How travelling helps improve your relationship, even after marriage

So we’ve just passed our 3rd year anniversary a month back, and it got me thinking about how we’ve always been travelling as part of our annual anniversary celebrations. And that led to more thoughts about how travelling has played a role in our marriage for the past 3 years. Which I guess led to this post 🙂 Happy reading!

Monotony in marriage life is something that may happen to any of us.

We may begin to take our partner for granted as we get too used to one another, or prefer to live within the comfort of our own routines. Goals may start to center around responsibilities instead of something exciting to look forward to. Commitment may feel like obligations rather than a desire to strengthen the relationship. And with that, passion may wither and fade with time. This may be a bleak, but not necessary irrelevant outlook for some relationships.

Withering love amarriedtraveller

Understanding relationship as balancing an inverted pyramid

As according to Sternberg’s triangle theory of love, there are three components in a relationship that interact with each other and determine our experience of love.

Intimacy refers to the feeling of connectedness or bond, usually fueled by goals and interests between couples. Passion suggests the appeal, arousals and desires for each other, and lastly, Commitment is the decision to maintain that love for one another.

I find this concept rather useful and prefer to think of it as an act of balancing an inverted pyramid, with each component representing a tip of that triangular base. Neglect in one area will set the inverted pyramid topping over to the other sides.

For example, a newborn child to the family might increase the commitment and intimacy of a couple, but lead to a decline in passion due to a neglect of each other in the child’s daily matter.

Yes, it is true that an imbalance pyramid does not necessary equates to dissatisfaction in a relationship, and that it is almost impossible to maintain a perfectly balanced pyramid all the time. But it does help for us to know which side our pyramid is tipping towards.

The effort to balance the pyramid to bring satisfaction in every aspect of our relationship can be a very meaningful learning journey.

an act of balancing

Travelling and its’ benefits for your relationship pyramid

This is where I find travelling very helpful with my personal pyramid. Travelling is like a booster pill that has multiple benefits for various components of my relationship.

I’m sharing 6 of the key relationship benefits I’ve gotten through travelling. Hopefully, this article will get you back to pursuing your wanderlust with your partner.

1. A precious private time and space

Travelling provides that space where we can legitimately become un-contactable, and where we can really soak in the company of each other.

Suspended in a period of liminality, we are freed from our daily roles and identities, and yet, not bounded by any expectations as guests in foreign lands. It is here that I can express myself most freely with my spouse. Whether as a young boy re-courting love or a new borne child being amazed by everything I see.

We are also able to really listen and talk to each other over a meal or drinks at a random cafe, bar or restaurant, as we immerse ourselves in the unfamiliar environment.

I find ourselves conversing about topics which rarely surface in our day-to-day interactions, such as our dreams, childhood memories, fears, passion and desires. In some ways, this helps to foster our intimacy and passion with each other.

Cruising through the streets of Hong Kong and being able to act silly and be who we want to be at that moment.

2. Support and appreciation in situations of uncertainties and adversities

It is during uncertainties and adversities that our support, love and appreciation for each other shines the brightest.

Travelling sometimes require us to get out of our comfort zone and be thrown into situations of uncertainties and adversities. I find this especially helpful for the growth of our relationship. We are forced to support and appreciate each other, especially in situations where all we have are one another.

Needless to say, we do experience disagreements. But it is also here that we learn how to work things through as a couple, to talk about our discomforts, and find out how we can better support each other.

We bring our learnings from overcoming these temporal challenges back into our relationship, and become better at working through our differences. This helps us to strengthen our commitment towards one another.

Trekking in RInjani
Supporting each other in a rainy, wet and torturing trek in Rinjani

3. Learning something new about each other

Learning something new about each other revitalizes our relationship and allow us to see each other with renewed wonder and admiration.

Travelling always allow us to learn something new about each other. Sometimes, you can be surprised at things you learn, even about yourself.

Just as how I’ve learnt during my Mongolia trip last year that the Married Girl actually really loves horse-riding and is more adventurous than I thought, having survived a 8 days outdoor trek and scaling Banyan-Olgiy with relative ease.

Horse riding mongolia
The Married Girl really loves her horse, so much that she teared when we had to bid farewell to it.

4. A goal to look forward

Travelling, unlike many goals in our daily lives, is a goal that is not fuelled by needs or responsibilities. It can also be a fun and exciting goal that a couple can very much look forward to.

Having goals as such can be an energizer in any relationship and booster the intimacy between couples.

paragliding in malang
Married Girl’ first paragliding experience in Malang. It was our goal for the trip, to experience something new.

5. Creating bonding moments

Bonding memories can help the relationship go a long way by being the fuel to our commitment.

If you have read my previous article about the real significance of honeymoons, you will understand the importance of bonding memories. Travelling allow us to create fun memories that we can laugh over; memories of strength when we overcome our differences or of love and appreciation when we support each other in times of adversities.

6. Enhancing passion

Almost always, we find our passion for each other enhanced after every trip.

Perhaps due to the temporal suspension of stress, or being able to just enjoy the company of each other without distractions. Or maybe because there are usually really nothing much to do in the evenings, especially when we are backpacking through the countryside. (Hehe… just kidding).

Laying around in the plains of Mongolia
Just laying around together in the plains of Mongolia

A strengthening of relationship

Overall, travelling has helped us strengthen our relationship in many ways. While it is not the only determinant to a healthy relationship,  it is definitely something that has helped us grow that we very much look forward to.

