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A short side trip from marital bliss

What do you call a woman who has to take her kids on every single European vacation?

Really grumpy.

Thank goodness my man has figured out that the key to a year’s worth of marital bliss hinges upon his willingness to whisk me away on a magical vacation built for two. Last weekend, we left our kids with another American family (we took their four kids last November for four days) and struck out in our little hatchback, leaving all the car seats behind.

It only took 45 minutes in the car for me to pick a fight.

Seriously, what is it with me and alone time and attention? Jason and I have been getting along so very, very wonderfully. Just the anticipation of this vacation was enough to color the past week rose red, I’ve had nothing but appropriately inappropriate thoughts for the man. But you put me in a car alone with him and we spend our first five hours together arguing and stewing? Actually, I should clarify. I was arguing, he was trying desperately to figure out what in the heck was the matter with me.

And this, my friends, is exactly why couples should leave their children and get away from it all. Not that it always stops us, but we can’t even have a proper fight cycle with all those kids constantly running around. You know, miss getting attention from each other, pick a fight for the sake of heated eye contact, mumble the necessary apology, find an empty room and make up for real — it’s a circle of life kind of thing.

That five-hour car trip to Prague was brutal. There we were finally away from our kids with nobody but each other to talk to and all we wanted to do was turn the car around and go home. At one point, as I sat with my nose pressed against my window (Yes, I was feeling that lame for picking a fight.) I couldn’t decide if going home would be better or worse. Was this going to be our weekend? Fighting like newlyweds over the same three issues that have plagued my marriage since 1999?

And then I thought about last year’s vacation. In hindsight, it seems that every time we get alone for any significant period of time we have to air our marriage out. It’s like our spring cleaning, get any issues on the table right from go, beat them around a little, spray things down with disinfectant and apply a little elbow grease. We’re kind of like the Tin Man. Leave us out in the weather without any help and we get…rusty.

We pulled into the Embassy after five miserable hours together and I waited in the car while Jason got our quarters squared away. He came back out and I refused to look at him because I’m 12. When we finally located the parking structure he looked over and politely asked me to register with the garage so he could stay with the car.

Maybe I just needed to get out and stretch my muscles, or perhaps there was something toxic in the car, or maybe I just needed to pee. Regardless, when I finally came back out with the attendant and he took our vehicle away I looked at my wonderful man standing there, obviously feeling deflated that his bratty woman was ruining his beautifully laid plans, and I was overcome with a proper dose of awful self-awareness. Not the selfish kind, the get-thee-behind-a-tree-and-watch-thyself-go-by kind.

I walked over, took his hand, and we smiled at each other. Fourteen years together? The man totally has my number.

We then spent three and a half days of marital bliss, not another moment of discord colored our trip. And the six-hour ride home? We couldn’t stop talking to each other. It is so worth dating and dreaming. Keeps it fresh.

Annie Valentine grew up in the Satsop Valley. Her husband is assigned to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and they now live there with their four children. She can be reached at regardingannie@gmail.com

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