RVing Improve A Relationship?
by Judy Farrow and Lou Stoetzer
Lou Stoetzer, MSW, PhD, and
Judith Farrow, CADC, BS, have been married
for fifteen years and have been living and
working together (they even spent a season
with a traveling circus!) full-time in an
RV since 1994. Both are retired mental health
professionals who undertook a three-year
research project studying how RVers felt
about their lives. The results of their
pioneering research were recently published:
RVersHow Do They Live Like That?
Answers for Those Who Wonder. (Click
here to read a review.) Lou is also
a private coach, assisting full-timers with
issues relating to finding personal space
in the relatively cramped space of an RV,
dealing with loneliness on the road, and
coping with family problems "back home."
Lou and Judy may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
here to visit their Web site.
Lou: In 2001, we surveyed hundreds
of RVing couples here and in Canada, especially couples
who spend most of their time on the road. We found that
teamwork, frequent communication, and mutual appreciation
increased marital satisfaction among RVers. We wrote
our book based on this and other findings in RVers:
How Do They Live Like That? Answers for those who wonder.
Judy: The theme we kept hearing was, "We
had a good marriage before we started RVing, and being
together on the road made it even better." Most
of the couples we spoke with identified themselves as
full-timers (or nearly so) and were retired or worked
from their rig. We imagine that couples who didn't enjoy
all that time together had already left RV life, and
weren't part of our focus groups or willing to talk
with us privately. One man told us, "We started
out as best friends. But running a household, building
careers and bringing up kids put lots of stress on our
time alone together which didn't happen often."
Then his wife added, "When we started out on our
first RV trip, all that uninterrupted time gave us a
chance to get to know each other all over again. It
was kind of a second honeymoon."
Lou: We learned some common reasons for this
reported happiness. Most committed RVers had a long
history before they hit the road. Those on their first
marriage had spent over 25 years together before becoming
RVers. Remarried couples had an average of over 12 years
together. These couples had common interests, and many
had worked as a team, either on volunteer projects or
running the family business. They were strongly committed
folks who knew how to work together and trouble-shoot
Judy: We're often asked by non-RVers, "Does
one of you do all the driving? How do you decide where
to go? Who does the laundry?" We usually joke that
the one who is awake drives, that we take turns deciding
where to go, and that Lou does the laundry because he
likes to get out of the house.
Lou: Speaking of laundry, the jobs aboard an
RV and who does what are things that couples are constantly
readjusting. Maybe he develops an interest in cooking
(or doing the laundry). After she gets used to his friendly
intrusion into her space, she may take over paying bills,
or perhaps she discovers a liking for what is traditionally
thought of as "men's work," like the petite
woman we met who was more comfortable cleaning the roof
than her husband was. There are other examples of couples
who go against convention. Sometime a woman prefers
to do most of the driving, and her husband may (slowly
but eventually) learn to give her encouragement from
the passenger's seat.
Judy: A change in the division of labor represents
a healthy shift. This change leads to recognition of
mutual dependence and a new appreciation for each other.
Competition is replaced by praise and affection.
Lou: A relationship that increases mutual exchanges
of affection would prompt anyone to say, "Our marriage
was good when we started RVing, and now it's better
Stoetzer & Judy Farrow
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