My boyfriend, of a few years, Jay, and I, traveled to Europe in 1997. It was the first time we flew on a plane together. And, in today’s times, it is no big deal to board a plane, and travel with your partner.
I had always dreamed of backpacking through Europe but had always been too afraid to do it.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, had never had aspirations of going anywhere further than the Jersey Shore. He wasn’t opposed to traveling, it just wasn’t something he thought much about.
Jay ignored his lack of wanderlust one night as I cried to him and threatened to end our relationship over an indiscretion that, at the time, seemed very important to me.
In hindsight, I was probably a little overly dramatic as I sobbed, “I always wanted to backpack through Europe, but instead, I’ve been sitting around waiting for you.”
I don’t know that he thought it through when, in a final attempt to keep me from walking away, he replied, “Then let’s do it.”
He didn’t have to say it twice. By the next day, I was buying plane tickets and arranging for our passports – dreaming of traveling together and spending romantic days, strolling through the streets of Paris, riding on gondolas, and eating intimate dinners at street-side cafes.
Our friends were convinced that this was where we would get engaged. Spoiler alert: we did not.
And then we landed in Rome on an unbearably hot July day.
We didn’t know the language, and I didn’t know how to get to the cute little pension I had reserved for us – a small detail I had somehow forgotten in all the planning.
There was no tour guide leading us or the driver waiting outside with our name on a sign. We were on our own.
We stood outside the airport, sun blazing down on us, the noise of the city everywhere, people rushing past us, and the aggravation set in – at each other, at the situation, at the heat.
Everything I had dreamed our trip would be over within ten minutes of leaving the baggage claim. Instead, it turned into a dream I had never imagined and would never forget.
Why you should travel with your partner before marriage
Either way, it’s an important lesson to learn before you say “I do,” not after you get back from your honeymoon.
Sure, living together gives you a sense of what it will be like to wake up next to this person for the next fifty years, but it takes time for the excitement and infatuation of living under one roof to wear off and for reality to set in.
Besides, anyone who’s been married a while knows lots of things happen in between waking up in the arms of your beloved and falling asleep every night.
The truth about vacations like this never makes it onto Facebook with all the fresh-faced, smiling, in-love pictures that a couple will post multiple times a day while on their trip.
Social media didn’t exist when we took our trip, but if it did, I guarantee you everyone would have seen the picture of us looking adorable on the Spanish Steps.
They would not have seen how aggravated we were at each other before the camera clicked because of how long it took us to find the Spanish Steps.
The truth is that the adorable picture would never have been the reality of our vacation, just like nobody knows the reality of a marriage except the two people living in it. A real, barebones, traveling adventure resembles marriage in more ways than you may think.
Challenges you face when you travel with your partner
1. Sometimes you get lost
You tend to get lost when you travel with your partner- like the night we spent 3 hours walking toward the Eiffel Tower with nothing to show for it but aching feet. I swear it looked like it was only a block away!
There is a chance that you feel lost in your marriage too – literally and figuratively.
You will get off at the wrong exit on the way to your cousin’s surprise party, and you will lose sight of each other.
At the same time, you and your partner despite being physically together might feel a loss of connection. It is when you could feel lost in your relationship.
How you direct the ship and find your way back will be critical to your marriage’s survival.
2. Sometimes you get confused and stressed
When you travel with your partner, you can get really stressed up- like the times we had mere minutes to buy train tickets and from people who could not understand a word we were saying.
There was no time to sweat or think through a plan. The job needed to get done, and we had to decide how to get it done the fastest.
Life is full of everyday stressors, as well as those untimed big ones that come along at the most inopportune times. The toilet is overflowing, your newborn gets a fever, your car won’t start when you head out to a big job interview.
Although the way each half of the couple manages their money is a significant part of this, it really all boils down to the lifestyle each person expects to have.
So before you get married, as yourself questions like – can you handle running out of money? Are you able to sacrifice? Who does better in those situations?
4. Sometimes you stumble upon something beautiful
When you travel with your partner, sometimes you stumble upon something beautiful because you were able to tough it out through the harder stuff.
When we eventually found the Eiffel Tower, starving from our hours of walking, we found a grocery store and had a picnic right there!
How many people get to the picnic at the Eiffel Tower? Oh, and that moneyless day in Venice?
That ended with us stumbling upon the Adriatic Sea. I didn’t even know where the Adriatic Sea was until that moment!
Lessons you learn when you travel with your partner
At the end of the day, all the hard parts of marriage can turn into blessings if you let them.
Job loss, sickness, loss of loved ones – they all can help us grow as individuals and as a couple.
If a relationship has the courage to fight through those battles, there is an Eiffel Tower picnic waiting on the other side.
Jay and I passed the marriage test on that European vacation. We were married in 1999 and have been married ever since.
On that trip, we learned that we both have an adventurous spirit that we have continued to feed over the years.
Even more importantly, we got a glimpse into our future. We saw how each of us would handle stressful situations, how much we would be willing to stick together when things didn’t go as planned (getting fired, cancer, sickness of one of a son), and how much laughing we would be doing over the coming decades.
That vacation became a pre-marital counseling session that left us with an album full of pictures and stories we still tell our kids.
We have gone on many traveling adventures as a family, and our children know exactly what we mean when we have been walking for hours without reaching our destination, and Jay and I look at each other and say, “But the Eiffel Tower is right there!”
If you’re thinking about getting married, before you buy a ring and set a date, get your passport and travel with your partner. An adventure trip is even better!
The best thing that will happen is that you’ll be traveling with your future spouse!
The worst thing that could happen is, you’ll discover this person isn’t who you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with. Nevertheless, you’ll get to see the world while you’re figuring that out!
Also, you might enjoy watching the video given below. The video can give you ideas to plan your trip after the Coronavirus stress is over.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Deirdre is a Social Worker and Educational Specialist who has spent the last twenty years working with children and their families. She has watched couples work through difficult situations because of their child's struggles, and she has also lived through her own challenges in her marriage and family. Through her experience, she has come to understand that the greatest challenges in a couples life always have the power to become their greatest gifts.