Married life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but filled with compromise that helps hold a marriage together. Nowadays, society is nurturing a narcissistic culture that breeds a belief system of putting the “me first,” with movies like “The Love Punch,” perpetuating “marriage sabbaticals” as a divorce alternative to ensure the outcome of a long and happy union. Several men and women have taken a time out to avoid calling it quits, but is it healthy to derail from the marriage tracks for a few days, or could this actually lead to a path of divorce?
The Beginning Of The Marriage Sabbatical: A Journey To Divorce?
Cheryl Jarvis, a St. Louis journalist, author of "The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey That Brings You Home," and the one to coin the term “marriage sabbatical,” captured the narratives of 55 women who had taken sabbaticals, after also taking a three-month trip of her own. In her book, Jarvis explores the radical question of what happens when married women take some time and space away from their husband, and kids. These women are described as pursuing their long-nurtured dreams by taking time away to rejuvenate, grow and bring that back to their marriage and family to strengthen it.
While Jarvis’s book may reflect common insecurities and fears several women feel such as being a chauffeur, cook, an extension of their husband, and losing their identity in the role of being a wife and mother, a marriage sabbatical may not be the best route to take. Dr. Fran Walfish, child, couple, and family psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, Calif., and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child, shared with Medical Daily how women can still replenish and refortify themselves without a marriage sabbatical, and why it’s not the answer to the biggest marital woes.
On The Road: Go On A Getaway, Not A Marriage Sabbatical
Rather than a sabbatical, or a temporary separation, Walfish suggests "women need to take regular, short breaks." A weekend at the spa or a trip to a gambling casino are excellent alternatives to taking a breather from every day stressors. Going on a weekend getaway once every three months to leave town, is an excellent alternative as long as there is a really good, trusted, and dependable child carer lined up.
If a weekend getaway is not feasible for your budget, lining up a simple weekly manicure and pedicure, a massage, or daily meditation time — even if it’s 15 minutes a day alone — can be just as effective too. Overall, Walfish suggests “do something you look forward to that makes you feel that you have an identity just outside the kids and husband.” As a child, couple, and family psychotherapist, she cautions to make sure the children are always covered for.
Walfish also warns there are no blurred lines between a getaway, a vacation, and a sabbatical. She cautions married couples to not call their three-day getaway, or week-long vacation with a close friend a sabbatical. “A sabbatical suggests something else, something longer term than a weekend,” Walfish said.
Marriage Sabbatical: A Detour To Divorce
Married couples who use a “marriage sabbatical” to resolve marital conflicts and issues should be vigilantly careful as it could lead to a finite ending. Walfish believes people are too quick to give up when there is trouble in a relationship because couples are not well-equipped enough to deal with conflicts and struggles. “Ways to better equipped are good communication skills and strategies, tolerate differences, listen without interrupting, and not having the other person always agreeing with you,” said Walfish.
Marriage Sabbatical And Kids: At A Crossroads
Walfish views marriage sabbaticals as unnecessary, and something that does not lead to anything positive. “I think it’s a crock of bull when a woman or a man go on a marriage sabbatical," she said. “It's not thinking about the impact on the kids." Even kids who are teenagers, still need a mom and a dad.
The mentality of “me first” can blindside married couples to their kids and their needs. It’s most important to take children into account, especially young children under the age of six. “Kids are constantly dealing with attachment and separation, and feelings of abandonment are at risk,” Walfish said. “You do not want a child to feel abandoned by his or her mother.”
Walfish outlines the possible risks associated with “marriage sabbaticals,” and children:
1) No matter the age of your child, he or she will remember it, even under age four. They will remember it on an unconscious level — without awareness — and will either have an extreme sensitivity to important attachment figures coming and going through their life span, or detachment as a way of having dealt with a deeply painful experience.
2) He or she may have an exquisite sensitivity to feeling abandoned by others, and have to work it out in therapy.
3) Parents sometimes do forget how much of a model they can be not only in their personality style, but in their behaviors. What parents do to their spouses, and to their kids lays the model and the groundwork for often what is repeated generationally. Kids who grow up seeing their parents take “marriage sabbaticals” will think its okay, and therefore start a cycle of repetition.
Women are often viewed as the glue that holds families and communities together. A marriage sabbatical, typically done by women, could be a dangerous trend as they leave their husbands and kids behind. Dr. Walfish believes sabbaticals won’t help the divorce rates go down, or resolve your marital problems. It could also be a spouse’s cowardly way of saying he or she wants out of the marriage.