Travelling as a couple, whether on a short break or long term, can be tough on a relationship. Spending so much time together while dealing with finances, planning and the inevitable stresses that travel brings can highlight issues that might not pop up back home.
Tim and I were married less than a year when we left and we were still figuring each other out and working on our relationship as we travelled. We’ve been through things that we never would have been through if we hadn’t left on our trip, and learned so much about how we work individually and together. We’re both similar in lots of ways, and different in lots of ways too – which means that we can get into arguments like anyone else. I worry more about money, he gets stressed when he has to plan things, and we both had very different ways of expressing how we felt. Over time, we’ve learned how to communicate more effectively, and just enjoy each other more and stress out less.
Here are our top tips for keeping your relationship happy and healthy while you travel!
Have ‘me’ time
It can be easy to lose sight of your individuality after spending so much time together, so make sure you take days where you both can do your own thing. Remember that you are still YOU, and not just one half of a couple.
Go to a coffee shop with a book, get a massage or get your nails or hair done, go see a movie, go shopping (or window shopping if your budget doesn’t run to buying anything!). Whatever you do, make sure you can disconnect and focus on yourself. Sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom with a face mask, hair mask, Netflix and any other beauty products I can find, coming out feeling much more like myself.
Find out your Love Language
Ok this might sound a little unusual, but bear with me because this could change your relationship. Your “Love Language” is how you communicate your affection for your other half, and how you experience love from your other half. The idea is that you learn your partner’s ‘love language’ and understand what they need from you to feel loved, and they do the same for you.
Maybe you’ve been surprising them with gifts but they really just want quality time with you, maybe you’re verbally telling them how much they mean to you but they really want you to show them by helping them with tasks, making them tea, or picking up their favourite foods. You might not realise that how you express love is not the same as how your other half experiences it. So while you’re trying to show them how much you care, that message isn’t being received because it is being given in the wrong way.
There are 5 different love languages and the theory is that we all speak our own language and we all give love in the same way we want to receive love. The problem here is when you and your other half don’t speak the same language, it can lead to arguments, hurt feelings and wasted efforts.
Take this quiz to find out each of your love languages and learn how to speak each other’s. Tim and I speak totally opposite ones so doing the quiz helped us SO much and it makes our relationship a lot easier. In stressful times we know exactly what the other person needs now and we’re not scrambling to do anything to make them feel better.
Just remember to answer truthfully and to focus on your partner’s language more than your own, because that’s what you need to speak from now on.
Let your other half have a bad day
Bad moods and bad days happen; you wake up in a lousy mood but your other half hasn’t done anything to contribute to it. There’s no reason for how you feel apart from tiredness, hormones, travel stress or homesickness. You don’t want to take it out on anyone and you want to be in a good mood, but you just can’t get yourself together.
When you’re home and feel like this you can just spend some time on your own, but that’s not always an option when you’re travelling as part of a couple. A really important thing we’ve learned is how to have a bad day without taking it out on each other. And also, to allow each other to be in a bad mood without putting them under pressure to ‘get over it’.
Sometimes it’s as easy as saying ‘I’m not feeling very positive today so I’m going to just read and have some space for a while’. Even saying that can deflate your mood a little, and also lets your partner know not to take anything you say too seriously if you do snap at them a little.
Respect each other’s individuality
Don’t just indulge your other half by doing things they want to do when they suggest them, but seek out stuff you know they’ll like that you might not. Often we can miss out on things we want to do as we don’t want to ‘force’ the other one to do something we feel they wouldn’t like.
Tim and I have a lot of similar interests, but also a lot of different ones. It would be easier to just focus on doing things we both enjoy, but that leads to us feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled. I bring him to rock bars, he finds gyms and fitness classes that I can go to, and sometimes even comes with me! Doing things like this will make you feel appreciated, and let them enjoy the things they love without feeling like they’ve made you do something you don’t like.
Drop a subject if the argument isn’t going anywhere
Arguments can be healthy for a relationship as they help us to understand the other person’s point of view, and become closer. But needless arguments just put unnecessary stress on your relationship – and ruin your day. Sometimes a disagreement doesn’t happen because of a problem in your relationship, but because one of you is tired, hungry or hormonal, and it doesn’t actually MEAN anything in the wider sense of your relationship.
Oftentimes if you take a step back, you can see which type of argument you’re in, and if it’s the latter then drop the subject temporarily and speak about it again when you’re feeling better. We’ve all heard the advice to ‘never fall asleep on a fight’ but I say feck that! What if you’re only fighting because you’re so tired??? Then maybe it’s a good idea to get some rest and then see how you feel the next day.
Learn how to identify those genuine issues from emotional moments, and take a step back if the argument isn’t for any other reason than to get your frustrations out.
Carve out date time
When you’re back home, going out to eat is usually a special occasion or a nice treat. When you travel together, you eat out together every day, so you don’t end up putting much effort into this time. After a while, you realise you haven’t had a date night or special meal in a while.
There were points at the start of our trip where we felt like two parents who went out for dinner together alone but all we could talk about was the kids. Except travel was our kids. It was ALL we would talk about when we would sit down for food. We would talk about what we had spent that day, how much we had left in the budget, where were going next, what we would do in the next place, we were booking hotels on our phones, and googling things to do. There was a point where I thought – did we ever talk about anything but travel??
Try to have a regular night where you focus just on each other. It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive occasion – we often have a picnic in a park or on beach at sunset which is super cheap but really nice! The main thing is to treat the evening like a special occasion – don’t talk about your budget, don’t try to make plans for the next day or next country, don’t talk about any kind of travel related planning or logistics, just chat to each other!
I know every couple is different, but those are things that have really helped Tim and I to become better at travelling as a couple. Spending so much time with one person can put pressure on a relationship, so don’t worry if it’s hard at first! You’ll get better at learning how to travel together over time, and your relationship will become stronger.
If you’re travelling as a couple, I’d love to hear any advice or insights you can give about learning how do maintain your relationship on the road!