Married Couples and Separate Vacations

When It's Healthy to Go Solo

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This question can come up in the happiest of marriages: Should we take separate vacations? This might seem counterintuitive since being married means being together in your free time, and a vacation is prime free time. But separate vacations are not a threat to a stable, happy marriage if you also make time for shared vacations. It can be healthy for you both if you are taking separate vacations to add something to your lives and you are not wanting to escape from each other.

Reasons to Take Separate Vacations

Marriage doesn't mean you own each other and don't maintain your own personal identity. It's that personal identity that gets some attention when you take separate vacations. Here are some reasons why married couples find this a good option:

  • To experience something new that doesn't interest your partner
  • To visit a locale that your mate doesn't want to visit
  • To have a reunion with old friends or family members 
  • To continue an old tradition of meeting with family or friends every few years
  • To take a trip with one of your children for a specific reason
  • To have some time alone
  • To take advantage of vacation time your job requires you to take at a specific time or you lose the vacation time even though your partner can't be off at the same time
  • To learn a new skill

Things to Consider and Discuss

Separate vacations can rejuvenate both of you if you communicate and resolve your concerns and fully discuss your plans with each other.

  • Don't assume that your spouse doesn't want to visit a specific location or try a new adventure.
  • If your spouse is opposed to separate vacations, find out why. Is there a lack of trust, concern about caring for your children alone, jealousy, a fear of being lonely, a feeling of resentment in being left out, or an attitude that married couples have to share everything?
  • If you have children at home make sure that you are both comfortable with your childcare plans. Some families use the time the children are away at camp or spending time with grandparents for separate vacations.
  • Be honest about safety concerns when traveling alone and establish a plan for keeping in touch, such as having a planned time to call, text, or email each day.
  • Discuss the financial costs of the separate vacations. Will you each pay for your own vacation out of your own account or will the funds come out of a joint account? Do you think the cost of your vacations should be equal?
  • Be specific about what type of separate vacation you want and why.
  • Separate vacations should not take the place of shared vacations with each other. It is important that you save both time and money for both.

What the Experts Say

There is significant hesitation among some couples to even bring up this idea, and because of that, experts in relationships and marriage have weighed in on separate vacations over the years.

Psychologist Ruth A. Peters said on MSNBC.com in 2006 that separate vacations can be growth experiences but that the motivation is key to whether it's really a good idea.

 "Think about it, how boring would it be to marry someone with identical interests, careers, and friends.

"​Marriage often leads to a larger understanding of the world, more people in our lives, and a more mature and realistic take on how relationships work. If we married our clone, there would be little room for growth. ... When the relationship is intact, occasional separate vacations can add a terrific dimension to your marriage. But if trouble is already brewing between partners, a separate vacation may do more harm than good. Consider your true motivation for the vacation, the stability of your finances and relationship, ages of your children, and willingness to compromise. If this all checks out—enjoy and make some memories." 

In the book "Role-Sharing Marriage," authors Audrey D. Smith and William J. Reid commented on the question: "Almost invariably both spouses reported that these separate vacations, which frequently were only weekends or a few days in length, worked out well for both.

"This was true whether both partners took separate trips at the same time or whether one stayed at home. They enjoyed the time apart, missed each other, and were glad to be back together again when the trip was over."