My band recently started touring more and although I love it to death it has really been taking a toll on my relationship with my girlfriend. At home we talk and hang out all the time, everything is cool. But as soon as I go on tour it gets ugly. We get into a lot of fights on the phone and I find myself even dreading calling her now. I was wondering how do you juggle your life at home (specifically calling your wife) while on tour? How do you make a long distance relationship work when your never in the same place and working all the time? Do you think I should break up with her or is this something that band members go through all the time? I know this are weird questions but I hope you can help.
The Touring Gentleman
Dear Touring Gentleman,
Keeping your relationship alive, healthy, and most of all positive, while on tour is one of the hardest things to do as a touring musician. I have watched many a rock star hide behind a trailer all night or lock themselves in a bathroom stall for that 5-hour long argument with their significant other. There is so much temptation on tour and even the idea of that temptation can drive your girlfriend/boyfriend to madness while they are at home. The most important ingredient is trust. Having that means communication is not the whole battle, its just one part. You have to make sure that your significant other trusts you and you trust them. It’s a big step in making a relationship work while on tour. This means you can’t cheat on her, you can’t fuck around, you have to be honest and stick to it. This also means that if you ruin this bond of trust you may just doom the relationship forever. The same is true for her. You must have defined and clear lines of what is ok in your relationship and what is not. Its going to be different for every couple but it is very important to take the time before you go on tour to define the parameters or your relationship. I can honestly guarantee if you address this issue before you go on tour your overall communication skills and overall relationship will be better.
I am going to admit that along with the following advice you’re going to need 3 big servings of understanding, patience, and most of all trust. These three attributes are a must to making any relationship survive life on the road and are crucial to the process. But lets get into specifics.
Designated Call Times: Born of the payphone, this is a technique that my wife and I used before the age of cell phones. That being said it’s still a nice technique and can even be applied to the cell phone/internet generation. Chances are the two of you will be on totally different schedules while you’re on tour, and it may be difficult to find a time when it’s good for both you of you to talk. Phone tag is something you definitely want to avoid. It can breed insecurity, and the last thing you want is for her to think you don’t have time for her. So, try setting designated talk time. Think about your next day in advance and pick a 20 to 30 min window that you know you wont be driving, loading in, sound checking, sitting at the merchandise table, setting up before the show, etc. I’m telling you, if you give her an idea of the next time you will talk then all that uneasiness or worry will slowly dissipate. Relationships work well when they work consistently well so try to make those calls consistent. Remember to call when you say you will, and make sure you have the time you promised available. It’s the consistency that will keep her at ease when your on the road. In this instance consistency shows you value her time and will build trust. Coincidently it works really well when your international and need to keep that phone bill to a minimum. So, Mr. Touring Gentleman start working out designated times you can talk and stick to them. I guarantee you will see things get better fast.
Embrace the Electronic Age: Personal communication is a booming field. The rock Gods have blessed us with Skype, the iphone, Black Berry, instant messenger, video chat, oh and my personal favorite, the international cell phone plan. All of the above (plus the three more techniques that just got invented as I write this) have become tools to help keep our ever globalized world expanding. It has brought personal communication to a new height and it us up to you to use these tools while on tour. Video chat is cool but usually involves needing both of you to be online in a quiet place at the same time. This is sometimes hard. Skype, ichat, and Internet phones are nice and cheap. I see many a touring musician using these more and more often. The Black Berry phone is in my personal arsenal. It allows you to do Black Berry to Black Berry messaging free anywhere in the world anytime. Instant messenger is a must, its great while your working in a loud areas or doing work on your computer while on tour. Anyway what’s my point? Well it’s to start embracing all these communication outlets in order to make sure your home your life doesn’t get neglected. The world becomes a smaller place every second, and as a touring musician you need to use this to your advantage every step of the way.
Make sure she has a life of her own: Now this may seem harsh, but this is actually a major problem I see in most unhealthy relationships on tour. You don’t want your significant other to be living vicariously through you. He or she needs to have his or her own goals, ambitions, and aspirations. Otherwise its just the YOU show and that can get old real quick. The most unattractive quality a girl can have to me is laziness. You can’t let her get so wrapped up in your life that she forgets about her own. You need to encourage her to have aspirations and goals, as well as a strong social network. I know one of the main things that helps my wife, when I’m away from home for long periods, is her friends and busy social life. Equally you have to make it clear to her what your goals and aspirations are. I mean, if she knows you’re out there slumming it so that one day you can do this or that professionally, then it’s clear you have a defined goal your working towards. Damn, in two minutes you can go from loser musician to dude who is following his dream, and hopefully it will be contagious. If she realizes you have a plan for the future she will want one for herself. This is going to take time and work but it is essential to having a healthy relationship on tour. In fact I can state that every healthy relationship I have observed on tour is between two individuals who both have clear goals and are striving for success together as a couple.
Should you break up with her? Dude that is a complicated question to answer in one email response. I can tell you that every good relationship goes through tough spots, and every good relationship involves work. But let me say this, a good first step would be to evaluate your relationship based on the above information and then take steps to try and work on those things. Ask yourself, do I do the best job in communicating regularly? Is trust an issue in my relationship? Do both members of the relationship have goals and direction that help both remain focused on the bigger picture of life? These are all hard questions but they must be asked. By forcing yourself to work on these components of your relationship you will find it will help your growth as a couple and as individuals, and it’s this growth that will make for a strong enough relationship to survive even the longest tour.