How to Stay Married When Travel is Your First Love

How to Stay Married When Travel is Your First Love

We met in Egypt, dated in England, slept together in Amsterdam, got serious in Africa, were separated in Laos, moved in together in Paris, had children in New Zealand, married in Vanuatu, started over again in Costa Rica and grew middle-aged together in Australia.

That’s our love story in 44 words, a relationship that’s spanned 22 years and as many countries.

Candlelit dinners are a distant memory, he’s only given me flowers once unprompted and it took us 14 years and three children to tie the knot. But it turns out that candlelit dinners, flowers and white weddings aren’t the key ingredients for a long and happy marriage.

Here’s how we’ve stayed married and built a relationship that spans the years as well as the continents.

1. Be realistic not romantic

There are a myriad times when Rich and I could have parted ways. In the beginning because I was too young and clueless and he was just ending a long-term relationship. Then later because of the pressure of having children and my depression. And now because it would be so easy, easier than staying together.

When people ask how The Mucho Man and I are getting on I tell them we haven’t killed each other yet. It’s not that there isn’t any love between us, we just don’t show it. You won’t see us holding hands, hugging or kissing. Some days, even though we work from home and spend all day in the same house together, we barely even talk expect to delegate chores that keep the household running smoothly.

“Can you pick Max up from art class today?” I’ll ask.

“Will you fill up the car when you go out?” he’ll counter.

Neither of us says please. I remind myself to say thank you sometimes for all the things he does for me which I take for granted.

There have been moments when I wanted to leave him: the time he gave me a magazine for my birthday and that time during couples counselling when he failed to recall one single thing that he’d ever found attractive in me still bother me. But somehow we’ve stuck together even though decades of monogamy lacks the excitement of make ups and break ups and the Internet dating adventures which I enjoy vicariously through my friends.

2. Develop complimentary life skills to strengthen your bond

I’ve only slept with six men and two of those were so hopelessly inept and socially moronic that it was a one-off experience. Last year the Mucho Man turned 50 and that depressed me more than him because I never imagined that I’d end up married to a portly fifty year old.

Then I noticed that, even though I’m the only person who’s cut his hair for the last 15 years, and I’ve never ever seen him work out, I still find him good-looking. I still want to spend time with him even if we don’t have much to say and his ageing I hate but what it represents: a heart attack waiting to happen and the life of emptiness ahead of me when he is gone.

But we don’t talk about that.

Our love has evolved into practical divisions of tasks. I cook and he washes up. I take the kids to early morning activities on Saturday while he has a lie in before doing some housework. I plan our daily and future lives while he takes care of our finances so, if our lives are long, we can grow old in reasonable comfort.

3. Turn passion into compassion

Sometimes when I’m feeling most loving I let him ramble on about real estate prices and the global economy, or join him on the sofa to watch one of the documentaries he loves. And he humors me occasionally by letting me talk about blogging or my latest travel plans, even though he doesn’t have the same drive to keep traveling and exploring that I do.

Occasionally, with minimal promoting, he notices I’m wearing a new dress and says I look nice without asking how much it cost.

Our relationship grew stronger last year because I went away so much. He says running the house and taking care of the children is easier when I’m not there but I know he misses me really. Just like I miss him when he takes the kids camping and leaves me home alone. But only on the last day.

I was keeping a diary when we met in Egypt but he didn’t impress me much to begin with nor I him. Maybe we weren’t that impressive alone but together, after all our travels and travails, we’ve evolved into something a little bit special.

We were slow to get married but eventually made it official with an island wedding in Vanuatu attended by our three children.

What’s your little tip on how to stay married?

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  1. Rebecca February 14, 2013 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for writing this post! It’s so refreshing ti hear someone speak so candidly and honestly about marriage. It can be hard work, and it’s not all fun and games. But you two have found what works for you and I think that’s fabulous.
    I wish you many, many more years together.

    • Annabel Candy February 14, 2013 at 7:43 am - Reply

      Hi Rebecca,

      It hasn’t been easy working out how to stay married when divorce seems to be the norm but it’s worth it. It’s hard to find good role models but they are out around and I do love to hear an enduring love story so glad you enjoyed mine :) Thank you!

  2. Catherine White February 14, 2013 at 6:16 am - Reply

    What an interesting love story Annabel. Apart from a couple of occasions, most of my travel is alone. I don’t know how I’d cope travelling with someone else. I’d have to be smitten to even consider it.

