As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I decided to take our first real vacation this year, since our honeymoon. After ten years of marriage, we felt that we really needed a weekend away. Now our budget doesn’t allow for these kinds of luxuries typically, so we made a conscious decision to invest money that could have been spent elsewhere into a special time with each other, namely a large portion of our tax return.
We knew that five days was probably the maximum that my parents could manage with our two kids. We couldn’t afford to fly but nor did we want to spend half our trip in the car. So we chose Colonial Williamsburg as our destination. It was only five or six hours away (though due to high traffic levels and construction our travel home took almost 10. Not a great way to end a vacation). Neither of us had ever been there and we both enjoy history. We found a wonderful little B&B/Country Hotel just minutes from the Revolutionary City that was idyllic and relaxing without the hustle and bustle of the tourist district. Before we left, we talked about our priorities for the trip
Communication – We wanted to have uninterrupted conversations about things both trivial and significant, but preferably not about who needed to be cleaned up, changed, dressed or bathed. We did talk about our kids occasionally but mostly about what we love about them (the day to day stresses of living with kids can make you forget why you had them sometimes), and how our lives have changed since our family has grown. We wanted to have the space to naturally bring up topics that were important to us without feeling like we were on a strict time limit.
Relaxation – While we were busy enjoying the tourist sites, our goal was to relax as much as possible. Some days we would have breakfast, go wander around the Revolutionary City for a while. Have lunch, head back to the hotel for a nap and then go out for a late dinner. It was a different schedule than we were used to, but the more laid back routine was fun.
An unexpected bonus of the trip for me was self-investment. Everyday I got dressed in clothes that made me feel great and did my makeup. I dressed each night for dinner, whether dressy or casual complete with accessories and touched up my makeup. I know realistically I can’t live like this. But I enjoyed the chance to feel good about myself.
As we were headed home we talked about finding ways to bring pieces of our trip home. We felt great at the end of the trip, so why did we feel great and how could we find small ways of reproducing some of those effects in our everyday life.
Creating opportunities for relaxation.
We know that we need to continue to invest in our relationships through regular time together. We need to remind ourselves that our physical relationships (I mean all aspects of it, not just sex) and regular meaningful conversation (not just schedule and logistics) are crucial to maintaining our relationship. It’s easy to get pulled into the constant busyness of maintaining a family and household. My husband is working on releasing his novel in paperback and I’m continuing to pursue writing my first novel, this blog and starting a family Lenten devotional (kind of as a sequel or book end to my family Advent devotional). We have two children, one of whom I am beginning to home school and another who is accident prone and whose food allergies require quite a lot of kitchen work on my part. So basically, like most families, we are busy. At the end of the day we’re just trying to manage the chaos and it is hard to make sure we don’t neglect each other.
We need to create places and opportunities for relaxation. We discussed finding a low cost way to create a small relaxing haven in backyard where we can watch our children play. Currently there is nowhere to sit in our backyard except for the crumbling back steps. There also isn’t much shade, which is great for our vegetable garden, but not so much for us. So we are currently discussing getting a covered swing or a couple of chairs and some sort of shade producing apparatus that will allow us to enjoy pleasant weather together.
We also enjoyed unplugging for the week. We didn’t watch TV or have internet access at all. There was a TV in our room but we didn’t use it. The café where we ate breakfast didn’t have any TV’s scrolling the latest headlines (though there were newspapers available if you were so inclined). In the Revolutionary City the focus was on the past more than the present. When we got home we realized there had been a major tornado and we hadn’t even heard about it. While I don’t advocate being constantly disconnected from the world around you, I think regular removal from daily drudgery can be very useful. We concluded that we need to try and take maybe one weekend a year just the two of us. If the budget won’t allow us to get away, then we will stay local (with our kids elsewhere of course), and endeavor to remain removed and unplugged as much as possible. (I’ve heard it called a staycation). We also need to find a way to give each other some alone time. We each have jobs that involve being around and dealing with people (my husband’s people are generally taller and less whiny, though not always). We each need to find ways to recharge by being alone and doing something we each enjoy, even if just for a few minutes each week.
This second honeymoon didn’t solve all our problems. In fact, the removal from daily stress and busyness allowed some emotional problems I was having to bubble to the surface. But it allowed my mind to rest a little though I did have trouble transitioning back to everyday life. It was a bit of a rude awakening from the 10 hour (should have been 6) drive home to the immediate return of my daughter the Whiner and yet another unexplained diaper rash for my son. But it also allowed me to admit that we have some real issues that we need to work on solving. We need to create a long term, sustainable plan for debt freedom, because our current situation drives me batty on daily basis. I’d like to meet with our premarital mentors for a 10 year checkup. After 10 years we’ve come a long way in our relationship but I want to keep growing and maturing in our relationship, not just be stuck in a holding pattern.
How have you made conscious decisions to invest in your marriage? I’d love to hear your tips.