Once you become a parent, it’s easy to forget how your kids came to be in the first place. Staying connected with your spouse can seem like a huge challenge, especially during the first years of your child’s life as you tackle sleepless nights and potty training, and if you don’t nurture your relationship, a huge gap can form between you and your partner. For too many couples I know that gap became insurmountable and they are now separated or divorced.
That’s why I’m not only a huge fan of planning date nights with your significant other, but also a firm believer in taking a few days to enjoy a kid-free vacation together. It can actually save your marriage. Or at the very least strengthen it and help your family be stronger.
It’s not just my opinion. I interviewed Dr. Paula Bloom —clinical psychologist, CNN contributor and coauthor of Why Does He Do That? Why Does She Do That?: Two Relationship Experts Reveal the Naked Truth about Dating in the 21st Century– and she was very clear on why investing in your marriage really pays off. “One of the best things you can do for your children is have a strong marriage. The marital relationship is like the foundation of a house. The firmer it is the more stable the structure being built. In this case, the structure is your family. The happier you are as a couple the healthier your kids can be,” she explains.
Blogger Kristen Doyle, a mom of 4, hadn´t taken a vacation alone with her husband in over 6 years but decided the time had come to spend a few days as a couple. “With 4 kids we typically only get time alone at the end of the day when we are both exhausted.” They recently enjoyed a few kid-free days in Park City, Utah.
In my case, constant traveling by both my husband and I, too many responsibilities and too little time to have time on our own was taking a toll on our marriage. We know we love each other, but too often we were simply too tired or were constantly interrupted by our children (whom we adore) to nurture our relationship.
So, last March my husband and I decided to take a three-day trip to New York. The weather was rainy and chilly, but we couldn’t have cared less. We had a blast. We had uninterrupted conversations. We ate without rushing. And I felt so much more connected to him. Of course we felt guilty for being away from our children, but they were happy to be with their grandmother. In the beginning, we would constantly talk about the kids and we terribly missed them, but after a while we started acting like a couple again. It felt so good!
Here are 7 ways traveling with your spouse can help your marriage:
You can have fun together 1 of 7Fun is so underrated when you become an adult, but it is not only necessary for your well being, it's crucial for a healthy marriage. "Research shows that relationships become at-risk for divorce when the ratio of positive to negative interaction drops below 5:1. Take a moment and think about where's your positive to negative ratio ? A kid-free vacation can help tip the scales in a positive direction," says Dr. Paula Bloom, who recently published Why Does He Do That? Why Does She Do That?: Two Relationship Experts Reveal the Naked Truth about Dating in the 21st Century. Photo: Joanie_21
You can remember what it feels like to be a separate entity from your kids 2 of 7Being a parent is the most amazing job in the world but sometimes it absorbs you in such a way you forget the woman or man you are aside from the role of caretaker. "Spending time alone is an important way to reconnect. It doesn't mean you have to go to some couple's retreat and meditate, have massages and hang by the beach. For some couples something highly structured and active is their idea of fun. Warning: Don't assume that feeling awkward with your spouse, for the first day of vacation or so, means that things are â€˜horrible', â€˜We have grown apart.' â€˜Let's call the lawyer.' It's normal for it to feel awkward when it's something you do rarely," explains Dr. Bloom. Photo: Izzy Taft
You can sleep 3 of 7There is no way you can catch up with all the sleep-deprivation you must endure when you have young children, but a kid-free vacation can allow you to get much needed rest. This can improve your mood, health and even your sex drive. Photo: Janesdead
You can reconnect intimately 4 of 7I cannot stress this enough. Take the time away from your kids to hug, touch, kiss and whatever else you feel like. It's not enough to love somebody; you need to make them feel loved. Literally. Photo: LianaAn
You can talk 5 of 7As in you can really have a conversation: no interruptions, no whining, no rushing. Take time to listen to your spouse, ask questions and find out little details you might have been missing these past weeks, months and years about what makes him or her happy, sad, hopeful or nostalgic about everyday life. "On our vacation away, just the two of us, it was so great to have uninterrupted conversations when one or the other of us wasn't half asleep. We talked like we used to and had fun as a couple like we used to. It was great to get to know each other all over again," says Kristen Doyle. "Talking about schedules, kid's activities, what's for dinner etc. can give you the illusion that you're connecting. But, in many cases, it just isn't enough. It's difficult to strengthen your relationship when there's no time or space. When you have to think about what others might hear, and are so exhausted with life, It's hard to say what you need to say and you are also less likely to hear what you need to hear," says Dr. Bloom. Photo: Kristen Doyle/ DineandDish
Get rid of the emotional buildup and start anew 6 of 7Things have a way of building up and a child-free vacation allows you to get it out in the open, clear the air and build a stronger relationship. Dr. Bloom actually compares relationships to teeth: preventive care is so much better than dealing with cavities and root canals. "Isn't it much better to catch a problem early, instead of letting it fester? It's much easier to solve a problem in it's early stages. Relationships need some daily maintenance as well as some deeper "cleaning." Think of a vacation as an opportunity to clear out some of the emotional build-up", recommends Dr. Bloom. Photo: moomettes/cindimatthews
You can try new things 7 of 7A trip, even if it's a short one, is a great excuse to break away from your routine. Try new foods, go somewhere you've never been before, explore an unknown area of a city or do something on your bucket lists.
Of course this all sounds fantastic, but if you struggle with guilt at leaving the kids behind, check out Kathleen Fordyce’s tips— you’ll be surprised by what she learned when taking trip with her girlfriends. And remember, organizing and planning are your best friends when going away. Leave lists of your kid’s daily schedule, important numbers and any activities he or she’s involved in with the caretaker. Go to the supermarket the day before you leave and if necessary, and leave prepared meals in the freezer. And let your child’s school or daycare know in advance who will be in charge while you’re away and give them all the contact information.
Still not convinced? This is Dr. Bloom’s take: “It can feel like SO much work to set up a kid-free vacation. But that effort can yield incredible results. How much time, energy and money do you spend on your kids? You want them to be happy? So, why are they they only ones who deserve happiness? Oh, if money is what you are worrying about consider that divorce lawyers are way more expensive than most vacations.”
Kristen Doyle, agrees. “Although it takes time, money and effort, having quality time together as a couple is one of the best investments you can make in your marriage… I’m convinced.”
Now go book that trip!
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