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The Road as a Romance

with Sam and Toni Gallucci | October 6, 2008

When it comes to material success, more isn’t always better if work travel hurts a marriage. Sam and Toni Gallucci recount the challenges they faced in the early years of marriage when Sam traveled extensively as a successful executive.

When it comes to material success, more isn’t always better if work travel hurts a marriage. Sam and Toni Gallucci recount the challenges they faced in the early years of marriage when Sam traveled extensively as a successful executive.

The Road as a Romance

With Sam and Toni Gallucci
|
October 06, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: You know the guys in the waiting area at the airport who are the first invited on the airplane when it's time to board?  More likely than not, those guys are road warriors.  Their job has got them living out of a suitcase and going from one hotel to another spending fewer and fewer nights at home.  That was the case for Sam Gallucci years ago, and it was breaking his wife, Toni's, heart.

Toni: I had approached Sam so often with tears, and it was at night, and it was always in bed, and I remember laying there each time and crying and saying, "I don't want the big house, I don't want the big cars, I want you."  And I said, "Just be a postman, you know, 9 to 5."

[musical transition]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 6th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to talk today about the strain that being a road warrior can put on your marriage and on your family.  Stay tuned.

[musical transition]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You have had occasion to board a few airplanes in your time in your ministry assignment, haven't you?  You've been on the road a little bit?

Dennis: Yeah, but I've never achieved the million-mile status like our guest on today's program has.

Bob: That's true.

Dennis: Five million miles.

Bob: He's – he's …

Dennis: Five million – four million with American Airlines.  I mean, astounding.

Bob: That is astounding.

Dennis: It is, and I guess I want to know, Sam, how did you do it?

Sam: I have no idea how I did it.  I just did it, you know?  I mean, it's crazy to think about it.  If I would have known I would have been traveling so much when I started, I don't think I would have signed up for it.

Dennis: Well, Sam and Tony Gallucci join us on FamilyLife Today, and I have to ask you, Toni, did most of those miles occur as he was your husband?

Toni: Yes, yes, all of them.

Dennis: All of them?

Toni: All of them – he was gone a lot.

Dennis: You had three sons.

Toni: Three sons.

Dennis: You had to feel alone a lot.

Toni: Yes, and as the years passed, I felt the weight of that.

Dennis: So is this book that you all have written here called "Road Warrior," is this a survival guide of how you handle five million miles?

Toni: Survival guide is a good word, yes.

Dennis: You refer, actually, in the book, Sam, to the road becoming a romance?

Sam: Yes.

Dennis: Share with our listeners what you mean about that.

Sam: You know, it is amazing what happens when you are on the road, and when you start traveling – it's very romantic.  You are the invited guest wherever you go, you know, the customer is always right, you are served hand and foot.  You don't have to clean up after yourself; you get to choose exactly what you want to eat every night.  Your bed is always made for you, and it's quite romantic and very alluring, and your jet-setting kind of thing all over the country in different cities and different people.

Dennis: Yeah, but here's the thing, Sam, you don't know – Bob, in his home, Mary Ann irons the sheets for him every day.

Sam: Every day?  Okay.

[laughter]

Dennis: I mean, he knows what it's just like to crawl in those freshly laundered ironed sheets every day.

Sam: Every single day.

Bob: I don't think so.

[laughter]

Bob: I don't think so.

Dennis: But it's seductive is what you're saying.

Sam: It's very seductive, Dennis, and you find yourself getting wrapped up in the seductive nature – it's like a romance.  Travel becomes a real romance in the beginning.

Bob: Let me dial you back to how the travel got started.  You were in business, living in Southern California, and it just became a business necessity for you to travel out and see clients, right?

Sam: That's right, Bob.  You know, it started – we graduated college as a Christian couple, got married, and we started our life as a Christian couple, and within a few years joined a software company to provide for my family for all the right reasons.  It required some travel, and a little travel begot more travel, and it just kind of took off.

