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Relationship Guide
February 2005:
Start Travel Tips for Romantic Realists
by Claire Hatch
Claire Hatch, MSW is a licensed social worker and mediator who specializes in working with couples. From her Seattle area office, she counsels people by phone and in person.

Claire will be happy to answer your relationship questions in this column. Please send them to claire@clairehatch.com or call her at 425.823.2273.
Want more relationship help? Then The Bridal Sanity Workbook is for you. Claire shares wisdom from her pre-wedding counseling experience and her work with troubled marriages.

Romantic getaways are probably on your mind. After all, you’ve got a honeymoon coming up. And everyone knows that a trip for two is a great way to nurture your relationship. When wedding planning threatens to take over your life, getting away can get your perspective back. But beware the little talked about secret: couples travel doesn’t always turn out the way you envision. Your relationship issues travel right along with you, often magnified by the dynamics of a trip. Here are some pointers on how to handle some common problems, so your trip will be not just romantic, but an experience that brings you both closer together.

Make sure you are both looking forward to the same trip.
Looking at brochures for a stunning destination, you can’t imagine feeling anything but bliss when you get there. If it’s sunny, beautiful, and you don’t have to go to work, how can you miss?

The truth is, life is in the details, at home or away. The bliss comes from what you actually do when you get there. There’s trouble in paradise when one person is an adventurer and the other wants to be pampered. Or one is an athlete and the other a culture buff. If you’re looking forward to a week of water-skiing and parasailing, you’re not going to be very happy when your fiancé grabs the sun lotion and heads for the beach bar. Before you go, make sure you are on the same page with at least a few activities.

Get ready for the incredible expanding personalities.
Travel has a way of amplifying all your preferences, quirks, and insecurities. At home, you’ve each created a comfort zone of routines to meet your needs. It works so seamlessly, you’re probably not even aware of all of each other’s needs. When you take away those routines, you’ll see all sorts of anxieties come out to play.

And your quirks will loom larger when you’re with each other 24/7. Are you a bit shy? In a situation where everyone is a stranger, this will be more obvious. If your partner is repeatedly forced to take the initiative to communicate with others, he might start to find this trait annoying rather than charming.

Maybe your fiancé is devoted to his daily run. It’s something he needs to do to feel alert and healthy. Your feeling is, that’s something he could do anywhere. You hardly think it’s worth postponing a sightseeing excursion so he can get his run in. At home, his perceived lack of flexibility is not a problem. On vacation, it can drive you crazy.

You can smooth the way if you expect that little things will turn into big things. Your fiancé gets cranky for some reason unfathomable to you? Try not to react. Slow down, be supportive, and find out what’s bothering him. And when you’re the one who’s feeling like you’ve lost your bearings, let your partner know what you need without blaming him for anything. It’s natural for a trip to test your flexibility. Try to expect this and even welcome it. If you do, you’ll get to know each other much better than you would at home.

Take turns being the tour leader. This is a wonderful way to get to know each other better and enrich your experience. Chances are one of you takes more initiative in planning your trips. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re both OK with it. But you might find it more interesting if you take turns leading and following. If you’re the planner, you would probably enjoy just going along without all the responsibility for once. You would end up doing something that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. And you would learn something new about how your partner thinks about things. If you’re the follower, see what it’s like to get your creative juices going by planning an excursion. You’ll find desires and talents you didn’t know you had. And you’ll feel more invested in the trip.

So go ahead and book that getaway for two. Just remember to be a romantic realist. With a little know-how, you can turn vacation relationship stress into an opportunity to deepen your connection with each other. Bonus: If you master the art of traveling together now, imagine what a honeymoon you will have.
 

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