By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life

The past year and a half brought out the best in many of us, but it also created stresses that we weren’t accustomed to and, at times, had trouble dealing with. And we all know by now that stress can wreak havoc in relationships, surfacing in the form of irritability, withdrawal, and defensiveness.

For many people, a road trip can be a great way to deal with pent-up frustration and help maintain your mental health, but it’s not a cure-all. This is especially true if you are like me and partner, who spend all our time traveling as digital nomads. Stress has a way of following you around. It can affect your relationships, too, if you’re not careful and you don’t know how to deal with it. 

So, here are a few things I’ve learned about relationships from life on the road. 

Keep your significant other in mind.

Going on the road with another person can be overwhelming at times, but it’s a lot easier if you keep your significant other in mind. That means making decisions together, supporting each other, finding activities you both enjoy, and making time for your relationship.

My boyfriend Jacob and I have been on the road together for three years now, and we’re doing something we both love: traveling. In that time we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better than we did before — sometimes, too well. 

Being cooped up in the same small space with the same person day after day can be a challenge, as the pandemic made clear even to non-travelers. You’re going to get angry at least sometimes, so it’s important to know how to manage your anger.

To help us keep our cool, we made it a point to get out of the RV and move around at least twice a day. Sometimes we went on a hike together; other times, we went off in different directions (keeping our smartphones handy) so we could each have some alone time. 

The art of compromise is essential. It means neither one of you always gets exactly what you want, but you both get some of what you’d hoped for. For example, when Jacob wanted to stop at a steakhouse and I wanted to cook out on our barbecue, we compromised by finding a great cut of meat at the store and bringing it back to cook out in the open. We both loved it.

Be prepared when you can, and work together.

It’s impossible to prepare for everything you might encounter in life. After all, who saw a worldwide pandemic coming? Then there was that deer that stepped out in front of our RV near Willits in Northern California. It sure took us by surprise, especially in the dark. We managed to miss it, but we popped a tire on a nail lying on the shoulder when we pulled over. 

We almost took out our stress on each other, but then we redirected it toward solving the problem. Fortunately, although we hadn’t been ready for the deer, we were prepared to deal with a flat tire, and we had the right equipment. It’s no accident that several essentials of a roadside emergency kit are designed to deal with tire problems: a spare tire, tire iron and jack, a tire gauge, aerosol tire sealant…

In our case, the fix-a-flat did the trick, and we were on our way in short order. But if we hadn’t been prepared and put together a kit with everything we needed ahead of time, we would have been in a much bigger mess. We worked hand-in-hand to assemble the kit, then we worked together to solve the problem.

Whether you are sharing an RV or a bank account, working together to address unexpected challenges is always worth the extra effort. Going it alone, on the other hand, can lead to misplaced feelings of blame, resulting in resentment. 

Watch out for stress on top of stress.

Blowing a tire on the road or having an argument with your significant other is damaging enough. But what if they happen at the same time? Stress on top of stress is the worst. 

Take money, for example. Financial worries are a common source of relationship stress in any season, but when they pile on top of other issues, they can make things even worse. During the past year, unfortunately, money issues often followed health concerns and the stress of isolation caused by circumstances beyond our control. 

A lot of people were laid off or furloughed, others had their hours cut, and a lot of us had problems staying on top of bills — including credit cards. If that’s you, it’s a good time to step back and assess your situation. A new budget reflecting your new situation is probably in order.

It’s easy to get discouraged if your credit got dinged. But it’s still important to build (or rebuild) your credit. One option is a secured credit card, which lets you access a line of credit, secured by a deposit. Then you make monthly payments, just like a regular credit card, and improve your credit as you go.  

A successful relationship requires both planning and flexibility, just like life on the road. And that’s a lesson worth learning.