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Romantic Reboot Isn’t Just for Fun

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Three out of four American couples have never taken a romantic vacation. Half of those couples claim they’re not vacationing because they have children. This is according to the authors of the book “The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship.”

The authors, Chrisanna Northrup and sociologists Pepper Schwartz and James Witte, surveyed nearly 100,000 people about their relationships to learn what constitutes “normal” behavior among couples.

A well-planned, romantic vacation will enable a married couple to spend long periods of time together in a low-stress environment. The length of the vacation should be long enough to unwind from the stress of home and work. Speaking of work — leave it behind.

Couples should choose a vacation spot that interests both spouses. An ideal location will give both spouses opportunities to engage in activities they can enjoy together. The best activities are those that stimulate the mind and body. Research on couples who engage in exciting activities together shows higher levels of relationship satisfaction for those couples, compared to those who only participate in pleasant activities together.

Couples with children may feel guilty about leaving the kids behind and having fun without them. My wife felt that way while planning our recent romantic getaway to Hawaii. But both children and parents can benefit from a break from each other. Children are happier and healthier when their parents are happy. And married parents are happier when they have uninterrupted time for each other.

Today's technology makes it easier than ever for parents to stay in touch with their kids while they're away. My wife felt better about leaving our kids knowing we had scheduled daily check-ins with them using FaceTime on our iPhones. And our kids are old enough now that we left them home alone — so we were relieved to find them safe, healthy and happy at the end of each day.

I don't recommend leaving kids home alone during a couple's vacation, by the way, without an adult in the home. (Our daughter is 21 and our son 14.) When kids aren't old enough to be left home alone, couples may need to find creative solutions for child care while they're away.

Related: Secrets of a Lasting Marriage [1]

On our first romantic getaway as parents, my wife and I left our kids with their grandparents. That's a simple solution when grandparents live nearby and can be trusted.

That solution may be harder to execute when grandparents live farther away or are unreliable or unwilling.

Related: Tempted to Cheat on Your Spouse? New Reason to Think Twice [2]

Some couples have their kids stay with other relatives or trusted family friends. This can be negotiated at little or no cost if the couple offers to return the favor. Another option is to send the kids to summer camp and plan a romantic vacation at the same time.

If your children's needs make it necessary to take them with you on your romantic vacation, search for hotels or resorts that offer babysitting or child care services. Using these services can allow you to have a little private time with your spouse away from the other demands of home — and assure that your child's needs are met. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Loews are examples of hospitality chains that offer these services at some locations. (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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My wife and I take a romantic vacation once every few years. It takes planning, but we're always glad we made the effort.

Each vacation is better than the last, as it gives us an opportunity to make the following investments in our marriage, which also pay off when we're back home.

1.) Getting reacquainted. You think you know your spouse. Think again! People's preferences, interests, values, and dreams change over time. Couples who lose their curiosity about each other lose an important resource for stirring up romantic feelings. Curiosity and discovery are important elements of courtship that tend to get lost as a marriage grows older.

Taking time away from the demands of kids, work and home offers an opportunity for couples to discover new things about each other that can add a sense of adventure and excitement to the relationship.

2.) Supporting each other. Mutual commitment to the relationship and marital satisfaction increase when both couples have a sense that they are working in support of each other. Married couples thrive when they have a sense of that "we-ness."

Many times when spouses express their needs and desires, daily demands and distractions turn them away from each other. As they miss opportunities for connection and intimacy, they drift apart. As their bond erodes, they think about meeting their individual needs rather than cultivating the relationship.

A romantic vacation is an opportunity for spouses to turn toward each other when desires and needs are expressed. Each time they turn toward and respond positively to each other, their bond is strengthened.

Related: Be Happier in Your Marriage [4]

3.) Breaking the gridlock. The demands of work and family can get in the way of listening to each other. When couples don't take the time to hear each other and really respond, they can run into gridlock on issues over which they disagree.

Many couples have longstanding conflicts that chip away at their satisfaction with their relationship. Spending lots of time together in a low-stress environment can be just what a couple needs to discuss unresolved conflicts and find common ground again.

Jon Beaty [5], counselor and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He's the author of the book "If You're Not Growing, You're Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work."

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