Five Ways to Bring Your Vacation Romance Home

Young Couple Standing On Sandy Beach Looking Out To SeaSummer vacations are too often talked about as fleeting episodes of bliss, short-term fairy tales set against tropical beaches and mystic sunsets. Yet the idea that our vacation lifestyle is the product of fantasy and that, in the end, we must return to our “real lives” can actually be entirely backward. In fact, it is often when we are on vacation and “letting go” that we are our truest selves, existing outside the roles and regulations we adhere to in our daily lives.

Naturally, the freedom we feel from responsibility plays a big role in our ability to relax and take time to do what we most enjoy. This freedom further awards us openness to new experiences, new people and new ways of relating to our loved ones.

The trouble is not that when we come home we return to our daily responsibilities; it is that we put a stop to the ways of being that we allowed ourselves to enjoy on vacation in favor of a routine manner of living and relating to our partners.

So for those of us who’ve been under the impression that summer love is as likely to fade as a summer suntan, here are some tips for bringing the intoxicating intimacy we experience on vacation home with us.

1. Bring newfound interests home with you
When we go on vacation our interest is in trying new things and expanding our identity. In our day-to-day lives, we often do just the opposite by putting ourselves into boxes we believe to be practical, safe or sensible. Away from home, in a foreign location, we are open to new activities: sports, food, clothes and customs. So when we find an activity we connect to, there is no reason not to take this interest home with us.

True, one may not be able to scale the Swiss Alps in Kansas or scuba dive in Nevada, but we can seek ways to adapt our new interest to our everyday life. Plus, it isn’t necessarily the skiing or seafood that made our vacation an exhilarating experience, but our openness to new activities that ignited a spirit of adventure in us. When we keep up this curiosity and sense of discovery, we feel more alive to ourselves and to our partners.

After a vacation of stepping onto the dance floor, jumping into the ocean and saying “yes just because this may be our only chance,” it is all too easy to fall back into the trap of making the excuses of two left feet or a bad back or to say “no because there’s plenty of time to do that.” Remember spontaneity need not be seasonal. We should never assume that just because we have to go back home we have to go back to the same old habits that although familiar, make life boring to us. The expanded knowledge we gain of ourselves while on vacation is an education that ought to continue well beyond the moment we claim our baggage.

2. Don’t give up “vacation sex”
In the 90’s film The Story of Us, a married couple played by Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer return from a romantic vacation in Italy and lay in bed trying to prioritize whether to complete a letter or to have sex. In a moment of awkward frustration, the husband blurts out, ”I just don’t want us to get to the point where we can’t make love unless there’s a concierge downstairs.”

There’s a reason the term “vacation sex” was coined. On vacation we tend to be more open, free of routines and habitual ways of relating that have replaced real connecting in our relationship. This mode of imagined relating is what psychologist Robert W. Firestone, refers to as a “fantasy bond.” A fantasy bond represents a fused identity as a couple that replaces the initial excitement and mutual respect we once felt as two individuals who loved and cared for each other. When we give up our individuality for the security of imagining that we are part of a couple, we lose the attraction we once felt toward each other. By letting go of habitual ways that we relate to each other as well as our resentments and assumptions about each other, we are more vulnerable, attractive and attracted to our partners and more open to affection and physical intimacy.

One routine that shouldn’t be broken, however, is making time for just the two of you to be together. This year’s film Date Night is a slapstick parody of how careers, parenthood and mind-numbing habits can lead a couple to form a dulled cocoon from which only a night of gunfire, car chases and mafia busts can awaken them. In real life, setting aside actual time to relax and reconnect with our partners will help us maintain the level of closeness and intimacy that keeps a relationship alive.

While establishing a standing date night can turn this time into a dulled or routine event, couples can preserve its spontaneity and freshness by keeping the focus on just the two of them in the moment and avoiding the temptation to rehash practical concerns by discussing the job, the kids, the family, the friends, the schedules, etc.

3. Keep track of what lights you up
Too often we reserve pleasure for weekends, vacations or warmer months. In the grind of getting through our daily duties, we often forget to seek out new activities that keep us feeling engaged and invested in our lives. It’s important to go after the things we want in life and to know what lights us up. When we cease to keep challenging, learning about and developing ourselves, we deaden ourselves in our closest relationships. When too many rules or routines are established in a relationship, they tend to wear away the natural excitement and enthusiasm a couple has toward each other. These habitual behaviors are inadvertently interrupted on a vacation, which allows for the rekindling of passion and interest in each other.

4. Be wary of social pressures

Going home means going back to a society that encourages us to get back into a conventional form of day-to-day life. On vacation, we are not only free of self-imposed pressures but from social pressures that influence us to focus on things like deadlines, carpools, back-to-school preparations and coordinating schedules. Yes, these may all be necessities in life but our approach to them – the worry, stress and importance we offer them – are often disproportionate to what really makes us happy like staying close to our loved ones, enjoying our work and relating to our kids.

Society tends to encourage us to hone in on defined activities and responsibilities, and interferes with our striking a balance between being responsible and taking chances on new relationships or actions. Worrying about “how things look” and if we are “doing the right thing” is just another way to distract ourselves from discovering who we are and who are partners are.

5. Watch out for your own defenses

Along with layers of clothes, summer vacations help us shed layers of protection that, though cumbersome, make us feel comfortable. Most of us can name the behaviors that we engage in to keep ourselves in a defended place. Though we believe these defenses protect us and that we need them to help us get by, we fail to recognize how they hurt us and limit us in our interactions.

Because a vacation has a time limit, we often dare to step outside these defenses and take chances on those close to us. When we get back to “real life” we should resist the temptation to put back on that old coat that tells us to maintain control, to keep a distance or to play it safe. Instead, we can identify and challenge our defenses and even though this will provoke anxiety, it will give us the opportunity to be ourselves and share that with someone we love.

About the Author

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. Dr. Lisa Firestone is the Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association. An accomplished and much requested lecturer, Dr. Firestone speaks at national and international conferences in the areas of couple relations, parenting, and suicide and violence prevention. Dr. Firestone has published numerous professional articles, and most recently was the co-author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships (APA Books, 2006), Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice (New Harbinger, 2002), Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy (APA Books, 2003) and The Self Under Siege (Routledge, 2012). Follow Dr. Firestone on Twitter or Google.

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