Why we should take a balanced approach to our vacations

Follow the German model: time with the family, our partner, and alone if we feel like it

Irenka Barud

This was an agreement he had reached with his wife some time ago and worked a treat. This person was German, he had six weeks holiday over the course of the year and in his opinion, his arrangement was very common in Germany. Leaving aside the question of whether it really was so common, there is no doubt of its many advantages, as long as both parties in the relationship were in agreement and there were no feelings of guilt.

When we are young, we spend our vacations with family or friends. The difficulty comes when we are in a stable relationship, possibly with children. This is when our expectations may not match those of our partner. Escaping with one’s partner for a short while can be difficult both logistically and because of feelings of guilt at leaving the children with somebody else, but the challenge of taking a break on one’s own is even greater, and may cause problems with our partner. But the fact is that spending time alone allows us to recharge our batteries and to disconnect from work and other pressures.

When we form a stable relationship  we learn that our expectations may not match those of our partner

Doing something we like makes us feel good. And obviously, doing those things with the person or people of our choice is preferable, but if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we don’t always share the same tastes as our partners, family or friends, or want to do the same things at the same time as them. But in the long run, we can end up paying a price for continually sacrificing our own needs and desires. We may not be aware of this initially, but over time it can generate low-level resentment that can, for example, make us short-tempered. Which is why it makes sense to look for a third way: vacations the German way, following the example of the person I met, which is to say, vacationing with our partner, family or friends, as well as finding time for ourselves to do something like walk the Camino de Santiago, go mountain climbing, or simply lounge in a hammock…whatever we like.

Our partner has to be happy with our decision and not feel resentment

The quality of our relationships, whether with our partner, friends, or family, can be measured by the fear or resentment shown if we decide to spend some time alone. Relationships are built as we go along, which is why if we are to follow the German example we need to be aware that it is healthy to spend time with the family, our partner, and alone if we feel like it. This means being honest with ourselves and asking just what it is we would like to do. Would you really like to go to the beach, or would you like to escape to that place that you have spent years wanting to visit but never find the support you need to do so?

Secondly, we need to negotiate with the other party or parties. The decision has to work for both parties: our partner has to be happy with our decision and not cause resentment.

Thirdly, we have to accept our small burden of guilt at not managing to make everybody around us happy: that is the price of being true to ourselves. So, even if we have already arranged our holidays, we can at least find a bit of time to be with our partner, or to be alone and do something we enjoy.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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