After kids, marriage got hard. Without scheduling time for small moments alone, I doubt my husband and I would even have a chance to catch up on our daily lives, let alone sneak in a little romance. More often than not, the most affection we can spare each other is a high five. We realized we were barely keeping our heads above water with the busyness of life with children, so my husband and I decided to make it a priority to take a vacation together once a year — without the kids.
While my husband and I are a nonextravagant middle-class couple, we do our damndest to work in an annual trip. We save up our credit card points so we can book a free hotel room, and sometimes, even flights for the two of us. Scrounging up the money is worth it for the chance to to spend some uninterrupted time together. And while our vacation locations have varied, our favorite thing to do is simply visit a new city for the first time and explore it together.
My favorite trip was when we drove from Metro-Detroit all the way up to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Despite the fact that we were tired from running around with the kids, it was an active vacation. We rode bikes along Lake Superior one day, letting the Summer wind whip our faces. Another day, we hiked all day, trying to make it to the top of a captivating mountain. Somehow, we managed to get lost and hiked 90 minutes in the wrong direction. Frustrated, my husband and I almost decided to head back to the hotel and to take a defeated nap. But with no tired children wobbling behind us, no sippy cups needing to be refilled, or empty bellies that needed to eat right this minute, we realized we had all the time in the world.
So, instead of canning the big hike, we worked as a team and managed to find our way to the top of that mountain. My husband and I snapped pictures standing tall with the bright blue lake and green leaves swaying behind us. Sweat dripped from our foreheads, and we beamed at our accomplishment — the accomplishment we did together. Alone. Because we simply would not have been able to catapult over that giant obstacle in our vacation if the kids would have been with us. And since they weren't, we were allowed to take our time to communicate and find our way to the top of that mountain. Time and communication: just what a healthy marriage needs.
And those two simple factors are why we take an annual vacation without the kids. We crave the time to communicate. After our big hike, we went out for some celebratory beers at a local brewery and indulged in each other. While we were exhausted from our adventure, we got lost in our conversation. Hours passed, until the waiter served us far too many rounds. But it didn't matter. We had the whole night ahead of us — and the next morning to sleep off those extra beers, too.
When my husband and I are on vacation, we miss the kids, of course, but the time away is imperative for our marriage. It's just what we need to feel as though our marriage has gone through a reboot. When we come home, yes, we come home to all of the busyness, but we feel more connected. For us, we need the yearly reminder of a vacation to show us why we're a couple in the first place. We were that before parents, after all.