Our trip to Cuba last week was the first time that Adam and I have ever gone away without our kids, that’s right in 13 years we have never gone away without the children, not even for a weekend.
For the last few years whenever I have told somebody that, they have expressed shock and dismay, telling us that we simply have to go away without our kids on a regular basis to have a strong marriage.
Leading me to tell them to “fuck off” in my head, because I don’t think anybody else is in a position to judge whether my marriage is strong or not.
Actually, my marriage is strong and has been for a long time. We had some difficulties in the past for various personal reasons, and we overcame them and it did not take a vacation alone to do so, it took communication and understanding and forgiveness and commitment.
Until I got cancer, we rarely talked about travelling alone. We don’t have a lot of money and we don’t travel very often, so it always seemed like it would be unfair to use any of our travel money to go away without the kids, when our kids already travel much less that a lot of their friends and relatives. Going away alone was something we talked about doing in the far future, and it didn’t really bother us to think that it would be a long long time away. As I said, our marriage is perfectly happy and I don’t think we need to have a large amount of alone time to keep it happy. When we are spending time focussing on each other, and communicating, the amount of time we have together after the kids go to bed and on the occasional date night is more than enough to keep our marriage “alive”.
However, cancer did two things.
1. It was stressful. Really really stressful. It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever gone through in my life, and stress leads to more stress. I’m still stressed out because I had cancer; I’m stressed because I worry it’s going to come back. Stressed because my wonderful organization gave me accommodations to work through my treatment but I am almost done with them and will be going back to a full caseload which is a very stressful job. I’m stressed because I have more doctors appointments than I ever have in the past, and everyone of them is scary. Stressed because every time I think I’ve got a handle on this, there is some new medication or procedure I need to start thinking about. I’m stressed because with all this stress, I’m still a full-time working mom who never has enough hours in the day and never has enough time to just chill.
2. Cancer made us realize that if we were waiting to do something, it might not happen. We never know what tomorrow has to bring, so if we really wanted to go away without the kids, it was time.
So the reason we chose to finally take a vacation without the kids is because I got cancer, because I was so stressed out by cancer that I just needed to de-stress, in a way that I can’t do when my kids are around. Even though vacations are always relaxing for my family, there is still a lot of fighting and bickering and stress involved…there are two kids after all! We also went because it was something we had talked about doing, vaguely and with no urgency, but it seemed like a combination of having cancer and being so stressed from having cancer made now more the right time than it had ever been.
We had a wonderful trip. We relaxed completely, without having to worry about the kids schedules or bickering or needs. We did not fight for one minute the entire trip, not a single misunderstanding or disagreement, nothing. We never fight often, but bickering (usually over something that has to be done for the kids) happens.
It was wonderful, mostly just to relax so much…but it did not improve our marriage, it did not strengthen our marriage, it did not make me feel like my marriage is better now than it was a week ago.
After going away with alone with my husband, I definitely feel that it if any stressed parents have an opportunity to do so, they should take it. But I also do not feel anymore than I did before that it is necessary to have a happy and connected marriage. If you are a couple that can’t get away without your kids, don’t worry about it, you can still have a great marriage. You can set aside time for each other to reconnect in the evenings, take advantage of opportunities for date-nights when they come, remember that your kids are only getting older and things will get better, and when anybody tells you that you simply need to travel without your kids to have a great marriage tell them to “fuck off” in your head!
One other thing, if you are one of those couples that feels that you need to have time away from the kids regularly, and travel together without your kids to have a strong marriage, I would recommend rethinking that and exploring how you can make your marriage one that does not depend on that. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t travel without your kids and take time alone when you can get it and enjoy it, I think if you can you should absolutely! But it’s also important to remember that life can change on a dime, travel is a privilege, and that you want your marriage to be one that doesn’t depend on outside influences to keep it happy, but rather the relationship itself at home and away.