Separate vacations can stress marriagesby The Wall Street Journal on Jul. 21, 2006, under Family, Nation/World
When Glenn Driver took off for a Cuban vacation by himself a few years ago, he sorely miscalculated one thing: His wife’s reaction.
During a phone call home, he realized that Anne Driver was so angry about the trip that she was having thoughts of splitting up. So he cut the vacation short and raced home. The Venice, Calif., couple entered counseling, resolved their differences and are still happily married today. But the rift taught them much about the perils of leaving your spouse home alone.
Solo travel poses major challenges to couples. Amid an increase in leisure travel in general, solo travelers who are married are setting out alone, for many reasons. About one-third of U.S. adults have traveled separately from their spouses because one had to stay home and work, says the online travel concern Expedia.com, based on a random Harris Interactive survey this month of 2,228 adults.
Competing family obligations pull other couples apart, such as caring for elderly relatives in one state and children in another. Some have separate interests; one partner may want adventure travel or time with old friends that the other would rather miss.
The life of the left-behind spouse is a checkered affair, ranging from resentment and bouts with workaholism, to rediscovery of the joy of solitude.
Separate travel can trigger insecurities, of course, such as fears that the traveling partner is having an affair. For a few, solo travel does turn out to be a symptom of serious trouble.
But in a far greater number of marriages, solo vacations reflect a delicate balancing act by couples committed to each other, and working out the challenges in unique ways.
Steven Boggs and his wife, Paula, of Gaffney, S.C., have argued sometimes about Paula’s solo trips to see friends or help far-flung family members, says Dr. Boggs, an anesthesiologist. Paula adds, “There are times Steve resents it.” Since her husband is the sole breadwinner for their family of four, she says, “He has to work like a dog.” Steve says that when an acquaintance asked him why he was alone while Paula visited a friend elsewhere, he replied, “Hey, somebody has to pay for all this stuff.”
But the two of them have talked the issue through. Paula limits her solo trips to a week at a time, and she encourages Steve to get away, too, such as taking a trip to attend his medical-school reunion. And they always take an annual vacation as a couple.
Before a partner takes off alone, “you really have to look into yourself and determine your true motivations,” Steve says. In their case, Paula says, each truly wants the other to be happy.