Bob: Toni, was there a point in that taking off whereas a wife and a mom you started to go, "Hang on, time out.  I'm not seeing much of you, and this – I'm not sure this is what I signed on for."  Do you remember that?

Toni: Well, you know, it's an amazing story, because we got married, we went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and the next day, when we got back from our honeymoon, Sam worked for a large company, and he had to go away for a six-week period.  That was one of three six-week periods, and then he was gone an additional two weeks.  So our first year of marriage, I remember going to my mom and saying, "I have the ring, but where is the husband, where is my husband?"

So it was a bit of a shock.  The good part and God's grace in it is my father always traveled.  So it wasn't foreign, I was just surprised when I had to actually do it.

Bob: And probably lonely, I mean, I would think there would have been a time when you'd be on the phone with Sam and saying, "Do you have to do this?  Isn't there some way you could be home?"

Toni: Yeah, I missed him, but I had all my family in the area, so that helped, and I didn't feel it …

Sam: You know, I think, in the beginning – this is the thing that's crazy about business travel is you start doing it, and you think, "Okay, it's not that big a deal, we can handle it, you know, I'm just gone a few days here and a few days there," and life just starts to begin, and you start traveling, and you think, "Yeah, this is just part of what we need to do, and we can handle it."

Bob: And when you talk about handling it, in those early days you were never thinking, "I'm going to be in the million-mile club, or the five-million mile club."

Sam: Never, that is the big danger and lure of business travel.  That's the seductive secret lie of business travel that, you know, we can handle it, it's not that big a deal, it's not having any effect, and it won't, it can't progress to more business travel.

Dennis: Did you miss your sons?  I mean, in the process of all your travel, you had three boys, and you were gone all this time.  Did you miss watching them grow up?

Sam: You miss them a little bit, but you're balanced with this is just for a few years, and I'm just going to do this until I can get our family quite much more successful and stable, and then I'll scale back.  And in the beginning, I convinced myself that I really wasn't missing them; that because I was providing, that's what I have to do.  But years later, oh, yes, oh, yes.  After many years later, I started to really miss them.

Dennis: You write, actually, about being driven in your book. 

Sam: Yes.

Dennis: In fact, what I want to do, Bob, is I want to put this on our website, FamilyLife.com, because you actually have a chart where a person can go through and check, "Yes," "Sometimes" or "No" to about a dozen statements.

Sam: Yes.

Dennis: If you would, just go through a few of these that a person can check off and maybe do a quick analysis here to determine if he or she is a driven person or not.

Sam: Well, it starts by how highly involved are you in your career?  You know, and if, all of a sudden, your involvement in your career starts to become consuming where it's all you think about – you think about your career in the morning, in the evening, on the weekends, that is a sign that you're driven.

When you start to make decisions about your career, you know, where others call you obsessed, you know, so when someone calls you obsessed that is a good warning sign, because we tend to deny it.  Us guys that are driven – men or women, for that matter, that are driven – we tend to deny that "Oh, I'm not obsessed with it.  This is what I do.  I'm making a living."

Bob: Well, did people call you obsessed?

Sam: Oh, yes.  You know, they said, "You know what?  You are gone.  You are just obsessed with this thing," you know, especially Toni.  You know, after a while, it's all …

Toni: A workaholic.

Sam: Just a workaholic.

Toni: That's a good word for it.

Sam: You know, you're just working all the time, and where work became the priority, and that's something that is a sign.

Dennis: I want you to continue on with the list, but to that very point, did any friend confront you?  Was there another man who stepped into your life who said, "Hey, Sam, wake up."

Sam: You know, in the early days, no.  And we were – again, on the outside we were this perfect Christian couple, and this is one of the dangers of travel – it's the subtle but consistent breakdown of the family unit little by little.  It's like Chinese water torture.  You want a little drip, you know, that's not too bad; and another little drip and another little drip, and in the early days because – we were involved in a Bible study.  We were active in our church, and on the outside we were this perfect Christian couple – we were going to church, we were doing our thing, and …

Dennis: So everybody assumes you can handle the pace.

