Why Touring Makes Us a Better Couple

Today’s post is a guest post written by newbie road widow, D’nelle.

For the last 12 days, my husband has been on tour out of the country, so I’m pretty deep into missing him. Plus, our anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my life has changed since I became a road widow. When you’re going to that family celebration without your plus-one… or eating warmed up left-overs sitting on the couch alone… or trying to figure out what you can watch on Netflix that your spouse and you don’t watch together… the bright side of being a road widow can seem like a dot on the horizon. It is NOT easy being miles apart from your partner and best friend, no matter how you slice it. The distance is difficult, but it is also sort of obvious. That’s usually what people ask me about when they find out my husband tours: how I deal with him being gone for so long. And it is true that there are downsides to the distance, but lately I’ve been feeling especially lucky. Despite the challenges we face being apart, I feel like we’ve created a pretty great life thanks to the the dictator-like tour schedule. We’re still learning as we go along, but right now, there are some things that we know for sure will keep us close.

We are talkers. When you go for long stretches of not being in the same room, the only option you have for communication is verbally or in writing. At the very beginning of our relationship, after just one date, the tour left for a 30-day west coast run.  We were stuck texting each other (or, on a couple of occasions, talking on the phone). We got to know each other so much more intimately than we might otherwise have, since that was our main option for interaction and connection. Those first 30 days trained us to talk, talk, talk, and we’ve never stopped. We usually can work out our differences pretty easily thanks to how much we talk – both about us as a couple and about ourselves as individuals. Don’t get me wrong – I love being curled up on the couch together with a movie, not talking about anything – but getting really good at talking to each other is what has kept us close.

We are creative problem solvers – and clever with technology. When you’re trying to build a life together for the long-haul, tour dates can pit themselves against that life in a merciless battle, and you’re left to figure out how to resolve the conflict. This past summer, we moved from my husband’s small apartment into a house of our own. We’d expected to move in the fall when he had a 4-week strech off, but when we found the perfect house, our schedule was accelerated by two months – smack into the thick of tour season. Combining households to create a new one when one person is absent is no cakewalk! We unpacked and arranged the house largely via picture texts, pinterest boards and shared google docs.  After reading Chris’s post about video chatting, we took a cue and started making a point to connect visually using our iPhones. Whether it’s a good-morning video we record that can blur the time zones and allow us to wake up “together” or a commitment to a short FaceTime session when our schedules match up, those short moment where we can see the other’s face makes a world of difference. Maybe I’ve never really missed anyone as much as I miss my husband, but I had never before in my life realized the importance of that visual connection!

We are flexible and laid back. When a show date is added… or days off disappear thanks to a TV appearance… or there’s some in-town errand that’s necessary, you don’t have a choice but to roll with it. I admit that I had a had a tough time with it at first – the disappointment of dashed expectations, the inconvenience of rearranging plans – but I’ve come to really enjoy the unexpected. Even though sometimes my expectations aren’t met, more often than not there are unexpected delights that come our way. From something as small as an extra 30 minutes to sit in the sun with some iced tea while I wait for a slow tour bus to arrive… to something as rare as getting comp tickets and back stage passes to a Vegas show. Being a road widow has taught me that the inconveniences are much outweighed by the adventures. I’ve gained so much by practicing an attitude of flexibility that it spills over into all parts of my life.  It has led me to spontaneous nights out with friends that bonded us in ways we could never have planned… time alone with myself to discover new musicians or writers that I now love… moments with my husband that we’ll remember forever. It’s opened my life up to so much more than I knew before.

