There is a little known milestone called the “Vacation Date.” This is when new couples decide to go away on their first mini-break or full-blown vacation together. At best, this a romantic opportunity to relax and spend more than a 12-hour period together. At its most extreme, this is ‘an opportunity to take things to the next level,’ a chance to really get to know the other person, or perhaps even the perfect time for a marriage proposal in an idyllic setting (according to the daydreams of many single clients I have)! So, sometimes we have one unsuspecting partner thinking he’s just getting a little R&R while the other is imagining him proposing or discussing their future amidst a romantic beach backdrop. A little pressure, no?
While a vacation is just a vacation (one more chapter in an evolving relationship), it can also be the first opportunity you’ve both had to spend a lengthy amount of time with your new mate. This can bring out fears or defensive qualities in each partner, like feeling smothered, controlled, needy, or wanting to be in charge of different aspects of the vacation. It’s important to remember that each person is different and each may have opposite reactions to this shift in intimacy.
You may also begin to notice little quirks or pet peeves in your partner that you haven’t seen before, and this may require sensitivity on your part. Remember your partner is vulnerable and is taking a risk to show you their true self. So, try to be compassionate and accepting.
You may find out he’s a neat-freak that snores, or she’s a slob with an insomnia problem. And while it’s a process to reveal ourselves to our partner, things come out more quickly in an intensified setting like a vacation. So, don’t be overwhelmed if they do! Also, remember that your date still has all those fantastic qualities that you so loved just a few days ago. If your first getaway together serves up a little too much ‘reality,’ then here are 7 tips to help you get back that lovin’ feeling!
1. Keep a Good Context
Remember that this is hard-earned time away from work where you can both relax and enjoy. This is priority #1, so other things should be discussed and resolved later, if possible.
2. Don’t Idealize the Trip
This trip is just one of many (if you end up together) and may even turn out to be a blip in the scheme of a lifelong relationship. Try not to make it mean too much, or you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Have fun and enjoy what comes, but don’t try to follow a script.
3. Take Time Apart if Needed
You’re not twins and you’re used to living separately. If you’re getting the vibe that there’s too much togetherness and that some time apart might be good, suggest that you go to the beach and that he take a few laps in the pool before you meet for dinner. Time apart can help you blow off steam, regain your center and miss each other.
You’re both used to living separately and doing things your own way. Part of being a couple is compromising, and on vacation you’ll generally make more joint decisions. You can do this by discussing your separate and joint priorities and coming up with a plan that encompasses them both. It’s important to feel like both of you are being heard and respected.
5. Be Present
Romantic sunsets and bubble baths will likely get you thinking about where your relationship is going. Consider that this might not be the best place to bring up the topic – your anxiety about your future together could stop you both from enjoying the present moment. There’s plenty of time to discuss it, maybe even on the flight home, but this should be a time to play, laugh and connect on a deeper level.
6. Deal With Your Own Fears
A lot of what goes awry in relationships have to do with our own fears, so it’s important to notice what feelings arise for us. For example, when one of my clients went away on vacation with a new girlfriend, he noticed that he felt smothered and wanted to disappear. He was tempted to chalk it up to a realization that she ‘wasn’t The One’ but upon closer examination, he realized this was a relationship pattern. He had a controlling mother, so he often felt that he needed space from women. It was important that he knew this was his issue so that he did not discard a perfectly good woman. Instead, he needed to work on his reaction to intimacy over time so that he could have a healthy relationship.
7. Shelve It
It’s important to communicate honestly in a relationship so that you and your partner can get to know each other. There are no rules about vacations and you may have a life-changing conversation while abroad. However, I do think it is important to consider the timing. You can always talk when you get home. So ask yourself, ‘Is it healthy for me to discuss this now? Or does it make more sense to enjoy ourselves and discuss this when we get home?’ Try to think it through instead of just impulsively attacking the other person. Vacations go fast. You don’t want to look back and find you’ve returned home even more stressed out!
A vacation is your opportunity to get away, relax, laugh and be yourself. Everything is a learning opportunity and I’ve heard of many stories where vacations turned ugly because of the aforementioned issues, so hopefully this article will save you some trouble. Hopefully you can lower the chances of arguing on your romantic getaway by keeping these points in mind. Just make sure to view this milestone as an opportunity to learn about yourself and your partner.
Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman is a psychologist and the author of “Dating from the Inside Out” and “When Mars Women Date.” She also works as a love coach and runs groups on dating and relationship issues in Manhattan. Learn more at: www.whenmarswomendate.com.