In full disclaimer I must admit that I am writing this “advice” post as I near the end of what’s been one of my most emotionally difficult weeks of this year. In the midst of new city challenges, missing my touring husband, struggling with reoccurring health issues, having half of our house’s flooring ripped out to the sub floor (which spreads a nice chemical dust from the 1960’s linoleum all over the house), I finally got to the end of the week and woke up to a bed bug?tick?weird flea? infestation on Saturday morning when most of the pest control places are closed. That was it. I lost it. I pretty much cried the whole day and just wished over and over again that I could have a “normal” husband that was a dentist or some guy in an accounting department. Someone who could have been there to help me get ready for the floor demo and move that 54″ tv out of the den a few days before. Or maybe he could have been home when the flooring workers forgot to put our couch back inside from the car port at the end of the workday and I had to figure out how to drag it into the garage by myself. Or just there to give me a hug when I wake up in a bed covered in bugs that several exterminators can’t identify.
Over the years I’ve been away from the one I love most on birthdays, Valentine’s Days, New Years Eves, Thanksgivings, and I even graduated from a Masters program without him there to cheer me on. I’ve had multiple breakdowns triggered by lawnmowers not starting and at least one that involved a jar that I couldn’t open. It’s not easy. I never want to make it seem like I don’t have dark days (or dark weeks for that matter) in dealing with this life, but I also don’t want to dwell on the negatives too much and give them more power than they should have. So, just remember through all these thoughts on how I try to make this work that I, too, have days when I don’t know if I can do it anymore and wish I didn’t have to. But, like everything in life, there are pros and cons and I’m sure those dentists and accountants have struggles in their lives as well…here’s what I would suggest:
1.) Make the time you have together special. This simply means you should have fun and do special things together when he is around! I know it’s SO easy to get sad the closer it gets to them leaving, but instead of pouting for 3 days before he leaves like I used to, I try to enjoy every last second instead. Make the most of the moments you do have and when he’s gone, use that time to dream up special things to do when he gets back. Having events to look forward to can really help mentally and it makes the time go faster since you are prepping for those things in the meantime. I love shopping anyways, but it’s always more fun to go look specifically for something to wear when I go visit him on tour next or a dress for when we go on a “yay, you’re home!” date.
2.) Learn to communicate well. This one is a big deal. Being apart can set people on edge and it’s easier to get into fights over stupid stuff that wouldn’t normally matter. Since we’ve known each other for 13 years already (I met him when I was 17) we went through the rough learning-to-comminicate stage of the relationship years before we got married, so we’ve had really good communication since then when we are together. However, add in the distance, off hours, time zones, international calling challenges, and Skype cutting in and out (I can hear you…can you hear me? wait, you’re frozen), and it’s not as easy to keep your cool. From the moment he leaves until he comes back, I feel like I’m just one bad event away from a breakdown and that mental room that you usually have between going from calm to panic mode just disappears. It’s like you’re always living on the edge of a cliff and one stubborn spaghetti jar lid can push you over the edge. Anyways, do whatever you can to work on your communication skills (see a professional if you need to) and then learn how to adjust that as needed once all the stresses of touring are added to the equation. Also, try and be in touch with each other as much as you can! Send videos and text photos of what you’re up to during the day so you feel more connected, write letters or postcards, send him with notes to read throughout the trip, stuff like that. I usually have a post-it note from Todd up on the mirror while he’s gone so I can see it everyday. It’s the little things that help.
