Relationships are, at best, never easy. They require a great deal of trust, maintenance and understanding, and oftentimes even those elements are not enough. When you throw in an aviation career, a whole new ratio of ingredients needs to be accounted for – sort of like baking at a higher altitude. Except with more crying.
I am joking slightly, but, in reality, a relationship with a flight attendant or pilot (or even trickier – between two of them) is not for the faint of heart. Flight attendants and pilots, according to this survey, have a divorce rate of over 50%. It isn’t exactly difficult to imagine why that would be, but there are some misconceptions out there about what goes on in reality.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room – infidelity. The classic stereotype, of course, is the married pilot knocking on the hotel room door of one sweet young flight attendant in Chicago, and then a different one the next night in Toronto. Or you have the wife who leaves her husband at home to go to work, just to have some passenger sweep her off her feet and begin a torrid affair 3,000 miles away from home sweet home.
I’d love to say it doesn’t happen, but it does. We have all seen it.
I’m not sure if this line of work encourages this behavior, but the lifestyle can be a draw for people who can’t stay still for too long, geographically and sometimes just as much in every other sense as well. I don’t think flying breeds cheaters, but it certainly makes a good home for them. In my opinion, a cheater in aviation would be a cheater in an office job as well, but perhaps found out more quickly.
To make things even trickier, though, those of us who wear the wings in the relationship aren’t the only ones who need to have someone who possesses a great deal of patience and trust. When we leave a partner behind to go to work, the same likelihood exists that an unexpected sick day at work could cause us to come home to an unfortunately already-occupied bed. It has happened to me and many of my coworkers, and it’s not fun.
The people we date often claim that they’re led to cheat or at least just drift away because we are never there, which can be incredibly frustrating because the job is what was often such a draw to them in the first place. It’s so romantic initially – we are seen as exotic, interesting, worldly – but eventually it can be a disappointment. No matter how much we warn those who venture into commitment with us, they don’t seem to understand exactly what it is they’re entering into until those pangs of loneliness or jealousy emerge.
But they exist in us, too. Ultimately, what most of us (who aren’t career players, anyway) want is someone to come back to, who we trust is just as eager for our return. Someone we text or call as soon as our phones are switched back on from airplane mode just to tell them we’ve landed and we miss them. This lifestyle tends to define for us over time what we want, and if that is to be with someone, we are all in. And if we want to remain unattached, it makes us more secure in that as well.
Even just getting to the point of actually finding a partner can be an incredibly frustrating challenge. I’d made a policy very quickly never to date my passengers, for instance, because I’d realized that they always would assume (despite no indications from me) that I was “easy” simply because of my job. Years ago, I went on a date with a passenger I’d given my number to, and he told me that he texted me as fast as he could so that he could be the first one to respond, because flight attendants give their numbers out to multiple people per flight, according to him. (I’ll let you guess if there was a second date.) I learned quickly that he was far from alone in assuming this, which is far from true, as well as pretty gross.
It takes a special person to be with someone in the aviation industry, and we need to be understanding of them as well. I have a long distance relationship with myself – I am constantly away from everyone and everything that is central to who I am. It’s fun getting to have adventures in different cities running around with your crew, but where I want to be more than anything is on the couch with my boyfriend watching Game Of Thrones and eating takeout. Travel is wonderful, but not if you can’t come home to what’s important to you.