Can Pilots Have Successful Relationships? - Wholesome Life Journal

Can Pilots Have Successful Relationships?

For pilots, marriage can be complicated. Most airline pilots wouldn’t trade their job for anything. After all, it beats sitting behind a desk, and it comes with a fantastic view along with many other benefits. But there are also challenges.It can be difficult for a pilot’s family and friends to understand what, exactly, they are up against while they’re in training or on trips. How hard can it be to fly around the world, indulging in drinks at hotel bars with fellow crew members?

And why does their schedule always have to be so complicated?

I caught up with a few airline pilots on Facebook, and they sounded off on pilot marriages and relationships.

Sarah E. is a first officer for a major airline. She says it’s hard for outsiders to understand what pilots go through. “It’s hard for people who don’t live the airline life to understand it. They think that while we are away that we are on vacation and partying. It’s difficult to convey the amount of work we do it’s fatiguing and challenging, especially for a wife and mother. Sleeping in a hotel and living out of a bag isn’t the most fun, but we are pilots and have a passion for what we do. It’s in our blood, and it’s part of who we are. ”

For an unlucky number of pilots, their relationships or marriages end due to one or more of these challenges leading to misunderstandings. Some of these can be blamed on the rigors of the job, which is difficult for any non-pilot to comprehend.

And those that are trying to make a marriage work often spend their time explaining the ins and outs of the pilot career to their significant others left behind, often left alone to deal with the challenges of raising a family. The details, like why pilots spend an enormous amount of money on fast food and why they were scheduled during the family’s yearly vacation to Hawaii even though they bid for a different schedule, can become sources of contention, and often, family members behind feel left out and misunderstood themselves.

“This is likely a major reason for pilot divorce – the lack of comprehension on what the job entails,” says Melinda W., a married first officer at a major airline. “One captain clued me into best management practices for a content spouse, ‘Remember, the weather is always crappy, the hotel is a dump & the crew is a bunch of idiots. Your spouse doesn’t want to hear y

ou’re having a good time on a trip while they’re home dealing with a backed up toilet, a car problem, a sick kid, shoveling snow, or the dog got sprayed by a skunk!'” Maybe so, but spouses don’t need to be protected from the daily lives of pilots. Pilots just need to convey the truth, that while the weather in Hawaii is nice and yes, they did enjoy a cocktail at the hotel bar, that they’re exhausted and yes, still committed to their marriages. And even though they try to explain it, many pilots wish their significant others understood what happens around them every time they fly.

As a first officer at a major airline, Evelyne T. knows the process well, too. “It’s a long-term education process. I found that by talking and telling stories and explaining in detail, openly and candidly my work experiences, trials, tribulations, and adventures I can give my family members and friends a window into my world…

I don’t ever dumb anything down and give lots of backgrounds.”

For others, their best-laid relationship plans didn’t work out in the end. A number of pilots responded to my request for information to say their significant other ran off with a flight attendant, or that it just didn’t work out for one reason or another. Life happens. Schedules don’t line up. Dreams get in the way. And for airline pilots, it’s not difficult to see why.


An airline pilot’s hectic schedule begins right away, usually during simulator training. If the pilot is coming out of the military, the training environment is one that they’ve probably experienced before. But if they built their experience in the civilian world – flight instructing or towing banners or something similar – they’re just as new as the rest of the family and probably a bit clueless about the process themselves.

But one thing is for sure: It’s called a “fire hose” for a reason. Days are long, the books are thick, and the absorption rate of the material is fast. It’s intense. Pilots are expected to learn a huge amount of material in a very short time with little time in between lessons. They go to class all day, maybe grab dinner with their new coworkers at night, review notes for an hour or two, go to bed and then repeat the process the next day. There is very little time for anything else, leaving family members wondering why their husband or wife all of the sudden checked out. And it’s true – pilots often put their partners on hold as they check out of family life and check into a crappy hotel for a few months. Luckily, training is temporary.  And it’s worth it when they put on that crisp new uniform and epaulets.


Once a pilot is done with sim training, they often just want to decompress. If their partner tries to hand them a “to-do” list, they’ll sigh. If their partner makes them breakfast with the hope that they’ll join them, they’ll sleep in. And if asked where they want to go for dinner, they might respond with “I don’t care.”  Information overload, constantly being in a leadership position and the decision-making faced on the job leaves pilots in a zombie-like anti-decision-making state of mind. They don’t care where you eat. They’ll eat anything at this point… except maybe McDonald’s.

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