Going on holiday with a partner is the true test of a relationship. Here’s how to get it just right.
What makes a perfect partner? Someone who wants to have sex first in the morning, never asks you to go shopping with her and renounces all rights to the remote control on Saturday afternoons? Maybe, but no relationship, no matter how erotically charged and compatible, is proven until your first holiday together.
Ah, the holiday, that breeding ground of vice and corruptibility. You go on holiday to relax, but unless you know exactly what you’re getting into, going on holiday with a partner is likely to leave you more stressed than you were when you handed in your leave form.
There are sound reasons for couples fighting when they’re on holiday. Because you’re out of your familiar, everyday situation, the holiday actually increases some stress levels. Also, because you’ve convinced yourself that you should be having a wonderful time during every second of your precious holiday small fights and irritations tend to get magnified. A lot of couples break up on holiday, over things that would not have mattered quite as much had they happened during their normal routine.
Everything is more intense when you’re on holiday because it’s such a valued time for most of us. But more holiday fights are caused by lack of planning than unrealistic expectations. You might not be able to do anything about your heightened holiday emotions, but you certainly can plan for physical eventualities, and in so doing hopefully prevent quarrels in Quebec and sulks in the Seychelles.
So if you are planning to go away with a partner – especially if it’s the first time the two of you will be taking a trip together – follow these rules and perhaps you’ll still want to look at each other when you return.
1. Make sure you both want to go to the same place
It’s no use dragging her off to go hiking in the Himalayas if she’d far rather be lying on a beach in Thailand. If your idea of a good holiday is vastly different from hers, perhaps you shouldn’t be together, or perhaps you should take separate holidays. Or you could compromise and choose a place that offers both your types of enjoyment (such as a resort where one of you can go scuba diving while the other lounges next to the pool with a book and a pina colada).
Of course, you might not know what her interests and idiosyncrasies actually are until you get there and find yourself shuffling from monument to monument to examine ancient frescoes, despite your longing to examine an affable pub. Holidays show us sides of our partners that we didn’t even suspect existed. That’s why it’s important to discuss your idea holiday before you book the hotel room. If you think she might be agreeing with your choice of destination only to please you, that’s her problem, but give her a chance to voice her preferences.
It is always more fun to do the things you love with a partner who loves the same things, but it’s inevitable that there will be areas of common disinterest between you. Make it clear that you don’t mind pursuing your quest for the tallest redwood on your own, and make sure she knows that you don’t intend accompanying her on visits to Cambodian orphanages (unless you want to, of course).
2. Divide the money.
Money and map navigation are the two most common causes of holiday tension. Money is perhaps more important because even if you’re lost, you’re still okay if you can afford a bed for the night.
No matter how compatible you might be in other spheres, in every couple, there is a partner who is the spender. This is increased a hundred-fold when on holiday. The one with the more careful nature will shy away from impulse purchases, while the other spontaneously lashes out on memorabilia that you don’t need and that doesn’t fit into your suitcase.
Some couples try to prevent money fights by nominating one partner as the holder of the resolve arguments by saying. “I’m the one in charge of the money and I say we can’t have more than one ice cream a day” is only going to lead to acrimony. Even if one of you is financing the holiday – in fact, especially need to have access to your own money, or the power imbalance will lead to bitterness.
Workout the budget for the entire trip. Say accommodation is paid for, work out how much you’ll need each day for food, and if one of you wants to exceed that budget on a particular day, then economize the next day. Divide your spending money in two and share it. Then, if one of you blows their entire allowance on a three-meter mahogany giraffe. It’s only fair for the partner who still has money to dictate how it’s spent.
3. No bagging the navigator
Democracy does not work when it comes to directions. Whether you’re driving yourselves around or simply have to find taxis or stations in unfamiliar places, either draw lots or play roulette before you leave home to decide who will be in charge of navigation. Or split the duties, but when one of you is driving or reading a map, the other keeps his or her mouth firmly shut.
Talk about this before you go, otherwise, you’ll end up in a ditch when you slam on brakes in the pouring rain and shout, “Do you want to drive?” If she’s driving don’t say a word. And if you know she took a wrong turn, never admit later that you knew the right road to take all along.
Stick to this rule and there’s a good chance you’ll have a happy holiday and perhaps an entire life. The words “shouldn’t you have turned left there?” have been the death knell of too many relationships.
4. Find out if she snores.
It’s seldom that a couple goes on holiday without first getting to know each other well, but it happens. You may have shared a bed, but do you know each other’s bathroom? Does she know it takes you half an hour to do your hair? Has she done her morning yoga routine in front of you? Are you familiar with other’s most irritating habits?
A first holiday can bring nasty surprises if you discover on your first night away that she grinds her teeth, it could ruin your trip. Alternatively, you could be prepared for some irritation, and decide beforehand that, unless it’s a non-negotiable violation of every value you hold dear, you will allow certain annoyances to wash over you.
Say you know each other quite well already and have learned to tolerate each other’s curious habits. You could still find that being on holiday with her drives you nuts (or vice versa) because she thinks that being away means she doesn’t have to be considerate of your needs as would be when you’re both at home.
Being on holiday does mean you can relax, but it doesn’t mean turning into a complete slob. If she doesn’t clean up after you at home, don’t expect her to do it when you’re away. And if she thinks being on holiday gives her license to use your razor on her legs, explain (gently) that it doesn’t.
5. Don’t combine buddies and new lovers
You have a friend with a pad in Manhattan who’s been begging you to come and stay. “Bring your new girlfriend”, he says. “You guys will have the best time here.” No you won’t. not if you’ve never been away together before and you want to spend a lot of time catching up with your old buddy. They might like each other and get along fine, but a first time holiday is about romance, and you’re not going to get that when you’re trying to divide your time and attention between a friend and a lover.
Perhaps neither of you is the romantic type and you’re both quite keen on the idea of going away with other people. If these are mutual friends, no problem, but going away to meet someone whom only one of you knows isn’t a good idea, don’t do it if it’s the first time the two of you will be spending time together.
You might also discover when on holiday that that one of you is more sociable than the other. She wants to invite those two couples you met on the train to join you for dinner; all you want to do is spend time alone with her. These are things you can’t predict. All you can do is reasonably explain your desire to socialize – or your objections to talking to strangers – and try to reach a compromise.
6. If it all goes wrong
There is no way to guarantee that your first holiday together will be a fight-free, but you can stop fights from turning your holiday into a nightmare. It may sound stilted, but if you can face up to it, talk about how you’ll deal with fights before you go away. Make a pact that neither of you will storm out, even if it means spending three days in silence. There’s nothing more mortifying than returning home alone. Having the staying power to see it through gives you time to get over fights.
If all else fails then remember to;
Always keep your own passport and ticket if she leaves with your documents, just in case.