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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 5


It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.



Holidays can spell trouble!

Maggi Stamp, laterlife's counsellor on human relationships, suggests a few soul-searchings to ensure that a good time is had by all.

We invest a great deal of hope into our holiday time, but some people return disappointed and angry. Holidays can spell trouble! Though I am writing mainly about couples here, most of this  can apply to holidays with groups of friends, or another couple or family.

Try this, make a list of all the things you want from a holiday with your partner - or your friend. It could be pretty long and will contain some things which won`t be of mutual interest and possibly not achievable in a joint holiday. In talking to people about pending holidays, I find that in lists of wants and don't wants, spending time with their partner is often forgotten. 

This of course, is an essential part of maintaining a good relationship, but spending a whole two weeks with one person and enjoying every minute of it is a pretty tall order. Even among the most devoted of couples, family members or friends. 

If partners are usually very busy and working hard, they may not have spent much time talking - and listening - with each other about many things for some time. When it comes to planning holidays why should that pattern be any different? Even if they agree on where to go, they may well have different thoughts about how they would like to spend their time. 

The accepted pattern is that when on holiday you do things together. Well who`s idea was that? So long as you are doing something that both want to do, fine, but if it is assumed, without question,  that a partner will share all the same enthusiasms, then tensions are very likely to surface.  We cannot always like the same things.  

It is really important to ask each other: what do you want to do?  Start with the ‘wants' rather than the `don't wants', so that both feel more positive about finding common wishes and feel more willing to be flexible and considerate in the other areas.  (As I have said, this is relevant to friends and family holidaying together too.)

One couple I worked with tried this but sadly only went part of the way in their planning. They told each other what they wanted to do and left it at that. Each assumed that they had it worked out. Halfway through their holiday both became silent and grumpy, doing whatever the other suggested with bad grace and terse comments which undermined any enjoyment. 

In short they were sulking - something most of us learn in our formative years and rely on as a way of communicating long after it is of any use! Sulking in an adult is non-verbal shorthand for saying we are fed-up, assuming that someone will intuitively know what is troubling us. The ‘unspoken marriage vow' springs to my mind - ‘to love, honour, and read my mind'.  When our partner doesn`t read our mind - and fails to understand our sulk, it compounds matters, as it did for this couple. 

There is no guarantee of a tension-free holiday. We book flights, accommodation, arrange time off work and ensure things are left ready for others to job/house/pet-sit in our absence. A friend said recently it is the only time her kitchen looks tidy! We fill the fridge for members of the family left at home, leave instructions and reminders all over the place and fret about how they will cope. We pack our bags, our cars, and our minds! No wonder that we are exhausted by the time we set off, thoughts racing over mental checklists since the crack of dawn.

It is unrealistic to expect instant relaxation on arrival. Allow for these tensions to release slowly, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place or country. If you have done the early groundwork, openly accepting the need for rest as well as time for individual interests, it is less threatening when your partner says they would like to have a day of lying about in the sun without having to look after the children, or wandering in the hills, or just have a meal prepared for them. They may want your company on a trip that you would not choose yourself.   

Bargain - gently of course, so that you can ask the equivalent. Accommodating this without feeling personal rejection will relax and strengthen the feeling of pleasures shared. Allowing each other freedom within the relationship shows trust, respect and interest in the other's enjoyment that reassures them they are important to you - something that may not get said often enough in routine daily life.

And one more thing, occasional separate holidays can be wonderfully refreshing and stimulating for a couple.

Have a good holiday!

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To view previous articles  - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index page  



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