I love chocolate cake. Especially with really thick icing on the top and sides. Warmed slightly, with mouth-watering chunks of semi-melted chocolate throughout. Decorated with delicious chocolate shavings on top with a side tub of thick, rich, chocolate sauce. And a strawberry. Don’t forget the strawberry.
As much as I adore chocolate cake, I cannot eat it three meals a day for weeks on end. In the right proportions, chocolate cake is dreamy and delicious. Too much and you’ll soon tire of it.
The intensity of travelling with your partner long-term is like eating chocolate cake every day unless you consciously maintain balance.
Choosing to travel long-term with your partner is more intense than moving in together. Sure, you’re on holiday, but you’re also spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with one another. If you’ve ever lived with a partner, you know that there are days you hardly see each other. You have jobs that keep you apart for between 40-60 hours per week. You have time apart when you catch up with your respective friends. You have time apart when you take your twice-weekly dancing class. You have time apart when you catch up with your parents and your partner chooses to bath the budgerigar rather than endure the in-laws.
The point is, you get plenty of time apart. Not so if you’re travelling together. You don’t have regular jobs, classes, routines, family commitments, or friends to give you that much-needed space to grow outside your relationship.
So, how do you balance the fun and experience of travelling together with the necessity of having your own space?
Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need to “work on your relationship”. You need time AWAY from your relationship to make it work. If you have something all of the time, you begin to take it for granted. It’s like electricity. You rarely think about or appreciate it until the power goes out. Same goes for your relationship. Continuous and constant exposure will have you taking one another for granted very quickly unless you….
Give each other space
When you’re travelling together then you’ll be staying in hotels together, eating together, doing tours and activities together, budgeting together, waiting in airports together, doing laundry together, haggling with taxi drivers together…everything you do will be together! This is especially true if you travel to a country where you don’t speak the native language – your partner will probably be your only conversation partner until you become proficient enough to converse yourself.
You and your partner may be completely comfortable around one another, but you still need your own space. Loving one another does not mean smothering each other. Once in a while you need to withdraw and just be with yourself. Don’t take it personally if your partner wants to spend time alone. It doesn’t mean they love you any less – they just need to recharge. Cherishing your time apart will help you enjoy your time together much more.
Two guaranteed techniques for creating plenty of space for yourself include making loud fart-like noises behind your partner or singing opera in public. If, however, you prefer a slightly less extreme version, you can…
Maintain connections outside your relationship
You need a break from chocolate cake once in a while. At some stage you’ll need to eat carrot, corn, tomatoes, rice, pasta, beans…even brussels sprouts! You need a variety of connections in your life to maintain a healthy relationship as much as you need variety in your diet to maintain your physical health.
You still have family, friends, and a life away from your partner, even if you’re temporarily absent from those connections. Maintain your connection with your family and friends, and make new connections while you’re travelling. It also helps to…
Maintain your own interests outside the relationship
Spend some time doing things you can enjoy without your partner. Draw. Write. Learn a language. Sing along to Britney Spears in the shower. Even if you and your partner have the same interests, don’t always do them together. You and your partner were attracted to one another because of the beautiful individuals that you are. Don’t lose your spark of individuality.
You’re going to have differences of opinion and ways of living every now and then. If you can be ready in the morning in two minutes flat and your partner takes an hour, you’re going to get frustrated. Instead of whining about it, do something productive in the meantime. Read a book. Call your Mum. Email a friend. Or hide the hairdryer the night before. If you’re as Zen as the Buddha and your partner needs anger management classes until they’ve had breakfast, learn to love feisty personalities or prioritise finding food!
We’ve all got our annoying little quirks. You’re not going to change your partner’s habits overnight, nor should you try. You can, however, choose how you respond to your relationship challenges.
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