A sunny vaycay with your beloved could be the perfect salve for your relationship or it could prove to be a magnifying glass on some of your pre-existing issues. Victoria Stokes finds out how to make sure a break away doesn't lead to a break up.
The all exclusive resort is booked, your bags are packed and you’re all geared up for two blissful weeks of sun, sea, sand and sex with your fella. With all the extra vitamin D and a natural boost of happiness thanks to the sunshine, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a far-flung vaycay could only be a positive milestone in your coupleship.
It’s easy to get carried away with our romantic notions when envisioning the perfect getaway; Long walks together on the beach, endless photo ops while watching the sun go down and a fortnight-long shagathon in the hotel’s kingsize bed, but what about that old adage that a holiday is make or break for your relationship? Could a couple’s vacation actually do more harm than good?
Psychotherapist Bernadette Ryan is very much in the yes camp and the reason sunshine and a little time off might not be the perfect relationship remedy, she explains, is because couples, especially new ones, might not have spent extended amounts of time together before they jet off to live in each other’s pockets.
“They may have a routine of seeing each other on regular dates with plenty of time in between for each doing their own thing. To suddenly find themselves together all the time can be a bit of a surprise and a struggle,” she surmises.
Sadly that’s a struggle that often proves too much for some, with recent research from car for hire company Holiday Autos suggesting that one in ten couples actually choose to end their relationship before they’ve even boarded the flight home. Yikes.
One of the biggest problems is that a holiday “can also bring into sharp focus any perceived flaws in your partner which up until now were easy to overlook or ignore,” Bernadette points out. “Holidays can also highlight major differences in tastes. For example, one of you might love lying around the pool relaxing while the other wants to be active, seeing holiday time as a time for adventure with not a minute to be wasted.”
These particular struggles are especially difficult for newbie couples, but what about relationship long timers who’ve been together for absolutely agessss? Surely, they’re immune to the pressures a break away can present?
The stats on the topic tell a different story. In fact, one survey by law firm Slater & Gordon suggests that 27 percent of divorced couples opted to split within weeks of going on holidays together, while 60 percent said taking a break together proved ineffective at saving their marriage, claiming instead that it heightened tensions between them.
Recent research suggests that one in ten couples end their relationship while on holiday.
Bernadette isn’t surprised by the findings. “Even couples in long term relationships can find holidays a stress on the relationship,” she confirms. “Basic things like how much time to leave for traveling to their destination, for example, can represent a real challenge.
“Expectations of holidays can be unrealistic too with fantasy and reality clashing,” she adds. “Disappointments can take away from a holiday and cause stress between the couple and of course, someone – often your partner – has to take the blame,” she points out.
For Sinead, the pressure of having to look good in a bikini nearly proved to be too much for her relationship. “My boyfriend of two years and I had booked a holiday to Magaluf, and I was stressing about it for weeks beforehand. I’d put on a little weight at the time and I wasn’t feeling entirely body confident. The thought of my fella staring at all the girls on the beach who were in great shape, was nearly too much for me, and I’m pretty sure he was fed up listening to me banging on about it before we’d even started packing.
“It all came to a head on the holiday when we went to a nightclub. We were both having a great time until some podium dancers came out and started taking all their clothes off. They looked amazing and suddenly I felt terrible about myself and ran out in tears.”
Luckily, Sinead’s boyfriend went after her. “I told him how I felt and he was really understanding, but I don’t know what would have happened if things hadn’t of come to a head. My insecurities had been coming out in little snidey remarks aimed at him and I know by the end of the holiday he would have grown tired of me being in such a foul mood all the time.”
While Sinead managed to salvage the rest of her holiday, thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ensure you and your fella have a great time away from the get go.
First up, timing is everything, says Bernadette. There’s no set time frame for planning when to go away with your beau, she explains, but it does depend very much on how comfortable you feel as a couple. “How do you feel about facing him at the breakfast table sans make-up?” she asks. “Have you established a close, secure sexual intimacy or will the holiday make either of you feel under pressure to perform?” These are all questions you should ask before you book that trip away.
And if you’re unsure? “Test the waters by taking a few weekend breaks together before investing both emotionally and financially in a longer holiday,” Bernadette advises.
Next, keep your expectations low and be realistic about the time you’re going to spend together. “Allow for disappointments along the way. Give each other space to unwind and relax in your own way,” Bernadette suggests. “Plan for some separate activities if you know you like widely different things on holiday but also plan fun experiences together. Lastly, remember it’s up to you both to contribute to the enjoyment of the holiday.”
Encouragingly, it is possible for couples to go away and make lots of amazing memories. As Bianca, 31, can attest, a break away can in fact make, as opposed to break, the relationship.
“My boyfriend and I were only going out for four months at the time and I don’t know what possessed us to book a sun holiday together,” she admits. “We had a lot of eye-opening adventures on that trip, including tummy problems! I was really sick on the last night and my boyfriend was so worried he stayed up the whole night to make sure I was okay. I think that’s when I knew he was a keeper.”
More than four years later Bianca and her fella are still together, happier than ever and planning another trip away. So, while holidays can often throw up a whole host bothersome issues, sometimes they’re all the proof you need that you and your other half are in it for the long haul.
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s July issue. Our August issue is on shelves now!
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