If you’ve already read our blog post with practical tips about how to make sure your relationship is healthy when you (or your partner) works away in jobs at sea, you might recall that we touched on the difference between practicalities and emotions. So to follow that article up here we’re going to take a look at how to maintain a happy and healthy partnership from an emotional point of view.
Whether you’re the stay at home partner or the ocean-going half of your couple, making sure that you both feel emotionally supported when one of you is away from home for long periods of time is crucial.
Of course, this can be easier said than done when one of you is not just thousands of miles away from home, but often also thousands of miles away from land!
Communicating effectively, or even at all, can be dependent on the type of WiFi connection you have onboard the vessels you work on in your seafarer jobs but for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that you have at least some way to keep in touch when you’re onboard.
Jobs at sea and tips for a healthy relationship
If at all possible, stay in touch and talk to your partner by one of the many instant messaging or video calling apps. If you can see each other face to face this will be even better - although the success of this will depend heavily on the stability of your WiFi connection.
Before you leave for jobs at sea, download as many apps as you and your partner think you might use. That way, if one doesn’t work or is sluggish, you might be able to switch to another one. Of course, if you have children, it’s great to be able to catch up with them over video chat too!
Try Skype, Zoom or FaceTime for video calling, or WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, or Facebook Messenger for instant messages - or any other app of your choice! If you’re having trouble connecting, you could always switch to emails as these have a greater chance of being able to be sent.
Stay connected by daily emails
One nice thing to do is to write an email a day - just to check in with your spouse or partner. These don’t have to be huge long essays - just a simple “Good morning! Missing you!” can brighten both partner’s day. One way of making your other half feel connected to you while you (or they) are away is to let them know how your day went.
If you’re at home, it can make you feel closer to your partner by knowing what their life on a cargo ship entails, while if you’re the one working in seafarer jobs it can be a real boost to your morale to hear news from home: how the kids are doing at school, what the rest of the family are up to, what the weather is like and so on.
Keep those lines of communication as open as you possibly can while you’re away working in jobs at sea.
Communicate when you are at home
To keep your relationship healthy, it is also important to make time for talking while both partners are at home. And we’re not just talking about idle chit-chat - though that’s fine of course. But to really sit down and talk about your emotions and feelings.
The partner at home may feel slightly forgotten sometimes, so if you’re the one working in maritime jobs it’s important to discuss why your job is important to you as well as how it feels for you to be away from home. Both partners should give each other the time and space to talk through any feelings.
That way, if there are any issues to overcome, you can do so more effectively as you will both be able to see each other’s position and point of view. And coming up with shared solutions will make you stronger as a couple.
Talk - but take time to listen too
Communication is about talking but to effectively communicate, you need to listen too. Actively listen to and understand any challenges that your partner is facing due to the unique circumstances of one of you working in jobs at sea.
And that goes for both of you. Does the partner on land struggle to run the house, look after the kids and maybe also hold down their own job? Does the person in seafarer jobs just need to decompress for a few days when they get home from sea? How are they coping with any physical and mental stress that comes with different types of maritime jobs?
By discussing, listening and finding resolutions to any problems together, you will create a solid basis for your relationship to continue to thrive.
Be independent within your relationship
Of course your partner or spouse is probably the most important person in your life and the one you depend on for support of an emotional nature, but it is important to have hobbies and friends outside of the relationship too.
The person at home will especially need this support network of friends and activities but anyone working in seafarer jobs will also have much to gain from having a life away from the ocean and friends to catch up with on land.
Take time to nurture your relationship
When you’re physically reunited with each other, especially after a period of four or six months, it can be tempting to try and cover all the things that have been happening right away. Instead, be kind to your relationship and give yourselves time to settle back into your routine.
There’s no need to launch straight into topics such as home improvements, getting the car serviced, mowing the lawn or painting the kitchen. The nature of jobs at sea means that you’ll likely have plenty of time to cover all of the necessary DIY and life admin!
Leave emotional subjects for when you meet
On a similar subject, try not to get into unnecessarily emotional or serious subjects by phone, email or instant messenger. The likelihood is that a phone connection won’t be good enough for serious conversations, and it is all too easy to misunderstand the meaning behind written words in emails, and especially texts.
Of course if something really important comes up, you will need to discuss this as best as you can, but try to stay away from overly emotional topics.
But also take time to enjoy yourselves
Just as DIY and car mechanics can wait when you’re reunited, make sure you take time out for the two of you. Of course the partner who has been away at sea will want to spend time with your children if you have them, see other members of the family, and friends but make sure that you give your relationship priority.
Relax and enjoy being together again. Whether you go out for dinner or just for a nice long walk, this is your time to catch up, hang out and spend some quality ‘you two time’.
If at all possible, take some time off work and duties together. It can be tempting to view jobs at sea as the seafaring partner being ‘on’ when on a vessel and ‘off’ when at home. However the danger with this is that the home-based person is never ’off’. That can lead to them feeling always switched on to chores and the ins and outs of domestic life and therefore overwhelmed and even resentful if their partner is chilling and enjoying their downtime.
If you can, could a grandparent, aunt or uncle look after the children while you take a couple of days away, or even a vacation together?
How seafarer jobs can strengthen your relationship
One of the most important things is to respect each other’s roles and contributions to the relationship and family life, both emotionally and physically, as well as financially. A commitment to continual communication is crucial to create a strong partnership that is based on mutual trust and respect.
These things are vital when one person in a couple works away from home in jobs at sea, and if both parties are committed to working to maintain a healthy and flourishing relationship, as a result a stronger and more meaningful partnership can evolve.