Sam: Exactly.  Everybody assumes you can handle the pace.

Dennis: So Toni is a three-ring circus woman, she can handle it, Sam's busy.

Sam: Yeah, exactly.  And you're busy, and you're doing your thing, and they're doing their thing, and nothing had ever really been written about the effects of business travel, and people traveled, and it was kind of – in those early days, it was quite alluring, and it was quite – you know, everybody dressed up back in those days to get on an airplane, and there was a dynamic to it that was quite exciting and professional.

Dennis: Well, it appeals.

Sam: It was appealing, yeah.

Dennis: It appeals to men's pride.

Sam: Yeah.

Dennis: A sense of accomplishment.

Sam: Accomplishment is out there, yeah.  And that's what they saw.  They saw, okay, here is a couple, here is a successful man, he's an up-and-coming successful executive, polished, and a beautiful wife and having some kids, they live in a nice home, they are active in the church, yeah, they've got it together.

Dennis: Toni is over here nodding and smiling.

Toni: You know, it's funny, because I had people tell me, "Gosh, Toni, you are an amazing woman."  You know, like what you say, running the three-ring circus, you know, and I saw my mom do that with my dad, because he traveled all my growing-up life, and I thought that was the right thing to do, you know?  And I always tried to keep my chin up and the right attitude, but I think now, looking in hindsight, it would have been better for me to stop and really evaluate and instead it was more like survival and try to carry the load myself.

Bob: But did you not have any of those conversations where you said to your husband in the times that he was home, "This isn't working, Sam."

Toni: Yes, I approached Sam so often with tears.

Dennis: It's called a "meltdown."

Toni: Yeah, and it was at night, and it was always in bed, and I remember laying there each time and crying and saying, "I don't want the big house, I don't want the big cars, I want you."  And I said, "Just be a postman.  You know, 9 to 5." 

Sam: Yeah, she'd say that a lot.

Toni: And he says, "That's not me, that's not me."  And back to the romance part – it's interesting because Sam was saying that the business travel can be a bit of a romance and alluring.  And it's funny, as a wife, I see it that way, too, because I knew I wasn't above work.  And the romance was with his job and not me.

Dennis: I'm noticing even now, though, as you're talking about it, you're getting a bit emotional reliving some of how that made you feel.

Toni: Yeah, you know, this whole thing has been good to just kind of look back and see God's hand.  He wanted us to feel the pain and to see the ramifications of our own choices and all these compromises that we had made in our lives, and we got hurt, and we felt the devastation of it, and that's when we turned back.

Bob: Sam, on those nights when you're laying next to a wife who is crying and saying, "I don't want the big house, I want you – be a postman," and you're scheduled to fly out the next day for a four-day trip, what's going on in your own heart and mind?

Sam: You know, what's going on in my mind is I'm a provider, this is what I do, you know, she's lost perspective.  She just had a bad day, just had a bad week, "It's going to be okay, honey, after all, I'm providing for our family.  Nothing is happening, everything is going to be okay," and you start to buy all these lies that just kind of build up in your mind, and I don't really even know where they start. 

But, you know, in the Bible, I started thinking things like, you know, in the Bible a lot of those men had to travel away for many days, and …

Dennis: They went off to war.

Sam: They went off to war, you know, and did war, that's right.

[laughter]

And they'd come back, you know, and so she can get over it, you know, this is just – just suck it up, because this is my life, this is my career, and I love her, and she loves me and …

Dennis: She's smiling again.

Toni: Yeah, I remember, Sam would pacify me by saying, "This will slow down soon."  And I cannot tell you how many times – so those were promises that never happened.

Sam: Yes.

Toni: And, you know, in the beginning, I bought it, and thought, "Okay, you know what?  I can hold out a little longer, a little longer," and but then after years of it, I just gave up hope.

