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Getting Him Out of the House and on the Road--or Coping When You Can't

There are lots of possibilities for women who can't persuade their partners to travel. But that doesn't help those who want to watch the sun set over the Grand Canyon or stroll past the Roman Forum with a significant other.

October 01, 2000|SUSAN SPANO | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

I can't say I understand it, but there are some people who don't like to travel. And that may be a particular problem for women whose husbands or partners fall into that category.

Matti Gershenfeld, a Philadelphia-based psychologist and couples counselor, says she's seen many women who have reached a point in life when the children are grown and there's enough money to travel with the person they love most. Unfortunately, that person is always too busy at work, can't sleep in unfamiliar beds or would rather go to the dentist than spend a few hours on a plane.

Certainly, there are instances in which the husband wants to travel and the wife does not. Regardless of who wants to stay or go, in a good relationship the wishes of both partners need to be respected, says Evelyn Hannon, editor of the online women's travel magazine Journeywoman.com (http://www.journeywoman.com). But she also says that women shouldn't deprive themselves because the experiences and insights they gain by traveling "will make them better partners."

Lots of women must feel the same way. Kathryn W. Sudeikis, an agent at All About Travel in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., and secretary of the American Society of Travel Agents, says she sees many married women traveling without their spouses. Some buddy up with friends for shopping sprees in the best retail cities, spend a week at a spa, or take a cruise, as 130 women from southwest Missouri will do in February. (The plan was hatched in a salon, so they call themselves the "Beauty Shop Babes.") Others take tours, like those organized by Elderhostel, which gets 35% of its bookings from solo women travelers (some have husbands; some don't).

Another option is the trips sponsored by the Florida-based Women's Travel Club. Phyllis Stoller founded the club because her husband was too busy to get away.

There are lots of possibilities for women who can't persuade their partners to travel. But that doesn't help those who want to watch the sun set over the Grand Canyon or stroll past the Roman Forum with a significant other.

Some people believe that moving sights can be appreciated only by sharing them with loved ones, and psychologist Gershenfeld believes that travel can do wonderful things for a couple. "You see each other with new eyes when you're away, even if you've loved each other all along," she says.

One tactic she advises for getting a reluctant partner to travel is to suggest a trip. More than likely, he'll never mention it again, or he'll put it off. But a year later, the woman should reintroduce the idea. "This time she's got a year's worth of leverage," Gershenfeld says.

It isn't wise to threaten that you'll go away on your own, Gershenfeld adds, because your partner may take you up on it or simply get annoyed. Like going to bed angry, packing your bags with this sort of dissension is never advisable. Moreover, traveling can be hard, so it's important for women who strike off on their own to feel supported by their partners back home.

Carol Pond of Encino travels with a group of girlfriends, even though she's been married for 59 years. But her husband, who was a pilot in World War II, doesn't like to fly. When she mentions that she's thinking about taking a trip, this prince of a man says, "Go ahead and have fun, honey."

For those who want to take their princes along, travel for two can be a matter of negotiation. For instance, a woman might be able to get the trip of her dreams to Paris one fall by agreeing to stay home and help clean out the gutters the next. Debra Borys, a Westwood psychologist, sees further subtleties in the negotiating process. According to her, women who want to take trips "should try to get to the bottom of what it is about travel their partners don't like." Is it eating strange food, getting inoculations or dealing with the mail when they get back? If it's food or shots, perhaps a less exotic destination would fly; if it's the mail, she should offer to sort it or do anything else that might help ease her partner's burdens.

Marilyn Mason, a Santa Fe, N.M., psychologist, also offers some creative ideas. For instance, a friend of hers loves adventure trips, like trekking in Tibet, but her husband isn't interested in anything more grueling than a vacation at the beach. So she goes off to climb mountains, but plans a rendezvous in some balmy paradise with him on her way home.

In cases where women have no option but to travel on their own, Mason advises that they stay in touch with their partner by e-mail, postcard or telephone. This kind of sharing helps keep the couple together emotionally. When they're finally reunited, there's often a romantic payoff, Mason says.

But can disagreements about the attractions of travel be a symptom of serious problems in a relationship? Psychologist Borys says this is only the case when one partner deeply fears the forced intimacy that is usually part of taking a trip or has a need for control.

Neither of these seems to plague Pond and her stay-at-home husband because they're clearly strong enough to let each other follow their hearts. When I asked whether she was saddened by seeing extraordinary sights without him, she said, "If you love beautiful things, they're beautiful no matter who you're with."

Beauty Shop Babes, c/o Hooked on Travel and Cruises, 578 E. Highway 160, Lamar, MO 64759; telephone (417) 682-9662, fax (417) 682-2212.

Elderhostel, 75 Federal St., Boston, MA 02110; tel. (877) 426-8056, fax (877) 426-2166, Internet http://www.elderhostel.org.

Women's Travel Club, 21401 N.E. 38th Ave., Aventura, FL 33180; tel. (305) 936-9669 or (800) 480-448, fax (305) 937-7649, Internet http://www.womenstravelclub.com.

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