We are learning to protect our relationship. With no option but to let the tour have first dibs on our time, we’ve learned to say yes – and say no – and mean it. Like I said in my last post, you’ve got to take it where you can get it… but you’ve got to commit to make space for that to happen. When there’s an opportunity for us to spend time together, we take it. Sometimes that means saying yes to a random invitation to a live show in town on a Tuesday, where we can be social together… and sometimes that means saying no to travel plans to see family for the holidays. The time we get to spend in each other’s presence is always colored by the times we won’t have the choice whether or not to be together, and it makes it sweeter. Because we know that Tuesdays are the most likely day there’ll be for us to have a relaxing “weekend” day, I deliberately won’t schedule work meetings on that day (even the ones I’d really like to get taken care of quickly). It’s not something that comes naturally to me, setting boundaries like that, but it’s making me a happier person than I have ever been.

All of that may seem a little pollyanna-ish, but working to deliberately find an upside to things that can make me frustrated or sad is something I practice (not that I’m at all skilled in it), as a way to push out the darkness that can otherwise take over. I go to places I’ve never gone before, experience things I’ve never felt before, and love more deeply than I’ve ever been capable of before… all thanks to this crazy, upside down road widow life. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth every wait.


dnelle

About D’Nelle

I’m D’nelle – wife of a roadie – aka drum tech and problem fixer. I call myself an “internet consultant” – because it’s easier than rattling off the really long list of things I do on a daily basis (think: web development, email marketing, etc.) – and run my own business around that. I moved to Nashville in 2001 and have been continually falling in love with it ever since. My husband and I have been together for 3 years and married in 2012. He’s spent his entire professional life touring, but the life is pretty new to me and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Luckily, my work can fit his schedule most of the time, and that plus iPhones help us survive him being away.

Working Vacations

Today’s post is a guest post written by newbie road widow, D’nelle.

Most of my life has been spent in a self-employed environment – between my parents owning a construction company and starting my own consulting business in 2006, I’m used to having a very independent work schedule that is a torturous combination of “never at work, always at work.” Sure, I can choose my hours as I please… but when a client’s website crashes, the choice is kind of made for you.

My husband, on the other hand, has his life’s schedule dictated by a tour. He doesn’t get to choose much of anything. Someone else is deciding when and where he eats, sleeps, and has time off.

The bright side to our combined schedule is that there are plenty of opportunities for utterly random days off in cities where you’d otherwise have no real reason to spend time. Of course, I can’t always hop a plane to be with my husband on his days off, but a few times a year the stars align with our Rapid Rewards points balance and we get a mini-vacation.

The thing is, time off between shows does not a true vacation make. Days off on the road are still, to a certain extent, time at work. I joke that these little vacations are my chance to play “groupie” for a few days, because my husband isn’t the only person who’s got days off – the entire band & crew are off, too, staying in the same hotel. The days off can feel more like a family reunion than a typical vacation, whether you eat meals together as a group, hang out together in the same pool cabana, or see each other at the Starbucks in the morning. Depending on the location, my husband might have a couple half-days off thrown into the mix, and I find ways to amuse myself while he’s busy – either by doing my own work (laptop + hotel wifi = I work from anywhere!) or by playing tourist alone.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. I’ve never felt quite as alone as I can sometimes get when I visit my husband on the road. Part of it is feeling left out of the action. As a kid in a family-business environment, I was practically programmed to pitch in and help get a job done – it feels weird to watch other people work and not be helping. But the other part of it is that I don’t get to share my own experiences with my husband – riding up to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a lot of fun, but when you wish you were with your best friend while doing it… and he’s just a short drive away… it can be a little bittersweet.

My friends often wonder, why not just wait until my husband is home and take a “real” vacation when we can both be together? Why compromise on these little mini-vacations that are like time stolen, that aren’t 100% relaxation and quality time?

I finally resolved that, even if I am alone sometimes, I am still taking pictures of my travels! A selfie might be obnoxious, but sometimes it's the only choice you've got.

I finally resolved that, even if I am alone sometimes, I am still taking pictures of my travels! A selfie might be obnoxious, but sometimes it’s the only choice you’ve got.

