Going on holiday to ‘fix’ your marriage?

It’s nearly the summer holidays and, depending on where you live, the holidays may already have started. Are you thinking about going on holiday to ‘fix’ your marriage? You’re not the only one. Lots of people have the same thought. It’s easy to think that ‘getting away from it all’ will help you get things back on track. Some time away from the stress of everyday life, the children letting off steam and a place to chat away from the family home. Going on holiday to ‘fix’ your marriage is a tempting option. Now it might be that there are problems that you do need to deal with, and it’s great that you want to make some time to do that, but remember, being on holiday isn’t ‘real’ life. It can have its own set of stresses…

You want to talk but your partner doesn’t

Perhaps you’ve felt for a while that you ‘need to talk’ to your partner about your relationship. You’ve been waiting for this moment when you have a week or so away from work so that you can have that ‘chat’. Before you launch into telling them that you need to talk, take a moment to consider what they want. Wanting and needing is not the same thing. If your partner is viewing this holiday as the opportunity to switch off and unwind, are they going to be willing and open to discussing the relationship? Raising the issue without their prior knowledge may be met with confusion and flashes of anger. Consider how this may impact upon the conversation.

There’s too much sun or alcohol

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you, right? Holidays often mean sunshine and or alcohol – more of both than usual. Not the best combination when you want to have a deep conversation with your partner. Too much sun makes the best of us grouchy. Too much sun causes dehydration without us even realising it. We can become tired and moody. Too much alcohol also dehydrates creating the same response or, if we go too far, becoming drunk and saying things we really don’t mean.

The children are over excited

Over excited children often means late nights leading to less sleep. Sibling squabbles can become intense when you’re away from home. The children might be sharing bedrooms, have limited internet connection and be missing their friends. Tiredness can lead to boredom and frustration – never mind the weather! The idyllic picture you created in your head about the perfect family holiday disappears, and you and your partner are left as referee’s in the war between your children. Talking to your partner now about the issues in your relationship may lead you to blaming each other for the children’s behaviour at a time when you need to be supporting each other.

Use your holiday to reflect on what you want

Rather than focusing on your relationship, focus on you – it really is the only thing that you have any control over. Spend sometime considering how you would like your life to be and the changes that you can make first. Take responsibility for the things that you know you can do to improve the relationship between you and your partner. This isn’t about you getting into blaming yourself for all the things that aren’t ‘right’ in your marriage. It’s about responding to the current situation and considering how you can do things differently.

Do this means that when you are ready to speak to your partner (and they are ready to hear what you have to say), you can take ownership of what you can do to support your relationship, and you are clear about what you want to ask for. This will make a huge difference to your communication, because it will have purpose and direction. Having purpose and direction means that your conversation is less likely to end up in a fight.

Ask for a conversation

When you are ready, ask your partner to agree with you a time and a place to talk. Talking away from the family home is always a good idea if that’s possible – a neutral venue for both of you without attachments to the physical environment often helps the conversation flow more easily. That doesn’t mean your family holiday is the best venue though. If your partner makes it clear that they don’t want to discuss your relationship on holiday, honour and respect that view. Agree to a time when you are back home.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Remember that blaming and being the victim is unlikely to get the response you want from your partner. Start by talking about what works for you in your relationship, or how you appreciate them. Starting by being positive builds rapport and makes it more likely that your partner will be open to listening to you.

Move on to talking about you and how you feel using the word ‘I’. I statements such as ‘I feel’ ‘I want’ give you ownership and, you can never be wrong. Ask for what you’d like, rather than what you don’t want. For example, notice the difference between these two statements:

“You are always leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor and I have to pick them up”  (blamer)

” Please help me by putting your wet towel on the radiator to dry” (non-blamer)

The desired outcome of these two statements is the same, but one is a blaming statement and the other, non-blaming statement hasn’t mentioned the behaviour as being linked to the person at all. Which one do you think is most helpful?

Use the conversation to productively move things forward. Rehashing the past won’t work. It’s why in Family Mediation, we don’t spend oodles of time on what’s gone wrong. What matters is what is happening now, and where you want to go in the future. Be clear and concise, make it easy for your partner to follow what you are sharing. If you have a specific request of them, ask. Just ask.


Use your holiday as a time to relax. Rather than making ‘rules’ about what will happen if the holiday doesn’t meet your expectation, how about going with no expectations? Just let things be. Perhaps in letting go, you’ll learn something more about yourself and your relationship? If you can, be the observer of your relationship with your partner and your children. It may be that the relationship needs to end. But it may end in a more kind and loving way than it might otherwise have done by you being relaxed and more objective.

Perhaps a relaxing holiday is the thing you need to find the courage to say what you want. Perhaps it’s the rest you need to give you the strength to say it’s over. Just remember that trying to sort out your marriage whilst on holiday is fraught with challenges. Give yourself and your relationship the best chance of making the right decision for you by thinking things through first.

I’m Emma Heptonstall. I’m a Family Mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York. You can contact me on 01904 697760, mediator@yourfamilyfirst.co.uk For details of how we can help you and to download our series of leaflets on Family Mediation visit www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk