I really wish you were here

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF YOU get a rush of adrenaline when you're travelling on business, and view it as an antidote to humdrum routine, the chances are you're either single or new to the experience of globe-trotting. If, on the other hand, the very thought of it induces sheer misery, you could be plagued with Intermittent Spouse Syndrome (ISS). Sufferers include not only the traveller but the partner who is left behind, says Farrol Khan, director of the Aviation Health Institute, who identified the affliction late last year. Usually dismissed as a routine disruption for families, he argues it is a growing phenomenon causing psychosocial problems such as depression, tension, sexual difficulties and behavioural problems in children.

"This isn't just about missing your loved one," he says. "There are specific symptoms which have been identified through a series of studies. ISS is a growing problem with the globalization of business and the fact that it is less possible for women to follow their spouses when they have careers of their own."

When a recent survey by the World Bank revealed that out of 5,000 travelling staff, most were suffering from depression, nervous anxiety and sleep disturbance, the symptoms were attributed to jetlag. "But then we realised that other psychological factors were involved. One of the main influences is separation from home and family," confirms Dr Bernard Demure, director of the bank's health service. Farrol Khan explains, "ISS can be caused by as little as four or five trips a year. The usual pattern is a build- up of tension at the prospect of yet another departure, with the cycle repeated on the reunion, when there is an impulse for the non-travelling partner to punish the absent one."

According to Julia Cole, counsellor for Relate, business travel is one of the hardest problems faced by couples in the 1990s. Compromise is difficult. "Either you give everything up to follow your partner or stay at home. "Whichever option you choose, the best solution is to set a time limit for tolerating this lifestyle." And it's time the consequences for offspring were put into perspective. "These are children who essentially have an absent parent, which can have the same effect as divorce."

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