Since Tim and I have been together for nearly twenty years and between us have almost four decades of shrink-type experience (not to mention we also get along real good), we figured we should share some of what we’ve learned. So, we’ll be posting Married Shrinks’ Guides from time to time, on various relationship and other topics.
We’re starting with the Married Shrinks’ Guide to Getting Along on Vacation. If you have suggestions of other topics you’d like to see, please email us and put “Topics” in the subject heading.
Unfortunately, although we are both psychiatrists, neither of us is your psychiatrist (not that we wouldn’t want to be, under different circumstances. There. See how affirming I am when I try?) so we cannot respond to any specific situations or questions.
Married Shrinks' Guide to Not Killing Each Other On Vacation
With the holiday travel season upon us, many couples discover the vacations they’ve looked forward to since summer are anything but fun. Rather than having a relaxing time, being together 24/7 can be a minefield for couples who don’t anticipate the potential perils. Many will find that vacationing can actually be more stressful than everyday life, as all the distractions of work and family obligations fall away and couples are left with just each other to deal with. For some partners, all this 24/7 togetherness merely amplifies any problems previously disguised by more obvious, outside, day-to-day stresses. In this way, vacations can actually be tougher than not having enough time with each other the rest of the year.
Here are three ways to make all that togetherness on your winter or holiday trip more than tolerable - even downright pleasant:
1) Find Ways to Compromise.
Don’t look at every negotiation as if it means you have to give up something. It’s crucial that you both feel like you’ve been met about halfway overall. If not, even if you’ve “won” that particular battle, your partner’s resentment will very likely make it a lot less enjoyable for you. You can’t expect your partner to only do the things you want to do. And, just because your partner gets his or her way sometimes, doesn’t mean you’ve “lost.” Pick your battles. Only make an issue out of things that are truly important to you. It’s not only essential to spend time doing things you can enjoy together, but also to explore new ways to have fun with each other. Try to look at any activity that wasn’t your first choice as an opportunity to share in your partner’s pleasure, learn something different about him or her as well as a chance to see your spouse in a new situation. You might just find it sexy.
2) Cultivate a Friendship.
Remember what it was that attracted you to your spouse in the first place and make sure to bring out in yourself what was attractive about you. Strong friendships are based on shared moments and experiences – cultivate a few of these on vacation you can look back on later. In addition, if you don’t make time to laugh every single day and be playful in your “regular” life, now’s the time. The child parts of each of you need to hang out together and play. Be spontaneous, “go with the flow,” and most of all, have fun! Hopefully, tapping back into those aspects of yourselves on vacation will then carry over when you get home.
3) Be Romantic.
Romance is one of those relationship “extras” that’s so easy to let fall by the wayside, especially as time passes, but is so important to help maintain a couple’s bond above and beyond their basic friendship. Whether it’s as simple and spontaneous as holding hands, or as elaborate and planned out as a candlelight dinner, romance helps keeps a relationship fresh. For example, give your spouse a peck on the cheek, a squeeze on the shoulder or a full-on hug when he or she least expects it. And, don’t forget to spruce up, a bit! Your partner will appreciate it and likely reciprocate.
Make the decision to put in the effort in the romance department – that’s the best way to get your spouse to do so, as well. If you’re waiting for him or her to make the first move, your vacation may already be over by the time it happens.
So, when traveling with your spouse this holiday season, remember to compromise and cultivate your friendship, but also add back a little romance to your relationship. Be flexible in the choices you make and try to find something positive, even when doing activities you might not have picked for yourself. Don’t be resentful, and above all, don’t be afraid to try new things – together. Doing so can create wonderful shared memories and help each of you see the other in a new light, injecting some spark into the relationship.
Get back to that foundation of friendship and play that’s so common in courtship, but often goes by the wayside when other obligations and commitments are added through the years. Remember what it was about that initial attraction and hold on to it. Bring out that side of yourself, as well. Finally, don’t forget the romance! It’s the essential ingredient that spices up relationships, keeping them fresh and fun. Little gestures count. And, be sure to take pleasure in romancing your partner as well as being on the receiving end.