Saw your man in the club
I thought he was out of town doing business
Said that he'd be back in three weeks?"
And now I'm mad, sitting in the kitchen getting sad
For the typical Family Man (or woman), it can be hard to find the time and a place for adultery. You can't exactly bring your mistress back to your own home, right? The nature of infidelity is that it is secret, unnoticeable, and sneaky. One way film and TV makers have dealt with this dilemma is to create the excuse of the "Business Trip". Said trip is either real or phony, depending on the cheater's willingness to lie. The business trip could be a convention for Blah, Blah, Blah, a meeting with the et cetera, et cetera, or the company yadda yadda yadda. The offender relies on the spouse's trust to get away with such lies. Perhaps business trips do happen frequently for the cheater, so by lying about one that isn't real, it's not entirely false, right? The cheater's mentality is rarely explored with the trope's usage, as we usually see the text through the innocent and faithful one in the relationship. We may be led to believe that the love presented by one half of the couple (the faithful member) reflects the love of the other half (the cheater) just through body language and affection. But the Business Trip Adultery trope is so common, that it's normal for a viewer's ears to prick up when we hear about the wife or husband going on a... ''business'' trip.
In other uses of the trope, the cheater actually is going on a business trip. After all, hotels are usually paid for by the company. Often, conventions will coincide, allowing said employees to drink, eat and mingle with others. It's not far-fetched to think people will be hooking up. But for the duplicitous cheater, this is a perfect opportunity. They can meet someone from a different company who doesn't know they have a family. They can catch up with long-lost exes who transferred to different divisions. They can even hire a sex worker if they want. At the end of the night, they can return to their hotel room to utilise the luxury bedding and 24-hour room service. But, that doesn't mean their family ceases to exist.
It's rare that the partner being cheated on finds out about the infidelity, but sometimes, they are aware of it and don't choose to discuss it. The symbolism behind the trope could be that by being Married to the Job, one loses touch with their real marriage (or relationship in general). Considering the convenience of interstate, cross-country, or cross-continent travel, business trips are increasingly frequent. Fears of spouses or loved ones cheating while in foreign places is natural, especially if the traveller has cheated before. Distance from a loved one can also be challenging, regardless of where they are.
When the cheater is a woman, it could be symbolic of the engrained struggle women have in the modern workplace. It's normal for mothers to have a career, but those who spend time away from home are punished far more often than fathers. Thus the cheating could emblemise the Family Versus Career issue.
The final use of the trope is when someone cheats while their significant other is away on a business trip. The empty house allows them to invite anyone they please, and they have enough time to remove any hints of infidelity. Cheating in the absence of one's partner is also discussed in the Cheating With The Milk Man trope. Interestingly, if the woman is cheating while the man is away, he is usually "out of town for work". But if a male character is cheating while the wife or girlfriend is away, she is usually "visiting her sister" or "taking the kids to the grandparents'". To put this stereotype in simpler terms: Men want work, women want family.
This is Truth in Television, no real-life examples please.
- In Alan Moore's Lost Girls, Wendy and her husband Harold are at the hotel on a business trip. Due to their incompatability, they have sex with other people - Wendy with Alice and Dorothy and several other men, while Harold has a brief tryst with Ralph.
- In the The Loud House fanfic The Edgy House, Lynn Sr. often goes away on business trips. He eventually comes home with a baby (Luan), implied to be his daughter with the woman he cheated with. He manages to convince his wife Rita that Luan was hers. The trope is subverted, as it turns out that Lincoln's making the whole thing up for The Aristocrats joke.
- The Incredibles: Helen Parr assumes this could be happening when her husband Bob begins going away on several "business trips". She can hear a woman's voice while listening in on his phone conversation and finds a long hair on one of his suits. It certainly doesn't help when she finds him with another woman in his arms. However, this is subverted, as while the business trip was a ruse, it was for the sake of Bob reliving his glory days as a superhero rather than an affair.
- L'Appartmente: After working in New York for two years, Max returns to Paris and marries. He sees a lost love and lies to his wife about a business trip in order to seek his ex.
