In an attempt to rekindle those initial inklings of romance that first drove a couple to wedded bliss, a growing number of distressed married couples on the brink of separation or divorce are looking towards vacationing as an opportunity to save their broken marriage. Known as “save-cations,” these trips are regarded as a form of self-counseling and becoming a popular method for those experiencing marital distress.
But while it seems like a more mature and viable option than say, having a baby to save a marriage, these one-on-one getaways are actually not effective and prod further into an indication that a marriage is in dire trouble.
Author of The Sex-Starved Marriage and The Divorce Remedy, Michele Weiner-Davis suggests while vacations might be fun or even remind couples why they tied the knot in the first place, the real problem is that vacations end.
In a U.K. study from family law firm, Slater & Gordon, couples who embarked on a “make it or break it” vacation to save their relationship said the trip actually did more harm than good.
Although the British study reports 40 percent said the vacation added more tension to the relationship, 15 percent stated they were no longer in love after the trip.
Such data might seem ineffective for American couples to consider, but Business Insider reports the United States remains one of the leading countries in the world with the highest divorce rate at 53 percent. This gives researchers and experts reason to believe such sentiments are shared all over.
While getting away from distractions and outsiders provides many opportunities to unwind or re-ignite passions to solve marital issues, there is a flaw in that logic as this method does not solve calamitous relationship matters.
“One of the fundamental issues is that the holiday environment is essentially an artificial one and the problems that couples have will still be there when they return home,” explains Amanda McAlister, the head of family law at the British firm.
By now, we know good, loving relationships rooted in trust, friendship and effective communication are the keys to a happy union. But for those who have either broken trust through cheating or personal shortcomings, never considered their spouse their best friend, or are afraid to be communicative with them, these couples are not so lucky.
In a study from 2013, The New York Times chronicled stories of couples who tried “save-cations” to rescue their relationship from the edge of divorce. As it was reported though, several couples didn’t regain marital bliss while on their trip.
Psychologist and assistant professor at Columbia University, David M. Frost cautions while these types of trips might be helpful for some, they can easily backfire and become quite idealistic for the others.
“It’s highly unlikely that a vacation can be a magic cure-all—it might only be a temporary Band-Aid,” he says. Moreover, Frost adds the obligatory closeness can cause certain relationships to feel suffocated and implode.
Yet for so many couples that have broken trust with one another or are ineffectively uncommunicative, a “save-cation” may only provide a temporary resolution to problems that are destined to reveal themselves again in the future.
As Melissa Risso explained in “Can Having a Baby Resolve Marital Infidelity?” couples who do not address relationship distress often times find themselves confronting the anger, hurt and lies in other aspects of the relationship throughout its duration.
Carrie, 34 of Tampa Bay, Florida who shared her story with The Hudsucker back in February of attempting to save her marriage by having a baby explains that she too tried a “save-cation” before the wee wonder’s arrival, but to no success.
“During counseling, we decided to go on vacation but it was really bad,” she says. “It only served to clarify that our marriage was dead but we were too stubborn [and] that’s when we decided to have a baby.”
Of her own experience, Carrie shares spending consecutive days with your spouse might look like a good idea, but depending on the severity of the relationship’s distress, it’s not some magic wand to save you two from divorce.
“I’ve realized nothing could save my marriage but me, and I had to be really strong for my son,” she says. “When a child comes into the world because of a couple trying to save their marriage—and you’ve tried counseling, vacations, buying a new home—all those efforts put on the kid, well that kid feels it no matter how small they are and it’s a big load to carry for a baby.”
Taking a vacation might be well-intentioned, but editor of Psychology Today and author of A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, Hara Estroff Marano echoes Carrie’s sentiments and suggests “save-cations” are misguided.
“Very often, it’s because one partner realizes there’s something wrong and thinks that something new—a new home, going on vacation—is going to be the solution,” Mastrano says.
With such knowledge and genuine motivation, it’s important to know that a “save-cation” is a worthwhile adventure, but it takes two to constantly make it better—with or without the vacation. Therapists and researchers believe if you can’t resolve marital problems at home, it won’t work elsewhere. Vacations are fun, exciting and have potential to rev up the romance, but they’re not real life.
Nevertheless, toss family and kids into the mix, along with the strains of work life and socializing, and vacationing away your problems doesn’t work for anyone. While a vacation amidst a romantic milieu in Paris, a road trip for two through The Great Plains, or drinking away in Margaritaville are welcome distractions free from prying eyes and ears, they won’t heal reality from the couple in denial, nor fix dormant difficulties lying beneath the surface.
Sure, they work for some couples but for those facing deeper issues, like infidelity, incompatibility, distrust and ineffective communication (that has been long lasting), it’s a reality that needs to be addressed. Your partner will never be able to read your mind, so ensure that you both are on the same page with common goals for the betterment of your relationship. Try everything you can, but understand that if it is not genuinely working for both of you, it’s not working at all.