Loving A Musician: Secrets For Staying Together When You're On The Road

If you or someone you love is a performing artist or musician, the following guest post by Megan Bearce is right up your alley! Megan is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, author and a much sought-after speaker in the Twin Cities. She and I met a few years ago at a Minnesota Association for Marriage & Family Therapy conference and have been connecting and collaborating on how to help support our artistic community. Her book: Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When Your Job Keeps You Apart, outlines practical and realistic ways for loved ones to connect after periods of time apart.

Being a performer and musician myself, I can personally relate to Megan's book and her research. After playing a show with one of my bands or DJ'ing a wedding, it can be difficult to reintegrate back into "normal life". Why should I have to do dishes, laundry or take the car in for an oil change on 'gig day'? Time for a massive ego-check, Brian! Using mindfulness as a performer can help alleviate some of those negative thoughts that we may have on gig day. It can also help bring us "back to reality" after a performance.

I hope you enjoy the following guest post by Megan Bearce and feel free to reach out to her if you are looking for specialized support!

And being apart ain't easy on this love affair."- “Faithfully”, Journey

Leave it to Journey to express, verse after verse, the difficulties of being a musician in love. Long stretches of time apart from friends and loved ones is the norm for not only U2 and Mumford and Sons, but also for bands trying to make it big. How do artists and their crew maintain healthy relationships when touring and in the studio? I’ll share a few tips for managing life on the road and even more critical, that challenging time when you finally return home.

After my husband began a weekly super commute between Minneapolis and NYC, I was looking for guidance myself. I decided to begin interviewing people for what became my book, Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart. One man described returning home, the re-entry period, as a huge lesson for him.

“When I walk in the door, I am no longer a rock star. When I’m on the road I don’t have to clean up after myself. People take me out to dinner and wine and dine me… At home I’m an average Joe… Sometimes it can take a while to shift back into domestic mode.”  

Echoing these sentiments, Ali Hewson, the wife of Bono, candidly described experiences common for all types of couples living this lifestyle in an interview with More magazine. She revealed the complexity of reuniting after a tour kept them apart for the majority of 18 months.

“It can be really difficult to re-adjust to having someone living back in the house. I can't help thinking, 'What are you doing in my bed?'…or 'Why are you leaving your clothes all over my house?' Bono always says that he feels like a bit of litter around the house, that I just want to tidy him away. It is very hard for him to come back home and say, 'Yeah, I'm normal.' He wants to climb on the table at 11 o'clock every night and try to perform! He's wondering where are the 50,000 people. We sort of laugh at it now."

Several people I interviewed both in and out of the entertainment industry shared similar sentiments and went on to talk about how they make it a point to really BE together when they are reunited. They didn’t take it for granted. If you find you or your spouse are struggling to stay connected or reconnect, the following strategies (with a little prompting from Journey) can help:

Return Ritual

And lovin' a music man
Ain't always what it's supposed to be”

After a therapy session, therapists will often engage in a ritual to ground and refocus, something as simple as washing their hands or a quick walk.  It’s about transition to something new.  When returning home after a month long tour or a late night gig, what could you do?  Some people like a few minutes of quiet, others like a big hug from their loved ones.  Maybe it’s as simple as taking off your shoes and putting on a favorite pair of slippers.  You can encourage your loved ones to pick their own rituals as well.

Whatever you do to signal, “I’m home”, remind yourself that it is a transition for everyone and a few bumps along the way are not unusual. Shifting from late nights and that post performance adrenaline rush to living back at home where your spouse or kids wake up at 7am is not easy on anyone! Some people might feel a let down, wondering, “Where do I fit in?” or “They don’t really need me.” A quick update on what might have changed, bedtimes for example, also help blend the family together again more smoothly.

Empathy

Oh, girl, you stand by me”
Assumptions can get people in trouble, so open dialogue about what life is like for both of you can be instrumental in keeping harmony in the relationship.  The partner at home might assume life is all parties and groupies when their musician partner is away, while the musician misses out on day to day events both big and small, and may be sleeping in dumpy hotels and eating yet another meal of craft service pretzels and Red Bull.  Another easy way to connect?  Ask each other, “How are you doing?”, before you start your conversation.  Early in a relationship you might be able to go on the road together, but if you have children or full-time jobs or aging parents that also need attention, it’s easy to feel alone in the trenches and overwhelmed.  And this goes both ways. Classic rock is filled with songs about the difficulties of touring.  Does your partner know about the hard parts you experience?

Self care

We all need the clowns
To make us smile”

Yes. I know. It’s “shocking” that a therapist would suggest self-care, but it is vital to your health and the health of your relationship. What it might look like is different for each person. Some people love running, others enjoy yoga or biking. It’s more than that though. Diet, hydration, sleep, meditation, self-talk, and the energy of those surrounding you can all influence your well-being. What can you add or change to manage the stress in your life? 

Trust and Independence

“Two strangers learn to fall in love again”
Not everyone can make this type of relationship work. Successful couples reported trust, respect, and communication as their secrets to longevity. You may hear people say your relationship isn’t “real” if you are apart so often. I beg to differ. How do you spend your time together and apart? Do you support each other's goals? What are the expectations each of you have? My interviewees discussed how their attitude about their situation really set the tone for their relationship and many expressed how they enjoy the freedom and independence that time apart allows.

The ambiguity of a life where being physically separated is the norm, a mandate of one's career, isn't always easy, but it is possible to be apart AND be in love! How do you stay connected with loved ones? Feel free to share below or on Twitter with @commutercouples.

Megan Bearce is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in supporting commuter couples and perfectionists. She is also a speaker and the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When Your Job Keeps You Apart. In her free time she enjoys dining at the amazing restaurants Minneapolis is home to, traveling, live music, and photography.