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Take a Break to Rekindle the Romance: Your Spouse *and* Your Kids Will Thank You

Elizabeth and Terry Sippel, who have been married almost fifteen years, found themselves on a romantic mini-vacation this past November. Terry had won "teacher of the year" from his county school district and was awarded an amazing prize: a weekend at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, North Carolina. The two teachers left their thirteen-year-old son with relatives for the weekend and soon found themselves lost in the old-world romance of the historical five-star resort overlooking the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

“It was fabulous. The pace slowed down immediately. It was like dating again. We got dressed up for dinner and were treated like royalty. We sat with an amazing view of the mountains with all the lights. I even had a glass of wine,” giggles Elizabeth.

The Grove Park is renown for its old-world charm—with immense parlors with huge boulder fireplaces reminiscent of historic lodges and concierges in top-hats and tails. The effect it had on Elizabeth and Terry, was to infuse a bit of romance and time for one another.

“We were able to slow down and just be Terry and Elizabeth instead of mom and dad—we were a couple again. After the dinner we sat on rocking chairs outside, chatting and admiring the view of the mountains. We later came back in and nestled together on a couch listening to the piano in one of the piano bars. It was wonderful,” says Elizabeth.

While not everyone can afford to go to a luxurious resort, just getting away once in a while, sans kids, will provide the same boast to your relationship, say experts.   

“Couples can become too much like roommates. You have to care about your spouse like when you were dating. So often husbands and wives, especially, devote all of their time to the kids,” says Barbara Bartlik, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, whose private practice specializes in couple therapy and the treatment of sexual problems.

One way to avoid that situation is to keep time together a priority. For some women, it will require some brutal honesty about themselves. Are you too Type A to allow your in-laws or siblings to baby-sit? Has it been years since you’ve had a regular sitter because you keep firing them? Are your children now in kindergarten or elementary school and you and your husband still haven’t had a weekend away together? If so, it sounds like you may be a perfectionist mom, but a bit of a slacker in terms of your commitment to your partner. In order to focus on keeping your love life alive, experts say you’ll need to loosen up and allow others to help with the children—even if their standards aren’t as high as yours.

“You are never going to get a weekend away until you bring in help. Leave your children with the grandparents, aunts and uncles they love. It’s natural to have close contact with family,” says Bartlik.

To be fair, some people have valid reasons not to leave their children with some relatives. Perhaps you have an alcoholic in-law or sibling who can’t or won’t seek help. Perhaps one relative is sick or just too old to deal effectively with the demands of children. Realistically, many women fear leaving the children with relatives because they just don’t do things the way they want them to. In the long run, is a few days of hot dogs, candy and soda really going to cause too much damage? Think of how wonderful that time will be for your children to have spent with family. If they are allowing things that you really disapprove of—such as letting a four-year-old play violent video games or watch R-rated movies, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk. Think about all of your options for help and, if necessary, hire your favorite sitter for one over-night.

My husband and I did that last May. Since we live in London now, quite far from family in the States, we hired Jana, my son’s favorite sitter who is a certified nurse midwife from The Czech Republic. She and William had a wonderful time playing at the park and running about in Spider-Man and Captain Hook costumes. Jay and I ended up staying at an Inn that wasn’t as nice as its pictures online indicated, and, as the English weather tends to do, it rained the whole day we were there. Regardless, we had a great time over a leisurely dinner chatting with locals from the village. We came back holding hands, smiling, and excited to see our son.

Sometimes I think I may be a bit too slack, as my husband and I are getting ready to go away to India for a week without our son. We are leaving him with his grandmother. I am certain that he’ll be spoiled daily with lots of “sweeties,” daily bacon and egg breakfasts, and nightly ice cream desserts. But you know what? He will be fine. And, I’m sure he’ll remember this week for the rest of his life. I certainly remember a summer in Colorado with my grandmother—the only good amount of time I ever spent with her. She was quirky, thought I was psychic, and took me to dog races and to her country club bridge games. It was delightful and I’m so thankful to have had that time. These moments should be cherished—as I know my husband and I will certainly cherish our romantic week attending an exotic Bollywood-style wedding in Jaipur! (Stay tuned.)

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