What's the key to marriage success? I think this one thing my wife and I do has helped our marriage thrive.
Okay, so let's level with each other for just a moment, shall we? I am no relationship expert - my first marriage ended in divorce and it's been a long, tough road of 10+ years of no communication and bitterness on both sides. I'm not here to offer you some snake oil cure for the perfect marriage in this post.
Being married is hard and in reality there's no "one thing" that will help every marriage succeed. But keep reading if you want to learn more about the one thing my wife and I do has helped our relationship not only survive the nine or so years we've been together, but actually thrive. I can honestly say I love her just as much, if not more now as I did when we first fell in love all those years ago.
Our secret to a happy marriage has been travel.
BUT THERE'S A TWIST TO OUR SECRET THAT YOU MAY NOT BE EXPECTING
Traveling has always been something I've personally enjoyed. We didn't do a lot of it growing up in very land-locked and rural northern Iowa.
Travel for me, as a kid, was mostly local or regional trips to the city for a summer vacation, but we definitely made larger trips every few years as well.
I'll never forget our family road trip from Iowa to Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area. We also took a trip to Boston one year as well. I've yet to return to either, but they're definitely on my list.
We didn't do it as often as I would have liked, but traveling together as a family helped us to bond.
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Traveling together and the road trip that almost ended it all.
After my divorce, I didn't specifically go looking for a partner that wanted to travel. Naturally, we want to share interests with our partner, but travel wasn't a top priority for me; certainly not enough to build a relationship around it.
To be honest, at that point in my life, I really didn't know what I wanted or what was best for me. I was still trying to recover from a failed marriage; I certainly didn't have all of answers on what made a relationship actually work.
When my wife and I first met, we traveled together almost immediately, but largely on accident. Many couples travel together and it helps them to bond. However, for us, this part of the story isn't all rainbows and butterflies. In fact, we almost broke up because of a road trip together pretty early on in the relationship - before we were engaged.
When it comes to travel, we're actually pretty different travel personalities. On road trips, she likes the "pack the kitchen sink" approach and to bring everything we would possibly need (and a few things we wouldn't).
I, on the other hand, am a road trip minimalist. I don't like a full car loaded down with a bunch of stuff. I like a road trip play list, a snack or a lunch so we can stop at a rest area rather than for fast food and a clean car. Yes, road tripping in a clean car is very important, people.
Our first road trip, riding together in a car full of stuff, kids, more stuff, and us, almost meant the end of our relationship.
The "plot twist", if you will, is that we travel separately as well as together.
TIME APART FROM EACH OTHER HELPS ME REALIZE WHAT I MISS ABOUT HER
The big reveal of what has been our key to happiness in our marriage is actually spending time apart.
As I write this, my wife is nearly 1,400 miles away from me, in fact. We live in Florida and she's been in Ohio for over a month.
We met up for a week in the middle for a family trip, but for the most part I've been alone for over four weeks. We do this almost every year and it helps me to realize how much I miss her and appreciate her when she's gone.
We have a family cruise planned for the month of September, so we'll have a chance to spend quality time together then. But for now, we're half a world away from each other.
Will we always spend this much time apart? Maybe not. But I am pretty sure her summer trip without me has helped both of us appreciate each other even more when things return back to "normal".