem like an attack on your parenting skills when your husband comes home and undoes all the hard work you just put in. How do you NOT know that we aren’t doing middle-of-the-night feedings anymore?!
Again, setting expectations and being clear with each other on how you would like to handle certain parts of child-raising is key. Compromise is so important; it might be really important to you that your baby stays on a sleep schedule, and it might be really important to him that your baby gets spontaneous play time. If it’s not a big deal, let the little things go. Maybe it’s not exactly how you would do things every time, but you’re parenting together.
Try to remember that your husband isn’t always going to be in-the-know. He’s going to miss milestones and other little moments that just can’t be helped due to his schedule. For me, writing things down to tell him later is a huge help. Also, keeping a giant calendar in plain sight where he can see what’s scheduled for the kids is also a great help. Since part of the problem is lack of communicating with each other, I eliminate some of the need to tell him things when he can see it for himself.
Another vital aspect to a solid relationship is trust. This issue is brought up over and over again in pilot wife online groups. How can you trust your pilot? Well, you either do or you don’t. You can’t kind of or mostly trust someone. And once that trust has been violated, it’s very hard to earn back.
Talking to your husband about your expectations on what is and is not acceptable to you both (on overnights and otherwise) is a conversation that needs to happen. There’s nothing wrong with setting clear boundaries that you both respect.
What’s right for you may not be right for another couple; that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you both have a very clear understanding of what those boundaries are and what the consequences of violating those boundaries are.
Are you comfortable with him going out to eat with his crew? Or going out with flight attendants if the other pilot(s) don’t want to join? Are you ok with him being friends with crew members on Facebook? Are you comfortable with him swapping numbers with people he flies with? There is no right or wrong answer – you need to talk about what is right for you.
The point is not to try and control what he does while he’s gone, just like he shouldn’t try to control what you do at home – it’s about talking about your boundaries and what you’re comfortable with. Talk about the why behind it as well. If things start getting too heated to have a discussion, wait until you’ve both calmed down to discuss it again. You should both be able to respect what the other has to say.
If that doesn’t work, speaking with a counselor (a non-biased third party) might be a good idea.
Lack of Connection
It’s inevitable that at some point we are going to feel a disconnect with each other. Whether we like it or not, leaving is a part of this life. There are many ways to stay connected during a trip (check out my post on how to keep the sizzle alive), but it’s also easy to let things slide, especially when you’re trying to juggle a million things at once. Not that it’s always a choice; many times it’s the fact that you’re dealing with different time zones and conflicting schedules. Sometimes you just miss each other, that’s how it is. So what’s the solution? Scheduling and priority.
If it’s important to you, you’ll make time for it. So schedule some alone time! Making date night a priority in our marriage is one of the best things we’ve done. We may only get to it once a month, but it’s well worth the effort of finding a sitter and making that time for each other. It makes you feel important to your spouse, and it’s so nice to be able to talk to each other without interruptions. I find that the more distracted we are with outside things, the further apart we feel. Talking, texting, and spending quality time together really put the focus back on us as a couple. Which brings us to our next topic…
Sex? What is this sex you speak of? It’s one of those things that naturally waxes and wanes during marriage, but especially in an aviation one. Trying to find time for lovemaking when your spouse is gone half the time may seem impossible, and you can end up feeling like it’s not worth the effort. You’re tired, he’s tired, everyone is tired, and sex gets put on the backburner. Hey, it happens to the best of us.
Sex is an important part of relationships. It brings us closer, decreases stress, and its even good for us physically. We all know this, and yet somehow, days and even weeks can pass between in-the-sack sessions. Like everything else I talk about, it takes work and prioritizing. Obviously, sex isn’t going to be high on the list when you have a newborn and you’re both trying to
get sleep survive. But that is yet another phase that will eventually pass, and it will be up to you to make sure that your love life doesn’t go with it.
The stars really don’t have to align in order for sex to happen. (Although it sure seems like it sometimes.) There is no shame in penciling sex into your busy schedule. And that doesn’t have to mean literally writing “sex” onto the calendar if that seems weird. It does mean you could write “date night,” or a smiley face, or some other code word you both know about. Anticipation can be a powerful aphrodisiac. The point is, make sex fun again! When it’s a chore it’s not fun anymore, it’s just another task to cross off the list. Remember when you had sex because you liked it and wanted to? What (for you) would make you feel like that again?
Maybe this whole pilot wife thing isn’t what you expected. Maybe you feel cheated, like it’s not what you signed up for. I feel for you, I really do. The reality of aviation life can be tough pill to swallow; it’s not exactly every woman’s dream to be left for days at a time to handle things alone. But it is our reality, and if you want it to work then the best way to manage – the key to survival – is to face that reality head on and kick its ass.
You have to manage those expectations like the champ that you are. You’ve made it this far, right? I promise you there’s nothing you can’t handle, nothing you can’t survive. (See my post about 10 reasons pilot wives rule here.) You just have to be willing to dig deep, because this is not a role for the faint of heart. So when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will (stuff breaks, kids get sick, you get sick, flights cancel, plans cancel, all hell breaks loose) know that you aren’t alone. There are literally thousands of us going through the same thing, and we are here for you. You can do it, you are cut out for this, and it will be okay.
Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, and let shit go.
The Flight Wife