Three out of four American couples have never taken a romantic vacation. Half of those couples claim they’re not vacationing because they have children. This is according to the authors the book The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship. The authors, Chrisanna Northrup, and sociologists Pepper Schwartz and James Witte surveyed nearly 100,000 people about their relationships to learn what constitutes “normal” behavior among couples.
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Planning a Getaway
A well-planned, romantic vacation will enable a married couple to spend long periods of time together in a low-stress environment. The length of the vacation should be long enough to unwind from the stress of home and work. Speaking of work—leave it behind.
Couples should choose a vacation spot that interests both spouses. An ideal location will give both spouses opportunities to engage in activities they can enjoy together. The best activities are those that stimulate the mind and body. Research on couples who do exciting activities together shows higher levels of relationship satisfaction for those couples, compared to those who only participate in pleasant activities together.
Couples with children may feel guilty about leaving their children behind and having fun without them. My wife felt that way while planning our recent romantic getaway to Hawaii. But both children and parents can benefit from a break from each other. Children are happier and healthier when their parents are happy. Married parents are happier when they have uninterrupted time for each other.
Technology makes it easier now than ever for parents to stay in touch with their kids while they’re away. My wife felt better about leaving our kids behind knowing we had scheduled daily check-ins with them using FaceTime on our iPhones. Our kids are old enough that we left them home alone. So, we were relieved to find them safe, healthy and happy at the end of each day.
What to Do with the Kids
I don’t recommend leaving kids home alone during a parents’ vacation without an adult in the home. Our daughter is 21 and our son 14. When kids aren’t old enough to be left home alone, couples may need to think up creative solutions for childcare while they’re away.
On our first romantic getaway as parents, my wife and I left our kids with their grandparents. That’s a simple solution when grandparents live nearby and can be trusted. That solution may be harder to execute when grandparents live farther away, or unreliable.
Some couples have their kids stay with other relatives or trusted family friends. This can be negotiated at little or no cost if the couple offers to return the favor. Another option is to send the kids away to summer camp and plan your romantic vacation at the same time.
If your child’s needs make it necessary to take them on your romantic vacation, search for hotels or resorts that offer babysitting or childcare services. Using these services can allow you to have a romantic time with your spouse away from the other demands of home, and assure your child’s needs are met. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Loews are examples of hospitality chains that offer these services at some of their locations.
The Benefits to Your Marriage
My wife and I take a romantic vacation once every few years. It takes some planning, but we’re always glad we made the effort. Each vacation is better than the last because it gives us an opportunity to make the following investments in our marriage, that also pay off when we’re back home.
You think you know your spouse. Think again. People’s preferences, interests, values, and dreams change over time. Couples who lose their curiosity about each other lose an important resource for stirring up romantic feelings for each other. Curiosity and discovery are important elements of courtship that tend to get lost as a marriage grows older. Taking time away from the demands of kids, work and home offer an opportunity for couples to discover new things about each other that can add a new sense of adventure and excitement to the relationship.
Bonding with each other.
Mutual commitment to the relationship and marital satisfaction increase when both couples have a sense that they are working in support of each other. Married couples thrive when they have a sense that “we-ness.”
Many times when spouses express their needs and desire to each other, daily demands and distractions to turn them away from each other. As they miss opportunities for connection and intimacy, they drift apart. As their bond with each other erodes, they think more about meeting their individual needs rather than cultivating their relationship.
A romantic vacation provides an opportunity for spouses to make a habit of turning toward each other when desires and needs are expressed. Each time they turn toward and respond positively to each other, their bond is strengthened.
Breaking the gridlock.
The demands of work and family can get in the way of couples listening to each other. When couples don’t take the time to listen to each other, they can gridlock on issues over which they disagree.
Many couples have long-standing conflicts that chip away at their satisfaction with their relationship. Spending lots of time together in a low-stress environment can be just what a couple needs to discuss their unresolved conflicts and find common ground.
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.