Time away with your spouse (even if it's just down the road) is a great way to renew your connection as a couple.
Vacations are an occasion to get together as a family, but also as a couple. Here, Father Pierre Descouvemont, former national consultant of the Équipes Notre-Dame (Movement for Christian Married Couples) in France, gives us some advice about rejuvenating our relationship and enjoying some good times with our spouse.
Vacations allow couples to spend more time together — Is that enough to truly reconnect?
Day to day life is quite hectic, and we tend to be preoccupied with being efficient: couples cannot escape this rhythm, and can be suffocated by it if they’re not careful. Vacations are a unique opportunity to get out of the daily routine and re-discover the joy of, simply being together. The time we have for reuniting is normally spent fighting, solving problems, or in the bedroom. The couple forgets to enjoy the happiness of receiving each other as a true gift from heaven, or forgets the fun of playing with their children. It can also be helpful to dedicate some time to being together in silence to rediscover the tenderness of their early days together.
Many, immersed in the whirlwind of life, tell themselves that they will enjoy their time together when they retire. But when that time comes, if they haven’t learned to communicate with each other by then, they won’t learn later. This exercise is even more necessary for those who have professional responsibilities. Often, they only see vacations as an opportunity to rest so they can start the new year fully charged. This free time can be a decisive moment in the year, not simply a means for prospering for the rest of your life.
OK, but it’s not easy with kids, and all the comings and goings during summer …
Many fathers and mothers end up exhausted from those months of so-called vacation. But you can often arrange to have the children stay with their grandparents or a friend for a few days. For those who are reluctant to leave their children in someone else’s care, I often tell them: “Dare to spend some time alone, just the two of you. You were a couple before becoming parents. You have a right to be happy. Your children know that and feel that. They don’t just need love from each one of their parents, they also need the love of their parents for each other. At any age, they are nourished by that.”
Should we use these moments of reuniting to talk about our worries, and even what has been bothering us the whole year?
With the extra time we have on vacation, important things can be talked about. Not to accuse, but to explain: expressing a feeling is not judging or trying to change something. In our emotional lives, contrary to our spiritual or professional lives, it is good to think about what you feel, and express those feelings with love. Besides, this does not impede you from understanding why your spouse acts one way or another. Later, with time and better mutual understanding, we can expect the other to modify their hurtful behavior.
And for couples that have stormy or turbulent moments—should they try to explain themselves yet again?
There’s no miracle cure for getting through a difficult moment—each couple has to find their solutions. Words are only useful if they aim to be constructive; otherwise they can be destructive. Retreats, and seeing a marriage counselor or therapist can be helpful. In any case, faith brings hope for getting through moments of crisis. In spite of the tension, you have to believe in God’s love and the strength of the sacrament of marriage.
Getting back to the topic of vacations, even though they are a moment in which we can distance ourselves from the problems of the year, you can’t solve everything by getting away from it all or laughing about it. The mystery of the Cross is not eliminated during vacations; they inevitably bring out moments of resignation.
What do you advise for those who would like to pray together during vacation?
Don’t try to be perfect; otherwise you pray once or twice and then lose the impetus. You have to pray in the simplest way possible. With discretion at the campground or in the hotel, spontaneously at the top of a mountain or at sunset … It is easier to pray in places that inspire you. Also at those moments of calmness when you can be aware that you are praying not just for yourself but because God awaits us. He is happy to see a couple dedicating time to him.
For those who have the impression that they are not advancing in their prayer, I recommend they try a little exercise: Using the Bible, find everything that is a source of joy. What words convey hope? Which ones convey peace? This is an excellent way to reunite. The Word of God is alive, it nourishes us.
Interview by Bénédicte Drouin