My answer is one that I repeat a LOT these days - you’ve got to take it where you can get it. Our vacation time isn’t very traditional, but it works for us, and it helps keep our relationship strong despite the constant distance. We get to share things that otherwise we wouldn’t get to – like walking hand in hand down to the shore of Lake Tahoe after lunch – and it reminds me what his work life is like for him (and a reminder is always a good thing – sometimes it’s easy to feel like he “goes away on vacation”… until I see him sweating over his workbox, focused on the show, or splayed out, exhausted, in a tour bus front lounge).

Working vacations may not be in some exotic locale, or long enough, or very predictable at all… but they’re part of what gets us through road life. When my husband has days off that I can’t come out for – especially if there’s a stretch of 3 or 4 days – those days for him are often boring or miserable or both, and really sad for me. Even when his days are filled with distractions like go-karting or being a tourist, and mine are filled with work or evenings with the girls, there’s a part of each of us that’s always wishing we could be together. And together, for us, is preferable no matter what we’re doing or who’s calling the shots.


dnelle

About D’Nelle

I’m D’nelle – wife of a roadie – aka drum tech and problem fixer. I call myself an “internet consultant” – because it’s easier than rattling off the really long list of things I do on a daily basis (think: web development, email marketing, etc.) – and run my own business around that. I moved to Nashville in 2001 and have been continually falling in love with it ever since. My husband and I have been together for 3 years and married in 2012. He’s spent his entire professional life touring, but the life is pretty new to me and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Luckily, my work can fit his schedule most of the time, and that plus iPhones help us survive him being away.

The Departed

Today’s post is a guest post written by newbie road widow, Tammy.

It was not the best departure. In fact, there were two in a row.

The week before my music-loving fella left for a two-week run, he took a trip to his home state to see his children. The night before he flew out, he gigged from 10pm to 2am and thought he had set his alarm for 6am to catch an 8am flight the next morning. He woke up at 7:10. Uh-oh. “OH MY GOD! I’m gonna miss my flight,” was my alarm. But it kinda sounded like a dare. I love dares. I jumped out of bed and said, “Get dressed!” We grabbed his bags, ran to the car and headed to the interstate where traffic (at 7am on Sunday) was at a standstill. He groaned so hard my heart cracked – he was missing his babies. Fortunately, the traffic broke quickly and my foot pounded the accelerator. He stared at the GPS on his phone for the duration of the drive, shaking his head in frustration, convinced he wouldn’t make the flight.

He has since learned to not underestimate me. I AM a Ninja.

A 16-minute drive took 9 minutes. At the curb, I flung open the trunk so he could grab his bags and get to the counter. He leaned in to kiss me, I leaned in to kiss him. The noise was there…that sweet “smack” of adoration and love…but no contact was made. And that’s okay because thanks to the kind folks at Southwest Airlines, they “express mailed” him to his gate and a few short hours he was basking in the glory of two beautiful little angels of Texas. Bliss.

However, a five-day trip turned into a seven-day trip turned into a eight-day trip when gigs came along. And while we’re always grateful for him to get a chance to play, having left in such a flurry of activity and anxiety had hit me. He would get home on a Sunday, play a show that night then leave on Tuesday. And that kinda…well…it sucked a little.

All of that was forgotten when I pick him up from the airport though. Holy cow, he makes homecomings great! When this manly man scoops me up in his arms and kisses me with no regard to anyone else on the planet, he makes up for every second gone.

We have learned to make the most of our time together, regardless of how little or how great it is. So, despite a stack of chores and errands that needed to be tended to before he left two days later, he insisted on us having a “date” – dinner and a movie. (insert obnoxious giggle) I’m grateful for that because after playing a show Sunday night and my working the next day, we had a chance to catch our breath and just enjoy each other’s company.

The next night before his trip was spent packing, and planning his Tuesday departure. “I’ll take you to work, then come home and load up the car and come back to get you,” he told me. “That way you can see the guys and tell me goodbye.” Good plan, worked for me!

