The other week I was out of town for three nights, on a business trip. Last week I was out of town for one night on a business trip. That amount and frequency of work-related travel is quite unusual for me. In fact, it seems to be cyclical. I often have a lot of work travel demands in the August through October period. The rest of the year, my travel schedule is only about one or two brief trips per quarter. This quarter, I had three trips, for a total of five nights.
This created two problems for us. The first is the problem TL described in her post: she wanted me to schedule less trips without conferring with her. One thing I learned from the experience was that when I travel, TL sometimes feels like I would rather be working than spending time together, that I would never say “no” to a trip unless she asked me to do so. This tells me I’ve not done enough to let her know she and our family are my top priority.
We talked more about it this morning. I now understand that TL felt that I never wanted to say “no” by myself and that I depended upon her to set the limits. I now understand that her pushing off decisions was her way of showing that she was not comfortable being put in the position of always being the one to set the limits. It was not my intention to make TL feel she had to set limits, that I was not willing or able to do so.
I did not view it as anyone setting limits. I viewed it as the two of us together making these decisions on a case-by-case basis. And if I traveled, it was not because “she let me travel.” And, if I did not travel, it was not because “she wouldn’t let me travel.” Rather, each trip was a single event that I thought the two of us were evaluating together with neither of us having a bias in favor or against. We did agree on a way to deal with that going forward.
The second problem was TL’s fear when I told her I had lunch in an airport with a female co-worker. Here’s the story. I’ll refer to this woman by the initials CW. CW works down the hall from me. She started just a few months ago. She is friendly, but not awkwardly friendly. She usually says “hi.” On two or three occasions she poked her head into my office to comment on some thing she just saw on the news and to ask my opinion. There are several male colleagues at work who do the same thing. I just try to be polite. CW is out of the office more than I am, for travel or projects. So, I can often go for several days without seeing her. Our little interactions have never seemed unprofessional or too friendly to me. I do make a conscious effort to avoid her, when possible.
On my most recent trip, while I waited to board the plane, I was surprised to find CW waiting to board the same plane. It was not a pleasant surprise. I knew TL would be unsettled by it. But, it was a completely unexpected, coincidental occurrence. I said “hi,” thinking it would be weird or rude if I did not. We made small talk while waiting to board the plane. It was completely innocuous, innocent, professional conversation. I made it a point to refer to my wife and children, in the most loving tones, whenever I could work it into the conversation. On the plane, we were seated several rows apart, so there was no need to talk.
At the layover, we were both headed off to separate flights, to separate airports. CW started waiting for me while I waited for my plane side-checked bag. I said, “Don’t feel compelled to wait for me.” I tried to be matter-of-fact about it. I did not want to be rude to a co-worker. I also did not want to be unnecessarily friendly. She walked off. I got my bag and started to look around for a restaurant. I was starved and it was about midday.
By coincidence, CW saw me. She asked, “Will you join me for lunch?”
I thought as quickly as I could. I was going to have lunch anyway. This woman works down the hall from me. I want to be polite but not too friendly. I decided to accept her lunch offer but to commit myself to purely professional conversation, a brief lunch, and an immediate full report to TL.
I did that. We had a brief lunch. We made pleasant small talk about work, family, and stuff in the news. After we paid our separate checks, I said, “Well, I’m going to hit the men’s room and then call my wife.” I proceeded to do that.
As we were leaving, I said, “Safe travels.”
She said, “Yeah, maybe we’ll see each other there.” She was referring to our firm’s second headquarters, which was where both of us were supposed to end our journeys that day. By then, I had forgotten she was going there too.
I said, “Oh, yeah. Maybe.”
“Give me your phone number,” she said.
I felt a little trapped. I gave her my business card. We went our separate ways. A short time later, she texted me, to give me her phone number. I texted back, “Thanks.” We had no further communication, and I have not seen her since then. Last night she sent me a friend request on Facebook. I immediately showed TL and hit “decline.”
This is the type of woman I would have tried to exploit, prior to D-day. I told TL that now I don’t see CW as an opportunity for an affair. Rather, I see her as an opportunity to demonstrate to TL that I continue to be transparent, safe, and motivated by love for TL. TL and I talked about prevention. For example, if I’m confronted by an impromptu lunch invitation again, I can say, “I can’t. I have an FaceTime date with my wife while I eat.” My plan is to continue avoiding CW, to talk about TL when I am confronted by CW, and to keep telling TL everything that happens.