In a relationship it can sometimes feel like there’s an inherent pressure to do everything with your partner. It 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. There seems to be the notion that if couples don’t do everything, from going to the grocery store to trips around the world, it must mean a breakup is imminent.
We know logically that separate lives and hobbies are integral to a healthy relationship. It’s unrealistic to expect a partner to have the exact same interests, but often wanting to travel solo brings up the question — is it okay to go it alone?
According to some relationship experts, this is a thought process we should all move away from. Traveling on your own, without a partner, 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, 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, what you like or don’t like. This, in turn, can make your relationship stronger and more satisfying.”
Traveling on your own is, first and foremost, healthy for you
As Dr Patrick Wanis, a behaviour 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, extremely healthy for you, depending on how you do it. When you travel alone, 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 of these things teach you more about yourself and who you are than anything else.”
And, it’s important. You can’t rely on your partner to be everything to you — you need to be everything to you. “What a lot of people expect from their partner is perfection,” he continues. “But that’s not possible. Your partner can be your best friend and your companion, but it’s unfair to then suggest they have to like everything you like and to do everything you do.’”
The more you know about yourself and the more confident you are in that, 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.
Solo trips can allow you both to have the experiences you want
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 want to do the basic sightseeing,” he says. “They want to see all the typical hot spots. He continues, “A traveler is the person that comes in and wants to spend a couple of days in a city, really feeling it and connecting with its people.
If you find that your partner has a different traveling style to you, solo trips can allow you both to have the experiences you want without disagreeing over how your time should be spent.
Similarly, Christine Scott-Hudson, a licensed psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, and the owner of Create Your Life Studio, says that taking separate trips can just simply be a practical solution.
“This is actually a common thing I hear in couples’ therapy — they 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, while your partner lounges by the hotel pool with a good book.”
As both experts note, as long as the couple talk about what the other wants respectfully, it’s a healthy strategy.
Let them know that you love them
However, being apart from a partner, whether you’re in a long-time relationship or a new relationship, can be stressful. This is why trust and feeling secure is so important. Make sure everyone feels comfortable, especially if that solo trip is taking place somewhere you or your partner will have limited access to phone services or Wi-Fi.
If this deep trust is established while one or both partners is traveling alone, it can often be maintained once the couple reunites. 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 what you’ve done with your day. I don’t recommend you do more than this,” she says. “It’s important that you both live independently during this time – so don’t text all day long.
“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, too, is essential.
“And, do not give any sense that the person at home should be worried of you wanting to leave them. Let them know that you love them and look forward to being together again soon.”
Wanis also 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 normally communicate,” he says. “Find out what level of frequency of communication you and your partner both need. You might be traveling where there’s a difference in the time zones and you might need your partner to reach out, so set that up in advance,” she confirms.
It’s an opportunity to experience the joy in missing someone
The phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a mainstay in pop culture for a reason: it’s often 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. It’s also an opportunity to experience the joy in missing someone. Absence does make the heart grow stronger.”
If you’re away from someone important, you can often find capacity to cherish and appreciate the things that make them so special — things you may take for granted when you see someone daily. 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 get back.
Sometimes people don’t actually miss their partner
There is, of course, the possibility 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 wouldn’t be blamed for being a little distant while discovering new parts of the world.
However, if you find yourself not thinking about your partner or excited to see them when you return, this can be an indicator that your relationship isn’t what you need right now. “Sometimes people are surprised when they go travelling but they don’t actually miss their partner,” says Wanis. 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. Red flags may be arising within the relationship. If that’s the case, the desire to travel alone may be coming from a deeper place.”
It’s good to ask yourself why you want to travel alone? Is it for new experiences, to learn more about who you are? Or, is it to take some space away from your partner? “Have an open conversation and speak from your heart. 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.”
There needs to be a lot of communication before the journey
If you’re traveling on the other side of the world, communication is key. There are ways to ensure you’re communicating with your partner, 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. She 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?
Similarly, Gudelsky says, “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.”
Some of us fiercely value our 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. “If this independence is marked by a need to travel and reconnect with the self, does your partner value your need for that? Are they supportive of you traveling alone? If the answers are yes, then you could be in a strong relationship — one that can be strengthened by the time apart.
“Not only is it 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 can help you both respect the other more. It also establishes a good precedent for future time apart, and you know your relationship can be stronger because of it.
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Images: Flash Pack