By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW
As I packed my suitcase in the midst of the biggest snowstorm this state has seen in years, I thought to myself, “this is a lot of work.” I had to think about what I needed, what the kids needed, and whether or not the weather would cooperate. The snowdrifts created eight to ten feet of snow on our driveway. The airports were closed. This was just two days before we were supposed to leave for Florida. There was also the looming thought of possible terrorism in the back of my mind and both my kids had ear infections. To say the least, preparing for the trip was not relaxing.
But I knew that my husband and I needed to get away. Even though we were going with our kids and staying at his mother’s house, I still had hope that our marriage would benefit. He and I had been in a rut — the same routine day in and day out. We would definitely have passed a test on who did well on ‘American Idol’. We needed a change.
Sometimes a mere change in environment can have a profound effect on a marriage. Although my mother-in-law’s house is lovely, it is not the Caribbean. Even still, I had hope. Our flight took off a bit late, but it took off. The kids were extraordinarily good — passengers around us commented on our ‘well-behaved’ children. We shared a moment of pride. Already, I felt a benefit to our marriage.
The weather in West Palm Beach, Florida was warm and sticky. How nice — a welcome change. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house in the rented minivan, I noticed the palm trees and I noticed my family’s mood. The kids were tired but excited. My husband was calmer than usual. I remained hopeful — hoping for more connection with him.
Each day was jam-packed with extended family members and activities — swimming, fishing, golfing and the zoo, to name a few. (Shopping and dining are a given in Florida). Being the kind of woman that she is, my mother-in-law offered to baby-sit every night of the week. We took her up on it. It was then that I got what I hoped for. My husband and I went into some of the hopping parts of town and shopped, strolled and ate. More importantly, we shared — moments with each other, compliments with each other and feelings with each other. This was something we hadn’t done in a while, another benefit to our marriage.
One of the beliefs I have about couples is that if you put most couples on an island by themselves, their relationships would be better. It is not often the couple that is the problem, but instead the way the couple handles external stress. A vacation from the daily stress that we cope with is exactly what we needed. It was not that the children went away, but the environment changed. We were the same people in a different place. Just walking each evening with my husband, holding hands, made a huge difference. Whatever resentments we may have been harboring toward each other, were now on the back burner. Whatever little habits that may have bothered us about each other at home, were now ‘cute’. It reminded me of when we first met — but better.
In the twelve-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the first recommendations is to change people, places and things. It is said that this will help to change behavior. I agree. This is not to say that you need to sell your house today, but instead try to get away for a while. It doesn’t have to be the Caribbean, it doesn’t have to be your mother-in-law’s house, maybe it could be New Hope or New York for a day. So, although a lot of work and preparation went into our trip, it was absolutely beneficial. My husband and I reconnected.