My situation isn’t particularly optimal – my wife is actually afraid to fly – and would opt for minor surgery rather than step foot in an airplane, of any kind.
The good news for me is we have managed to figure out a way to coexist in terms of my aviation affliction. Since flying is part of my work, that piece isn’t really an issue – it is what it is. But my recreational flying is something that has to be kept in balance. We have three kids, ages 9 to 18 and they keep us very busy and if I were careless between work and my fun flying, I could be at the airport 24/7 – not something conducive to matrimonial bliss with a non-flying spouse.
Disclaimer: I am about as far from someone who can give martial advice as you can get, but I will share what has worked for us.
First, I put family before any of my recreational flying. It’s a pretty simple thing, but I know a lot of people, especially with our A-type personalities, who just don’t get this.
Secondly, I work at making sure the stuff we enjoy together doesn’t get dismissed to go flying all the time.
Thirdly, I don’t babble about flying at home, that’s what I have my flying friends for. When I’m with my family I try to avoid going on about a particular flight, even when I’m really geek’d out about it.
Fourthly, read the tea leaves. If you are pushing your luck, you should be able to detect that you are eroding your relationship and letting things get out of balance. That’s your cue to get back to center. Depending on your situation it can be a delicate dance.
Fifthly, get your children involved, if you have them. At least in my case, my wife’s fear of flying has only shown up in one of my kids and the others are free to enjoy my hobby with me. For example, when I worked on my airplane with my son, it was less abrasive because it turned a “Brent-thing” into a “Father-Son-thing.”
Finally, lead by example. If you want your partner to be supportive, then be sure you are doing the same. I have consciously encouraged my wife to pursue her interests, even if we don’t share them; to me it just seems fair.
Does this mean that I miss some choice fly-ins? Sure.
Do I have to sacrifice a perfectly nice fly-day sometimes for some of the mundane family guy tasks? You bet.
Is it worth it? Absolutely!
The fact of the matter is I signed up to be a husband and a father and those responsibilities have to come before my recreational flying. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be creative and get the best of both worlds. My wife, in spite of her phobias, has been fully supportive of my flying. I was a pilot before we met, so she knew what she was getting into.
Over the years I have been gradually moving her closer to acceptance. I spent five years build my RV-8, which was a big sacrifice for the whole family and she never batted an eye. My dream is to actually get her to fly with me in that machine some day, but I’m taking it slow.
Sometimes folks come to flying after marriage so it’s more complicated. Again, in most situations it’s totally feasible as long as everyone is willing to work together as a team and keep it all in perspective. Training does require more effort and resources than maintaining your flying, so that conversation should occur up front.
Now an obvious remedy for the non-flying-spouse is to get them into it. Once they see what it’s all about, they might be even more impassioned than you are! At a minimum if they aren’t afraid of flying it would be advantageous to get them exposed so you can enjoy it together when the occasion arrises.
Like I said, if you can get your kids involved that’s also a bonus. You never know where that can take them in the future; if nothing else, you are creating great memories.
So if you find yourself with a reluctant spouse, I feel your pain, but don’t let it dissuade you, but rather mobilize your creativity and figure out how to have the best of both worlds.
Oh of course you can “power” your way through and ignore any warning signs that you are doing long-term damage, but unless you want to end up as an A.I.D.S (Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome) victim, I suggest you go for the more thoughtful approach.