Looking for advice about getting along with your mate during long trips? Oh sure, you can consult self-help books, counselors, psychiatrists, even (carefully selected) clergy. But Rich and I have often found the best sources for realistic, marriage-saving ideas are B-movies and so-so TV shows.Photo by tommipictures.de/flickr
For instance, late one night we were watching an entirely forgettable film about brain-enhanced chimpanzees who were obviously about to outwit the hapless new night watchman with dire results. The first time trouble flares, an old hand warns the newbie, “Never let it escalate.” Rich and I were immediately struck by the profound wisdom of this, and from then on we’ve made it our policy to deal with any personal conflicts early on, when they’re smaller and easier to resolve. We don’t want to wait until our marriage is, metaphorically speaking, overrun with hostile chimpanzee geniuses who have the keys to the weapons cabinet and our car.
Another time, in a rather lackluster 1987 production of a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, the famous sleuth makes a mildly infelicitous remark to the woman he loves, then immediately retracts it, saying, “I beg your pardon. It was a beastly spasm. Won’t happen again.” It beautifully defined the moment as a personal lapse, not a reflection of his true sentiments or a policy statement about the nature of their relationship. Nowadays, when one of us utters a cranky remark we know to be unfair and uncalled for, it can be annulled and forgotten by simply saying, “Sorry. Beastly spasm.” It’s a sort of linguistic “no harm, no foul” ruling.
These and other time-tested strategies will be put to use this summer, helping us keep our mental and emotional equilibrium while spending 90 days straight in each others’ company. Our top tips:
1. Develop a routine that gives structure to the day and the week.
2. Spend a little time apart every day, preferably pursuing separate interests that will provide you with fresh topics of conversation.
3. Don’t blame your partner for the weather, the train schedule, or the food.
4. Deal with a potential issue when it’s small. Never let it escalate.
5. Allow each other the occasional beastly spasm.
If none of that works, try reminding your partner that you have the keys to the weapons cabinet and his car.
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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