Why solo travel in a relationship is healthy, according to experts

Tanya Ghahremani

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Why a dose of solo travel won’t bring about the apocalypse or murder your relationship in its sleep, but could actually make your bond stronger 

When you’re in a relationship, it can sometimes feel like there’s an inherent pressure to do everything with your significant other.

This pressure doesn’t necessarily come from within the relationship (though some people are more prone to wanting to do everything with their partner than others); rather, it comes from society, which seems to promote the idea that if couples don’t do everything from going to the grocery store to trips around the world together, it must mean a breakup is imminent.

Of course, we all know logically that separate lives and hobbies are integral to a healthy relationship, and that it’s unfair to expect your partner to have the same interests as you, but, you can’t deny that seeing a friend solo travel while they were in a long-term relationship would leave you questioning whether or not they were still with their significant other.

According to some relationship experts, however, this is a thought process we should all move away from. Traveling on your own, without your significant other, can be extremely healthy for your relationship — in fact, according to Dr. Miro Gudelsky, a sex therapist, relationship counselor, and intimacy expert based in Los Angeles, CA, it can strengthen your bond with your partner.

“Traveling solo can be so good for the soul!” he says. “You really get a chance to figure out who you are and what you like or don’t like. This, in turn, can definitely make your relationships stronger and more satisfying.”

Of course, traveling solo without your significant other — and your significant other traveling solo without you — is something that both partners should discuss at length prior to making any plans. But there are a few reasons why traveling solo could end up making your relationship stronger, and they make the effort well worth it.

1. It helps you grow more confident in yourself and prevents you from relying on your partner in an unhealthy way.

As Dr Patrick Wanis, a behavior and relationship expert and author of Get Over Your Ex Now, tells us, learning your own interests and allowing your partner to learn theirs is key to maintaining a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

“Traveling on your own is first and foremost potentially extremely healthy for you depending on how you do it. When you travel on your own, you have the opportunity to discover yourself,” he says. “Traveling solo gives you both time to yourself in a new environment and the opportunity to experience a new culture out of your comfort zone — both things that teach you more about yourself and who you are than anything else.”

This is important, because you can’t rely on your partner to be everything to you — you need to be everything to you.

Read more: Is solo travel okay if you’re not single?

“What a lot of people tend to expect from their partner isn’t just perfection, it’s that they expect their partner to be everything for them,” he continues, “and that’s not possible. [Your partner] can be your best friend, your partner can be your companion, but it’s very unfair to say to your partner, ‘You have to be my best friend, you have to be my travel companion, you have to like everything I like, and to do everything I like.’”

The more you know about yourself and the more confident you are in yourself, the less likely you’re going to feel like you need your partner to be a carbon copy of you to be your perfect match.

2. It allows you to travel the way you want, even if your partner has different interests than you.

According to Wanis, there are often two styles of traveling, and people generally fall into one category or the other: the tourist, and the traveler.

“The tourists are the people who just come in and want to do the basic sightseeing,” he says. “They want to see all the typical hot spots, say they’ve been to this museum and this particular bridge, etc. A traveler is the person that comes in and wants to spend a couple of days in a city, and really get to feel the city, and connect with its people.

“The tourist is interested in the hotspots, the traveler is really interested in immersing him or herself in the culture of the place. So, find out what your partner is really interested in, because perhaps they want to be a tourist and you want to be a traveler, or vice versa.”

If you find that your partner has a different traveling style than you do, solo travel can allow you both to have the experiences you want to have without disagreeing over how your time should be spent during your trip.

Similarly, Christine Scott-Hudson, a licensed psychotherapist, marriage/family therapist, and the owner of Create Your Life Studio, says that taking separate trips from a partner who has a different traveling style than you can just simply be a practical solution.

“This is actually a common thing I hear in couples’ therapy — couples have widely differing ideas of the perfect vacation,” she tells Flash Pack. “Taking a separate vacation can be a practical solution for everyone. You can hike Machu Picchu with your sister and let your significant other lounge by the hotel pool with a good book.”

As both experts note, as long as both partners talk about what the other wants respectfully, it’s a healthy strategy.

3. It will help increase the amount of trust you have in one another.

Being apart from your significant other, whether you’re in a long-time relationship or a new relationship can be stressful. This is why trust in your partner is so important: otherwise, you’re just left wondering if your partner is respecting you while they’re away.

When it comes to traveling solo without your partner, trust between significant others couldn’t be more important — things simply won’t work unless both partners make efforts to ensure that the other feels comfortable, especially if that solo trip is taking place somewhere you or your partner will have limited access to phone service or Wi-Fi.

Read more: “Why I chose to marry myself and live as a proud sologamist”

However, if this sort of deep trust is established while one or both partners is traveling alone, it’ll absolutely be maintained once the couple reunites. So, how does one maintain or grow this sort of trust with their partner while traveling solo, sometimes literally across the world?

According to Michelle Baxo, a love coach with a masters in counseling psychology and the founder of Power Love Programs, there are three recommendations she has for couples who decide to travel separately.

“Call at the end of the day to share with each other. Make sure both of you share about your day. I don’t recommend you do more than this however,” she says. “It’s important that you both live independently during this time so don’t text all day long.

“{Second] do not make your experiences seem more important than the other person’s life at home. Envy may be inevitable since you are doing something exciting and outside of the ordinary, but being interested in the person at home’s life is essential.

“[Third] do not give any sense that the person at home should be worried that you are cheating or wanting to leave them. Let them know that you love them and look forward to being together again soon.”

Wanis recommends discussing expectations for how frequently you’re going to communicate with your partner while you’re away.

