Imagine being with a group of friends on an exotic island or floating along a clear, blue sea on a luxury yacht, sipping cocktails in the sunshine.
Now imagine doing the same thing – but with your partner.
Traveling can be a welcome break from the stresses and strains of daily life. You get to relax, have fun, and discover new things.
However, traveling with friends is very different from taking a trip with your partner.
Some couples have the time of their lives together when they go away.
Others somehow manage to fit all their excess baggage onto the plane alongside their sunscreen and swimsuits.
Alternatively, if you just got together with a new partner, it might not seem like the ideal time to travel together for a whole weekend.
You might discover things about each other that you don’t like – and there’s no escape.
Every couple is different. So, the question is, will traveling together improve or impair your relationship?
Let’s find out.
The Secret of Shared Meaning
Whether it be personal, professional, or a combination of the two, a busy schedule can make it difficult for you to connect with your partner.
“Work has been so hectic lately. We’ve not been spending enough time together. Let’s go away for the weekend.”
Traveling with your partner creates shared meaning.
Research shows that traveling with your partner allows the two of you to co-create and share experiences that bring you closer.
For both new and long-term couples, the bond created through shared meaning helps you connect and understand your partner on a deeper level.
But what if your partner doesn’t like to travel?
“Ugh! I Hate Traveling”
So, you’ve finally saved enough for your dream vacay, but your partner isn’t exactly raring to go.
Travel may be something you enjoy, but your partner might not feel the same.
Like many issues, talking about it without trying to cajole your partner into doing something they don’t want to do can help you find a way forward.
“What’s the story behind your dislike of travel?”
From our work with over 2,500 couples, we’ve discovered that open, honest dialogue ensures that both partners feel like they’re being heard.
It also means the two of you will only need to compromise as a last resort.
On its own, compromise is a lose-lose situation. If you jump straight to compromise, both of you will be forced to forgo something that makes you happy.
“Let’s go on a trip.”
“Ugh, I hate flying. But sure, I’ll go if it makes you happy.”
Giving in can make you feel like you’re suppressing your feelings.
But if each of you feels like you’re being heard, it’s often easier to come to an agreement you can both feel good about.
“I know you hate flying… how about we go on a cruise instead?”
Dealing with Conflict on Vacation
In a different city or country, you’re out of your element.
Long days exploring and even longer nights on the town can put a strain on your body and mind – and your ability to deal with conflict.
Traveling can bring out the best and worst in all of us.
“Damn, we missed our bus.”
“Well, we wouldn’t have if you hadn’t made us stay out so late last night.”
Whether you’re in a new or long-term relationship, remember, things don’t always go to plan. It’s all very well having an itinerary as long as your arm, but you can’t control everything.
You might miss a bus or two. You may argue about how much you spend on souvenirs.
Traveling is more exciting if you go into it with no expectations.
“We missed the bus? Oh well, let’s take the train instead.”
What if your partner is so angry you get into an argument? Can you take a brief time-out to breathe and reboot, or will you need to end the trip early?
From our work with long-term couples, we’ve discovered that a short break from each other can be beneficial after a falling out.
It takes about 20 minutes for the blood in your brain to reach your feet and for the stress hormone coursing through your veins to dissipate.
Taking a time-out to calm down can help you approach the situation differently.
Sure, your finances won’t magically go back to how they were before your partner bought everyone in the bar a round of shots, but it’ll be much easier for you to process your feelings and reach a resolution.
If you’re a couple who enjoy traveling but all your trips seem to end in tears and tantrums, you may have different communication styles. Head over to The Gay Couples Institute website, where you can talk to a professional about dealing with conflict during travel.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org