Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Spreading my phoenix wings

I had my last counselling session today. I have drawn so much from the experience; which I didn’t expect if I am honest. As a conclusion to the course of sessions, she revisited my initial targets from the initial visit, and asked me to evaluate how far I felt I had come, which is further than I even imagined possible in such a relatively short space of time.

My target issues were:

  • Trust
  • To let go of my frustrations about this lifestyle
  • To stop throwing Bf’s faults in his face,
  • To learn how to support Bf,

also subsequently through the sessions I also realised that I needed to add:

  • To let go of my desire to control Bf’s behaviour when he is away from,
  • To set boundaries with people
  • To manage my time more effectively
  • To strive less

I explained that on the whole I felt I was doing exceptionally well, until Bf and I had a bad argument the day that he left for this trip. We exchanged some nasty words, and aside from the fact that we were neither in the right. I was particularly disappointed that I had lost grip on my new found calmness. She reminded me that we all trip occasionally, and suggested that I try not to be too hard on myself when I did ‘trip up’ since it is called mindful meditation practice for a reason.

I felt a little sad leaving the room for the last time… I will miss the sessions, and the opportunity of having someone to help guide and counsell me along my path to increased mindfulness.  That said, I do think the time is right-I really feel that she has pointed me in the right direction to finding solutions to these target areas from within, where I was previously searching fruitlessly for elsewhere. 

When I first went to see her 2 months ago: my only positive certainties were that I knew I loved Bf deeply and I new I was determined to do everything in my power to make it work.  My problem was that I had lost sight of how to apply these qualities without trying too hard to control things that were not mine to control.  As a result of my overwhelming desire and barren attempts to exert control over our lives: I had lost sight of the power I had to bring about positive changes in my life that were realistically achievable.

I had actually reached reached the verge of hopeless.  I’d forgotten who I was-after falling into a deep black abyss of spiralling negativity and was caught up in automatic reaction, and a sense of despair because I didn’t know how and if I could ever successfully climb back out, and reclaim myself.

Two months on, I feel like a different person.  She has shown me that all that I need is within me.  This trip of Bf’s would have eaten me alive with jealousy, frustration and eventually anger before I started these sessions; purely because it’s a long trip, that we had planned to be sharing together, to a place that I wanted to go to with him, and because I have not been able to go for reasons beyond our control. 

…It would have started off with frustration before the trip, which would have turned into jealousy about missing out, which in turn would have led to bitterness about being stuck at home with the domestic chores, resentment towards the fact that he’d be sharing it instead with other crew (and particularly other women).  This would then have left me sleepless, which often led to an over-tired, over-active imagination, and a sense of irrational panic and fear hi-jacking me, and finally with me potentially either feeling quietly miserable, or arguing with Bf and punishing him for something that wasn’t his fault or desire in the first place.

Instead, whilst I still feel somewhat disappointed that I missed out on a holiday; I was able to recognise that Bf is lucky to have a career he loves; I am lucky to have the man I love, and lucky that he feels fulfilled-and to realise that it’s not fair to punish him for the past or hold his happiness against him…

Most importantly I feel empowered-I have stopped being a victim, and taken responsibility for my own happiness.  I have let go of my anxiety by focusing less on the external stuff I can’t and shouldn’t try to control, and am focusing my effort and energy on the things that I do have the power to change.  

Instead of pushing Bf away (like I had started having a tendency to do)., by letting go: Bf has become more attentive, and I have been able to feel happier just because I know he is happy.  Knowing that he misses me, and is thinking more about what I might be doing instead of vice-versa, and acknowledging that regardless of what he is doing I still have control over my own life, happiness and fulfillment has actually improved not only our relationship but also my wider sense of positivity and well being (and my sleep!)

I know that there are plenty of very happy pilot relationships out there, but this experience has made me think that so many pilot girlfriends and wives could really benefit from this experience.  It’s so easy to become pre-occupied with what we’ve given up in our normal lives to be in these relationships, to lose sight of the positive and trade that for a concentration on how lonely we might feel without our partners at times because of the social constraints on their time off , and to forget that we’re here because we chose to be, because we love them.It’s easy to become so wrapped up and bogged down with these factors, that we forget that we had lives before we had our pilots, and that somehow, we chose this life for a reason.  This industry has the potential to transform even the most composed, self-assured, beautiful woman into someone who experiences self-doubt, insecurity, low self-esteem or jealousy (or all of the above!)

