Dating the One You Married
Careers That Prevent Dating
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
I was not very far into my career as a marriage counselor when I was struck by the number of spouses who were having affairs. A couple would come to my office merely for help with unresolved conflicts, and it would turn out that one of them had been unfaithful without the other spouse knowing about it. It became so common in my practice that I decided to begin my assessment with the assumption that an affair may be taking place or may have taken place at some time during the marriage.
I encouraged a spouse who suspected the other spouse of infidelity, but had no proof, to snoop. I showed them effective ways to determine whether or not an affair was taking place. Because those having affairs tend to be sloppy in the way they try to cover up, it wasnít too difficult to discover the truth of the matter.
But for many, snooping wasnít necessary. When I would simply ask clients the question, are you having, or have you ever had, an affair, they would simply admit it.
Of those couples who admitted to having an affair, or proof had been discovered, the majority had careers that required them to be regularly separated overnight. And the more days they were separated, the more likely it was for them to have had an affair. So, very early on, I would warn couples against being separated overnight as a precaution to infidelity.
But affairs are not the only problem with being separated overnight. Overnight separation also makes it seem difficult, if not impossible, to date the way I recommend: 15 hours a week of 3-5 hour dates.
Granted, an account representative that is required to be away for only one night a week, or less often, can follow my dating schedule without much difficulty after I explain how important it is to date. Even someone with a job that requires being away two nights a week can work dating into their schedules if they spend less time together as a family. While I donít encourage being separated at all because even short stints away from home may still risk an affair, it doesnít necessarily mean that dating is impossible.
But what about careers that separate spouses for an entire week? Or, a month? Or, a year? There are many careers of spouses that Iíve counseled that require being separated for extensive periods of time. These careers make the kind of dating that I recommend impossible. When dating is impossible, a romantic relationship is impossible.
Iíve found that deployment in the military has a very negative effect on marriage. Aside from the well-established high risk of infidelity, the meeting of intimate emotional needs during deployment cannot be done effectively. While many couples make an effort to stay connected using modern means of communication, itís just not the same as actually being together. These valiant efforts to stay bonded to each other usually fade after a few weeks and turn into an obligation. Over time, excuses are made to avoid them almost entirely toward the end of the deployment.
I have encouraged leaders in the military to provide servicemen and women advice and encouragement to remain faithful, and to do whatever is possible to stay connected. Iíve suggested that same-sex support groups be formed for spouses left behind. It can be very effective in helping them remain faithful while their intimate emotional needs are not being met. Chaplains working with deployed spouses can also help support their marriages by encouraging fidelity. I have suggested that spouses returning from deployment be given at least two weeks to be by themselves to reestablish their marital relationships in a well-planned retreat.
But these suggestions have rarely been implemented, even though deployment is known to be disastrous for many marriages. While infidelity is considered to be a felony for those who are deployed, Iíve found that penalties are rarely enforced. Part of the reason for that failure is that infidelity is so common that enforcement would tend to cripple the entire military.
For those who have experienced infidelity during deployment, and want to stay married, I strongly recommend avoiding further deployment, even if it means leaving the military. Iíve found that redeployment after an affair can have such a strong negative effect on the betrayed spouse, that it can lead to lasting physical and emotional symptoms and diseases.
There are many careers in the military that do not require deployment. For those who want to join the military and see the wisdom of dating, I encourage them to pursue those military careers.
As with the military, there are many opportunities to work for airline companies with a flexible enough schedule to be together overnight and date each week. But most pilot and flight attendants are not given that opportunity. They are usually kept from their families several days a week that make the dating I recommend almost impossible. As a result, their marriages are usually very precarious. Having counseled thousands of them, especially during the first few years of my practice, the only way that I was able save many of their marriages was for them to find careers that would not separate them overnight, giving them time to date.
In some cases, their income was so great that they could not find an alternative that would provide even half of their airline salary. So, for these, I suggested that they fly together, and schedule their dates while away from home. In some cases, a pilot and his flight attendant spouse were granted that privilege by their company. In other cases where only one spouses worked for the airline, the other spouse was allowed to fly without being charged for the flight or the hotel.
When those accommodations could not be made, and they could not be transferred to an airline job that did not require overnight travel, I recommended taking the loss of income to save the marriage. I found that those who did not follow that advice were often eventually divorced. The financial loss of the divorce usually far outweighed the loss that they would have had by leaving the airline and finding a new career.
But simply leaving the airline business to be together overnight is not a marriage guarantee for former employees. The opportunity to be together overnight also must accompany a dating schedule that uses that opportunity to meet each otherís intimate emotional needs.
There are a host of corporate jobs that require extensive travel that can separate spouses for weeks, months, or even years at a time.
For many, it sneaks up on them. They may begin with a local marketing position that requires very rare overnight travel. Then, an advance with a raise is offered with more overnight travel. It becomes clear that to move up the corporate ladder, with substantial increases in income, extensive travel is expected. Itís not long before a couple has created a lifestyle that depends on that substantial income. And that income requires extensive travel.
Iíve offered the same advice to business travelers as Iíve offered to airline employees: If the financial reward to travel is too great to avoid, travel together as husband and wife. Many couples have followed my advice, and have made a business trip a great opportunity for romance.
But many of the couples Iíve counseled who have been caught in the web of required business travel overnight have simply decided to endure a passionless marriage, putting them at risk for an affair. Or, they have divorced. For them, the option of finding a job that did not require travel, or included their spouse on business trips, is considered to be insanity. What is actually insane is to create a lifestyle that ruins a marriage.