- The Bigamist: Harry frequently travels from San Francisco to Los Angeles for work and on one of his trips, he meets Phyllis, whom he starts seeing regularly afterwards. Then problems arise when Phyllis gets pregnant...
- Big Fish: Edward's son Will suspects this must have happened while his dad worked as a traveling salesman. Subverted, since Jenny confirms that while she loved Edward, he loved Will's mother too much to do anything.
- The Big Sick: Emily's father Terry reveals to Kumail that he had a one-night stand while away from his wife Beth at a conference for teachers. He didn't intend to do so before going, (he points out that a gathering of math teachers is probably the last place on Earth anyone goes to have an affair) and he instantly regretted it and immediately confessed to Beth afterward, but it has been a source of tension between them ever since and they've never been able to talk about it or deal with it. The end of the movie shows the two starting to reconcile.
- Contagion: At the beginning of the film, Beth's on the phone with someone other than her husband, thanking the person for a nice night. Unbeknownst at the time, she was already sick with the virus she caught in Hong Kong. Following her death, Mitch (her husband) learns her ex-boyfriend caught the virus at a similar time, and he puts two and two together.
- Definitely, Maybe: While working on the Clinton campaign in New York, Will's girlfriend cheats on him with his roommate.
- Fatale: While on a business trip to Las Vegas, a man is encouraged to take off his wedding ring and have a fling. He meets a woman wanting casual sex, and they spend the night together. The next morning, it seems that they expect much more; she even locks away his phone. He returns home to his wife, but their house is broken into that night. The detective who arrives to investigate is in fact the woman he slept with, and she tries to bribe him for her silence.
- The Loft: Five married friends pool their cash to rent a midtown penthouse loft in the city, as a place to bring cute babes for trysts. Since each of them must visit the city on business, this seems like a dream set-up. Their secret snuggle den with a view becomes a nightmare when a woman's dead body is found there one night.
- Lost in Translation: As Charlotte's husband travels around Japan for a film promotion, it becomes increasingly obvious that he and one of the film's stars have chemistry. She fears her husband is attracted to the other woman, but it's never explicitly stated if he is cheating.
- Last Night: A husband goes on a business trip with a colleague he's attracted to. On their final night together, they have sex.
- Old School: The film begins with Mitch returning home early from a business trip. He encounters his wife in the bedroom watching porn. He is allured by this at first until two naked strangers appear in the bedroom. She was planning to have a threesome, but his early arrival thwarted her plans.
- One Night Stand (1997): Married man Max is on a business trip in New York. He misses his flight home and meets an alluring woman who is also married. They spend the night in a hotel and he seems to get away with it until they encounter each other in L.A.
- On the Rocks: After her husband comes home from a business trip with another woman's toiletry bag in his luggage, Laura fears he may be having an affair. She's proven wrong in the end, but it kickstarts the plot and has her questioning the marriage.
- The Other Man: A man's shoe-designer wife (who frequently travels to Milan) passes away and he discovers some strange files on her computer. He discovers she was having an affair with someone and was using the trips to Spain to see him.
- The Other Woman: Mark goes on a supposed business trip to the Bahamas, only to begin an affair with yet another woman.
- This Christmas: Malcolm lies to Lisa about going on a business trip while actually sleeping with another woman. Kelli, Lisa's sister, finds out that Malcolm isn't where he claims to be when the caller ID indicates he is in New York and it is later revealed that Kelli does know about Malcolm's infidelity.
- Le Règne De La Beauté (An Eye For Beauty): An married architect travels to Toronto on business, where he meets a mysterious woman and begins an affair with.
- Up in the Air: Ryan surprises Alex (a woman he began to fall for during business trips) by appearing at her house during the film's third act. When she opens the door, however, there are children running around in the background. We hear a man's voice asking who is at the door, and she says "no one." Ryan is humiliated and heartbroken. She bluntly says that he should have anticipated from the beginning that what they had was a fling, and they say goodbye.
