In the past, when a couple announced they were taking separate vacations, eyebrows raised. “Uh oh, they need a break from each other,” was the unspoken thought. Is the separate vacation like a trial separation? Not anymore. Though once I looked at it as a sign of trouble, I now see that it can be a great tool in strengthening a marriage relationship.
Not counting work-related trips, I’ve been on three vacations without my husband, and admittedly I didn’t enjoy them as much as I would have if he were with me. I missed him. Any fun experience felt hollow when I turned to say, “Look at this!” and he wasn’t there to share my glee. My enjoyment felt diminished. He is a big part of me.
But the separate time was good. I could feel that being apart helped me reclaim my individuality. I felt at peace with being alone in bed with my own energy. It was almost zen-like. After the initial adjustment of being apart, I noticed that I like being my own person again. It’s easy to lose yourself in marriage when there’s a lot of compromise and accommodation required. Putting your spouse first is natural when you love him, and that is one of the keys to a lasting relationship. But having individual time when you can address your own needs helps center yourself again.
The sweetness of solo time is pleasant only because it is finite. Knowing that you will return to the one you love makes the separate vacation a vacation, and everyone always feels a sense of relief to come home again after a vacation. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is often true of the separate vacation.
1. Time out. If you’ve been experiencing minor tension in your marriage, for whatever reason, a separate vacation can relieve some of the day-to-day pressure of having to put up with small annoyances. (“If I have to step over his dirty socks one more time…”)
2. Perspective. Speaking of annoyances, a little space can put those petty irritations into perspective. (“Now I see my complaints are minor. We have the importance parts covered.”)
3. Appreciation. When you’re apart, you become acutely aware of all the ways you appreciate each other. It’s easy to take for granted the good stuff that comes along with being married.
4. Personal time. You are a better spouse when you feel whole as an individual. Many a spouse makes the mistake of insisting the other mate fill the void within. That’s both unrealistic as well as unfair. When you’re whole, you’re a far more interesting, active, healthy-minded mate who contributes to the well-being of the marital relationship instead of draining it.
Two common fears that keep married couples from taking separate vacations include the following:
1. What if he or she finds that life is better without me?
2. What if, without me around, he or she spends a ton of money/drinks uncontrollably or otherwise engages in activities that I would not approve of?
If any of the above questions loom in your mind now, there are underlying problems that should be addressed whether or not you decide to take a separate vacation. If I thought my spouse could possibly enjoy a happier life without me, I would highly encourage him to do so and we wouldn’t need a separate vacation to find out. I refuse to be my husband’s warden, and I don’t tell him what to do or not to do. He’s a grown, responsible man. My motto: his life, his choice. Because he knows this, he doesn’t need an escape to do want he wants to do.
Rules, guidelines and limitations
A separate vacation is not necessarily like the movie, “Hall Pass” and its premise of giving your husband a one week, “no rules” break from the marriage. It’s important to be clear about your definition of a separate vacation. In our case, we understand that we don’t want a break from our relationship. Separate time is another matter. We’re still married and all that implies. Our separate vacations are opportunities to spend time with extended family, our own friends or by ourselves.
Explaining how separate vacations can help marriage, I used this analogy to a friend: It’s like plugging in your ear buds and listening to your favorite music without having to force your spouse to listen, too. Or going with a friend to watch that new movie your mate wouldn’t like. It’s the same thing only you’re packing your bag and spending the night in a hotel where, for the first time in a long while, you get to sprawl across the entire bed all by yourself. But after a few days, you can’t wait to come home because you remember why you married him: you love being with him. You can’t miss him, if you’re never apart. The last time I spent three nights away, I returned to announce that it felt like forever and I’d never go on another vacation without him. That just might stick, too. But if it doesn’t, I know that after just a few days of being apart, I’ll be aching to come home again to those strong, open arms.
"Stop being a b-tch! You're ruining your relationship!"
"Stop being an a-hole! You're ruining your relationship!"