Stay smitten: What if there was no honeymoon phase?

 Elizaveta Photography

Elizaveta Photography

Mr. Smitten and I met a couple on our honeymoon who offered us some (unsolicited) marriage advice: “Take at least one vacation every year, just the two of you.”

They said traveling together gave them the uninterrupted time they needed to prioritize each other—not to mention create new memories in destinations around the world. It was insurance for their relationship in the face of busy schedules, a way to prevent life from making them a punch line in a tasteless joke about marriage.

If you’ve followed Smitten Honeymoons for any length of time, then you know this couple’s motto is one of the principles on which I founded my travel boutique: There’s no greater way to stay smitten in love and life than through travel.

While I could talk circles all day about how jet-setting around the world and living happily-ever-after belong together like PB&J, there is one thing I still wrestle with when it comes to this belief. Most people aren’t hopping on a plane every month for a romantic respite. In fact, most are playing right into all the bad marriage one-liners out there. You know, the cheap shots about the short-lived honeymoon phase and how the rest is downhill.

Weeeeeeee!

Crash.

I don’t know when this way of thinking started, but I do know it deserves challenging.

So, here goes.

Love bugs:

What if there was no honeymoon phase?
What if instead the words marriage and honeymoon were synonymous?
What if marriages were so inspired that vacations reigned less as escapes from the stress of everyday life and instead glowed more as celebrations of our love?

You guys, it’s possible!

Like, put-your-sunglasses-on-the-glimmer-is-so-bright possible.

That’s why I’m excited to announce the start of a new series on the Smitten blog to help make it happen!

Instead of just offering weekly travel tips and inspo, as part of a new series—crowned Stay Smitten—I’m going to up the ante by also sharing bits and pieces of what has helped the Mr. and me grow more in love every year over the past two decades. And, no, that’s not a typo. Our story winds back to our slightly more pimply and braces-faces days of elementary and middle school.

Full disclosure: I’m not going to be pretending I’m a marriage guru. I don’t have all the answers. Not even most of them. What I will be owning, however, are the wins (and losses) that have helped us. In starting this series, I’m also not going to be suggesting I think every day can feel like a sunny morning in Paris. Even the best honeymoons risk some setbacks, like lost luggage, delayed flights or 30-knot winds.

I’m speaking from experience on this latter one.

Thanks to Mother Nature, on our honeymoon the Mr. and I thought we were going to die en route to our island—so much so I could picture the headlines in our local paper:

“Till death do us part: Newlyweds perish at sea”

We'd landed in Belize as the winds kicked up, though the breeze wasn’t all that noticeable from shore. In fact, the palms were barely swaying at the airport, which is why I didn’t understand our captain’s insistence that we hurry to the resort’s boat to reach our island ASAP—still nine miles out.

Within minutes, I got it.

The sea grew rougher the farther we motored from the mainland, with the waves increasing until they loomed so large that when our ride dipped between them we couldn’t see anything above the swells. At one point, our captain threw us rain jackets and life preservers, which only exacerbated my belief that the sea was going to swallow us. I pulled the strings on the hood of that yellow jacket so tight it covered my eyes. Then, I climbed onto the floor and cried.

"The captain's not wearing his life jacket," Mr. Smitten pointed out. "That's a good sign."

We learned later that we’d been in capable hands the entire time. Our captain had spent his life on the Caribbean Sea, and the rough water we’d encountered paled in comparison to other storms he’d weathered.

“The waves are going to come,” he told us at the overwater tiki bar that night.

Today, this adventure still brings me to the floor, albeit now in amusement at the absurd start to our honeymoon. Every now and then, though, I think about how the moment could have been very different with someone at the helm who didn’t have as much respect for Mother Nature. Would we have made it to shore, soaked but safe?

For me, parallels abound between this situation and the metaphorical waves that jostle marriages, leaving couples—including Mr. Smitten and me—sometimes frantically bailing water and wondering whether it’d be easier to just capsize.

Perhaps.

For about 30 seconds.

Afterward, we’d all be choking on saltwater and battling the sea, sun and sharks on our own.

Alternately, when the waves start to rock our relationship, the hubs and I have learned that leaning into our marriage can transform our struggles into more. More understanding. More growth. More connection. More gratitude. More love. This is true no matter if the storms manifest as rain showers or gales that rival the wind in Dante’s second circle of hell.

For us, the key has been honoring and respecting our relationship above all else: committing to learn how to navigate 30-knot winds like our captain in Belize; grip the rudder together; or simply wait for the storm to pass, pour two glasses of chardonnay and search the glittering sky for the North Star and a new route home.

Doing these things isn’t always easy. As humans, our instincts mostly send us fleeing from danger, from confrontation, from anything uncomfortable. Unless, of course, we’ve committed to navigate for better or worse, in sickness and in health.

Every single bit of it.

All this is to say, marriages require purposeful work for an ever-lasting honeymoon. Life’s obligations—careers, money, family, friends and everything in between—make it all too easy for couples to put their relationship on autopilot and turn away from each other rather than toward, especially when the winds pick up. Before you know it, these are the people cracking distasteful jokes about marriage, laughing on the outside and longing on the inside for a connection that lights them up—like theirs used to when they were on their honeymoon.

On the other hand, couples who thrive decide together that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres—despite impending, inevitable storms.

After all, there is only one thing that never fails.

L.O.V.E.

You guys, marriage deserves to be prioritized more than once or twice a year on much-needed vacays. While I find almost no greater joy than in helping plan such fabulous getaways, my hope is that eventually we won’t need a reprieve from everyday life or to jet off to an exotic destination to reconnect.

That’s the goal of my Stay Smitten series.

I say on my website that the most important thing in my life is my marriage. This is partly because I believe marriages in which love shines brightest have the power to change the world. They infuse more of all the good things we so need to live our best lives. More understanding. More growth. More connection. More gratitude. More love.

So, I’ll ask again:

What if there was no honeymoon phase?
What if instead the words marriage and honeymoon were synonymous?
What if marriages were so inspired that vacations reigned less as escapes from the stress of everyday life and instead glowed more as celebrations of our love?

Cheers, love bugs!

Life’s too short to have it any other way.