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Is It Healthy for Couples to Travel Apart?

4 minute read
Judy McGuire

The first time I went on vacation without my long-term, live-in boyfriend, I went to Seattle and, I must confess, I enjoyed every single second of it. From the posh hotel with the king-sized bed (all mine! no snoring!) to seafood dinners with fabulous friends he’s never met to a solo stroll through touristy Pike Place Market, I could not stop smiling.

So, I had a wonderful time without him. Does that mean we’re disconnected, destined for separate lives? Definitely not.

Ask Coloradan Shari Rogoff Moraga. She and her Chilean-born husband, Rodrigo, have been happily married for more than six years, but have always made it a point to get out of town regularly sans partner. “My most favorite trips without Rodrigo are the ones I have taken to Mexico for Día de Los Muertos,” she says, in reference to the holiday that Mexicans spend paying respect to friends and relatives who have died. The annual trip has become a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts for Rogoff Moraga: “It is something I will never give up and would not enjoy if he went. One of my favorite times was when I was deep in the mountains with only locals and not one tourist — only me — for Los Muertos.”

Rogoff Moraga’s husband prefers a more active — and if you ask me, scary — type of vacation. While she’s in Mexico, she says, “he goes skiing in Chile, heli-skiing in Telluride — any kind of extreme ski or mountain bike trip.” Which is not to say the two don’t stay in touch when they’re far away. “We call or email a lot to share what we have been doing — maybe to the annoyance of the other people we are traveling with,” Rogoff Moraga says.

So, are separate vacations a good idea? Ian Kerner, a sex and relationships counselor and the best-selling author of She Comes First and Sex Recharge, wishes more couples would take them. “I certainly think [separate vacations] would be an excellent trend because absence does make the heart grow fonder.”

Still, many couples I spoke with wouldn’t dream of going away without their mates. “Where’s the fun in that?” asked one devoted husband. Another woman revealed that she used to vacation without her ex-husband all the time. “But,” she confided, “only so I could cheat.” (I think it’s safe to say that marriage had issues beyond the odd solo trip.)

Far from being a symptom of a troubled relationship, Kerner says solo vacationing is often quite the opposite: “I think it’s cool to be able to travel separately — it’s an indication that you’re in trusting, safe, secure relationship,” he says.

“If you don’t trust your spouse enough to have some separate time, then that should be examined, not why you would want to have a separate vacation once in a while,” says Rogoff Moraga.

Another fundamental question is: Why do you want to travel alone? If it’s to get away from a partner you feel is a burden or boring or otherwise not enjoyable to be with, then you probably need to take a better look at whether you’re in the right relationship. But if your aim is to take a little “me-time” or to pursue activities and interests that you and your mate happen not to share, then there’s no shame in leaving him or her at home. It’s probably better that you do.

My most recent solo trip, however, wasn’t nearly as much fun as the first. My boyfriend and I had made plans to spend a week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with another couple. At the last minute, he ran into passport problems that made it impossible for him to leave the country, so I had to go without him. Although the town was beautiful and the company entertaining, I spent most of the week missing him and feeling alternately cranky because of his carelessness in planning and depressed because I was the third wheel on what should’ve been a romantic vacation. So, it turns out, in some cases, vacations are a lot more fun when he’s around.

Read TIME’s Travel Avenger column.

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