Rest, relax and Reconnect with your loved ones. Its summer time and that means vacations. And for a lot of you ambitious, driven and goal directed husbands, wives and parents that means you’ve made through another year and you’re in the final stretch headed toward some well-deserved time off. You ran hard all year long. You accomplished your professional goals, at least some of them. You met your deadlines. You made it through countless meetings. You completed your tasks. You even got a little bit of a raise, or a big one. And just up ahead is that well-earned break, a time to disconnect and unplug.
As you slip on the flip-flops you’ll be leaving one group of people who hold expectations of you but replacing it with another. That other group, your family, may just be one or it may be more, if you have kids. In either case your family will have their own expectations and hopes for your time, their time with you. While you were waiting for this time away from work, sometimes with great longing, your family may have been waiting for this time with you, also with great longing. This can cause you some stress, hopefully it can be a source of real satisfaction though too.
Find your rest and relaxation:
You do work hard and you do deserve a good break. Take the time before your vacation begins to figure out what time will be your Me-Time and pick a few things to do with your time; sleep in, go to yoga, read the paper at a coffee shop, watch sports, get a pedicure, go for a spa day, take a long bike ride. Your Me-time and your activities will be yours whether you’re vacationing away or staycationing. The point is simply to bracket out some time for you, know roughly what you might do with it, and be as clear as you can about when and where. That way the others in your life can respect your boundaries/desires while feeling there’s room for them too.
Your wife/husband/kids missed you this year and you missed them too. Great, you’ve got a great big window of together time. So now’s your chance to rest, play and reconnect. You might find that you’ve lost track of the interests and activities of your husband/wife/kids. Or your job has been so demanding that you’ve been missing out on some milestone activities or new interests. That can be stressful for a busy partner/parent, and at worst, alienating. The day-to-day of the last year might lead to a little spousal or family drift. So now there’s plenty of time to catch up, right? Yes, but that can be stressful too, ironically.
1) Be open. When there is drift within a family, the best thing you can do to speed up reconnection is to allow for the drift. Try not to be threatened by it. We live busy lives and drift happens sometimes. The thing you used to like to talk about so much may not be so much what he/she/they like to talk about now. It’s okay to be sad about that. A slightly sad person is easier to reconnect with than a threatened one.
2) Ask questions. With your spouse, renew some of that get-to-know-them energy. Learn about the new interests. Share in it enough to find a bit of authentic interest of your own. That will gain brownie points at the very least, and at most you might even spark a new interest of your own. If it’s not interest but stress occupying your better half put forward a little energy to learn about the stressors that may have gone unsaid due to business. Here you might say, “Hey! I’m supposed to be on vacation”. That’s true but that’s why I suggest carving out your Me-Time first. This is your vacation but when you’re in a relationship or have a family it’s never all about you.
3) Do things together. Mini-golf is a family vacation cliché but I like it because it’s playful, low intensity – depending on the family anyway – and allows for conversation while being together. Other simple activities that can foster reconnection: driving and walking – no ipods/ipads though. Board games are great for shared fun though many have fairly rapid play which can keep conversation at a minimum. That’s not objectively bad though. Sharing fun times, the times that later become fondly recalled memories, is a really strong relationship glue.
4) Ask for what you need from your partner/family. All of your significant others might have their hopes for you. And hopefully it’s a two way street. If there’s something you’re hoping for, and you feel there’s been drift in the relationship/family, you may need to be fairly clear and explicit about your hopes/needs. That too can be stressful though it’s better than a frustrated desire gone unmet. Also, it’s been my experience as a family/couple’s therapist, that when a loved one is asked for something, it’s much easier, and even desirable to say Yes.