So what if you only met Chris a few weeks ago? You two have been inseparable ever since. Your first date? Intoxicating. Your first night staying over? Everything you hoped it would be. And now, you’re sure you’re ready for that first trip away together. But before you start booking airfares to Atlanta or a pied a terre in Portland, we sought some advice on navigating that potentially perilous path from Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, author of the new book, Marriage in the Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works and founder/managing partner of Symmetry Counseling, a group counseling, coaching and psychotherapy practice in Chicago:
Is there anything to keep in mind before we ask our sweetheart to take off with us?
Dr. Malec: “The anticipation of a first-time trip with a new love interest can feel exhilarating. It is so easy to get caught up in the thrill of the romantic possibilities, of meeting new people, seeing new places, and finding shared interests. Of course, the best part is spending uninterrupted days with your new love.
However, there are potential dangers. Traveling as a couple for the first time can make each partner feel pressured to ‘travel well’ together; individuals can often place a lot of significance on how well they do this, feeling it is indicative of how well-suited they are and what it can mean for their future relationship. Let’s face it spending 72 hours together (or even longer) when still in the ‘getting to know you’ phase can expose a relationship to a lot of potential pitfalls.”
Should we aim for a quick getaway or attempt an extended sojourn?
“Early on in a relationship it will probably feel more natural for you to take a shorter trip instead of a longer one. So much excitement of a first-time getaway can make for really great memories or can expose each of you to a partner’s less-than-perfectness. All of us have our quirks, bad habits, and flaws that eventually present in our relationships, but most of us would agree that these aspects of our personalities are better handled if they are displayed slowly over time, when the relationship feels steadier and more like a done deal. You may want to consider basing your decision for the length of trip on how much consecutive time you have spent together to-date. For instance, if you have gone out once or twice per week for a couple months, an overnight or two might feel better than an extended trip. The upside of a shorter trip is that if things go really well you will feel optimistic about your future, and if the experience is less than ideal, the trip will end soon enough!”
OK, we’re booked, so we’re ready to go, right?
“Once the length and timing of the trip is set, other pertinent details to discuss include: what kind of traveler are you? Do you like to sit by the pool and read or take in everything your destination has to offer? How will you share costs of the trip? Will you use miles, cash, or credit cards? What do you envision for meals? Eating at posh restaurants, taking advantage of street food, grabbing something in the hotel lobby, room service, or sleeping past breakfast? Is one of you a night owl and the other a morning person? There is absolutely nothing wrong with having different preferences or travel styles, just be sure to talk about them and figure out a way to integrate and respect your differing tastes. It will be important to find a good balance now and into the future.
The best way to set the trip up for success is to discuss all of these potentialities beforehand. This is the time to make your wishes known. It is normal to want to be overly agreeable and adaptable early on in any relationship to show your new partner how much you are willing to roll with things, but the danger is that if you fail to express your wants and desires, you may wind up doing only what your partner wants. It is your weekend too! Don’t be shy about communicating your likes and dislikes and how you would like to spend your time. After all, one of the benefits of being in a relationship is for our partners to broaden and expand our world. New experiences and novelty help keep your relationship feeling ‘new’.”
And, once we’re already on the road?
“Be sure to have a daily ‘check-in’ while traveling: at the end of each day talk about the upcoming day and what each of you would like to do. Don’t be afraid to hold back on what you really want to do – your new friend cannot read your mind, so state your preferences and wishes. Figure out a way to balance each of your wishes that feels fair and equitable. Again, be mindful of being overly agreeable to your partner’s request if you would prefer to do something else; as this can sometimes lead to you feeling resentful. The goal is for both of you to have a good time.”
What if we’re going away with friends or attending a cousin’s wedding?
“Traveling with friends or meeting family members for the first time can also introduce complexities and may require taking others’ needs and schedules into account. The same guidance holds true, but with the addition of being sure to carve out alone time for just the two of you to make lasting memories and to learn about each other. “