Holidays: do they help or hinder your relationship?
A summer holiday can send a struggling couple over the edge - away from the distractions of everyday life, it can highlight just how far you've drifted apart. Meanwhile, a holiday from the relationship can be just what warring partners need, the break providing the space to realise that you actually don't want to live life without each other...
This week saw most children go back to school after the holidays, which means it's also the start of the Post Holiday Divorce (PHD) season. You thought Christmas was the big spike in break-ups (interesting fact: Agnetha from Abba walked out on Bjorn on Christmas Day) but the PHD is looking pretty strong this year.
It's quite simple: many of us pinned our hopes on rediscovering the old carefree us, and Him, away from the pressures of everyday life; reconnecting with each other, etc. And, once again, we've come out the other side slightly stressed, half a stone heavier, and questioning the relationship.
Summer holidays are one gigantic test, everyone knows that. You only have a brief time in which to relax, unwind, catch up on a year's worth of reading, get tanned, hang out with friends, wear clothes you never get to wear in real life, and above all, it's a test of The Relationship. If we can't have fun now, then when? We can do whatever we want… so what do we want?
Are we a team, or are we Not That Good together? What does it say about us if we are not having that much sex, and never in the afternoons (as is traditional on hot holidays, allegedly)?
It is a fact that everything is symbolic on a holiday. If one of you wants to swim to the secluded cove, and the other one prefers to stay indoors watching Brexit unfold on the (banned) TV, that simple choice can turn into 'Do we want the same things in life? Why are we even married, really?'
The trouble is that on holiday, you require new skills. Or, to be more accurate, women require skills of their partners that they don't necessarily miss during the rest of the year.
Basic map reading is one - because you can't have the GPS with the C3PO voice when you are navigating picturesque Mediterranean hill-towns. Serious barbecue lighting/on the beach fire preparation skills would be another. You need a man who can kill bugs, drive on precipitous roads, remove ice from the ice tray without damaging the island in the kitchen, and communicate with locals, ideally in their language.
You need someone who knows to buy the figs and honey, not the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes; who always insists on going off grid to find the place where the locals eat at two teetering tables on the edge of a cliff, because you are having an adventure, you are an adventurous couple, and He has a Plan.
This is the real pressure on holidays now. It used to be sex and looking okay in your swimmers. Now, it's having not to behave like a tourist, even though that is what you are and everyone else is playing exactly the same game ('Oh God, they're tourists, let's leave').
At home, it's Tesco all the way, but on holiday, you must go to the butcher, the baker, buy the fish off the boat in the harbour at 5am, fill up the wine from the place with the hose and get the olive oil straight from the press because you are a real, intrepid, three-dimensional couple. A successful love team, however much you would like to just have a night in eating pizza in front of The Sopranos.
Men know this test is coming and it makes them uneasy or cross. They see you looking at the salty bloke, making the dinghy ship shape, while they are struggling to tie up the 15hp motor boat before, eventually, requesting assistance from a passing child. They know they are not being Jason Bourne enough. Or relaxed enough. Or attentive enough. They know they are failing to show sufficient interest in the local pottery and in your new off-the-shoulder top. And they are fully intending to make up for it in the crucial months before Christmas.