    BTW… very handsome husband you have there girl.

    • Annabel Candy February 14, 2013 at 7:46 am - Reply

      Hi Catherine,

      Travel is definitely the ultimate test for any romance or friendship but I admire you for travelling alone. So many people fear that so stay home instead. It’s been a long time since I traveled alone but it opens up a lot of opportunities you never get exposed to when you travel with someone else. There are pros and cons to both. Re handsome hubby – why thank you ;)

  3. Patrick February 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post. I have only been married a couple years but wonder how it is supposed to work long term. That sounds horrible, but it is not blaming my spouse or the relationship. Truthfully, I think people are individuals, and it is refreshing to see how someone balances that individuality with marriage.

    On another note, I am a new follower. I saw links to your blog on other sites and just added you to my RSS feed, which, inevitably, means I will be spending too much time in the next couple days looking at old posts :)

    • Annabel Candy February 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Patrick,

      My husband says I made it sound bad when it’s not! I recommend staying married :) Great to hear you’ve subscribed.

  4. Chartreuse February 15, 2013 at 9:53 am - Reply

    This is my second marriage and we’ve been together almost 35 years. My first marriage lasted 12 years. If I think about why this one has lasted and the first didn’t, I’d have to say that the difference is we both wanted it to last – no matter what. I don’t think all marriages are salvageable. But certainly more could last than do. I believe one secret to a lasting marriage is for both people to continue working on this relationship, rather than assume there’s a better one waiting around the corner.

    • Annabel Candy February 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Chartreuse,

      That’s incredible. Respect! Great advice. We always think the grass is greener but if you can I think staying married is definitely more rewarding than giving up too soon:)

  5. Seana Smith February 18, 2013 at 4:52 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel, that first paragraph is a complete cracker. Well written you.

    I met my hubby when I was 31 and had run the gamut of the Desperadoes (collective noun for one’s ex-boyfriends.) We’ve had many downs over the past 17 years but I am SO glad that we’re sticking together, we’re both very committed to our togetherness and our family.

    There have been terrible times, but not so much now and we’re kind to each other, and we know how to say sorry – well, there’s been plenty practice. And we’re not married but feel so married and I always call him my husband. De facto!

    • Annabel Candy February 18, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      You would have had more time to fit in more desperadoes! Love that term and total respect for you for sticking it out through the good and the bad. Of course you feel married – you are. It’s only a piece of paper and for us it was an excuse for a holiday. The best reason to get married ;)

  6. Cate February 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    I remember that a beautiful elderly neighbour we had when we were first married, who had herself celebrated close to seventy years of married life with her husband, advising us that all marriages had their ups and downs, that, in the end, it was friendship that counted, and always to remember and accept that no-one is perfect, we are all individuals, and that is what makes the world go around. Thirty years on, I know she was right. Stuff happens, and some of it is hard to take, and, while I would never countenance anyone putting up with abuse, sometimes we just have to take the bad with the good.
    Love is…
    C :)

    • Annabel Candy March 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      Yes to friendship and ups and downs – all just part of life. Loved reading that thank you so much.

  7. sharon March 9, 2013 at 12:59 am - Reply

    Gosh you put it very well. I sometimes wonder after 27 year of being together why Nuno and I still are, the countries, the travel, the different cultures, the kids, the work ..the house work! the already planning next steps of being alone when he comes home late, the lack of chat, the rewrapped Xmas pressie for my birthday including Xmas card revamped! but then months later surprising me with a supply of my favourite tea. Every night I make sure he has a full glass of water by his bed, so what is it all about? the little things? I suppose we can’t imagine it any other way and have come to the stage of our lives where we really can’t be bothered to change things and it’s OK..and we’re contently pottering along.

    • Annabel Candy March 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Sharon,

      Lol, re your rewrapped Xmas present. Nuno sounds like a true man and so beautiful that every now and then he does remember you and think of a simple way to make you happy.

      Here’s to 27 years more of contented pottering – love the sound of that :)

  8. Catherine White May 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I love the love story until the we grew middle-aged together in Australia bit :-)

    Seriously, your story is so interesting, and yeah travel is a challenge for couples, but a sense of humour and adventure makes for interesting bed fellows.

    I think the challenge for people so well travelled, is an attack of the wanderlust when settled into the routine of raising children and farming chooks.

    Along with the rest of your readers, I look forward to many more interesting adventures from you both — without the children :-))

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