We rarely vacation. On top of that rarity, we never vacation separately.
It was not until 2014 when we decided to have a yearlong streak of intimacy that we were invited by family members on separate vacations. There have been days here and there in our almost eleven year marriage that we have been apart. Mostly just short business trips for my husband in the early days of our married life together. Purposefully planned separate vacations are not a thing for us. We like each other too much to be apart for too long.
In 2014 we were invited by my mom and step dad to join each of them at a Christian retreat in the coastal mountains of California. We agreed to these two weekends as they were great opportunities to spend uninterrupted time with our family members away from the everyday stress of life in the valley.
Nathaniel was the first to leave. In preparation for his weekend getaway with the guys we had to make use of the rest of the time we were allotted before he left. By this point we were knee deep in the streak and very unwilling to let go of it even for a weekend.
We had several planning committee type talks, not just to figure out the timing of Friday’s departure to the mountains, but to continually remind each other to carve out time to purposefully be together before he left.
Nathaniel made a mad dash home from work and we packed up the car with squirrely kids and a heavy suitcase (we are self-proclaimed book hoarders and do not travel lightly). We were ready to drive to the carpool destination and kiss good bye. But before we could kiss good bye we had to check off one last thing on our list. Making time for each other.
While I am the creative dancer/writer in the relationship I am also quite regulated by the structure in my life. I like patterns and routines, I find comfort in them. Comfort in their predictability and inability to frighten me or leave me lost and confused, which I have a tendency to become. This is so ingrained in me that I never even realized this as truth until my husband brought it up last summer. Our weekend apart was about to change our everyday pattern and that was unsettling since our parameters included; phone sex was not an option.
How were we going to continue this streak with a hole in the weekend?
In the hustle and bustle of Nathaniel coming home from work and then leaving pretty close to right away we knew being intimate would be difficult to say the least especially if we had the need to do it quickly. So we opted for midnight Friday morning to make up for Friday night. While Sunday would be a non-issue, there was still Saturday with no culmination of our relationship.
Beyond the first retreat, missing this whole day of our streak stayed in our minds for a while. Way past our purposed initial stop date, this was supposed to be November 2014. We held onto it knowing we did not actually complete the 365 days in a row. This was one reason we continued to streak in to the year 2015, to make up for this (and one more to come) lost day.
People ask us questions about the steak. Why are you guys doing this? Why 365 days? Why worry about two lost days?
Our answer to all those questions focuses on the simple principle of completing something we set out to do together.
It has become very powerful for us to punch this nightly time card not for routine’s sake but for the sake of doing for each other an act that puts the other person and the marriage first.
In the beginning of our marriage my mom lovingly led us to understand two of life’s simple truths, “You were together before the kids came and you will be together after they leave”. Another gem of mom wisdom is this, “Put God first, then your marriage, then your kids.” We have put these two statements of life to work in our marriage. They are simple yet hard to do. These philosophies have become mantras we remind each other of often. Note that not once in either of the two statements does it ever say put yourself first or put the other person first to the determent of the self.
What they do say is put the marriage first under the teaching and following of God. Putting stock in “we” instead of “I”, placing value in the couple in combination with God is what sets a relationship and a family on a healthy, growing path.
The second Christian retreat was coming up, a month after the first one, this time just for the girls. It was a time of great fellowship with my mom and sister that I would never exchange for anything. By this time Nathaniel and I knew how to cope with a loss in the streak and we made up for it like troopers. Our initial plan was to end in November 2014, but we continued on with a kind of “non” start re-start push of a button. We continued the streak that we began in 2013 and we are now past day 630.
We keep count not so others will hear rather; we keep score for ourselves, knowing that for every day counted we gave our relationship high status importance.
We often find ourselves asking the question, why stop?