Bob: I'm just thinking, if there's a guy who is doing travel, he's out for his job, you know, he's got his Platinum Card with the airline or whatever is going on, and his wife is raising the flag and saying, "Boy, this isn't working."  Today, would you say to that guy, "You need to listen," or maybe his wife is having a bad day, and she's going to get over it?

Sam: No, absolutely, you need to listen.  It is the devastation of business travel on your personal life, relationships, and your faith is staggering, and so I would say to any business traveler, if your wife starts communicating that, that is a critical point of pause and really reset on the frequency of travel, the depth of travel, and what it's done to you and your wife and probably your children as well.

Bob: Has your wife raised the flag with you from time to time and said, "You're not – you're gone a little more than" – I know the answer to that question.

Dennis: Bob – that's what I was getting ready to say.  Bob, you've got to be kidding me, you know the answer to that.  In fact, what I was going to ask you, Bob, was I'm Silver, Bob, what are you?

[laughter]

Aren't you Platinum, Bob?

Bob: Let's not get personal about it, all right?

[laughter]

Dennis: Yeah, I mean, here's Sam, Toni, what happened in our marriage, early on, I was traveling, and I was having people saying to me, "You're driven."  And I know exactly what you're talking about.  There is a side of a man that goes, "No, I'm not.  I can handle it.  I can be balanced."

Sam: Yeah.

Dennis: And yet when people at work started saying that, and then my wife threw out an anchor and it hit me on the head, and she threw out a number of anchors to kind of create some security in our family.  The first anchor didn't get my attention but somewhere between the fifth and the 10th, I began to get the point of, you know what?  I need to do what you talked about, Sam – stop, recalibrate, have a conversation, in fact, multiple conversations with Barbara, and talk about what does this mean, how much can we handle, what is realistic and, to that point, Bob, we actually put a limit on the number of days that I would travel without her and without the kids, on an annual basis.

And I also made a decision not to take additional engagements that caused me to have to travel without first talking with my wife.

Bob: So someone would call and invite you to come speak here or there, and you'd say, "I've got to talk to Barbara?"

Dennis: Absolutely.

Bob: But didn't you feel like a wimp, though?  I mean saying, "I've got to talk to my wife."

Dennis: Not really.  After it began to work, and I began to experience the benefits of what Sam and Toni are talking about here, it actually put wind in my sails and really gave me courage.

Bob: Because you knew when you were out speaking, Barbara was behind you?

Dennis: Yeah, and I knew we were one.  I wasn't doing my thing, and she was doing hers.  We had this thing together as a couple.

Sam: Yes.  And, Dennis, you know, that is absolutely right, and here is the thing – if a man does not stop and take the time when his wife, who is the best gauge, says that, you know, "We really need to talk about this."  All of a sudden, the romance of business travel becomes a romance with loneliness, because you're alone.  And that what you hate, but begin to pursue, and the combination of being driven and successful on the road, if you leave it unchecked long enough, consumes you to where it really becomes a very addictive behavior starts to develop inside the man.

Bob: My friend, who has been a part of AA for the last 20-plus years, taught me that one of the things he's learned in the program is that you are most vulnerable to falling when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

Sam: That's right.

Bob: You take business travel, and I don't know that – angry can happen based on how the deal went today, right?

Sam: Right, right.

Bob: But hungry, lonely, and tired, are just par for the course if you're on the road.

Sam: That's right.  You know, we were built for relationships, and like water to drink and food to eat, relationships are an absolute in life, and sooner or later you will find a substitute.

Toni: Yeah, I was going to say, when you travel, it's a sacrifice.  I mean, you know, people want to be together but, you know, you do have needs of your family, so, okay, you can travel, and that will be a provision for our family.  But Christ only sacrificed for relationship, and I think that we sacrifice – it starts for relationship and provision, but then what happens, it goes to sacrifice for bigger houses, sacrifice for bigger cars, and I think that that's when we have to stop and go, "What am I working for?"  Because then you go into a danger area, and then those lures take you deeper and deeper, and relationship gets farther and farther apart.

