In early April, my boyfriend (Patrick) and I took our first couple vacation together—a weekend of camping at Death Valley. We had a wonderful time, and he confessed to me later he was relieved we got along while confined in small spaces.
With the summer vacation season approaching, this is a good time to talk about traveling with your significant other. Regardless of whether you’ve been with your sweetie for a couple of months, a couple of years, or a lifetime, going on a trip together can present some challenges. In fact, going on vacation is actually on the list of top stresses in life.
In writing about couples who have experienced some of the most stressful events anyone can imagine, I noted those whose relationships survived after going through these experiences used certain skills. And the skills they used to keep their relationships strong after big traumas can also help us get through the smaller stresses of life—such as traveling. So whether you’re hitting the road or flying the friendly skies, here are four rules for traveling with your honey:
1. Don’t Blame Your Sweetheart for Things that Go Wrong
At Death Valley, Patrick and I faced a choice about where to camp. We could camp by Mesquite Springs at 1800 feet above sea level or we could pitch our tent at Thorndike campground at 7000 feet. Camping at 7000 feet appealed to both of us, but I knew there are only six spaces there and it was a busy Easter weekend. What if we drove all the way up to Thorndike—it was about an hour’s extra drive—only to find there were no spaces available? At that point, by the time we drove to Mesquite Springs campground, it would be well after 1 p.m. and other campers may have snapped up all the spaces by that time.
Patrick convinced me to drive up to Thorndike. And when we arrived there were two spaces available. But what if all the spaces at Thorndike campground had been taken and I blamed Patrick for “making us” drive up there? What would our trip have been like then? Not very pleasant.
There are three cures for blame. The first is recognizing that everything is going to be all right. When we’re on vacation, if something goes wrong, we blame our partner partly because we’re worried. For example, let’s say you asked your significant other to make hotel reservations but as you’re driving toward your destination you find out your sweetie was so busy with work he or she forgot. If you’re tempted to get mad, the reason is because you’re afraid the two of you will be left without anyplace to stay or that you’ll have to stay in some dive.
Take a deep breath, and in your mind repeat to yourself that everything will be all right. This will help ease the tension. After all, maybe once you roll into your destination, you’ll discover a new and exciting hotel that you didn’t even know existed or that the hotel you were supposed to make reservations at isn’t as nice in person as it looked on the Internet.
The second cure for blame is realizing your romantic partner didn’t intentionally mean to hurt you. The chances are good that your sweetie didn’t forget to make the hotel reservations on purpose. And, couldn’t you have reminded your significant other to make the reservations?
Gratefulness is the third cure for blame. If Patrick and I hadn’t found an established camp space at Death Valley, he had a camp stove so we could have pitched a tent anywhere backcountry camping is allowed. Even though I would have had to sacrifice having a campfire, I would still have been grateful to be outside, in a beautiful place, under the full moon with someone I love. No matter what’s going wrong on your vacation, there is likely something you can be grateful for.
2. Do Your Own Thing
As I discovered in interviewing indestructible couples, each member of the couple has developed a strong sense of self. For example, Jessica and Larry had to face the fact that when Larry’s Crohn’s disease was at its worse, he couldn’t go anywhere. During these times, if there was a social event that Jessica wanted to attend, she would go by herself or with friends while Larry stayed home. If not, she might ultimately end up resenting him for making her miss out on the fun.
The chances are good the two of you have a lot in common. But let’s say you like to sit on the beach or shop for souvenirs while your romantic partner likes to play golf. Your vacation will be above par if you gladly let him hit the links while you hit the beach or the stores. The two of you can reconnect for a romantic dinner.
3. Ask For Help if You Need It
One of the characteristics of indestructible couples is they abandoned their fear of dependency and asked people for help. So if you’re lost, ask for directions. I know guys. For many of you, asking for directions is torture. But the sooner you get to your hotel with your sweetie, the sooner the traveling nooky can begin.
4. Express Your Expectations
Just like in daily life, your romantic partner can’t know what you expect on your vacation unless you tell him or her. So often we expect our significant others to read our minds and then get mad at them when they can’t figure out what we’re thinking. Let’s say, for example, you expect help with the driving but your significant other isn’t offering. Inside you, anger is brewing. Much better to come right out and ask for help. Otherwise, he or she might think you actually want to stay behind the wheel.
Follow these four rules for stress-free couple vacations and you’ll return home feeling closer to each other than ever before.
Do you and your significant other want to stress-proof your relationship? Or do you like inspirational stories of hope and love? Then read The Indestructible Relationship: Support and Understand Each Other Better During Grief, Illness, Catastrophic Loss and All Life’s Stressful Moments by Kimberly Pryor. The book was the winner of the 2012 EPIC eBook Award for best non-fiction. Kimberly also is hosting the First Annual Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce Mountain Retreat September 15 – 17, 2012 at beautiful Lake Tahoe.