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Vacation Altercations

Atara and Azriel are trying to plan a vacation.

For the first time since they had kids, they have a chance to get away just the two of them as a couple. But they're having a hard time:

Atara's idea of a getaway is a quiet few days in a nice hotel with a pool near a beach and good restaurants.

Azriel is picturing something more stimulating - someplace exotic and different, hiking, biking, sight-seeing, and packing in as much activity as they can.

She wants a break, he wants an adventure.

They're frustrated that what "should" be a fun

opportunity to nurture their marriage, has become a point of contention.

Interestingly, there are a lot of couples who struggle with this issue- what to do together when we finally have a chance to hang out as a couple. On the surface it sounds like a "first world problem" (and it is) but it often touches on deeper relationship dynamics that come out when negotiating the subject.

Often you have one partner who feels: "We work hard all the time, when we're away I just want to 'be'- read, sit by a pool or beach, take leisurely walks, eat good food. Relax in the moment, slow down, and not have to always be running around."

While the other feels: "We work hard at the daily grind, now I want to have some fun, see the world, have adventures, and experience different places and things. Just relaxing in one place and doing nothing sounds boring to me, and a waste of time."

Now clearly, neither spouse is morally right or wrong (although when the debate gets personal, it can sometimes feel that way- even on a topic like this.) But here are some of the deeper feelings that might come up for them, for example:

Atara: Why doesn't Azriel want to spend quality time alone with me? Does he find me that boring? Why does he have such a strong desire to run around- is he running away from something? Is he trying to prove something? Can't he be still and just enjoy spending time with me for a bit? Doesn't he understand how tired I am, how badly I need to just rest and rejuvenate? Does he see me as lazy, less cultured or productive because of this?

Azriel: Why doesn't Atara want to do 'real' things with me? Are we growing apart? I love our life together, but I want to be more than just co-parents and roommates, repeating the same routine over and over again. I want to make memories in different places, travel and learn new things with her. We can't do that by just sitting on a beach or eating fancy food. What will our lives be like together once the kids are grown if we don't share interests?

Another very common issue that comes up around vacation planning, is moms who are reluctant to leave their kids overnight and husbands who take it personally. Let's use Atara and Azriel again:

Atara: By the time I beg favors from friends and relatives, rearrange he carpools and childcare, pack up all the paraphernalia they'll need, and then need to be on call in case of questions or emergencies, it's honestly more work and stress to go than to skip it. It's not that I never want to go away as a couple, it's just that at this stage of life, it doesn't really feel worth the hassle. He doesn't seem to get that. (Often segueing into: "because he's not an involved enough parent...")

Azriel: I don't see what the big deal is; people do this all the time. They farm their kids out to other people who know and love them, and they prioritize their marriage by going away. I don't think it's healthy or right that we never do. I sometimes feel like my wife cares more about the kids than about our marriage, or doesn't really care to spend special time with me.

Some individuals also admit to worrying that when it's just the two of them with the expectation to enjoy alone time, that they won't have enough to talk about, that the sex will be pressured or disappointing, that the stress of travel will end in fighting, or that they will have to face the fact that maybe they really just don't enjoy each other one on one.

As with many relationship issues, there is the presenting dilemma and then the deeper fear it represents. And as with many issues, there is no one simple solution. It may be comforting to know that these are common conflicts (not gender specific; all these points can go either way.)

It's useful for couples to find activities that they both enjoy to do together, but it's also totally healthy to have separate interests that they can pursue individually or with other friends. And while travel can be a great way to recharge a marriage, when there is tension in the relationship anyway, vacations can sometimes just be a new stage to play out familiar dynamics. So it's best to attend to the marriage itself, and then vacation taste differences can become another area where conflict management improves.

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