A year ago, I was listening to @JennaKutcher who had been talking about how she and her husband go away for a month of the year. As Naz and I mulled this over, we asked ourselves, "Why can't we do that?" And with that question, it was decided. So we blocked off the month of February (which is the only month we've never had a wedding in five years!) in our trusty google calendar and spent 2018 dreaming and planning this getaway. We kept wondering if it would feel like enough time? Or would it be too much time? We had no idea!
I think because we run a business together, most people get the impression that we daily work side by side and spend all of our time together. However, more often than not, that isn't the case. Many days I am home editing and Nazari is out on a shoot or traveling. We are also two extraverts that struggle with the ability to say no. Plus we both have big families, and a housemate (who is the absolute best). Thus, our lives tend to be very full - for which we are SO grateful and have no complaints. But we often find that time alone together is infrequent, and in our busiest seasons, non existent.
So our main goal with our trip was to experience some R&R and some adventure, but mostly some uninterrupted time together. It's safe to say: it exceeded every one of our expectations on every level. To be honest, as much as we love our life in Pittsburgh, we did not want to come home. Not as much because of the places we visited (although they were pretty epic :) but more so because of the time we were having together. Something happens (for us) when we step out of the busy-ness of day to day life and into a new location that offers a "reset" of sorts. We are able to focus on the things we want to prioritize in life and in our relationship and better live them out. We are more patient with one another. We laugh so much. We dig deeper into our past and make time for lengthly conversations (that used happened frequently and effortlessly all the time when we were dating!). We learn more about each other and grow together exponentially.
We spent a lot of time really looking into the things that cause us to fight and found that most often when we act our worst it's because we are hurt or insecure about something. We were able to practice kindly communicating to one another, and sit in some really tough conversations that were so healing and unifying.
Now that our trip has come and gone, we're reminded that it can be so easy to fall right back into old patterns and habits: Poor conflict management. No alone time together. Bad communication. Being on our phones too much. All things that put a wedge between us. (Like this morning when Nazari said something that really hurt me so I yelled and stormed out of the room like a child). He graciously followed me, gave me a hug, apologized and asked that I please not just forget everything we had been working on.
In the heat of emotion, it can feel like we don't have a choice. Apologizing is tough. Humility is tough. Talking about our vulnerabilities and admitting our weaknesses is tough. Staying calm when your blood is boiling is tough. Putting away our phones so we can intentionally connect with the person in front of us in the little windows of time we are given is tough. As is creating the margin to allow for deep, engaging conversations with one another about things outside of work and responsibilities.
That said, one of the main things we focused on while we were away were how we could sustain the connection and communication that happen when we are away. The three variables we found that make the biggest difference in how we relate to one another are: alone time together; being off our phones for an extended period of time, and HOW we communicate to one another, especially in conflict (which for us is inevitable ;)
It's much easier to do that when there are no distractions and demands pulling us in a million different directions. In attempt to bring more of our vacation selves (aka best selves) to every day life, we started by:
Blocking our calendars every couple weeks for time together - no people or phones
We talked about how to keep connected when one of us is traveling (because we are terrible at phone calls and can go days and days without communicating) and found that marco polo seems to be a great solution for us!
We started sleeping naked - something we had never done before that has proved to really make us more comfortable together, and feels very intimate - even when we aren't being "intimate" ;)
We still have a long way to go, but practice makes for progress. But we also can't improve if we never take the time to assess the problem and discover what is really going on. So whether it's a vacation, an intentional date night, counseling, or anything else, it's imperative to create space to connect, be vulnerable, and come up with realistic solutions to problems we continually face.
What do you do in your relationship