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Supporting your partner to follow their dreams is one of the 9 components of John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House model of healthy relationships.  This is a very functional thing for a couple to consider and negotiate so that they get to work towards their dream without damaging the relationship.  While Jarvis writes primarily about women taking marriage sabbaticals, it is equally important for both partners. 

Imagine that it’s been Jeff’s long term dream to spend 8 weeks playing golf, his passion, on a golf tour through the British Isles.  His partner, Karen, is not a golfer however when they talk about their dreams Karen is supportive.  Let’s imagine Jeff raises it as a dream at a time when they have small children and money is tight and instead of saying “No way”, Karen responds with “Wow, that sounds amazing!  How can we make that happen”, and they engage in a dialogue that examines possibilities.  This dialogue may go on for years as their family grows and their financial situation eases until one year when they are talking about their dreams it becomes evident that they now have the resources for Jeff to make his dream a reality. 

Meanwhile Karen has her own dream of becoming fluent in Italian, over the years Jeff has been supportive in encouraging her to attend classes and providing parenting support and agreeing on expenditure for her to do that.  Karen has progressed but really wants to attend an intensive language school in Italy.  Together they examine the possibilities for creating this opportunity for her.

Marriage sabbaticals like these lead to very positive feelings between partners and creates closeness, growth and appreciation in relationships.

The key to a positive marriage sabbatical is that your relationship is strong and supportive and there is no suggestion that the marriage sabbatical might become permanent, or that the relationship is at risk of breaking down.  Clear articulated boundaries are in place and both partners know exactly what to expect.

Marriage sabbaticals that are really trial separations, for example, Ruby Warrington recently wrote about an 8 month separation she had from her husband.  She reports that 4 years into their marriage “the lustre had begun to wear off”.  Her solution was to take a job overseas for 8 months.  During this time she writes that she and her husband both “engaged in a few flirtations”, ultimately she returned to her husband as they had agreed and even though there was a luke warm reception, they both apparently made the choice to stay together and asserts “It felt like we had done a brave thing. The empty space we’d created had allowed us to see each other as individuals again”.

This might have been a positive thing for this couple, however, it was also extremely risky.  When we take time away from a relationship that has problems, research indicates that unless we continue to work on the problems together, that temporary separation most frequently becomes permanent. 

The key to a happy relationship is not taking breaks from each other, but supporting each other to become fully expressed human beings that can love each other freely and equally.  The 9 components of the Sound Relationship House provide us with a scientifically researched, evidenced based road map to developing this kind of healthy, loving and successful relationship.

The Art and Science of Love Couples Weekend Workshop is an excellent way to learn how to create your own Sound Relationship House together.

References

Jarvis, C. (2000). The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey that Brings You Home.  Perseus Books Group: London.

Warrington, R. (2017).  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4395896/Couple-say-marriage-sabbatical-saved-divorce.html

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