Only it didn’t work. We took my car and used my keys and, fortunately, he reminded me I need my office keys off of the ring. Unfortunately, the house key was on the ring as well, which we didn’t discover until he got home. He came back to the office, got the key and returned home with little to no time to make it to bus call. Fortunately, bus call is across the street from my office and the rest of the band was running late, so he had plenty of time. Unfortunately, when the bus finally got there, I was working and didn’t hear his calls for me to meet him. Since they were running behind, he had to leave…with no goodbye. Not even an air kiss. Blah.

Barely two days together and 21 days gone. Sad panda.

After a few tears shed. Mine, not his. I made peace with his rapid and not-so-romantic departures because I know that these are rare occurrences.

I also know that I lucked into an amazing man who cherishes our relationship as much as I do. So a steady stream of text messages, phone calls and a whole bunch of mushy stuff that I won’t share (seriously…it would nauseate you) makes up for the less that picture-perfect goodbyes. And ultimately, I have a happy, satisfied, WORKING musician that will be coming home to me in five more sleeps.


TammyAbout Tammy

I’m Tammy. I’m a 15-year music industry veteran in a committed relationship with another 15-year industry vet—a touring musician. The great thing is, we get each other’s profession…AND he’s about a million different kinds of awesome, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges along the way.

Weekend Away

It’s no surprise that Husband’s schedule can get crazy. We have had seasons (and will have seasons) in which we may go several weeks –or months  – without a real weekend together. And often when he is home for a weekend, we have such a long list of chores and errands that it’s not relaxing at all.

So when the opportunity came up for us to have a weekend away together, we jumped right on it!
For any couple, quality time together is important. For any couple with children, quality time is important and rare. But for a couple in this touring business, quality time is an important, rare and precious gift!

Here are a few hints and tips that we found helpful in planning this weekend away:

  • Save your per diem money when and if you can so you have “extra cash” to spend on a nice hotel, nice dinner out, or just shopping while you’re away.
  • Use Priceline.com to book your hotel and “name your own price.” This is super easy if you’re familiar with the location of your getaway, and you can really save! We saved over 50%. I know I sound like a commercial, but save where you can, right?
  • Discuss how much you both expect to plan. I am much more of a planner than Husband is, and I like an agenda. Be up front with each other about whether this is a relaxing get away or a planned, structured vacation.
  • Don’t knock the idea of being a tourist in your hometown. You can save on gas and travel expense if you just go stay in another area of your town. Remember that our husbands travel a lot, and so the idea of staying around town may be appealing to them. I guarantee there is more to do than you realize just in your own backyard!
  • Make time just to have fun! Remember that this time away together is a REAL treat and take advantage!

Here’s hoping that Husband and I will get just what we need from this special weekend away together! :)

The “Status” of Support

Any Road Widow can tell you that this is no easy gig. Our significant others are on the road. A lot. And they miss a lot at home . Sometimes they miss things and it’s a bummer: like a wedding or a first step or family stopping through town. And sometimes they miss things and they’re probably glad to miss them: like a sick baby or cleaning the house. But the point is that they miss life and we miss them. Often we women left behind are overlooked in the grand scheme. Rarely to people see a tour bus and think “I wonder who the passengers on that bus left behind to go be on the road?” nor do people attend a concert and think about the families of the band and crew. But we’re here, back home, holding down the fort.

Late last week, Chris B and I said bye to our new-daddy husbands and saw them off on their first run of 2011. And later that night, the artist they work with dedicated a facebook status to us – the road widows, the wives and fiances and girlfriends left behind. And that status meant more to me than I can explain! Not every band becomes a family, but we are blessed to work with a group that truly cares about each other from the artist to the crew to the band to their families. And it’s a beautiful thing!

So maybe no one thinks of the bass player’s wife or the lighting guy’s fiance when they attend a concert. But sometimes the artists think of the families, and that is the kind of gesture that makes the hard days worth it!