So,  if you have been casting away your wanderlust due to the burdens of daily life, we urge you to get your things packing and take that wonderful break with your partner, whenever you are able to.

6 things I’ve learnt travelling as a couple

Travelling together as a couple is a journey of learning, and being able to appreciate each other is the key.

Since we’ve been married, the Married Woman and I have travelled to multiple destinations covering a wide range of activities. From multi-days outdoor adventures, city shopping sprees to romantic beach getaways, it has not always been an easy feat trying to adjust to each other preferences and needs.

This is because of some fundamental differences in our travel expectations. At least, during the initial years of our marriage.

For him, he prefers outdoor adventures, finds more fun travelling in larger groups, and tends to go budget on accommodation.

For her, she prefers urban travelling, sees travel as a couple’s quality time, and don’t mind spending on accommodation for comfort.

Despite these differences, over the years, we have managed to understand and been influenced by each other, making every travel experience something that we cherish now, be it by ourselves or with when travelling with our friends.

Looking back, below are some important things that I have learnt over the years from travelling as a couple. Hopefully it will be of some use if you are trying to balance your own travelling needs with that of your spouse.

1. Communicate and talk about your travel expectations

Remember, the aim is to understand each other’s preferences and not to persuade your partner into abiding by your travel style and plans.

A couple keeping engagement going through constant communication
Communication is key. Keep the conversation going between both of you.

I remember the days when we will talk about our travel aspirations over meals or coffee. We will share about places each of us have always wanted to go, things we want to do and see. Though the conversations never always ended in agreement, it was an important part of helping us understand each other’s expectations, and rethink how our travel plans can fit both our needs.

Do you know what are your partner’s travel aspirations, comforts, discomforts and preferences? Have you ever told your partner about your travel desires? If not, such conversations might be useful to have, as long as you both keep an open mind when listening to each other.

2. Develop a travel plan collaboratively with your partner

Talk to your partner and think of ways that you can accommodate each other’s travel needs. It doesn’t have to be far, or costly, if you know what matters to your partner.

A couple conquering the challenging Rinjani trek
Engaging in each other’s interests, Married Woman going through the Rinjani trek with me

Couple enjoying and relaxing at the beach of Gili Meno
But making sure that we also spend some time relaxing and enjoying quality time in Gili Meno.

A travel plan should factor the needs of both partners. There are many ways that we have structured our travel to meet both our needs. Some practices include having two trips in a year, with each trip focusing on one partner’s needs. For us, we will usually have a city and an adventure travel each year. Remember, you don’t need to squeeze and meet all the needs within a trip. If travelling with friends, we might also extend our trip such that we can have some quality time together, be it at renown beaches or stopover in cities on our transit back.

3. Helping each other open up to new experiences progressively

Be sensitive to the needs of your partner and help him or her adjust to the new experiences.

Taking a hike up Keelung hill in Taiwan
Squeezing in a half-day trek around Taipei for both of us.

That said, there are things that you can do to help ease your partner into the new experiences. Instead of jumping straight into a rugged 1-month backpacking trip, or schedule a 14 days camping trek with your partner who is totally new to such experiences, try to be progressive in your plans.

Throw in activities that you know your partner enjoys as well, or perks that can motivate both of you to look forward to the trip. Instead of a 5 days city tour, schedule a half-day hike in a nearby park, or end off the trekking trip with a beautiful beach getaway. At the end of the day, it is important to keep an open mind to new experiences and challenges as you embrace the activities that your partner enjoys.

4. Allow space to grow and experience, but assurance and appreciation is key.

Always show appreciation for your partner’s effort in trying out new experiences with you, before, during and after the trip.

You don’t need to feel like you have to be overly responsible or overly protective because your partner is going out of his or her comfort to join you in your activities. The last thing you want is to feel guilty for making your partner to do something against his or her will. Always remember that this should be a joint decision.

Allow your partner space to grow, experience and learn to see the fun and beauty of the activities. Sure, there might be some grudges or frustration at times, we’ve both experience that before, but that is all normal. Instead of confronting these emotions, be patient and be there to provide assurance.

5. The process is more important than the outcomes

A couple's quest to conquer the Rinjani Summit
On the way to Rinjani Summit, we were the slowest but it didn’t matter. It was more about the journey together than about reaching the summit.

We all have goals we want to achieve during our trip, be it places we want to see, food we want to try or mountains we want to conquer. So often, these goals determine if our trip has been a satisfactory one. I have travelled and seen many people who felt frustrated when they can’t find that favorite local stall, anger when their travel plans are disrupted by companions, or disappointment when they fail to ascend to the summit of the mountain.

These experiences have taught me that it is often the flexibility and process of travelling that really makes travel such a memorable experience. You can be searching for the well-known street food, but came across a local bazaar instead, missed the summit but spent your first night watching the stars together in a tent or met someone kind who stood out in your travel. These are processes that are equally, or if not, more important than the outcomes.

6. It is alright to take separated trips without one another, sometimes

At the end of the day, there are just some activities that your partner might not want to take part in, and prefers that you do it alone.

That is alright. Go ahead with your plans as long as you have talked to your partner about it. Do not feel like you should give up on your own dreams if it is something that is really important to you. After all, being in a relationship is to support each other’s in the pursuit of their aspirations and to bring out the best in one another. Though your partner might not join you, at least he or  she does not stop you from pursuing what matters to you. Go back to step 4, be grateful and show your appreciation to your partner, before, during and after the trip.

A couple's dedication to each other on the beach
Be grateful and appreciative of your partner always