Reflections on Long-Term Travel with Your Spouse

One question we got a lot when we told friends and family about this trip was, "How are you going to feel JUST being with this one other person FOR A YEAR?"

Back home, Nate and I had huge friend/family safety nets.  We spent the vast majority of daylight hours apart.  I worked out of the house, and several nights each week we would do things separately. He played trivia with friends or did improv, I met friends for happy hour or dinner.  

But things are totally different on the road.  If we get annoyed with each other, I can't just call up my friend Lindsay and go meet her for a drink.

This trip has presented a whole new host of challenges on a subject our therapist calls "differentiation."  

Differentiation the basic idea that we're not the same person.

We're just not.

Nate is Nate, and I'm me.  

That seems so so simple but is one of the most challenging concepts I've had to deal with in long-term relationships and in this marriage.

Nate and I are not going to agree on everything.  We're going to have different interests and goals for this trip.  We'll want to see different things, and we'll perceive situations differently.  And that's okay.

Marriage makes differentiation hard.  Despite neither of us being super religious or subscribing to the "marriage is the end all, be all" idea of the institution, marriage still ups the ante.

When we argue or disagree, when we need space from each other or just plain aren't enjoying each other's company, this little voice in the back of my head screams out, "But you're my HUSBAND.  Shouldn't we just be making out and holding hands and agreeing non-stop?"

Of course this is crap.  Everyone in a real, long-term relationship knows this.

Seeing a therapist and doing a lot of work to differentiate ourselves has allowed me to appreciate the small (and big) ways that Nate is different from me.

It's also helped us to recognize when we need time apart and to be able to ask openly for it.  

Back home, I would sometimes come home grumpy from work.  I would snap at Nate and general be dour, and finally Nate would say, "Do you just want to be alone in the apartment right now?"  

That's it!  I just wanted to come home and make myself something to eat and sit quietly by myself.  

Eventually we got to the place where I could say, "Yes, that's what I need," and Nate would pop right up and leave.  

Like just walk out of the apartment.  

When it was warm outside, he'd go for a walk around the neighborhood.  In colder months, he'd go for a drive.  

And no one was feeling bad or resentful.  He was happy to give me what I needed when I finally was able to put a finger on it.

So back to this trip.

We're here together, 2,000 miles away from anyone we know (yes, I googled it).  

In the past few days, we've definitely gotten grumpy with each other.  And this, to us, is usually an indication that someone's tired or needing alone time.

So today we're taking some time apart.  Nate found an exotic fruit tour that I'm not really interested in, so he's about to head out to that.  I'm headed to this cool old castle to take a tour of the gardens.  We'll meet up later to check out a local brewery.

From the exotic fruit tour.

From the exotic fruit tour.

As uncomfortable as it is for us to part ways in a foreign city like Medellin, we know that we need time apart too.

While Nate is the closest person to me and I've already relied on him so much during this trip, we're both going to have to continue working on differentiating ourselves from each other.  We're going to have to remind ourselves that we're different people and that that's okay.  We're going to have to be able to ask for alone time when we need it most, and when we hear that request from each other, we're going to have to comply without resentful or fear of that person pulling away.

We'll let you know how it goes ;).