Separate vacations for married couples?

April 19th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

I am thinking about taking a 7 day bicycle/camping trip. However my wife cannot go for many reasons ( mostly because she dislikes biking). We have never been apart this length of time.

What does ancient Jewish wisdom have to say about being apart, by choice? 

I have read all of your books ( except the Thought Tools I am currently reading) and listened to all your CDs -some many times and watched your DVD’s. I must say this has help me very much in business and relationships. Thank you! I look forward to more.

Thank you, 

Jerry R.

Answer: 

Dear Jerry,

First of all, we appreciate hearing that our resources are helping you. It truly encourages us.

Your question is a great one and we compliment you and your wife for thinking this through. While husbands and wives can certainly have different interests, using the limited vacation time most of us have to follow those interests separately has the potential of becoming problematic.

Ancient Jewish wisdom specifically speaks about reserving the first year of marriage for building the marital relationship and we would suggest hesitating if you are newly married. It also insists that at any time in the marriage a husband cannot change his field of work to one that requires more time away from home without his wife’s agreement. So, separation is treated seriously.

When you think about it, one’s parents, children and siblings stay one’s parents, children or siblings even if they go for long periods without seeing each other. A marriage is different. The relationship is one that can end, and being apart too much or for too long raises questions as to whether there really is a marriage. We understand you are asking about a relatively short trip, but we want to emphasize that your question is very valid.

Other than that first year, we would ask whether this is a one time event – maybe a 25th reunion of your Army buddies – or unique in some other way. Has this been a long time dream of yours or has this opportunity fallen in your lap and sounds interesting? Is your marriage very strong or could either of you suspect an undercurrent of wanting to get away for a while? One very important question is whether this is a coed trip or all male. All these factors need to be discussed.

Perhaps there is a way that you can combine bike riding with a vacation your wife would enjoy. Seven days is a long time. Could you instead head for a week somewhere that interests her and do a two day bike trip within that time frame while she enjoys other activities? If you do decide to do the bike ride, can she meet up with you along the way at some points?

We can’t tell you what to decide. We know happily married people who, whether for work, hobbies or other pursuits, regularly spend time apart. However, those relationships do need strong counter balances to ensure that they are thriving. It is also important that both spouses are on the same page.

We have a feeling that you will get some words of wisdom from Ask the Rabbi readers as well.

We’d love to hear what you and your wife decide to do,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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23 comments

Mark Lampe says:

I had also wondered about the possibility of it being a co-ed trip as these things are more common in these times. If that is the case I would advise him to stay home with the dear spouse, because experience alone tells me that a married man cannot hang out with single women, it would be a bike trip to disaster.

Susan Lapin says:

We agree, Mark, that if it is a co-ed trip we don’t think this would be a good idea at all.

Christel says:

From little acorns giant oaks grow.

Susan Lapin says:

Christel, I think that Jerry’s question was whether this is a little acorn or not. Thanks for writing.

Valerie Meléndez says:

We have a couple friends (both in their early 40’s) that on the outside looked very close and happily married. Then the wife announced that every year for past two years, she’s been going on a bike marathon/race separate from her husband. The third year they were divorced. Both people were miserable and ended up financially broke. It was a bad move for them. The enemy came in and devoured them! To this day both are unhappy but moving on with their lives and for them, there was and is no turning back. The same kind of thing happened to my nail lady and her husband. I think it’s not worth it! If your life partner can’t go, I think you shouldn’t either.

Susan Lapin says:

Ouch, Valerie. I’m sorry you had to watch friends’ marriage disintegrate. It would be interesting to hear their analysis. Do they think the separate vacations were a symptom of the problem or did they exacerbate a problem? Or were they irrelevant to the problem?

Ruth says:

I agree too much time apart is tough. I try to go tent camping with my husband on archery outings that involve shooting at foam targets a couple of times a year. Archery outings are co-ed and strange things sometimes happen when alcohol flows freely. (I don’t drink) We will be married 36 years on 5/21/17 and it has not been easy but worth the time and trouble it takes to share quality time together.

Susan Lapin says:

Happy anniversary in advance, Ruth. Strange things sometimes happen even when alcohol doesn’t flow freely! Actually, they aren’t strange things, but natural ones. Commitment, fidelity, loyalty etc. are not the default. They need to be worked on.

CG says:

In both my late husband’s job and my current husband’s job, we’ve spent weeks, even months apart from each other. One way we found to balance this (both of them) is by talking to each other every day on the phone. It is not easy but we were committed to making it work. While this was work related and not vacation time, I have found time apart from my spouse makes me appreciate him more. But I don’t advocate this for everyone or in every situation. As pointed out, it depends upon the couple and the state of their relationship with each other.

Susan Lapin says:

I agree. I don’t think this is a hard fast rule. But both parties need to feel the same way and it does need to be re-assessed regularly to make sure it’s still working.

S says:

What if it is the husband visiting his mother each year for 1/1/2 weeks? It is in another country and the wife is unable to go due to having children at home and for all of them going overseas, the tickets are cost prohibative, plus there would be no place for the whole family to stay. Should he leave his wife and children each year for this visit? Is this right?

Susan Lapin says:

You are asking about a very difficult situation that naturally we can’t answer, but it does sound like talking to an outside mentor would be helpful. Perhaps a pastor? Perhaps there is an entirely new way to look at the issue such as the mother traveling or just you and your husband or maybe taking one child at a time with him, but as long as you are so resentful, I would urge you to talk to someone.

Sara says:

What a timely question for our family. My husband is scheduled to take 2 guys’ trips this year, fishing and golfing. I didn’t understand why I was so frustrated, but I think the answer lies in the fact that I do not have a counter balance, and I always feel required to “be ok” with these trips, with no discussion.

