Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles0
Will Going Away Together Pull You Apart?
by Jim Duke
You’re dating, you’re getting to know each other, it’s all going well. You want to deepen your knowledge of each other and take the relationship to the next level. Want to really see what your relationship is like? Go away together.
At some point in a gay relationship comes the time when you decide to spend a chunk of time together. Not just the few hours that it might take for dinner and a movie, and not just the time spent when you wake up with each other in the morning. I’m talking about actually going away with each other, whether for a weekend or a week, and experiencing each other from a new perspective. If you really want to see – or show – any masks that are being worn, a trip to a new location tends to make them melt away.
There is some interesting psychology that occurs when people go away together. More than just a break from the normal routine, it actually provides some insight into what each other is really like and how you function as a couple. For example, if your dating life includes going to each other’s homes for dates, dinners and over-nighters, there is a natural tendency to put on your “guest polite” mask when in each other’s space. When you go away, however, the space (hotel room, cottage or pup tent) is no longer his or yours, but becomes ours during the stay. Suddenly it’s not just about whether you like each other and are hot for each other, but how you mesh together as people.
It begins with how the two of you plan for going away. What’s the process you use for determining where to go? One decides and the other follows? One makes the arrangements and determines the type of place? Or is there discussion and mutual decision? It’s neither right nor wrong, but illustrative of the dynamics within the relationship. How individuals approach the whole aspect of leaving home to go someplace else raises all kinds of issues. George Carlin did a wonderful and hilarious bit about “stuff” – how when we go away on vacation we have to select what we want to bring from the stuff we have at home. And if we do a day trip while on vacation, we have to decide which of the stuff we brought from home we want to take, each time narrowing it down. From years of business travel I tend to pack conservatively and efficiently. My ex, on the other hand, would pack things he hadn’t worn in three years because he “might” want to wear them on vacation. When one shows up with a paper bag and toothbrush and the other arrives with steamer trunks, you know your time away is going to be interesting.
Learning more about each other continues when you arrive at your destination. Remember this might be your first experience in having a shared space that is both of yours. So how do you decide what goes where? Who gets the top shelf, the bottom drawer and the bathroom sink? It’s a micro-view into how a couple organizes themselves, as well as how they negotiate and compromise. Ever notice that people tend to take the same seat they have used in the past, for example in a classroom or conference room? We are creatures of habit, and like to define our space. In a new setting, however, there is no set definition – you have to figure it out as you go along.
Once you’re settled in and unpacked, now what do you do? Once again, who you really are as people starts to come out. It’s one thing if your location is a place that is known to one of you and new to the other. In those cases, it’s natural for the familiar one to show the other around and play host to the visitor. That’s not the case if it’s all new to both of you. Perhaps one wants lots of activities and one wants to lay out by the pool all day. One wants a schedule, the other wants to take things as they come. Perhaps you are the sort of couple that gives and takes, simply enjoying each others company regardless of the activity. How you spend the time together and how those decisions are made shows the dynamics between the two of you.
Having owned a gay hotel for many years I can also say going away together can result in some challenges. There is a “vacation mentality” where people might behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t do if they were at home. It has something to do with being in a strange environment, the anonymous quality of “no one knows me here” and the infusion of one too many substances of choice. Suddenly the boyfriend you thought you knew becomes a very different creature after the 37th Mai Tai. I’ve seen happy couples arrive in eager anticipation of a pleasant time together who then leave with a fractured sense of who each other are and questioning whether or not the relationship can survive.
None of this implies that going away together is something to be avoided. Instead, go with realistic expectations. Allow yourselves to be yourselves, give each other space when needed and recognize that the microcosm of a trip away together is not a defining moment of all you are and can ever be as a couple. It’s time away, and time to be together, meant to be fun and relaxing, a chance to truly get to know and appreciate one another. When it works and meshes well, it’s great. And if it doesn’t then acknowledge it, talk about it and realize that no match is entirely perfect. It just means you have work to do.
Don’t forget your toothbrush.
Jim Duke is the Founder and President of “Guide For Gay Men,” a service which provides personal life coaching and consultation primarily to older gay and bisexual men. Navigating the issues involved in coming out, dealing with relationships, love and sex and the transitions of careers, life decisions and aging can be daunting… unless you have someone experienced to help guide you. Contact Jim and read what he has to say on these and other topics at G4GM.com.