Before I left, she gave me this lovely poem by Kabir as a reminder of what she has taken the time to show me:

Don’t go outside your house to see the flowers.

My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.

Inside your body there are flowers.

One flower has a thousand petals.

That will do for a place to sit.

Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty

Inside your body and out of it,

Before gardens and after gardens.

I feel so glad that I was able to have this valuable life training, and if I had my way: it would be offered and funded by all airlines to support the pilot and all air crew families through the difficulties that they experience as a result of the industry stereotypes-heaven knows, they certainly helped feed the stereotypes and create the culture that creates so many of the insecurities that cause so many divorces and family break downs in the industry!


13 Responses to “Spreading my phoenix wings”

  1. Good for you that you have done something proactive in order to better your relationship. I am so pleased that is works for you and hope that you and bf enjoy a happier relationship together as a result. As you said at the beginning you were clear that you loved him and wanted it to work so that is shown in the efforts you have gone to. It also sounds like you were fortunate in that you landed a good counsellor who really had your interests at heart rather than just seeing this as her job, which is really the key to the sessions being a success along with your own determination. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up every now and again we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Enjoy your new found mindfulness x

    • Thank you Debs, I have to say I am rather pleased with the outcome. I was initially not terribly confident of success, because I knew that counsellors cant just wave a magic wand. We saw a couples counsellor a little over a year back and she was downright hopeless.

      You’re right though, this counsellor was fantastic and that made all the difference. You can tell that she loves what she does for a living, and is genuinely interested in the idividual (or at least this was my experience).

      I was fortunate enough to have this counselling via NHS referral, so it was funded by the NHS (or so I believed). Knowing this, I chose to buy her a small gift as a token of my personal gratitude, and she seemed genuinely touched. When I explained why I’d bought it, she confessed that she wasn’t paid at all for the work she does on a Wednesday for the NHS referrals, as she does it voluntarily!

      I was shocked and touched that she was giving up her time to help me and others without any financial gain whatsoever! She is clearly very passionate about what she does for her chosen career!

      The other lady we saw couldn’t have been less interested if she tried. She sat there making copious notes and saying diddly squat to guide us or help enlighten us as to where we might benefit from change. In fact, she may as well have been doodling, since we never knew what she did with the notes!

  2. I think the steps you have taken to understand how to make your relationship work and how to cope with Bf being away for long periods of time is a true testament to your love and dedication to him. All too often you see normal relationships falling apart at the seems because one or both parties can’t be bothered to address the issues between them. The fact that you have been so open with your Bf over your worries while he’s away etc and been pro-active in seeking counselling to overcome the negtive feelings, is commendable. Its obvious to me you have come through this a much stronger person and your Bf obviously realises what a fab girldfriend he has! 🙂

    Its definitely a case of ‘fight or flight’ (no pun intended!)being in a relationship with a pilot. One has to be mentally prepared for what’s in store. In my case if only I could have known that before entering a relationsip with a pilot, I probably would have thought twice. Not that I would change a thing now, I love him to bits and couldn’t imagine being without him and that’s what matters but it can be quite testing at times. However, I can’t deny that I’ve thought maybe I shouldn’t be in this kind of relationsip, purely for selfish reasons such as not putting myself through the ‘I wonder what he’s doing now, is he missing me?’ thoughts. I really do have to wrestle with my thoughts at times otherwise it drives me insane!!

    I suppose it gets easier to fight it as the relationsip matures. I don’t know as we’ve only been together for a year (we were friends for a while before we got together) but I’m prepared to handle these ups and downs…he’s worth it!! Someone once said to me when they found out we were together ;

    ” Oh I’m so pleased for you, he’s a lovely guy. Hope he doesn’t turn into a b****rd when he get’s on longhaul though. Most of them do!”

    Thankfully he hasn’t and fingers crossed he won’t in the future either!!

    Spoke to him tonight on the phone (we don’t live together), I’ve not seen him since a few days ago and he’s got a run of awful duties now so probably won’t get to see him until Monday. I will probably stay in most of the weekend missing him and eating comfort food!! I’m not fond of flying but I’d do anything to sit on the Jumpseat this weekend just to be near him!! Ha! Silly I know!


    • Thank you Pinky, in fact not all my issues are based around his career, some of them were issues that I never fully resolved, from my previous marriage-which was incredibly abusive.

