Hagit, a 42-year-old attorney and mother of three young boys came to my clinic feeling very stressed out. Her work at the office is overwhelming, and taking care of three boys, one of whom is hyperactive, put her over the top. Her husband, Yossi, runs a small business and like so many Israelis works almost 24/7 just to make ends meet. Hagit stated that she is happily married and loves her family and career, but she cannot relax. For several weeks, I taught Hagit relaxation exercises and meditation and helped her to figure out some solutions to put her life more in balance.
She was surprised when I asked her when the last time was that she and Yossi had gone on vacation. She quickly replied, “We go away with our children every summer for a family vacation.” I said that’s great, but when was the last time that you and Yossi went away together without children? My question caught Hagit off guard, and after a moment’s reflection, she admitted that since their marriage 12 years ago, they have not been away once. Hagit and Yossi made plans to get away to a hotel in the north of the country for a long weekend later that month, without the kids.
Let’s face it: daily life is rough on couples.
There are so many stressors out there, all taking a poke at you, that it easy to forget about the person you married. Problems at work, deadlines, financial pressures, raising kids or caring for elders, army reserve duty and home chores all compete to keep couples focused on everything but their relationship.
This is why married couples need to take vacations. Otherwise, it’s too easy to forget why you got married in the first place.
Social scientists have known for a long time how important it is for people to take vacations. Going on vacation has many physical and psychological benefits, including reducing stress and promoting overall well-being and happiness. But, in addition to the benefits for each individual, the joint benefit of a couple spending quality time away can be a very enriching marital experience.
Of course, it is not always easy to break away from one’s routine. The inertia to continue as usual is a powerful force. I have often heard couples say “we can’t afford to take a vacation” or express guilty feelings about leaving the kids or, for some older couples, leaving aging parents or young grandchildren behind.
In some ways, many couples have been brainwashed to think that being responsible means neglecting themselves. However, marital researchers have discovered that spending quality time with your partner away from your children, others you care for and/or your work rejuvenates your marriage and actually makes you a happier person.
The result is that when a couple rejuvenates their relationship by going away together, they have a lot more to give to everyone upon their return, including enhanced motivation and increased productivity at work.
Here are some reasons why taking a vacation together as a couple is so important:
1. A vacation gives married couples a chance to rediscover one another. Getting away from all of the daily hassles and spending time together in a different place can strip down barriers and help you to rediscover the foundations of what made you a couple at the start of your marriage.
2. In this fast-paced world, many couples have busy lives, and a “couple vacation” offers much-needed quality time together to re-prioritize the relationship.
3. A vacation increases the fun and friendship in the relationship and is a time to get away from conflicts and focus on enjoying one another’s company. Trying a new activity together can increase the fun. Perhaps try a new sport or explore a new place.
4. Unfortunately, life’s duties and daily routines leave many married couples too tired to enjoy sex at the end of the evening.
A vacation can rejuvenate your sex life.
5. A vacation can help promote emotional bonding and can deepen the marital connection, providing a break from the couple’s daily focus, which may be more superficial in order to get “the job done.” Hopefully, this bonding can follow the couple after the vacation and increase the support system in times of stress and add to the overall enjoyment of the marital relationship.
6. If you have children, a “couple vacation” can give your children an important message that your marriage matters and that you treat it with importance and respect in terms of time, money, commitment and focus. Kids often enjoy the time away from parents also, especially if they get to spend time with relatives they like.
One last word of advice, though: Leave your laptop and Facebook connections behind and only answer emergency calls from family. Don’t let your work colleagues follow you and your smart phone around and interfere with your connection to each other. Put your phone on silent and stay off the Internet, unless you are specifically using it to help you with vacation-related matters.
The couple vacation is an opportunity for building trust, intimacy and shared enjoyment.
The writer is a marital, child and adult psychotherapist practicing in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ra’anana. firstname.lastname@example.org.