Have you ever taken a "marriage vacation?" Which is to say, a vacation with just you and your spouse -- no kids -- where the purpose is to reconnect, rejuvenate and enjoy each other's company. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of it.
You might be thinking, "Aren't all vacations a dose of good medicine for your marriage?" The short answer is, maybe. The problem with your typical vacation, often, is that you're likely distracted by making sure the kids behave, you're focused on a group itinerary, and so on. Moreover, the intentions behind the escape are often to get away from work and the daily grind, not to find that spark in your marriage.
A few weeks back, Dr. Michelle Gannon, a psychologist specializing in relationships and women's issues, brought this idea to my attention. She told me a story about how her husband wanted to take her away many years ago without their young children on a marriage vacation. At first she was adamantly opposed to the idea and even consulted her friends who also rejected the idea. She soon changed her mind, though, and has made it an annual tradition every year since.
The impetus behind the marriage vacation came from Gannon's husband, also a psychologist, who felt the attention of the couple had been focused lopsidedly on their young children. It's understandable that good parents would want to put great emphasis on their kids, however it's too often that children begin to suck up all the attention and couples begin to drift apart.
"We have to take care of ourselves and take care of our relationships and that is also being a good parent," said Gannon. "It really is a good thing for your children too, to see that Mom and Dad have a marriage that's worthy of spending a vacation together."
Even after Gannon described to me their marriage vacation, I was still uncertain about its difference from a second honeymoon. I asked Gannon this, who now incorporates the teachings of marriage vacations in her Marriage Prep 101 workshops (www.MarriagePrep101.com) where she makes a strong distinction between the two.
"When I think of my honeymoon, it was really exotic; and if I think about a second honeymoon that feels like a lot of effort to make that happen," said Gannon. A marriage vacation, conversely, doesn't need the tropical thrills and leis. Gannon said a marriage vacation to her is more of a necessity, a tool to sharpen your marital health. She now includes them to her schedule like date nights.
Gannon said the idea is to take a break from reality. Gannon and her husband have done everything from zip lining to attending the theater; while some of the couples Gannon works with have done things like wine tasting and bike rides.
To really reconnect and benefit, Gannon recommends a marriage vacation last at minimum two days to serve its purpose. If money is an issue, Gannon knows couples who have rented a hotel room in their same town or turned their home into a vacation spot when the kids are away for the weekend.
It's encouraging that many are already taking marriage vacations, but just aren't calling them by that name. The next step is to make them a part of everyone's schedule for marital health, as Gannon recommends. For couples whom still aren't convinced or worry their children might not understand, Gannon shared the following story.
A few years after she and her husband had been taking their marriage vacations, they asked their children if they knew why Mommy and Daddy took their regular fall trips without them. Their youngest son replied, "Because it is good for your marriage."