      I think people tend to make assumptions about long-haul pilots. You always hear the extreme stories. Bad news travels fast as they say. Sensational stories always make for good gossip. Bf had a few adjustment issues to long-haul, and it has naturally changed him in some ways (as all jobs tend to affect us), but honestly, we have managed to adapt and evolve through the challenges.

      I actually value my time alone, and it makes me appreciate him and keeps our time together valuable. I cherish the trips that I can go on with Bf, and life is never dull. How many couples can say that after a good number of years together and three children too?

      I honestly believe that every cloud has a silver lining. It sucks when you are separated from them by thousands of miles between different time zones, but on another level-it gives you the perspective and opportunity to miss them, and to be independent.

      I stayed for many years more than was healthy, and felt trapped by routine in a crappy marriage to a horrid man that I dreaded spending time with. I stayed, because I was too frightened to break my routine. I had no idea how I’d cope alone, and I felt like I had no choice.

      In this relationship, as much as I don’t always enjoy the time apart, I am blessed to have enough time alone, to know who I am without him, to know that I am strong enough to live without him, and to understand that I am with him because it is my choice! It’s very empowering, and I believe I was meant to experience marriage to my ex first in order to appreciate this.

      OKDK7 posted a really great link on one of my older posts earlier that really feeds into these ideas, and it is worth spending the time reading it:

      Although it’s about personal boundaries, it also contains a lot of fascinating insights into how we think, and how our thoughts, language and childhood conditioning shape our reactions, identity and even co-dependence. Many of us rely on others for our identity without even realising it because of the unconscious messages we receive as children.

      Any way, I’m waffling now, but honestly-have a look, I think you’ll like it!

  3. So glad this all worked out for you. I hope you continue to learn and grow from your experience in counselling. I think it’s great that you’ve taken this step in a positive direction. 🙂

    • Thank you Elsja, I most certainly will be continuing along this path. I see no point in turning back now, and have several books to keep me occupied, including one that a reader of this blog has suggested to me called The Five Love Languages.

      I feel so much better not only in this part of my life, but in all areas of my life. What I have learved has been amazingly valuable

  4. Glad to hear that things are working out for you. But really dearie, in my opinion, a good, strong relationship is based on trust. Otherwise it will be such a burden and there so much more to life than just worrying about what your man is doing on the other side of the planet! Seriously, I know what I am talking about .. I have been with my DH for 21 years and married for 11!
    I know.. I feel old just saying that. LOL! We’ve known each other for a very long time, and he’s never given me any grief. Even as I know there are women interested in him, opportunities for him etc… it does not faze me at all. After all, I figured if he wants to cheat me, I’ll find out sooner or later and as far as I am concerned that will be it. He knows this fully well.
    Meanwhile, I busy myself with a fufilling career and keep a very active social life. I have every opportunity as much as he does to meet other men, interesting men, men with money .. whatever. But as long as you are clear about what you want.. you will not be tempted. It goes both ways.
    We stayed focused and had the most incredible relationship. We have travelled the world together, we’ve done so much as a couple and when we decide to have kids, I slow down on work and eventually became a WAHM. But we are happy and we are single minded about keeping our family and relationship strong.
    If both of you are willing to work at it, anything is possible. : )I am not just saying this.. I am living it!

    • I realised too .. given your past experience with your ex ….it has been a bit of a struggle… but you are making great progress. I am so proud of you! *HUGS *It must have been hell.

      It’s lovely to see you come out ..a more confident and trusting person. Just remember, that there will be times when you will falter , not be too hard on yourself. Stay focused and get back on track. You deserve all the contentment and happiness this relationship can offer.

      • I always have been a strong independent woman with a high enough self esteem not to base my emotional wellbeing on the passtimes of another; but as you rightly noted, we have experienced our fair share of trauma over the past two years.

        Thankfully, I have managed to climb out of that nasty little hole and am happy again.

        We too are travelling the world together and I am actually hoping to go on a particularly special trip with him in July-to a place that I have always dreamed of going to! 🙂

  5. Keep up the great blog.

  6. Thank you so much for your wonderful post. I very much admire your open and heartfelt honesty. Most humans have a difficult time openly expressing vulnerabilities. But frankly, I think everyone can benefit from such expression.
    Many of the struggles my husband I currently face somewhat parallel what you have expressed. Its empowering to read about similar travails and know we can come out on the other side stronger and better than ever.
    You rock, lady!!

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