Bob: Sam, is there anything that Toni could have done, as you look back on it, how big would the anchor have needed to be, what could she have done that would have gotten your attention, or were you so in love with what you were doing that you'd have just said, "I hear you, but I can't unplug."

Sam: Yeah, you know, it's easy to do Monday morning quarterbacking, but part of what we, you know, learned – if I knew then what I know now, what she could have done is engaged our circle of friends of accountability and got them involved and say, "Look, this is not working.  You are gone too much" …

Bob: You're saying an intervention …

Sam: An intervention.

Bob: … might have gotten your attention.

Sam: An intervention might have gotten my attention, absolutely, because the heart for me, I'm a believer, you know, and I love Jesus, and if we had some level of intervention by a close group of friends to sit down and say, "Look, you know, this is something that is really hurting your marriage, and you guys really need to address how it is and what's happening to you both."

Bob: Dennis, you think of a guy needing an intervention if he is involved in alcohol or drug abuse or some addictive behavior.  You don't think about an intervention for somebody who is addicted to business travel.

Dennis: Well, the key word is "addicted."  How do you break through the fog of what need that addiction is meeting?  And I was thinking, as you were talking, Sam, Toni, about Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 15 and following – I think it just gives some very good instruction – "Look carefully, then, at how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil." 

So the first thing to do – a good self-analysis, a good checkpoint.  I think there are some people who it will be enough just to pull their cruise ship off into a harbor and anchor it for a few moments and evaluate where they're going.  They don't have to be confronted with a formal intervention.

Bob: Well, you pointed people to the diagnostic checklist that's on page 15 in this book.  That's a great way for folks …

Sam: It's a great way to start.

Bob: They can go online and say, "So how am I doing?  Am I a workaholic?  Do I need some help here?"  And then, depending on what kind of a score they get or how it turns out and, by the way, I would say do this with your spouse and have your spouse give you a grade as well just so that both of you are speaking into it.  And it may be that in the season of life you're in, you've got to be doing this kind of travel – maybe you're a truck driver or there is some factor for you where life on the road is a part of how it's got to work for you.  Then the question is – what are you going to do as a couple to make that work and what kinds of strategies can you employ, and that's some of what you get into in the book, "Road Warrior." 

It's a warning about the dangers but also an attempt to try to help husbands and wives negotiate what can be a challenging assignment when one or both of them is spending a lot of time on the road.

We've got the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested, they can go to the website and click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast," "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where you'll find the questionnaire about workaholism and also information about the book, "Road Warrior," and other resources that we're recommending for folks who are in this kind of a situation.

Again, our website is FamilyLife.com.  Click on the right side of the home page where it says, "Today's Broadcast," or, if it's easier, just call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make arrangements with you to have whatever resources you need to sent to you or answer any questions you have about the resources we have available.

You know, one of the reasons, Dennis, why couples find themselves in the kind of isolation that we've heard Sam and Toni talk about today is because communication in the marriage relationship breaks down.  You and I had a conversation not long ago with author Emerson Eggerichs who wrote the book, "Love and Respect," and has also written a book called "Cracking the Communication Code," and we talked with him about communication, how we can do a better job of listening to one another and expressing ourselves to one another, and that conversation is now available on two audio CDs that we're sending out this month to anyone who is willing to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a financial contribution.

We are listener-supported, and we depend on those contributions in order to sustain the work of this ministry.  So if you can make a donation online this month or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, we want you to feel free to request these CDs as our thank you gift to you for your support.  If you're donating online, you will come to a keycode box on the donation form.  We need you to type the word "code" into that box, c-o-d-e, so that we know to send you the two CDs we've talked about here, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, make your donation over the phone and simply request the CDs we've talked about.  Again, we appreciate your financial support, and we're grateful to hear from you.

Now, tomorrow we're going to pick up this story where we left off today, and we'll hear about how Sam Gallucci confessed to his wife what had been going on on the road.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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