August 25, 2008

Travel Relationship Stress
Sárospatak, Hungary

I'm a big believer that couples need to travel abroad together in order to really know each other, and test the limits of their relationship. A single day on the road can contain the emotional charge of ten compounded days of life back home.

Travel brings out all the highs and lows—exposes the personal quirks and habits. It allows you to see how a person reacts under stress and pressure in a foreign environment, and how you as a couple handle that stress. Three months of travel can bring with it the telling experiences of thirty.

This is why many couples that start off traveling together don't end their trips together. Latin America is full of former young pairs, now freshly single. It need not be boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife—friendships are taxed and tortured just the same.

But I'm discovering—and living in the middle of—an entirely new twist on the travel relationship stress test game: the additional of an infant child.

Tatiana and I made a wonderful pair traveling SE Asia. We've almost been hip and hip since the Philippines in July 2007. But sometimes I feel like we—our relationship—are starting to crumble under the stress of it all.

We're bickering and quarreling with each other at increasing rates. I think we're having a strongly opinionated discussion about a topic (on fate, destiny and freewill, for example), but she thinks we're arguing.

She's taking things I say very personally, even though many times they're supposed to be playful. She doesn't feel good about her body. Her hormones are causing issues. She's homesick for her family in Lima. Neither of us is getting enough sleep. Neither of us is getting enough intimacy.

Baby care is lopsided, with her dedicating more of her time towards washing, nurturing and feeding Aidric than I am. She doesn't ever do dishes or take out the trash, but she takes a lot of pride in cooking (for the two of us), so I let take the reins on that the majority of the time. I, on the other hand, do 100% of our devastatingly exhausting travel logistics: planning, shepherding, transport, and accommodations hunting.

We naturally excel at the roles that we thrust ourselves into, but she regularly complains that she's in the kitchen all day, and that I don't play with Aidric enough. Frankly, at this age, I take more pleasure in exposing him to new tactile experiences and sights than anything else. I show my love in my own way, in part by taking endless numbers of photos and videos, retouching them, and sharing them publically for friends and family to see. This is something personal and long lasting that I can do for us (but perhaps isn't the tangible contribution she's seeking).

I know I need to do more of many things, but I'd rather change a hundred shitty diapers than deal with the frustrations of feeding Aidric by spoon a single time. I have no patience for his ritualistic 40-minute ADD food fights, and have told her as much from the time he started eating that way.

But these are all just little cracks compared to the fracture in the hull of our love boat caused by a lack of personal Craig and Tatiana time. From dawn 'till dusk, it's always the three of us, and the hour—or less frequently, hours—of time remaining in the day before crashing is spent in other ways (like me futilely attempting to keep current on photo sorting and travelogue posts).

Perhaps Tatiana is burning out on me, and with the routine. Her days are filled with too many peaks of pleasure and valleys of frustration. There's a lot at stake here for all involved, and I wonder how many patches we can keep welding in place before our ship turns into the Titanic.

Comments:

The United Kingdom

Jack from eyeflare travel tips

August 31st, 2008

Craig, I might be missing something important here, but… Why not take a break from the travels for a bit and re-establish the relationship? Three months or so in one place should let you both catch your breath and catch up on sleep and… intimacy as well.

Chile

Maya

August 31st, 2008

Im so sorry to hear that, but i think you both are learning how to be parents and thats not easy…. Sadly you only have each other, because the "you and me time" usually, at least in Latin amèrica you get it because you can leave the baby with his or her grandparents overnight and voilá! you have a evening and the entire night no have your own time. When you are traveling you dont have a net, a safe spot to leave the baby and have your own time.. i just hope you find something like that and a way to recover that time.. i wish you the best and send you all my love

China

Craig Strong

September 4th, 2008

Hi Craig,

That sucks!

At home with a regular schedule and time to look forward to leaving the kids with a babysitter it is hard enough.

There have been several times in our marriage where we were both ready to call it quits. Having been at it for 13+ years through times when there wasn't even a thread holding our relationship together, just sheer force of our wills to stick it out, it has gotten MUCH better. I think that much of this excellent place we have been in for several years is due to having that hell hole of a season, then seasons of life to look back on and wonder how we got through. I am sure that there are seasons to come that we will make it through because of those other times and those future hell holes will bond us even more on the other side.

Ours choice to stick it out is not always the best but I can say that, with the right person, going through (putting each other through) shit together has created a powerful bond for us now.

-Craig

P.S. feeding your son seems like a great opportunity to deal with some of your own issues, kids have a way of doing that

Hungary

Craig | travelvice.com

September 4th, 2008

Thanks for the comments, all. This was certainly one of those raw, in the moment entries that I wrote in the midst of some turmoil. The majority of our days are good, but like with any long-term relationship, there are times of doubt and decisions which can have impacts greater than they seem at present.

Jack: For me, stopping the travel brings with it an entirely new bag of problems. For every day or week that I'm not mobile, I'm growing restless and increasingly unhappy. Both recent stints in Lima and Miami illustrated how a lack of travel eats away at my core.

Maya: You touched on a topic that I discussed with Tatiana that very day. There are no babysitters now, or in the foreseeable future — not even a family member to watch the kid for a few hours. The absence of such a thing is felt every time we wish to watch a movie together, or even carve out more than an hour of time together.

Craig: Thanks for sharing your experiences. Tatiana always tells me that our relationship together is independent of Aidric — meaning that she's not with me because of our son, she's with me because she loves me, and wants to be around me. But there are moments when I do something selfish or stupid, she gets fiery, and the state of things becomes volatile. An alpha male and an alpha female can make an unpredictable paring.

(P.S. What on earth are you doing in China, my good mentor? Lensbaby manufacturing or Olympics?)

As for me, I'm trying harder to juggle all the balls in the air, to ask Tatiana if she needs help more often, and to make time for us when we've the opportunity. I've told her for months and months now that I was low maintenance, and that Aidric is the priority. But I think we're really seeing what putting us on the backburner for a child can do after nearly eight months. We both need to reprioritize the fundamentals of our relationship.

The United States

Craig Strong

September 15th, 2008

Hi Craig,

China, second time in a month for Lensbaby product development. Glad to be home.

Hope today is a good day for you and your family.

-Craig

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