3.) Set a “time apart” rule (and stick to it). It’s really important to sit down and talk about what your max time apart will be. This may be different for each couple, but agree that you won’t go more than x amount of time without seeing each other when he’s away. Try and stick to that agreement as best you can, even if it means spending extra money for flights during long tours—it really helps. Because flights can get expensive, I have a monthly fund that I put money into called the “Laura See Todd” fund. That way, I always have money I can use when I need to buy a plane ticket to go out for a few days. And as time goes on and seasons change, your time apart agreement can be flexible too. Our agreement used to be longer but I reached a point where I just couldn’t do that long anymore so we shortened the gap. Most wives will say they have a two week breaking point where they feel pretty good when he leaves, but once it hits two weeks apart they start to lose it a bit…
4.) Have something to do while he’s gone. Throwing yourself into something you love helps the time go so much faster and gives you a distraction from wallowing in sadness. So get that degree you’ve always wanted to earn, start painting, running, cooking, or blogging—whatever! Just give yourself a sense of purpose outside of work hours if you don’t already have some solid hobbies. I like picking a home improvement project to do while Todd’s gone and there’s been a few times where he’s come home and I’ve completely repainted or made over a room and it was a really therapeutic and fun way to focus my energy during those weeks. If you need to have a day or two at times to binge on Netflix and snacks with the curtains drawn, that’s ok too. I usually have a few dark days when he first leaves on a long trip where feel too down to be creative, but just don’t let yourself stay in that place. Get up and get moving eventually.
5.) If possible, get a pet! (Or at least a human support group) Probably the best thing I’ve even done is add two little furballs to my life. My kitties keep me from feeling lonely more than anyone could ever know and it’s great having another heartbeat around the house when you feel a little down. They can’t help me move tvs or couches, but they help in lots of other ways. If you really can’t get an animal due to housing restrictions, try volunteering at a local animal shelter. They always need helpers to work with the animals and those furry guys will end up helping you more than you are helping them. Having a few close friends that know how to cheer you up when you need it is also a big help. Whether they are fellow band wives or not, just people that care and can come help you when you need it are invaluable. My personal faith in God is also a big thing for me as well and helps me keep life in perspective. It’s good to be reminded when Todd is gone that I’m never alone and I’m always being watched over and cared for.
6.) Complain just the right amount. Look, you feel alone, everything is wrong, life sucks, and it’s all his fault—I know! But, you have to be careful with how much you complain directly to your guy about all those feelings. Too little honesty about your inner thoughts will disconnect you and you’ll end up bottling up your resentment until you eventually explode, but letting him hear every complaint will not go well either. You should be able to express how you feel with him, but remember that it’s stressful to be the person on the road too and if every time he talks to you, you are crying, complaining, and blaming him, well, neither of you are going to enjoy the communication you do have when you’re apart. Believe me, I made that mistake for a long time until I realized it was hurting and not helping the situation. It feels like it’s his fault that he’s gone and you should get to whine about it, but it’s not good for every conversation to be only about that. He feels bad he’s gone, you feel bad he’s gone, and nothing really gets resolved (unless he decides to actually quit his job) and then you spent all your phone minutes that day on sad things. Try and have good connections and conversations when possible, vent to him on your really bad days (totally cool), but have a girlfriend or hobby that will distract you or let you vent the rest of the time.
7.) Trust is key. One thing I hear a lot about in emails from other band wives/girlfriends is that they do trust their guy buuuuuut “you never know what can happen on the road with all those fans around” so it makes them nervous. I’m sure that there are cases where trust has been broken before and that makes being apart so much worse, but being able to fully trust your partner takes that anxiety out of the equation and makes being away from each other a little easier. It’s not that you are naive and only live in a world of rainbows and sunshine, but being apart and having trust issues do not necessarily go hand in hand. I know a lot of people that miss their guy, but don’t have anxiety in that area because of the relationship they keep going and they have measures to keep that trust in place. There are for sure bands that are more and less “family friendly” and I love that he works with other people that are just as committed to their wives and family. There’s no bro code where anyone is covering for anyone else’s stupid choices on the road. They do things like only hire dude merch workers and crew to keep anything from potentially getting weird, and as a wife, I really appreciate that. So, that being said, I know this is a lot easier if you don’t have a past where trust was an issue or valid reasons, but if trust isn’t strong between you right now, consider seeing a counselor who can help build it back up again. Totally worth it!
Sooo, how do you handle this life if you have kids? Ok, I’ll give you my short answer here—I have no idea!! We only have two cats, so I can’t even begin to give advice on this one. I definitely see the struggles other wives have, especially once the kids are old enough to know when their Dad is gone, but I haven’t gone through it myself so I’m really not qualified to speak about it. I will say though that it’s been one of the reasons we haven’t had kids yet. The idea of a helpless tiny human is scary enough for this professional worrier, but thinking about having to do it alone a lot of the time (while still trying to work) is terrifying. I don’t have my family living in the same city as some do (which seems so helpful if you can pull that off) so even though we still want to have kids someday, I have no idea how other people do it. If you have advice on this, then let me know!
