I travelled a few times in my job this past year. The first couple of trips were each several days. TL was really remarkably supportive and resilient. As before, we used the Internet to keep in constant contact. All-in-all, it seemed to work out pretty well for us.
Then people asked me to make a handful of very brief trips in country. The shortest was thirty-six hours and the longest was about three-and-a-half days. Each of these requests came individually, not all at once. One of these trips was to a nearby city.
When I discussed it with TL, she seemed to panic. I originally thought she feared I was planning to go find available women. I was not. In fact, I was quite proud of myself for not even wanting those things in the two-and-a-half years since D-day. Later, however, TL and I discussed this issue. I had misunderstood her fear. In fact, she said, she actually feared I might plan or desire to hook-up with a colleague during the trip. That, of course, was never my plan nor my desire. But, I do completely empathize with this fear of TL’s. It’s an understandable fear, given everything I did before D-day.
Trying to help TL relax, I said, “It’s OK, I can skip this trip.” The trip really wasn’t required, from a professional perspective. It would be helpful professionally, but not required. TL, still in panic mode, told me that my quick offer to skip the trip supported her suspicions that I had nefarious plans. She said she would pull the kids out of school and travel with me. With genuine concern about the kids’ schooling, I expressed doubts about that course of action. TL dug in her heels. I conceded. No course of action before me appeared to have the potential to put TL’s mind at ease. She did pull the kids out of school and accompanied me. It worked out quite well. We all had a good time, and I even got what I needed out of it professionally.
The next trip was shorter but farther away. B discussed it with us and suggested I try it alone. It also worked out well. TL and I recently talked about why it worked out well. First, spending time to constantly communicate with TL during the trip eliminates time I would have to dwell on selfishness or self-pity. That helps to diminish the old, negative patterns in my mind. Second, the act of communicating with TL reinforces positive pathways in my brain that are focused on honesty and transparency. Third, I am also able to reassure TL, giving her all the time and attention that I denied to her in the past. B often emphasizes to us the importance of building new pathways and deconstructing the negative ones.
We continue to discuss these trips as they arise and to deal with them on a case-by-case basis. Each time, we consider TL’s fears and feelings and work on constructing new healthier pathways both individually and together.