We’re all coming out of the covid fog – we’re no longer in survival-only mode and many are easing back into planning vacations and planning for the future. Summers have often been the perfect time of year to get away from the everyday to refresh, recharge, and reset for the months, or years ahead.
While many a family is prepping for trips near and far, as a therapist I have to encourage you to think of yourself, specifically your relationship, too. What trips are you and your partner taking, just for the two of you? Or even more serious, what issues or concerns have you put on the back-burner, but still need to address? Just like the vacations that had to be postponed in 2020, many couples who were beginning therapy or thinking about focusing on their relationship may have cancelled those plans too. This is completely understandable as we had to focus all efforts on weathering a pandemic. A pandemic. Now that things are stabilizing, it’s time to revisit all those things you postponed back in 2020.
What if you could do both? Go on vacation and work on the areas of your relationship at the same time? Have you ever gone on a romantic getaway with your partner, but because of some argument, it lost all romantic allure? You sat silent on the beach at sunset or stared at the flicker of a candle over dinner rather than engaging in a deep and interesting conversation with one another? Your issues, or what we as therapists call negative cycles or patterns, didn’t stay back at home – they showed up on what should have been a stress-free and romantic vacation.
Wait, therapy and vacation?
We know that more than 3 out of 4 millennials prefer a memorable experience over more stuff. After the last 18 months, I anticipate that even more couples will opt-in when it comes to signing up for unique experiences with the goal of adding richness to their life. And for many who are navigating therapy and the ever-busy schedules, combining therapy with a special trip may be the perfect combo to stay on track and deepen their connection. You also get a built-in, beautiful respite (aka the place you’ve traveled to) if stress does increase while talking about important issues.
For example, one of our couples who experienced a 2-day couples intensive flew in and stayed at a nearby resort. During the two days in my office, we were able to dig into the roots of their problems without much interruption. They were able to deepen their emotional exploration and engagement and “ride the wave” without having to worry about a session ending in 20 minutes. Then when our time was finished after day one, they were able to return to the resort, unwind at the pool, get a massage, and reflect on what they learned about themselves and their partner. They had the night to discuss their observations and feelings together over dinner (and actually enjoy dinner and the conversation). And while their issue perhaps wasn’t fully resolved at that point, movement was made (away from feeling stuck towards a bit more connection) due to having the space and energy to talk and they were a bit more relaxed because of being in vacation-mode. They could enjoy dinner, feeling a bit lighter. Couples who pair a vacation with therapy also have noticed that once they name the things that are important and are able to identify the emotions, they feel relieved and have more energy to be playful, even sexual, with each other.
Here are five ways to combine therapy and vacation while the summer months are still with us:
- Therapy session and a special night in: Kids at family/friends house, reward your connection with a special meal, movie, or game night (e.g., UNO, Rummikub, Monopoly).
- Therapy session and a night out: Same as above, but take your post-therapy conversations to dinner or have an experience (e.g., Top Golf, an Escape Room, or Food Tour).
- Weekend away with a therapy session built in: Don’t let the “elephant in the room” put a damper on your trip! Now that you’ve transported yourself somewhere fun, the last thing you want to do is look at your partner and worry that you don’t know what to say. Schedule a therapy session so you can release tension and enjoy your weekend trip to its fullest.
- Couples intensive (aka Marathon Therapy): Imagine booking a room at a resort that provides healthy food, exercise programs, pool, an on-site spa with golf courses nearby. Now pair that with a customized day or two to focus on your relationship health with a licensed therapist. It’s a wellness retreat that integrates relationship health. Many wellness retreats often focus on the individual yet once you get back to your relationship, the negative patterns haven’t changed and then all the good you did on your own, get undone with one hurtful remark. A couples intensive focuses on one or two specific relationship issues that you want to make progress on and you leave feeling more understood, heard,and with practical skills that improve communication and focus on strengthening your connection. In addition, couples leave with a plan to keep building their relationship from the inside out. The benefit of an intensive is the concentrated time – having each person sit in their emotions that may surface and to work through those emotions together.
- Virtual Couples Intensive: Similar to the above, but you stay in the comfort of your own home. You send your kids away to their grandparents for the weekend and you have your house to yourself. You and your partner login and work on one or two major concerns and leave the sessions with a plan to continue the work and local resources (e.g., therapist who can meet regularly) to keep you on track. At the end of the day, you can plan a date night and treat yourselves to a nice child-free meal at a restaurant you both have been looking forward to trying. After your meal, go back home and draw up a nice bubbly bath and play relaxing music in the background, knowing that you can take time to unwind together. Pro tip: Get rid of kid toys or any evidence of your little ones in the space that you are trying to relax in. When you want to relax, seeing your kids’ stuff tends to have the opposite effect and can kill your mood.
The benefits of pairing a pleasurable experience with couples work, like therapy or an intensive, is long-lasting. You feel accomplishment when it’s done, you worked through something important together, and you were on vacation. The vacations, whether it was a staycation or traveling somewhere, that stand out to me the most are the ones when my husband and I did something different, together. You might like it so much that it might become a ritual, planning a fun getaway knowing that you also get to attend to meaningful issues within your relationship.
Are you ready to combine therapy and vacation?
Would you like to enjoy your next vacation and feel a greater connection with your partner? Maybe therapy and vacation is just the combo your relationship needs and the experience you’d like to try.
If you are ready to schedule a therapy appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. If you are interested in booking your next couples intensive, we offer those monthly at our Carefree, AZ (just north of Scottsdale) office and can suggest nearby resorts with golf courses and spas.