“The frequency of the communication with your partner depends on how frequently you both communicate,” he says. “Find out what level of frequency of communication does your partner need, and what level of frequency of communication do you need. Because you might be traveling where there’s huge difference in the time zones, and you might need your partner to reach out to you. Set that up in advance.”

4. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

The phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a mainstay in pop culture for a reason: It’s actually true. “Traveling solo can be an excellent practice in a relationship,” Baxo tells Flash Pack. “It allows for both people to build their sense of self and feel more confident as a whole and complete, individual person. This is also an opportunity to experience the joy in missing someone. Absence does make the heart grow stronger.”

In other words, if you’re away from someone important to you, you’re going to cherish and appreciate the things that make them important to you — things you may take for granted when you see someone on a daily or even just a consistent basis. Even if you’re traveling and having new experiences, you’ll undoubtedly think about your partner — and, ideally, you’ll grow excited for when you next get to see them.

5. It can prove that you’re with the right person.

Unfortunately, another possibility of being away from your partner is that you might realize you don’t actually miss them. Traveling can be distracting, of course — from kayaking the waters of Croatia to experiencing the Northern Lights in Finland, you can hardly be blamed for being a little distant while you’re discovering new parts of the world during your trips.

However, if you find yourself far too distracted by your travels to think about reaching out to your partner at least on a daily basis, this can be a clear indicator that you are not with the right person.

“Sometimes people are surprised when they go traveling but they don’t actually miss their partner,” says Wanis. “When you go traveling on your own and if you’ve gone long enough, you’ll be really surprised by whom you are thinking of most of the time, and what things make you think of particular people.”

This, Wanis says, can be indicated if you ask yourself why you want to travel alone. Is it for new experiences, and to learn more about who you are? Or, is it to take some space away from your partner?

“Have an open conversation [with your partner]. That means speak from your heart and tell him or her, why do I want to travel alone? The reason I want to travel alone is I want to challenge myself, I want to feel free and independent, I want to learn more about myself… or, if it’s, I really want some freedom, I really need some space, I don’t know if we’re going in the right direction. You need to make sure that you’re clear about who you are or what you want in your relationship. And don’t play games with your partner. If you really want to travel on your own with no commitments, then do that. Don’t be wishy-washy about why you’re going and what you’re going to do.”

Read more: What Americans can learn from Europe’s travelling habits

Similarly, Erica Rojas, a Columbia University-trained licensed psychologist and founder of Broadway Psychology Associates in New York, NY, tells Flash Pack that traveling without your partner can highlight issues in your relationship — especially if one partner wants to travel on their own while the other doesn’t.

“Is one partner itching to travel without the other to ‘escape’ the relationship due to tension?” she says. “Is the non-consenting partner insecure or mistrusting of the other if he or she were to travel without them? All of these are red flags as to deeper issues that may be arising within the relationship. If that’s the case, the desire to travel alone may be coming from a deeper place.”

6. You’ll establish healthier communication skills with your partner.

If you’re traveling on the other side of the world, away from your partner, communication is key to keeping things in your relationship healthy and trusting — but, as Wanis previously explained, this can be difficult if you’re in completely different time zones.

However, there are other ways to ensure you’re communicating with your partner in a way you both need, and it boils down to you both understanding the other’s love language (aka, their preferred way of being shown affection and appreciation by their partner).

“Does your partner have a love language of needing verbal affirmation?” says Wanis. “Does your partner have a love language of affection? Does your partner have a love language of undivided attention? That’s important so then you can say, my partner really needs to be validated, so I’m going to send him or her a text message, or an email, or some other form of communication to say I love you, I’m thinking about you, I miss you

“Perhaps you might have the opportunity to post on social media and say, ‘Here I am in front of the Eiffel Tower and I really miss my boyfriend or my girlfriend.’’”

Wanis adds that couples should decide how involved they want the other to be in their trip.

“Do you want them to feel like they are actually traveling with you or not? And if you want them to feel like they’re traveling with you, then you send them lots of little updates, you send them photos, you send them little messages, and you say I’m at this place and it’s so beautiful and I wish you were here with me. So really the way to maintain the relationship is to keep the communication going, and to send messages that lets your partner know that you’re there with them in spirit.”

Similarly, Gudelsky says that communication is key.

“The idea that you can be away from each other, have your own experiences and come back together and be even better can definitely strengthen a couple’s bond,” she says. “For that to happen, there needs to be a lot of communication before the journey so that everyone clearly understands what is going on.”

7. You’ll both grow as people on your own and respect the other’s independence.

According to Rojas, traveling on your own can be a good reminder that you are no less of an individual than you were before you entered into your relationship.

“Some of us fiercely value our independence and the need to still preserve parts of ourselves that were evident and true before we entered said relationship,” she says. “Say this independence is marked by a need to travel and reconnect with the self. Does your partner also value your need for independence? Are they supportive of you traveling alone? Can you also be supportive of their needs for independence, although they might look differently than yours?”

If the answers are yes, then you can be sure you’re in a strong relationship — one that will be strengthened by the time apart.

“Not only is it is a representation of the equal give and take in the relationship,” continues Rojas, “but also a sign that each partner is supportive of the other’s needs for individuation.”

Establishing individual identities while taking in other cultures, experiencing new things, and seeing different parts of the world will help you both respect the other more, as well as establish a good precedent for future time apart as well. You both know you got through one or both partners traveling alone before — so, you know your relationship is strong.

Overall, traveling on your own without your significant other has the potential to be healthy for your relationship — and the experiences you gain can even make your bond with your partner stronger when you return home.

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