An Important Marriage Hack For Those With Children

My wife, Patty, and I didn’t get to go away alone together until the week of my 40th birthday. Sure, through the years we’ve had a few one-off nights when the kids slept out and we were home alone, or spent a night at a local hotel, but we had never made it a regular part of our lives to spend intentional time away alone.

About six months before my 40th, Patty asked me what I wanted for my birthday.

“Nothing,” was my response, “except a trip alone with you that lasts more than one night.”

I had recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who, from the day his kids were born, had taken a vacation alone with his wife each year. They had just returned from a trip to Costa Rica.

“Chris,” he said, “trust me, there are few things better for a relationship than going away together without the kids. It helps bring you back to when you first met, and you could just focus on each other for a short time. Do everything you can to do it.”

I was sold.

The idea of a relaxing vacation alone with Patty was highly appealing, especially after a variety of Disneyworld and cruise vacations with the kids that are exhausting. After these trips, I feel like I need a vacation to relax from the vacation.

At first, Patty was hesitant. She’s a wonderful hands-on mom who genuinely enjoys our children. But, she was easily convinced. We have trusted family members who are ready, willing, and able to babysit our kids for a few nights, which makes it easier.

We picked three nights in St. Lucia. I wanted five nights. Patty thought that was too long. We compromised. I didn’t complain.  

For our first trip alone without the kids we picked a place that was a five-hour flight with limited daily flights, which would have made it difficult to get home quickly in the event of an emergency. Go hard or go home I guess. The kids would be in good hands, so we knew we had nothing to worry about.

I won’t go into details but spending my 40th birthday in paradise took the sting out of that milestone a little. We relaxed. We went to the beach. We spent time in the pool and had drinks from the bar in the pool. We laughed. We enjoyed each other. We ate well.

The kids missed us, but they were absolutely fine.

That trip opened the floodgates. It proved it could be done. Now, we try to sneak away for a big trip alone together each year.

In 2018, we spent 4 nights in Barbados where we renewed our wedding vows in a private ceremony. In 2019, we spent 4 nights in the Bahamas. In 2020, we spent 2 nights at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida as part of a bigger trip with the kids to visit family in Florida. The kids stayed with family while we got away for 2 nights.

In addition, until this current COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been able to do 1- or 2-night trips about every other month, mostly to Atlantic City, NJ, which is nearby.  

Last weekend we had plans for something different. We had an Airbnb booked, a house secluded in the woods, for two nights. We had to postpone that trip until the world returns to some semblance of normal.

I believe that going away with your wife is one of the most important things you can do to supercharge your marriage.

Notice I said “away.” That’s important. It doesn’t have to mean something elaborate. It could mean a Holiday Inn one town over that you can drive to.

Being somewhere outside of your own home is important because the natural tendency when we are home is to fall into normal housework routines. This has happened to us in the past when the kids were out for a night and we stayed home. Our elaborate romantic plans tended to turn into something different when we realized that we had the opportunity to get things done in the house without distractions.

These nights together should not be spent deep-cleaning the house or washing dishes, and that’s what tends to happen when we are home and we realize we can do these things quickly and efficiently.  

Getting away into a different environment is so important and has improved our marriage in many positive ways.

There are at least four reasons to take such trips alone with your wife.  

New Adventures Together

We should never allow our marriages to get into a rut or routine. It’s so easy to allow familiarity to kill intimacy and adventure. As men, it’s important to never be boring since boredom kills both. Our wives want to be surprised. They want to be excited. They want to have fun and experience new adventures with us.

This doesn’t mean you have to climb mountains or go scuba-diving or some other high energy activity. Some people just aren’t wired that way. For me, the adventure starts on the Uber ride to the airport or as soon as we get in the car for the drive to wherever our local destination is.

There is always a sense of anticipation, and I try to have some kind of surprise planned for our time away.

I don’t want to be boring, and I want to experience adventures with Patty. I asked her to marry me again and renew our vows a few weeks before we left for the Barbados trip. That wasn’t the purpose of the trip, but when I realized that we would be there on our anniversary it just made sense to do it. The planning of our little private ceremony became an adventure on its own. The “wedding” day was an adventure. Patty got her hair and makeup done. We had our own wedding planner and got to plan every detail of the day. That day was fun. It felt like we were getting married for the first time.

Take your wife on adventures. She will appreciate it. You’ll both remember and reminisce about them frequently.

The Modern World Keeps Us More Connected Than Ever

We live at a time when we can, not only speak with our kids even when we are thousands of miles away but can speak to them face to face on FaceTime. When we are away, we make sure we schedule a time each day to talk with them on face-to-face. We’ll typically do this while we are getting ready for dinner.  

It alleviates any guilt we might feel about being away from them and gives them a chance to see us.

We have an international plan on our cell phones so, even if the WiFi at the resort is bad, we have cell service that allows us to stay connected.

Technology makes it simple to stay in contact with your kids. Take advantage of it.   

You’ll Be Better Parents In The Long Run

It is better for children when Mom and Dad truly love and like each other and enjoy each other’s company. That sense of togetherness is noticeable and helps bring the entire family closer. The connections we forge on our trips carry over when we return and make us better parents.

Increased Intimacy

So often we hear stories where married couples end up more as co-parents or roommates than lovers. When we are engaged in the struggles of everyday life. it’s easy to forget that we should be lovers first above all else. How often do we hear of marriages that fall apart after the kids are grown and out of the house? That happens because for far too many married couples the only thing holding them together is their status as co-parents. Their children become their only commonality.  

Going on regular trips together gives you the privacy you need to be lovers once again. You are freed of responsibilities for a short time and can spend the time totally focused on one another.

If your marriage is in a sexual rut, it could help reignite the flame that may be petering out. While I won’t go into specific details here, I always have well-thought out surprises for Patty to increase our intimacy, and I will never allow this part of our lives to be boring.

It’s important, though, to walk a fine line. We jokingly have used the term “sexcation,” and these trips could easily turn into that. While that could fun if that’s what you both want, there are a lot of other things to also do during the few days away.

Conclusion

I’m not wealthy. I willingly give things up to save the money to go on these trips, as well as a family vacation we plan each year. I am disciplined about saving because these trips are important to me.

I typically spend all year putting money away to pay for each trip and rack up airline miles on a credit card for free flights.

The old cliché is that it’s better to spend money on experiences than on things. I buy that to an extent. The fact is that if Patty had bought something for me for my 40th birthday instead of agreeing to our St. Lucia trip, I might not even use or own what she bought for me today. The memories of that trip, however, will never fade. They are now a part of our story.

Each trip becomes a separate chapter in our story. We reconnect, we increase our intimacy, we experience a sense of adventure, and reenact the thrills and excitement that were present when we first started dating.

The next trip is already booked for August 2021, the week of our 20th wedding anniversary. This is, admittedly, an elaborate trip, bigger than usual.  I booked it last year to give me two years to pay for it, and my saving is right on target. I’m just happy it’s not booked for this summer since I imagine many trips will be canceled due to the ongoing virus situation. I am hopeful by next summer we will be good to go.

I look forward to writing that new chapter in our story, as well as other chapters on shorter trips we might take before then. They are important chapters to write, and I encourage husbands to make the effort to plan them. They could help change the trajectory of your marriage for the better.