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Next Summer: The Separate Vacation?

August 28, 2010

What’s your first reaction to the idea of taking a separate vacation from your partner or spouse?  Curiosity? Anxiety? Confusion? Relief?   I was recently interviewed  by Sally Friedman, whose insightful article on the subject challenged the truism that, “the couple who plays together stays together.”  While it’s true that separate vacations can portend trouble for a relationship, it’s also true that separate vacations can reflect abiding trust and a true acceptance of differences.  Healthy features of a good relationship often underlie the gift  to a partner who takes a separate adventure, pursues a passion, or indulges an interest. Ideally, separate vacations reflect a spirit of give-and-take and genuine acceptance of different interests.

The genesis of separate vacations can often be found in a couple’s early excursions, where the camping/hotel, city/country, cruise/sightseeing  preferences first become apparent. I remember visiting with a couple at the beach once, where the guy wore socks and sandals (the whole time). Turns out he couldn’t stand the beach–he was a mountain man. I’m not sure how that couple resolved their difference over time, but  romance, after all,  is partially sparked by the excitement of differences.  If you recall,  what’s first intriguing about your early days together  as a couple is that sense of newness and discovery–your partner’s very uniqueness.  Being with a mini-me of identical interests would be boring.

It’s energizing, for both the individual and the relationship, to come home with new adventures to share, of mountains conquered, sights seen, horizons expanded.  Separate vacations, when embarked upon with the backdrop of a healthy, stable relationship reflect trust and a recognition of the other’s autonomy.  As with most things in marriage, this idea has to work for both people.  If supporting your partner’s separate vacation is a sacrifice (let’s say you’re at home with the kids, managing the work/life/home routine on your own), then by all means figure out what you need in return, and ask for it. But not with the attitude of, “I did this for you, so now you owe me.” Perhaps your “turn” won’t be a separate vacation, but a shared one of your choosing (where he wears socks and sandals to the beach), or downtime on the home front. Vacations, like marriage, require flexibility, negotiation and a loving imagination of the other. That’s true whether your vacation is separate or together. Enjoy.

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