So, he wants to take you on a trip! It’s one of the peak moments of dating someone new – right up there with him telling you he loves you and wants to be exclusive. You think: If he wants to spend days – even a whole week – with me, he must really be into me. It’s all the more exciting if the destination is glamorous – Aspen, St. Barth’s, Angra –someplace you’ve always wanted to go.
Even if in the back of your mind you’re thinking “too much, too soon,” how can you possibly resist? Or maybe you’ve just re-united after a “break” – and think: What better way to heal past wounds than a trip just the two of you, away from it all?
Unfortunately, what seems like it could be a big step forward in the relationship could end as a bigger step backwards: After you get back, he doesn’t call for a few days, or longer. He’s distant. He may even break up with you.
You blame yourself. You think maybe you did something wrong on the trip, or after spending so much time with you, he decided he really doesn’t like you. You begin second guessing everything you said or did. Your self-esteem takes a nosedive.
In my practice as a dating coach, I see this dynamic happen all the time, and more often than not, the reason a man pulls away after a trip has little to do with anything in particular you did or how much he likes you. Rather, he’s reacting to too much togetherness, possibly too much emotional intensity – even if going away was his idea.
Maybe up until the trip, he’s been pursuing you – and you’ve always left him wanting more. Well, going on vacation together is like sidling up to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It may be great while you’re loading up on the lobster and foie gras, but you pay the price afterwards. When traveling together, he’s not wondering where you are, what you’re doing and what you’re thinking – you’re right there, and probably over a poolside pina colada, you’ve told him all about your hopes, fears, and feelings. You may have even slipped into wife-y mode, reminding him to put on sunscreen, or picking up after him in the hotel room.
As I write this, I am cringing at the memory of actually having packed for a boyfriend while on a trip to London, making our way to Paris. What in God’s name was I thinking? Was it some misguided geisha impulse – or simply playing house? Whatever it was, it ultimately backfired as the boyfriend broke up with me, right after we returned from a fabulous trip to the Caribbean.
I remember feeling stunned. What went wrong? We hadn’t fought. Quite the opposite: We had never been closer, never had more fun. The breakup felt like having a divorce right after a honeymoon – and therein is the real problem: Weeklong vacations accelerate relationships beyond their natural pace of development. You jump from dating to a kind of pseudo-honeymoon, and while the guy may love every moment of it, once back home (or even on the flight back) he’ll be suffering from a bit of time warp, wondering how things got so advanced. Maybe he no longer feels in control of the relationship, but rather as if he’s being swept along by its own momentum (yes, he created the momentum, but that’s another point – we can’t expect men to pace the relationship).
This is why The Rules authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider insist that trips make men go backwards. They’re not trying to spoil anyone’s fun – they’re trying to help women realize their long term romantic goals, even if that means some short term delayed gratification. In full, they advise:
“Don’t go away with a man for a week. Save it for your honeymoon! What if, after dating Mr. Right for a month or two, he invites you on a cruise or to an exotic island for a week? The Rules answer? You’re busy and can’t get away. Cruises and weeklong vacations make men go backward! Things can get hot and heavy when you see each other seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day…He might be romantic on the trip, but pull back when you return, saying he needs his ‘space.’”
The flip side of this is that I have often seen men make real emotional advances, or even pop the question, when they return from a trip without you – or when you return from a trip you took on your own. When you turn them down for a trip and even encourage them to go on their own, they’ll be thinking of you the entire time, and beginning to put the pieces together in their mind of how they can have you with them on future trips, for the rest of their lives.
I know it’s tempting – summer’s around the corner and what could possibly sound better than a vacation with the man you love? How about: A destination wedding – and honeymoon.