Joyce and I have travelled together throughout most of our marriage, whether itís she that is traveling for her career, or it is me. We both carry work with us so that when one is engaged in business, the other can be productive. We choose projects that we can do while waiting for each other to complete their business assignment. That way, neither of us feels as if we are wasting our time when we are not together. And the trips themselves have been very romantic.
Over the Road Trucking
A career that pays very well but requires little formal education is over the road trucking. But it usually does require being separated overnight, and it makes 15 hours of undivided attention each week almost impossible. So, as one might expect, itís associated with a very high degree of infidelity and divorce.
Shortly after I had written His Needs, Her Needs, a woman came to me who was very upset. She said that I had written this book just to frighten people who were married to those with jobs that kept them away from home. When I asked her what her husband did that kept him away, she responded that he was an over the road truck driver. Then, I asked her if she was satisfied with her marriage. She broke down in tears, and explained that it was the only job that her husband could find that would support her family, but that she was already worried about their future together. They had been drifting apart, and she didnít know how to save their marriage.
Just because someone has a career as a commercial truck driver doesnít mean they will be away overnight. There are many companies that hire truck drivers that work close enough to home to avoid being separated from their families. They travel a round-trip route that may cover hundreds of miles, yet return home at the end of the day. While the pay is not usually as good as those who drive cross-country routes, itís usually adequate enough to support a family.
When a couple are without children, or become empty nesters, I have often suggested that they drive together, taking two shifts. While earlier in this series I have discouraged couples from working different shifts, truck driving can be an exception because the hours that they are not driving, they can be together doing something recreational and romantic.
Joyce and I were riding from the Nashville airport in a taxi years ago, and struck up a conversation with the driver. She explained that her husband had passed away recently, and they had worked together as an over the road trucking team. She was looking for another man to marry who drove truck so that she could partner with him. She said it was the best job she ever had and their marriage had been fantastic.
Oil Field Work and Mining
Many of the men I have been counseling recently have been drawn to the high pay given to oil field workers. But they are usually separated from their families when they work on oil platforms or as they follow the newest land projects. As with other careers that separate spouses overnight, this is also associated with a very high risk of infidelity and divorce.
One of the ways that oil field workers who work on land have solved this problem has been to bring their families along in a recreational vehicle. Iíve seen that work for those who homeschool their children, but there are not many wives who are willing to live in an RV even for the high paying oil fields job.
The same thing can be said for mining work in remote locations. Many miners have been able to park an RV near the mine where their wives and children can live. Depending on the location, though, it can be a wonderful adventure for the family, or it can be very boring, especially for their wives. In many cases, wives refuse to raise their families under those living conditions.
For those who canít move their families to their job, or if their wife refuses to go, I strongly recommend finding a new career. Some of the job skills in mining can be used in construction jobs that require heavy equipment. The pay may not be as good, but the marriage has a chance to thrive when they can be together overnight and be able to date during the week.
Commercial Fishing and Maritime Transport
Commercial fishermen usually canít bring their families with them, unless the fishing rig is gigantic (which many are). Even then, most families are not allowed to join in, even when the fisherman owns the company. Itís just not a very safe place for a family.
So, the people Iíve counseled who fish for a living, and are away from home for weeks or even months at a time, usually have troubled marriages. As with the other careers Iíve mentioned, spouses being away from each other creates independent lifestyles and unmet intimate emotional needs, a formula for marital dissatisfaction. While the fishermen themselves may not be at risk for an affair if they are out to sea, the wives of the fisherman are at risk, and Iíve witnessed many who have succumbed to an affair.
Maritime transport can create an even greater marital problem for those who work on ships and are allowed shore leave. But since most of these jobs are filled by those whose families have had these jobs for generations, they have learned to have far fewer expectations regarding family life. The purpose of the job is to support the family, and most of the earnings are sent home. While infidelity is generally recognized as a risk, it still hits the family hard whenever it happens. Itís a tough price to pay for a job.
When Iíve had the opportunity to counsel a spouse who is a maritime transport worker, I have strongly recommended finding a new career close to home. In many cases, it has required an extensive retraining program, but I encourage them to make the sacrifice with the knowledge that their children will likely follow their footsteps, making their own marriages more fulfilling.
Is Your Career Your Highest Priority?
There are many other careers that I could mention. But Iíve learned from the experience of my clients that any job that requires separation overnight, and prevents them from meeting intimate emotional needs, is very likely to create marital dissatisfaction. How can it be otherwise, when the very definition of a romantic relationship makes the meeting of intimate emotional needs an absolute requirement? And when you are not together overnight, how can those emotional needs be met consistently?
Many who are in these careers are single or divorced. They have tried marriage, but it hasnít worked out for them. They love what they do so much, or feel that itís the only way they can make a living, that they are unwilling to find a new career that gives them an opportunity to meet a spouseís intimate emotional needs, and have a spouse meet theirs. They value their career above their marriage.
If your marriage is not your highest priority, your marriage will suffer. But if marriage is your highest priority, your next highest priority, and the ones coming after that, are likely to thrive. A great marriage makes everything else in life easier and more fulfilling.
Iíve made the point earlier that your children, which should be your second highest priority, will tend to thrive if your marriage is your highest priority. But what most people donít understand is that your career, when it takes a priority position below first and second, will also tend to thrive. When your career serves your marriage and children, it makes it far more worthwhile to you than when your marriage and children serve your career.
The financial support your career provides your family is very important. But what is more important is the meeting of intimate emotional needs for you and for your spouse. Your spouse is unlikely to appreciate the hard work you do to support your family if it prevents you from meeting his or her intimate emotional needs.