Real intimacy: Couples and vacationsWritten by Lori Hollander | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you can’t remember the last time your honey and you did nothing but simply enjoyed each other, then you would likely benefit from a couples’ vacation.
Of course, a couples’ vacation can be far more expensive than, say, a shiny, new iphone. But that vacation will help revitalize your relationship while a screaming new iphone (sadly for some, I know) won’t.
Not surprisingly, studies find that shared leisure time leads to more relationship satisfaction than non-leisure time activities such as, say, racing through the supermarket together.
But a troublesome economy and busy schedules can make it tough to take a couples’ vacation, especially when extended family visits already consume vacation days for many.
Given those realities, it would be great if there was a way to combine an extended family trip with a true couples vacation (successfully, that is).
Does that idea seem unlikely (or even funny)?
Perhaps it is the memory of a prior family trip in which your cousin asked you to watch her kids who, unbeknownst to you, had poison ivy and a penchant for shrieking. While your cousin ran out to enjoy a peaceful afternoon, your day with your partner dissolved into a headache.
Of course, such an experience is not usually part of the vacation vision. And in comparison, that constantly buzzing iphone practically looks like a relationship enhancer.
It is certainly easier said than done to combine a family trip and a couples’ vacation. Is such a feat even possible? Dare I say…it is.
Here are five tips to create some true couples’ vacation time while traveling with extended family.
1. Schedule small pleasures and stick to them
Couples often cherish small pleasures together such as morning jogs or a waterfront lunch. Plan for small pleasures: alert extended family, make kiddy arrangements, and off you go. When your cousin asks for a favor afterwards, watching her kids may feel like less work and more fun if you have enjoyed some pleasurable couples’ time already.
2. Create a schedule that works for you
Things easily go awry if you are endlessly waiting for dawdling relatives. Avoid unnecessary stress by letting others know you are on the “early plan,” for example. Eat early and meet up with family after their late lunch. Rather than feeling annoyed you will be happy to see relatives (and may look forward to dinner all together).
3. Align expectations in advance
Does your clan want to spend 24 hours a day together or meet for one special activity each day?
Don’t agree to the 24-hour plan if it feels claustrophobic. And don’t leave plans to chance, hoping you will all want the same thing (because you won’t)!
Instead, find a compromise in advance and life will be more relaxed in the moment.
4. Consider separate quarters
If Aunt Millie wants to cook breakfast for you, you might feel pulled to share quarters. But if your uncle’s snoring or nephews’ loud music will ruin your night, then Aunt Millie’s sweet pancakes will be ruined by your sour mood. Instead, sleep in comfort in your own quarters and head to breakfast in the morning.
5. Choose the highlights you absolutely want from this trip and honor them
If you are looking forward to enjoying the romantic beaches in the Bahamas with your honey, then set aside a couple hours of protected, sacred time daily on the beach for just the two of you.
And what if your cousin has (yet another) favor to ask? Help her out after couples’ time, not during. Your pocket of sacred time together must come first (or accept the fact that it won’t happen).
Sound selfish? In therapeutic terms, it’s called “good boundary setting” and it is a way of actively taking responsibility for your happiness. If you reflexively respond to your cousin’s requests instead of carefully honoring your intentions, you are likely to complain later about your cousin who (selfishly!) ruined your trip to the Bahamas.
Instead, spend some coveted time on the beach and you will be glowing after your rejuvenating trip. Just two hours daily of good couples’ time can be deliciously nourishing to your relationship.
And you’ll have only nice things to say later about that sweet cousin of yours.
Lori Hollander is a dual-certified couples and sex therapist at the Center for Intimacy in Ann Arbor. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Tags: Real Intimacy