Many of us look forward to taking a break with a loved one. It can be a wonderful way to renew ourselves and our relationship, a time to visit special places together and to do things we don’t normally get to do.
So we cover the basics. We book a place to stay, transport to get there, and when we’re really organized, tickets for a special event or two. Then we count down the days until our vacation begins.
What can possibly go wrong?
Well, personally speaking, I know the disappointment of returning from vacations feeling deflated, confused and angry… wondering where it went wrong.
From my experience, this is how relationships can turn sour during vacations, and I’d like to share some steps you can take to help prevent these special times from being ruined.
In a nutshell, the disappointments I’ve experienced on vacation have been caused by making assumptions about what my husband wants, and having unspoken, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations that he should know what I want.
Step 1: Self-Reflection
Before setting off it’s important for each partner to take time to think about what the break means to you; what energy you intend putting into it and what you hope you will take from it.
Create separate wish lists. Write down everything and dream big! What are you really looking forward to – sightseeing, exploring different cultures, space for stimulation, creativity, rest and relaxation, sport, individual time/intimate time/family time? The more specific you can be the better.
Step 2: Share and Listen
Tell your partner you are interested in hearing what is on their wish list. Invite them to share it with you and be a good listener. Are you surprised by anything on their list? You’re bound to be.
So rather than giving a negative reaction, see if you can ask questions to help them express what their desire means to them:
“How important is this to you?”
“Would you be disappointed if you don’t get to do it?”
“Would you like some help from me so you can make this happen?”
When your partner is finished switch roles and share what’s on your list. As the listener, we are giving our partner space to think out loud and to learn more about themself. When we share our desires, we are exploring and expressing what’s on our mind, not pushing for agreement that it is going to happen.
Step 3: Keep it going!
Treat your wish lists as a work in progress and let them develop. Listening to, and sharing our hopes and dreams is an intimate privilege that often impacts us deeply. If this happens let your partner know: “Hearing you say how important this is to you, I’m now thinking…”
Look for areas of consensus. Be open to new ideas and be realistic. If you’ve been emphasizing your desire for a restful holiday, it’s unfair to become resentful for not having enough stimulation.
Create a joint and separate individual lists. Share how each of you feels about having time for individual pursuits. Given a choice, most people would opt to do something on their own rather than have a resentful partner tag along.
Step 4: Dealing with Conflict
Tension and conflict are inevitable in an intimate relationship. Be upfront when something is not right for you. But be gentle. The first three minutes of a conversation determines how it’s going to end. What do you want your partner to know about how you’re feeling, and how can you talk about a frustration without resorting to blame or criticism?
Step 5: Connecting with your Inner Child
Take time to play, laugh, and be grateful.
I hope your next vacation is wonderful!