Side note: I have heard a few times over the years that I’m just “using my husband’s fame instead of being my own person” and I’m a shell of a human that must be totally dependent on his career and can’t do anything original of my own and blah blah blah. First of all, if I was trying to live off of his “fame” well, then I didn’t pick a very clever strategy because while they do well for being a professional band, they aren’t exactly The Beatles and most random strangers I meet in the grocery store aren’t familiar with their work. I mean, I hope their notoriety continues to rise because they deserve it, but just being Todd’s wife at the moment hasn’t propelled me to the big leagues of anything in that sense.
I certainly never feel like I’m so one-dimensional that I only have being a band wife to offer to people. I present myself on this blog (and in my posts over on ABM) as a whole person that talks about lots of different things, not just the band wife aspect. But the title “ the band wife/blogger/artist/singer/cat lover/pizza fanatic/theology buff/shopping addict” is too long to make into a blog title, so I couldn’t really use every aspect of my life as the visual theme. It’s just one part of me, not the whole thing, but it’s a part that affects my life A LOT—much more than the other adjectives. It’s a very big deal to have the person you’re married to gone for up to 9 months out of the year and that can’t help but get into every aspect of your life. I don’t always know his schedule past a week or two unless he’s out on a pre-booked tour, so it makes planning our life extremely difficult. I never even know if I can throw him a birthday party until the week before because he may not be here and it’s impossible to plan big trips and be certain he can go (he had to miss half our trip to Costa Rica last year when shows were scheduled at the last minute).This career choice effects everything we do as a family. And on the flip side, while it’s totally true that I am a “band wife” so Todd is a “blogger husband” and has to deal with all the photo shoots and home decor choices that go along with his title. It’s not who he is overall, but he has to deal with certain things having a wife for a full-time blogger.
And in that same “your life is all about your man” aspect, I think for a healthy relationship, it’s got to be give and take on both sides and not just about him. He has to listen to what you need and support you in following your dreams as well or it becomes very uneven. While I spend a lot of time supporting Todd, he spends just as much time supporting me and being willing to sacrifice on his end for my dreams and wellbeing. And for me, it makes a big difference that I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I ever said I can’t do it anymore and Todd had to pick touring or me, he would choose me. But, in the same way, he knows that I would never ask that unless I was really at the end of my rope. I can’t just throw that threat around because I had a bad day. It’s the big red button to be used in a real emergency only. And hey, not everyone has to tour forever. I mean, your guy could be in The Rolling Stones and still playing out in his 70’s and you do this life for a long, long time, but maybe you agree that this is for a season and someday he’ll do a more stationary role in music (or whatever else) and be home more. Not everyone has to travel in music forever.
And just one more thought before I conclude this pep talk. This life, well, it’s not for everyone. If you just started dating a musician and you think, “I don’t know if I can or want to do this life” then maybe it’s not for you and you need to walk away even if he is a great guy. If you are married to a musician then I obviously hope you can work it out in some way if you realize you can’t do the band wife thing since marriage is a serious commitment, but don’t feel like a failure if you aren’t built to handle it or can’t handle it forever. People have different tolerances and different breaking points so you really have to dig deep and know what’s possible and worth it for both of you. I will say that it’s true that you don’t know how strong you are until life demands that level of strength. While I’ve had my share of weaknesses, I’ve also surprised myself at how resilient I can be. For me, right now, it’s still worth it. Even with the week I’ve had, even with making the scary jump of moving to a new city for his career, when I see him play and doing what he should be doing I know in my heart it’s worth it. I may not feel that way forever, and if I eventually don’t I know we will navigate that new chapter together, but today, right now, I’m proud to be all the many things things that make up my whole person. And for good and bad, being a band wife is one of those things. It’s like I always remind myself, “It’s not how long you wait, it’s who you’re waiting for.” If you are also a band wife, you aren’t crazy or irrational to miss the other half of your heartbeat. It’s normal and I’m right there with you.
Hurry home Todd. Your girl is here waiting…