These tools have helped us stay sane spending 24/7 together.
All relationships take work. I don’t make the rules, that’s just the truth. Even when you’re traveling and living abroad, life with your partner isn’t all beaches and sunsets. There are new challenges that couples living “normal” lives at home don’t have. Namely, spending almost every waking (and sleeping) moment together.
We’ve been living, working and traveling together since 2011, and though 99% of the time it’s awesome, there have been times when we both wanted to kill each other. Fortunately, the 1% of near murderous experiences have resulted in a set of tools we now use to get through anything, and we think they can help you and your partner too.
1) Communicate your feelings
It seems obvious but internalizing your feelings instead of being open with your partner will only lead to trouble down the line. As much as we would like them to be able to, your partner cannot read your mind. Let them know how you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Do this not only when you are upset or angry but also when you are happy or excited. Keeping an open dialogue with your partner about both positive and negative feelings you have will help you to understand each other better. When you’re traveling, crappy days are bound to happen, so communicate the problem and be there for one another however you can. On the road you are each other’s main support through the fun times and the rough ones.
2) Shut up and listen
When you’re spending so much time together you start to finish each other’s sandwiches, which is cute and all, but not ideal for allowing each other to properly express yourselves. Show your partner that you respect what they have to say by listening when they are telling you something. Allow them to say what’s on their mind, and don’t interject until they are done. Maintain eye contact, show active listening through body language, and try not to make judgmental faces, even if you’re SURE you know EXACTLY what they’re about to say. If your partner does or doesn’t want to do something, hear them out and respect their reasons. This is a journey you’re both on, after all.
3) Show support for each other’s goals and interests
So long as your partner’s interests aren’t shooting heroin, wild-animal-taunting or stamp-collecting, show them support for the things they are interested in. Better yet, be their biggest fan. There are enough naysayers in the world shooting down our ideas and dreams every day. Our partner should be a companion we can rely on to support us through life, especially in the things we love to do. If you are traveling together you are already supporting each other’s travel goals, which is amazing. Extend that to hobbies and other interests that develop and flourish on the road. For Stevo that’s stand-up comedy, for me it’s yoga.
4) Allow each other to grow
People aren’t static and nothing in life is a guarantee. Don’t put your partner in a box and expect them to stay that way forever. Travel and time will change you based on circumstances within and beyond your control, and that’s a good thing. With constant communication you’ll be able to support one another through the peaks and valleys of travel (and life), growing as partners and as individuals. Find the balance between respecting your partner’s needs while pursuing your own.
5) Accept one another other as you are
We are each individuals, created by our diverse experiences and backgrounds. But sometimes our differences are hard to understand, and we feel frustrated by things our partner does or says. Instead of chastising them and wishing they would just like strawberries, because who doesn’t like strawberries?!, try to see where they are coming from. Sometimes it’s better to agree to disagree, and that’s okay. Accepting your partner for who they are is the greatest gift you can give them. I love to get up early, while Stevo is happier sleeping in and staying up late. This used to drive me crazy! Now I realize that mornings are a great chance for me to have some alone time. I do yoga, go on photo walks and stroll through morning markets. Likewise Stevo enjoys his alone time late night.
6) Let go of the idea of a perfect partner/relationship
Movies, TV and the internet do a great job of romanticizing the perfect relationship or the ideal partner. If we listen to everything the media is trying to sell us on, we’ll fail before we even begin. And those “perfect couples” on Facebook? They are only posting their highlight reels, which you’re likely comparing with your behind the scenes footage. Relationships are between real people with real problems, living in a world that can be real shitty sometimes. Let go of the idea that you’re “supposed” to be a certain way or do certain things. That’s an exhausting way to live. Tune out the noise, ignore the unrealistic nonsense and do what is right for you and your partner. Stop comparing!
7) Don’t take your partner’s love for granted
Being with a partner who loves and respects you, AND is willing to travel or move across the world with you is a gift, one to be appreciated and cherished. Show your partner that you love them every day. This doesn’t mean buying them lavish gifts or expensive meals. Simply acknowledge the things they do for you with a “thank you.” Say “please” when you ask them to hand you something. Hug and kiss each other often (though not in public in many places!). These little gestures go a long way in showing your partner that you are excited to be with them, respect them and care about them. Don’t forget to schedule date nights once in a while too. Just because you’re together all the time doesn’t mean you’re on one giant never-ending date!
Most importantly, have fun together. Laugh often, and try not to take life too seriously. What’s the point in that? You’ve chosen one another as partners on this crazy journey you’re on. Enjoy the ride together!
Does any of this resonate with you? Please share some things you and your partner do to stay sane on the road.
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