A weekend away can bring back romance and intimacy
For many couples, a vacation brings a return to romance. But you can set yourself up for disappointment if your expectations are too high or unrealistic.
Usually, at some point in couples’ therapy, a weekend away is scheduled to help build romance and passion back into a strained relationship. For many, this is seen as an opportunity to take a break from the day-to-day grind of kids, chores, and work. One partner eagerly anticipates a day of whirlwind sex– —morning sex, afternoon delight, and after after-dinner sex–—that will recreate the relationship’s early months. The other partner looks forward to time to relax with a book or strolls on the beach.
But whatever your plans—and however closely you agree on them—travel entails some stress. Disappointed expectations can overshadow the romance you expect. Rather than saving a marriage, a vacation can break it.
During our first trip to Italy several years ago, I came down with the flu. A runny nose soon progressed to a sore throat and lethargy. By the time we disembarked in Venice and boarded a crowded ferry bound for our hotel, I was miserable and cranky. Venice, with a reputation as one of the world’s most romantic cities, looked to me as crowded and fake as Disneyland. I wondered how I could survive three days.
Pulling our suitcases over the cobbled streets, my snarkiness only increased. Our (tiny) room with a view looked onto a postage-stamp sized courtyard where men were working on a scaffold right outside our window. With saws and hammers pounding, I tried to sleep. We moved to a different hotel the next day.
But as I began to feel better, Venice came alive. The city’s turns and twists, I found, ended in delightful surprises. Canals and bridges no longer looked like Disneyland. Instead, Venice worked its charm on me and my mood changed. During our stay, I read Henry James’s journal about his life in Venice. This description personifies the city, giving it life:
It is by living there from day to day that you feel the fullness of her charm; that you invite her exquisite influence to sink into your spirit. The creature varies like a nervous woman, whom you know only when you know all aspects of her beauty. She has high spirits or low, she is pale or red, grey or pink, cold or warm, fresh or wan, according to the weather and the hour. She is always interesting and almost always sad, but she has a thousand occasional graces and is always liable to happy accidents. You become extraordinarily fond of these things; you count upon them; they make part of your life. Tenderly fond you become; there is something indefinable in those depths of personal acquaintance that gradually establish themselves. The place seems to personify itself, to become human and sentient and conscious of your affection. You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it; and finally, a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love affair. (Italian Hours, Henry James)
Disappointed expectations can overshadow the romance you expect
Travel requires adaption and flexibility. Knowing that before you embark can prevent disappointment when things go awry.
Whether it be delayed trains or planes, or illness, or other setbacks, it helps to remember that the inevitable challenges inherent in travel will test your relationship even as it provides the opportunity for more intimate contact with your partner. If you haven’t managed conflicts well at home, they tend to resurface when you are together away from those responsibilities.
So, to avoid being disappointed when you finally get that weekend or long-anticipated vacation away, keep in mind the following suggestions:
- Discuss expectations. Assuming that your partner will want exactly what you do will set you up for disappointment. Preferences and energy levels differ. Do you want to eat out every meal? Or grab a quick bite at a mini-store several times each day? How much time do you each want for shopping or museums? One partner might want to go for a run in the morning, while the other might want to sleep in. Talk it through before you go so you can know each other’s preferences. Remember: compromise is the key to harmony.
- Respect your differences and give them space. It’s okay to split up and do different things part of the day. Just make sure you agree beforehand on how much time you need for this.
- Relax and let yourselves rediscover being together. Leaving room for fun, adventure, and just chill time allows intimacy to emerge naturally.
couples counseling, and Mindfulness-based therapies in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years.
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