Couples in Summer – Together But Not Messy
Now we’ll explain why vacations affect couples so much, what the main conflicts couples go through during the summer are, and how you can improve your relationship by following a few simple ideas.
Do vacations affect a couple more than they do other relationships?
Yes, the answer is definitely yes. Couples have certain characteristics that set them apart from other interpersonal relationships. These other kinds range from family, to friends, or even work. When it comes to relationships with family members, we see our relationship with these people as unconditional (no matter what happens, they’re family). On the other hand, a couple is conditional (we’ll stay together or not, depending on how things go).
For all these reasons, it’s very common for people to be more patient with family members than with their partner. Because subconsciously you’re always aware of the fact that you chose your partner. Meanwhile, your family is a group of people you don’t get a choice in. In general, we’re most tolerant with the people in our direct family unit (mother, father, brothers, sisters, cousins, etc), than our partners, who we’re more demanding of.
How do vacations affect a couple?
Summer and vacation time cause some very important changes in your routine. During most of the year you have schedules, routines, tasks (children, work), and the couple is on the back burner. So you work more like a team than a couple in a romantic sense.
Once the summer comes, the couple becomes the first priority, since it’s when you have the most free time to spend together. Then being a couple becomes priority and you dedicate more time and attention to it, which means you’ll have moments of friction. And if you don’t process them the right way, they might end up causing conflicts or problems.
Problem nº1: “It’s like my partner is annoying me”
This problem comes up because you’re so used to breathing in your own “fresh air” or worrying more about yourself and your obligations. But then you become “forced” to give up part of your personal time and space to your partner. To put it another way, you don’t spend much time with your partner during the year because of your work, social life, and kids, if you have them. But during summer vacations you’re in a situation where you have to spend a lot of time with your partner and you might not be used to it.
Even people who spend a lot of time together and work well together during the year have their own habits and interests. You might satisfy all your individual needs during the year, but during summer vacations, when you spend more time with your partner, you have to see to their interests and needs too. It’s normal for you to experience some discomfort with this. But you have to process it the right way so you don’t see your partner as someone who “annoys you,” because they won’t let you do things “you always do.”
“When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists.”-Harry S. Sullivan-
Problem nº2: “We don’t take advantage of our vacation time, we don’t do anything”
There are couples who get angry with each other because they feel like they’re not taking advantage of their vacation time. They either stay home, go to a small town to see family, or maybe take a trip that just ends up being disappointing. In these cases, the conflict comes up when both partners are waiting for the other person to plan their vacation time, or to take the initiative and suggest activities, strolls, or short trips.
What happens sometimes in a couple is one of them takes the role of the person who “suggests and directs.” This means the other person “obeys and doesn’t interfere.” That might be because one of the members of the couple has trouble suggesting leisure activities on vacation. So in the end the other person does the suggesting and planning. The conflicts arise when the person who “suggests and directs” gets tired of being the one in charge. What happens then is that all the responsibility for taking advantage of vacation time falls onto someone who doesn’t know how to do it, because they’ve never had to.
So both partners put all the responsibility for taking advantage of vacation time on the other person. But because no one takes control of the situation (both for their own reasons) their vacation ends up turning into a time for bitterness about what they do or don’t do. Then comes the moment when you snap at the other person because you didn’t go to one place or another because they didn’t mention it or suggest it. Or maybe one of you did bring it up, but neither of you took the steps to do it.
Problem nº3: “Suddenly I notice all the bad things”
It’s normal for you to see attitudes and behaviors in your partner that you do and don’t like. It’s also normal to have certain expectations about how your partner should be. And the more time you spend with someone, the more common it is for all those “defects” you see in them to annoy you. So when you spend more time with your partner, you feel like whatever it is that annoys you becomes even more annoying. And that’s how, instead of developing tolerance or acceptance, you just let yourself become more susceptible to it.
For example, it might annoy you that your partner takes a long time to get up in the morning. So when it happens on vacation you’ll feel a stronger dislike of it. That’s because their habit might mean you don’t do anything in the morning, arrive late to places you want to see, or it might make you feel like your partner slows you down and you can’t take full advantage of your vacation.
This is where the conflict really arises. It’s when you give more weight to the characteristics of your partner that you don’t like than the ones you do. We all get more demanding with other people when we’re on vacation because it’s something we wait for all year, something we invest time and money into.
That’s why we have much less tolerance for frustration on vacation. It’s because we want everything to be perfect and we don´t like any setbacks we might otherwise accept without batting an eye.
Is a crisis unavoidable when you’re on vacation with your partner?
Absolutely not. It’s true that the summertime puts a lot of couples to the test. But the relationship still has to be healthy and stable. So a couple might argue while they’re on vacation because they’re spending more time with the other person, but that doesn’t have to mean they’ll have a crisis.
The best way to avoid a crisis during the summer is to work on yourself. That will help you maintain a better relationship. So now we’re going to give you a few practical ideas to improve your relationship and make it grow.
3 ideas to keep conflicts in check with your partner this summer
1. Make an effort to look for the positive things you like about your partner, and let them know
It’s very important for you to keep your 5 senses ready to pick up on the thing you like most about your partner. As human beings we have a major tendency to bottle up and give more weight to the negative things than the positive ones. And you have to actively fight against that tendency to nourish the bond linking you to your partner.
“Follow your heart but take your brain with you.”-Alfred Adler-
It’s extremely important to let your partner know about those things you like so much about them. It’s very comforting for your partner to tell you what they like about you. When they tell you you look good it gives you a huge boost of positive energy that will make your best angles shine even more.
2. Practice good communication by using active listening, empathy, and eye contact
Communication is the key factor when it comes to properly expressing any disagreements with your partner. And it’s a way for you to establish powerful and intimately bonded relationships. For your communication to be effective, you have to use active listening, be empathetic, and keep up eye contact. Make sure the other person knows you’ve got all your senses focused on them.
3. Plan vacations and find a time when each of you can “be free” for a while
Being on vacation doesn’t have to mean being together all the time. It’s very healthy and positive for a couple to have some moments when each person gets to breathe in their own air, without worrying about the other person. Knowing how to be by yourself is the best recipe for self-confidence and self-esteem, which you can project into your relationship. Give yourself a moment of personal intimacy and solitude. It will help you connect with your emotions and personal needs.
Lastly, keep in mind that a relationship is a part of your life you have to care for and cultivate for your whole life. The summer will put your relationship to the test. But if you have a solid relationship and there are more positives than negatives, there’s no reason an argument should have to mean things aren’t going well, or lead to a breakup.