- War Room: Tony has dinner with another woman while on a business trip. His wife prays for him to be faithful, and begs for the devil to leave him be. His date invites him back to her apartment, but he is struck by a bout of food poisoning.
- My Wife's Secret Life: A married woman sleeps with another man while on a business trip, but he becomes obsessed and begins to stalk her.
- Russian Humour has a whole genre of infidelity jokes starting with "A husband returns home from a business trip".
- In The Memoirs of Twaddler by Andrey Desntitsky, a Follow the Leader novel heavily inspired by The Screwtape Letters, though Anton and Nadezhda's marriage is failing, Anton has only physically cheated on her while away on a business trip. Twaddler concludes that if he is still too ashamed to have affairs closer to home, it's better not to tempt him with lovers to avoid My God, What Have I Done? and repentance.
- Brokeback Mountain: Ennis and Jack grow fond of each other while watching sheep over the winter. Although purely for monetary gain, in the beginning, Ennis cheats on his fiancee Alma with Jack on the mountain and does so for many years. The initial sheep guarding was not a conventional business transaction, but it was a business trip to some degree.
- The Brittas Empire: In "Brussels Calling", Helen (Gordon Brittas' wife) has an affair with a lawyer (drafted in when she tried to kill a teacher) whilst her husband is away on a job interview in Brussels. In the next episode, everyone tries to cover up the affair on his return.
- Episodes: To keep his affair secret, Merc lies to his wife about phony business trips in order for him to get away with Carol.
- Fargo: In season one after the Time Skip, Lester and his attractive new wife attend an awards ceremony in Las Vegas and he wins Insurance Salesman of the Year. Lester has become such a conceited jerk that he sends her upstairs to their hotel room while he prowls for women at the bar. Unfortunately for him, he runs into Lorne Malvo instead.
- The Haunting of Bly Manor: While Dominic is away on business, Charlotte grows closer to her husband's brother Henry. She falls pregnant sometime after Dominic returns, but Flora is born prematurely. Dominic eventually realises that Flora was so developed as a newborn because she wasn't premature, she was conceived when he was away. He realises that his brother is Flora's biological father, something not even Henry considers until Dominic tells him.
- The Haunting of Hill House: A supernaturally-induced Adventures in Comaland sequence reveals Shirley had an affair at a funeral director's convention some years back. She's especially ashamed of it because her husband was at home looking after their son.
- Jonathan Creek: A pretty elaborate version is revealed to be the crux of the mystery in "Time Waits For Norman" about how a single man could simultaneously be in England and America. The titular character is secretly a bigamist with two families, who uses his job which regularly requires him to travel to abroad to separate his time between them both. He paid a man to impersonate him for all his meetings in the states, whilst he was secretly with his second family, then when it came to go back he'd pass off his disappearance to them as needing to go abroad.
- Love: While Gus is away teaching on the set of Liberty Down, Mickey and Dustin get back in touch with each other and have a brief fling. When Gus returns, Dustin still has expectations for Mickey, and she has to jump hurdles to make sure he doesn't find out.
- Macgyver 2016: variation. Billy Colton is on a business trip to Paris with his girlfriend Riley, but it's definitely heading towards "with benefits" territory... until she sees his phone, and finds a series of texts from his other girlfriend, who's been told he's on a business trip. Example of the cover story being true but not honest.
- The Office (US): Cathy tries to flirt with Jim, who is happily married, on their work trip together.
- In the backstory of this Saturday Night Live sketch, a mother of two had an affair with a South Korean bigwig during a business trip, which ended with her paramour drowning her in a river. The mother rose from the dead as a Mool-Gwishin, and the rest of the sketch is about her new unlife as a ghost with her family. Nobody, not even her husband, cares about the affair.
- Six Feet Under: While Keith is away touring as Celeste's security guard, David calls to request they stop sleeping with other guys and remain exclusive. Following this, Keith sleeps with Celeste and David sleeps with a guy they met at paintball.
