You may have heard it said that behind every great man there’s a great woman. Perhaps that is nowhere more true than for men who spend much of their time on the road, away from home, in difficult conditions. It’s true for men in the armed forces. It’s also true for men who drive a long-haul truck. Our country’s economy depends on trucking. Successful over-the-road (OTR) drivers often depend on a supportive woman at home.
Carolyn Mantor is one of these women. Melanie Borden is another. Josh-the-Dad and I recently spoke at length with both of them about what it’s like for them to be in a committed relationship with a man who drives an eighteen wheeler. Carolyn and her fiancé have a blended family with 12 children between the two of them—three are hers, one is still at home. She has been involved with the transportation industry for eight years personally; and in a relationship with her fiancé, a driver, for two.
“You get made for this sort of thing,” she says. “Our relationship has grown very well even with the distance between us. You learn to communicate over the phone and get closer that way. You can pick up things from his voice and you learn to ask, ‘What’s the matter?’”
Melanie has been married to her husband for 40 years and he’s been driving over the road since 2004. She’s worked for Steelman Transportation since 2005. The couple has adult children and four grandchildren. “The honeymoon happens,” she says, “when he comes home. In between times, I can get my house clean and my life in order. Then he comes home and we have wonderful chaos.”
Both Carolyn and Melanie appreciate trucking for the good living it has provided for their families. They also recognize the difficulties. For example, the lack of respect accorded to drivers concerns them. Different gun laws in different states create some scary situations in which their loved one is very vulnerable. “You hear horror stories. They’re out there alone and there are some bad people there.”
They also note the danger of distracted driving, something their guys see every day. Both report their husbands see drivers on their phones almost constantly. “If you cannot see their mirrors,” they note, “they can’t see you. It takes them 500 feet to stop—don’t tailgate them.”
Carolyn and Melanie also know how critical they are to their partner’s success on the road. It’s vital to their partners to have a strong person at home, a person who is also strong and able to manage in his absence. Melanie takes care of all her husband’s banking, paperwork, and contracts. She also takes care of the house but draws the line at climbing up on the roof or crawling under the house. She says she understands the transportation industry and does her best to do everything she can for him while he’s on the road.
“We talk every morning on my way to work,” offers Melanie. “We also touch base throughout the day. We are on the phone a lot.”
“It’s the same with us,” remarks Carolyn, “We’re on the phone all day long.” Apparently, those countless calls have made an impression on their kids, as Carolyn’s 19-year-old daughter has been known to say, “You guys are like teenagers; it’s ridiculous.”
“You’ve got to keep that sense of romance,” Carolyn affirms. “They’re alone out there and it’s hard. There are times when we don’t say anything on the phone . . . when there are just 10 minutes of silence, but he knows I’m there. That’s the important thing.”
When He Comes Home
Yes, there’s a “honeymoon” of sorts when he comes home, but it can be challenging to adjust to another adult in the house. A lot depends on your perspective. Carolyn describes her fiancé as “the glue” for their blended family.” When he comes home,” she says, ”he does a great job of trying to keep up with everyone. There are lots of family members nearby and he often goes where he’s told with lots of input from family. He makes the time even if it’s only for an hour . . . it’s a group effort.”
Melanie, her kids, and grandkids stay connected by video chat when her husband is on the road, but when he gets home they get together often. With four grandchildren and five dogs is a crazy time, but they love cooking out in any kind of weather and enjoying lots of good food together.
Advice to Wives and Sweethearts of Truck-Driving Dads
Melanie and Carolyn clearly know a thing or two about how to make a relationship with a truck-driving man a success, so I asked them what words of advice they would give to other women with over-the-road partners. Here’s what they said:
- Stay strong with your own support system. Make sure you have girlfriends, your sisters, whomever to talk with and do things when your guy is gone.
- Find ways to “romance” over the phone. Stay in touch. Talk often. Tell them you love them, you miss them, and you can’t wait to see them. Don’t expect to hear it back all the time.
- Practice patience, patience, patience. Let them rant when things aren’t going well. Don’t take it personally.
- Be there when they’re ready to blow up. Talk them off the ledge. Remind them that they’re exactly where they need to be and things will work out.
Melanie and Carolyn agree, “These are really good guys who are doing a hard job. They deserve our respect and support.” We, at Good Dads, agree and we know their employer, Steelman Transportation, agrees as well.