Father Tony

Honey, Let's Tour Hell This Year

Filed By Father Tony | April 08, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay relationships, longterm relationships, ramblin man, vacation

Hey Father Tony,

What do you think of this? For the past five years my partner and I (15 years) have been taking separate vacations. Before that, we had some big time fights on vacation. So one year I just told him I'm going to Paris and I'm going alone. He didn't argue! That's the way it's been since. I think many long time couples do this and it works.

Ramblin Man Reinaldo

Dear Ramblin Man,

Far be it from me to trash what someone says works for him (them?) if happiness and satisfaction is the result and if that's the case for both parties, not just one, but I wonder if perhaps you both didn't throw in the towel rather than work out your differences.

All couples should sometimes travel alone. There should not be an obligation that two people always go everywhere together. That would be a fear-based rule that might indicate some problems such as lack of trust.

Vacation is supposed to be a restorative and playful time in which a couple celebrates each other. Unfortunately, like holidays, vacations can end up being the opposite. Finally released from the routines of home and work, and under heavy pressure to "have a really memorably terrifically significantly damn good time", the first task sometimes ends up being the airing of grievances that have been percolating just below the surface. I suspect that some pretty memorable rows have happened in deluxe hotel rooms that were paid for with the hopes of second honeymoons. Is that you guys?

Instead of learning to relax together and developing the skills needed to play together, you have gone separate ways, relieved of the storm clouds and tension you experienced in earlier joint outings. You remind me of couples like Truman Capote and his life long companion Jack Dunphy who decided they could not live in the same house but lived next door to each other for their whole lives. They said it worked out for them but I've always wondered if it marked a "settling", and that they each would have preferred something better.

Vacationing with your partner - like working with your partner (something many couples see as impossible) - is an art. You need to make constant compromises about how you will use time and money. If you go to a gay ghetto or if you embark on one of those mega gay cruises in the company of thousands of bathing-suited tipsy same-sexers, there is also the matter of sexual exclusivity and jealousy to handle. If you or your partner is a control freak, fuhgetaboutit.

Personally speaking, my husband takes longer to shed work and get into the vacation groove than do I. This used to be a problem. Now, I expect it and I build in ways to help him speed up that process, but it no longer causes me frustration. We also have different walking speeds. To deal with this, sometimes I speed up and sometimes he slows down. This never works out perfectly, but we accept the difference, anticipate it and defuse it (although sometimes I will come to a complete stop on the sidewalk and count the number of blocks he will go before noticing that I am not by his side...) He is not fond of foreign flea markets and I can't pass them up. He will always enter them with me because he knows I enjoy it and then he ends up buying much more than I do. And that brings me to the real reason why I am not a fan of your solution. You will never be surprised together.

Sometimes, when you do the things your partner enjoys but you expect to hate, there is surprise. I have accompanied my husband to concerts and shows that I thought i would absolutely hate only to end up buying the CD and keeping it in my car for years. Go figure.

Surely you got together with your partner because you delighted in each other's company. Have you taken the time needed to find out if and why that changed? Do you not wish to be able to share a vacation with him?

Look, you are not the first to tell me about the "separate vacations" thing. I wonder if there is only a difference in degree between separate vacations, separate homes, separate bedrooms and that blessed luxury called "separate bathrooms". About 70% of me wants to tell you that you should work to take an enjoyable joint vacation. About 25% of me wants to encourage people to make whatever arrangements work for them in the course of our all-too-short lives. About 5% of me is telling me to shut up.

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Speaking from personal experience...

I agree that what vacations should be is a time to be alone together and enjoy each other's company. But bear in mind that anything that's an issue will just be amplified a hundred-fold when you're alone together 24/7 for days on end.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | April 8, 2010 1:11 PM

Ramblin Man doesn't give any details, but after 15 years of being together I am sure that there are steps they could take to vacation together, enjoy and deepen their relationship. We all often forget in the midst of a conflict with a partner or even a friend that overcoming a conflict deepens and strengthens the relationship.

Ramblin man and his partner have nothing to lose and everything to gain from clearing this issue up. But that, of course, doesn't mean solitary trips to Paris are never allowed.

We have learned that visits to family are not always vacations, so each of us goes alone for regular visits. We have to get away from routine and obligations for us to enjoy each other like we used to do. It's worth all the fuss to get there, though, and we have a tacit agreement that "real life" is to be left behind for the most part. As long as we do talk about the important things before and after, we can be free to enjoy each other during.

We do make concessions: I have to grit my teeth and stroll—which just about kills me—and he agrees to tag along where I pull. We can laugh about the tension this creates, and that is the key.

We've had separate vacations and ones together. Both were enjoyable - but for different reasons.