- The Sopranos: Tony does this throughout the series. In one episode, he goes to Vegas to inform Chris's ex-mistress of his death. Not surprisingly, they have sex that night and do peyote. Carmela asks about the "business trip" when he returns home, unaware of what it entailed. He sweetens her up with a new gold watch.
- Walker: In "Fine Is A Four Letter Word", Liam reveals to Bret that he cheated on him during his work trip in Mexico.
- Reba McEntire's "Whoever's in New England" is about a woman who suspects her husband is using business trips to Boston as a cover for his affair. She tells him that when his paramour tires of him, she'll still be waiting at home.
- Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman is a traveling salesman who spends a lot of time on the road away from his wife and sons. When Willy's son Biff gets in trouble at school, he decides to track his father down so Willy can come back to New York and fix the situation. When Biff arrives at the hotel where his father is staying, he discovers his father with a woman. They are clearly having an affair and Biff has a massive Broken Pedestal moment and never forgives his father. It is implied that Willy seduces the secretaries of his clients both to feed his ego and to guarantee him better sales.
- Follies: Sally suspects that her husband, a Traveling Salesman named Buddy, does more than just work on his trips away from home, and says to him: "You've always got a woman someplace. Oh, I know. You leave things in your pockets so I'll know." Much to Sally's dismay, Buddy confesses that he does have a mistress in Dallas named Margie. The trouble for Buddy is that, although Margie, unlike Sally, trusts him perfectly, he loves his wife more. His relationship with Margie is further explored in "The Right Girl," where he tenderly sings to and dances with her imaginary presence, and "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues," which caricatures her as a clingy ditz who chases him relentlessly while he chases after a similar caricature of Sally.
- The song "Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh" from The Phantom of the Opera, or more specifically the Show Within a Show Il Muto, centers around a Countess who has affairs while her husband is away on business, with the whole household laughing at the Count's seeming obliviousness to this, while the Count is planning to fake a business trip to test his wife's fidelity while she thinks he's away. The story doesn't get any further than this, because then the Phantom turns up and expresses his displeasure as to the casting of the leading lady, and his usual seat in the theater being taken.
- In Syberia, Kate's boyfriend Dan cheats on her while she is away in Europe. With her colleague and friend Olivia, no less. It is implied that this is one of the reasons she finally decides not to return home.
- Funeral focuses on a family torn apart by the father's constant "business trips" that turned out to be a cover for a particularly ugly form of philandering, which ended up getting exposed by the father's victims coming forward in #MeToo fashion.
- In El Goonish Shive, Susan's father cheats on her mother while she is visiting her sister.
- Downplayed in Juvenile Diversion, where the husbands on a "business trip" are merely shown playing poker together at the casino of the same name; the main source of drama is teenage couple Kyle and Jenny, eloping to Vegas due to a pregnancy scare. Two of the wives left home on the other hand, end up in bed together.
- American Dad!: In "My Affair Lady", Hayley gets a job at an office thanks to Roger's life coaching and meets a handsome coworker named Ax. When the entire company goes on a business retreat, Roger convinces Hayley that it would be okay to have sex with Ax because her husband Jeff is still lost in space and Ax's wife Roslyn has grown distant due to a debilitating illness. Just as she's about to go through with it, Hayley learns that Roslyn is one of Roger's personas and he arranged the whole thing to tempt Ax into having an affair, which would void their prenup agreement and allow Roger to get Ax's money in a divorce. In revenge, Hayley tells Ax that she and Roslyn have been having an affair, with Roslyn faking an illness that takes her out of town for experimental treatments as a convenient excuse for them to meet. Roger can't talk his way out of Hayley's story and concedes defeat, much to Ax's confusion.
- The Simpsons: In "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer and Mindy are asked to represent Springfield at an energy convention in Capital City. They receive a fully funded night in a hotel and a romantic dinner. When they return to the room, Homer harbours guilt about their relationship, expressing his devout love for Marge. Mindy understands, and they share a kiss. We see Homer and Marge together in the same hotel room sometime later, happy together and confident in their marriage.