We hopped in the cab at 5 am and giggled like high school seniors skipping school. Our kids were tucked snugly in their beds. My in-laws gave us a yawn and sleepy wave as we passed the childcare baton to them for the week.
We were giddy.
Eight days of traveling as two independent adults felt like an eternity. The excitement of the unknown coursed through us.
Would we run out of things to discuss? How many books would we finish? Would we be bored lounging on gorgeous for a few days? I was excited to find out.
The plane ride to Croatia was eventless, as it usually is when you’re traveling without kids. We drank coffee, read our books, and stared out the window at the blue-green coastline below.
The airport restroom line was long, but I didn’t have a wiggly five-year-old to manage. It was quite dull traveling without kids, which also made it so exciting and novel.
We finally had time to focus on other things—all of those thoughts we had stopped thinking because we were too busy managing little people’s lives 24/7 to give our own inner thoughts much attention.
After ten years of marriage, we earned this trip.
We wanted to unplug, relax, and reconnect.
Most common causes of divorce
According to this HuffPost article, common sense, and like a bazillion other articles, the most common causes of divorce are:
- loss of individual identity
- forgetting and neglecting that you are a couple
- not having a shared vision of success
- disappearing intimacy
- unmet expectations, and of course
- financial issues.
The discord and disharmony in any relationship happen over time, as if unwinding a ball of yarn. Without regular touchpoints, check-ins, and “keep it real” conversations, you risk heading off in different directions away from one another.
If you want to divorce-proof your marriage, you need to reconnect with each other regularly. Doing this reconnection away from your kids is of utmost importance.
Finding someone to watch the kids
We love our kids dearly—they mean everything to us—but by focusing our energy on their happiness, we can forget our own and our partner’s.
My husband is the only person to ask how my day is going—my kids don’t care.
It would make sense that we would invest as much (if not more) in our relationship together than we do our relationships with our kids.
Living far from family means that we don’t have a TON of support.
We have great support from neighbors, and we appreciate the afternoon babysitting here and there, but without family living nearby, it feels too burdensome to ask neighbors to watch our kids for an entire week.
We planned our 10th-anniversary getaway for at least a year. We needed to line up babysitters, plan the trip, and save our kronor. If you think you don’t have the money for date nights, you haven’t researched how expensive divorce is.
We’ve seen a lot of our friends divorce over the past few years and it’s something we’d like to avoid ourselves.
Divorce is costly, disruptive, and ugly—and that’s if you have an amicable divorce.
Investing in quality time together as a couple together quickly became non-negotiable for us.
Find the right place to reconnect
All of our planning paid off when our plane touched down in Split, Croatia. The stress fell off my shoulders with every step into the hot August sun out of the airport.
Split, Croatia is crowded, and while beautiful, it wasn’t our final destination—we were destined for the furthest island off Split’s coast, Vis.
We found two open spaces on the back of a ferry and watched the mountainous coast of Split disappear on the horizon; the wind whipping my hair out of my pulled back ponytail.
The deep blue water glittered in the sunlight, and tourists around us started shedding clothing to sunbathe on the deck.
As the ferry pulled into the Vis harbor, I couldn’t wait to explore our surroundings. The local pizza restaurant in Vis (the port city) had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. The views were amazing, and the entire island felt calm.
We embrace slow travel—traveling without a set agenda or plans—which is the only approach for Vis.
If you’re looking for relaxing on a beach, reading books nonstop, and swimming/snorkeling in crystal clear water, then Vis is for you. It’s an old island with ancient history—settled first by Dionysus in 397 BC, the island changed hands numerous times.
In 46 BC, the island was taken over by the Romans and prospered under their rule. The island produced remarkable wines and stones for Rome. The beaches of Vis were all human-made—carved during the quarrying of the stones for Roman architecture.
Much of Vis remains undeveloped and unspoiled countryside dominated by vineyards because the island was a naval base during the World War years and only opened to the public in 1991 when Croatia gained independence.
A wild adventure
The island feels a bit wild and dangerous. The “fall off a cliff” type of danger as the mountainous island is covered in switchback roads with sheer drop-offs and no guardrails.
We rented an old ’97 jeep-type deathtrap that had no transmission left. The clutch felt gummy under my foot, and every gear change was a full-on bicep and calf workout.
One of the roads had stone pillars that looked like shark’s teeth protruding around the cliff meant to keep cars from pitching off the side but looked more like a monster baring its teeth in warning.
“Don’t hit the shark’s teeth!” Jon said as we rattled around the mountaintop on the way back to our rental apartment.
Nothing like a bit of adrenaline-pumping driving through the mountains to bond you closer together, right?
Create the space for “keep it real” conversations
If you’ve never had a “keep it real” conversation, tonight’s the night.
The essentials for this type of dialogue is to create a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted by anything—kids, phones, TV.
At the beginning of the conversation, you acknowledge that you’ll “keep it real” and confess your deepest concerns, fears, and worries with the knowledge that the truth, in its rawest form, may hurt the other person.
Generally, we have these conversations when one of us is carrying something that we feel is turning ugly inside us.
Maybe it was a conversation we had earlier in the day or a misunderstanding.
Perhaps it was an action not taken or something that felt insignificant at the moment but grew over time the more we processed what happened.
On our vacation, we had a lot of these “keep it real” conversations.
The beauty of having these conversations on vacation, instead of in your kitchen, is that vacations are soothing and relaxing.
The conversations aren’t as hard when you’re standing in crystal blue water, relaxing in the sun.
Reconnect through sharing what’s always been unsaid
We explored everything in those ten days. We had plenty of downtime. Plenty of quiet and no distractions.
There was no judgment, no hard feelings, just honest talk.
What would happen should one of us die. What would happen if both of us died? What were our best memories from the past ten years? What did we want to accomplish in the next ten years?
We played the “what if…?” game aloud and placed all the cards on the table. At the end, we acknowledged and appreciated each other just a bit more than we had before.
We both needed to verbalize the essential contributions we both make —paid and unpaid—to the stable functioning of our family.
At the end of the vacation, we were completely relaxed, happy, and recommitted to one another.
A lot has changed in the past ten years, and we are different people than we were when we married. Our experiences have shaped us, and for the pieces of our family puzzle to continue to fit, we needed this time and space to work it out.
Vis was our heaven on earth—our place to reconnect. But for you, it’ll be somewhere else. Somewhere special for the two of you to call your own.
Whether you find a remote island, a cabin in the mountains, or just a hotel down the street, taking the time to reconnect without your kids is essential.
Advice from someone married 40+ years—my dad
I called my dad when we got home and gushed about how relaxing and wonderful the experience was.
“You should probably do it at least once a year,” he suggested. “If you’re doing weekend trips try to get away at least four times a year. Bigger trips at least once a year.”
Once a year?! His suggestion shocked me. We planned this big trip because we celebrated ten years together and it was our anniversary gift to each other.
Then again, divorce is really, really expensive for years upon years, so maybe doubling down on investing in my marriage isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Do you schedule time to reconnect and divorce-proof your marriage?
Expat coach and intercultural specialist, Sundae Bean, suggests scheduling dates on your calendar as something that will motivate you to follow through like, “Divorce prevention.” Maybe you’ll take it more seriously if the consequences of not following through are super clear.
Someone very wise but unknown said:
The more you invest in a marriage, the more valuable it becomes.
Wishing you the best.
Lisa Ferland has published three books with more on the way.
Click the images below to read them today.