Couples Relationships Vacation Survival Guide

Carrie Rutman

8/8/20233 min read

Has your summer family vacation ever felt like the childhood game of Twister? Think about it… at first glance, the board (and the vacation) is simple and to the clear. Right foot green, left hand yellow (family trip, Hawaii)

But as you start playing the game, you quickly become placed in positions you never could have anticipated. Your heart starts to race as sweat drips down your neck. You hold your breath as you feel the incessant shaking of your left foot that is snaked behind your left hand. You desperately spin the wheel, hoping to land on left foot green- the only move that can relieve you from the stress and pressure you are putting on your body. And then… you see it. Right hand red, the dreaded move that will easily send you crashing to the floor. Ok, you likely get the point here, let’s bring it back to the vacation

Your plan was clear - the entire family, including your parents and your sibling, would gather for a week of fun and relaxation at a 5-star Hawaii resort. At first, everything seemed perfect - the sun was shining, the waves were inviting, and laughter filled the air as they all enjoyed each other's company. However, as the days passed, the stress of being around so many opinionated family members, along with the exhaustion of managing your own children in a new environment, starts to take an emotional toll on your relationship.

At Couples Therapy West Hollywood, we are here to support couples in preparing for the sudden crash of an unexpected “right hand red” that may unfold during the next family vacation, or at any point in your relationship. Read on to learn more about some of the common issues that cause the “crash” and discover some helpful tools on how to prevent it:

  • Unclear boundaries with partner/family- Perhaps you haven’t talked openly with one another or your extended family about your specific needs, desires, or hopes for how you will all interact during the vacation. Establishing boundaries with your partner & your family promotes respect, understanding, and a more positive environment for everyone involved. Setting boundaries helps you communicate your needs, values, and limits clearly, creating a more balanced and respectful dynamic. Tip: Before setting boundaries, take some time to reflect on your emotional, physical, and mental needs and identify what makes you feel comfortable and what behaviors or situations you wish to address. Boundaries are most effective when they are clear, concise, and consistent.

  • Triangulation- Do you find yourself constantly bickering with your partner during your vacation and often unloading those frustrations onto your sister or another family member? You may bring them in as your sounding board, and at times even use them to your defense during the conflict. This can lead to a lack of open communication with your partner and potentially cause them to feel left out or undermined. According to family systems theorist Murray Bowen, triangulation happens when the two-person structure (the couple) is unstable and in need of more support. Pulling in a third person/thing creates a triangular “structure”, boosting stability and lessening stress between the two partners. Instead, try increasing your open and honest communication by talking about your feelings, concerns, and needs, and actively listening to each other without involving third parties or distractions.

  • Mindreading- This often happens when we assume or wish our partner would know what’s upsetting us without needing to tell them. Perhaps you need time away from the kids, or your father is getting on your nerves, but instead of sharing this you believe your partner should “just know” and offer help/solutions. The truth is, even if you deeply know someone, nobody can read another person's mind with absolute accuracy. This is why it’s crucial for couples to communicate directly about their thoughts, feelings, and needs to avoid misunderstandings or breakdowns. The healthiest relationships include open communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to work together to understand each other's needs and emotions.

Before heading out on your next all-inclusive family getaway to the Bahamas, check out our helpful Summer Family Vacation Couples Survival guide for tools to support you and your partner during times of heightened stress and anxiety.