Susan Lapin says:

Hiding resentment in order to ‘be a good guy’ tends not to work. There is a narrow precipice between being easy-going and generous and ignoring issues. I hope you and your husband are able to have a good conversation that leads to a win/win situation going forward.

WILLIAM J BROWER says:

Miss Susan, ( I know you are married and I should refer to you as Mrs. Lapin, but I am in the South and we are different in addressing ladies we feel somewhat close to but do not know well enough to use first names) I have read and enjoyed much of what you have written over the last few years. I am also an avid follower of Rabbi Lapin “Thought Tools.” I have been married to my loving wife for 45 years and we have been through good times and bad. Separation has never caused a problem for us. Although it is true we have rarely been away from each other for more than a working day, There have been times when we have had separate vacations or business travel that has lasted more than a week or ten days. Just last year I went to Argentina with our son and she went to the beach with our daughter in law and grandson., .
No problems arose from these trips. They were both planned well in advance And we enjoyed the activities apart, although we missed each other greatly. I suspect that problems could arise if there were frequently planned trips apart, or if one or the other had a reason to distrust the other, but after the years we have spent together we know each other well.
I am put in mind of couples who have faced forced separations such as military service. My father was in the Air Force and was absent for weeks at a time but mom and dad stayed close throughout their life.
So, premises considered, I think it depends more on the couple than the length of the separation, the amount of alcohol involved or whether the trip is co-ed. Only a couple whose bonds are not strong enough to resist the temptation to stray have anything to worry about. I would pose this, if you have to ask, you know the answer.
And let’s be realistic, the temptation to commit sin is around us everyday. Most men (and women these days spend more time during the day with persons other than their spouses. We spend 8, 9, 10 hours a day with a secretary or co workers. We leave the house around 7:00 am and are at work y 9:00am, get home at 5, 6, 7: pm get to sleep between 10 and 11:00 pm. Routinely we spend more time away from our loved ones than with them. There is where, in my mind, the chance and temptation to be immoral lies, if your bond is not as strong as God would like it to be. But most women and men seem to be able to meet that challenge and prosper.
Sorry this went on so long, but I wanted to add my voice to the other responders.
Bill Brower

Susan Lapin says:

I appreciate your long answer, Bill. It sounds like you and your wife have a strong marriage and can handle separation. Unfortunately, I believe the divorce rate in military circles is very high. The couples are put under tremendous stress due to separation. Certainly, we are surrounded by temptation. However, when you aren’t together or making positive associations with your spouse, it can be harder to resist. My husband and I don’t think this is an either/or situation and in the recent years he has gone on a sailing trip alone with our son and one of my daughters is taking me away in a few weeks for a few days. We have also had business trip separations. But those all took place after years of building a great marriage and we would both feel free to speak up if either of us felt that our marriage was being harmed.

Dyron says:

I did this exact thing to celebrate my 40th. I shared all my experiences through Instagram along the way. My family was not only involved, they actually are to be credited for encouraging me to the finish!

I am happily married with three children. I also travel about 25% of the time for work. I have explicitly given my wife 100% veto power over my travel. She has exercised it on occasion. I do not put myself in situations with females (thankfully I work mostly with me ). On the rare occasion I have to be around other females, I always tell my wife ahead of time so she’ll hear it direct from me. We talk daily on the phone when I’m out of town. I tell all my clients I have a rule that I always answer my cell phone when my wife calls, in case there’s an emergency. She knows this, and still frequently calls just to chat – if I’m in a meeting, I politely ask if I can call her right back, which I always do.

Now, she’s an amazing woman in her own right, so it may not work for everyone, but it’s sure worked for us. Traveling a bit for work has allowed her to be a stay at home mother for our kids, homeschool a couple of them, and for us to have some travel points to burn on family vacations. On this particular occasion, I burned those points on a 40th birthday celebration I’ll never forget – an 1,100 mile trek over 9 days from Arkansas to Virginia. What a great experience! I quit more than once, and each time, my family would convince me to continue on – which helped them share in the experience, I think.

And I’m sure they know I love them waaay more than my bicycle (the Precious Javelina). Because I do work at those relationships, as Susan notes.

Great work Rabbi and Susan, I love your products and services and share them frequently!

Dyron says:

Should read “thankfully, I work mostly with men” above, not “mostly with me.”

I work with me al the time! 🙂

Also, I should mention that my family met me at the tail end of the trip for a short vacation in Virginia, and also that I have a job that allowed me to work remotely while on the trip, so I wasn’t neglecting my work responsibilities for too extended a period.

Susan Lapin says:

I was going to go in and edit the ‘me’ to ‘men’ but you beat me to it. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. And for sharing our products!

Michael Landau says:

I think the idea of going away depends entirely upon the strength of a relationship. Marriage should not be a ‘prison.’ If a relationship is solid, then there is no reason why each partner cannot pursue for a short time away something that makes them feel fulfilled. Indeed, sometimes time away makes each partner appreciate their lives together even more. If my wife wanted to go on a retreat, either alone or with friends, or if I want to attend a music camp and she is not interested, there is no reason why one of us should stand in the way of the particular kind of fulfillment that the other partner desires in life. In fact, helping the other person become all they are capable of being should be part of marriage.

Susan Lapin says:

No arguments, Michael. Your first sentence is the important one. Unfortunately, when the relationship isn’t as strong as it needs to be, communication is usually one of the first casualties or never existed the way it should in the first place. So, a conversation to make sure that both individuals are on the same page doesn’t take place.

Pat Gallo says:

Was so refreshing to hear your opinion on the separate vacation issue. We agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s sad that young couples don’t see the danger. We’ve been married 51 years and appreciate the wisdom of what you said.

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Pat. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a book composed of words of wisdom from couples who have been married over 50 years?

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