TV’s Steph and Dom Parker, 51 and 54, draw on their 20 years of marriage to solve your relationship problems . . .
Him wanting to go without me has hurt my feelings and made me question the strength of our marriage. We are in our late 50s — this was a second marriage for us both — and the five children we have between us are now grown up.
The Question: After almost 11 years of what I thought were blissful summer holidays in Spain and Greece, my husband has announced that this year he wants to go walking in the Alps alone for ten days (stock photo)
We work full-time, which means our holiday is limited and often hard to co-ordinate. He says he wants time alone to unwind completely and ‘reconnect with himself’.
He has always been happy in his own company. But my best friend thinks it’s a red flag and that couples who holiday separately are doomed to split up. What do you think, and how do I tell him how painful I find it?
Yes! Ask him what he’s really up to
Steph (pictured) says: Ask him what he’s really up to
My first instinct is that this doesn’t sound good. Sorry, but I think your best friend may be right. If Dom turned round after all these years and said ‘actually I fancy going off on my own for ten days’, I’d smell a rat.
Sometimes men find ways to bring relationship problems to a head without directly addressing them, and to me this feels like a vehicle for doing just that.
You say he likes his own company, but he’s never wanted to holiday alone before, so this isn’t normal behaviour for him. In my view, all unusual behaviour has to be addressed head-on.
I don’t blame you for thinking it’s hurtful. We marry to share our lives, but when we work full-time, we spend a great deal of time with other people.
A holiday is precious and it’s devastating to hear our chosen partner say they’d rather spend it away from you than with you. A weekend with the boys, fine. Ten days (apparently) alone? That’s different.
Of course there’s no hard and fast rule. Some couples do choose to holiday separately, and that’s fine if it’s a decision made together. I can’t imagine wanting to do that myself, but some people find two weeks in the exclusive company of their spouse quite suffocating.
Or perhaps they just have different ideas of what makes a good holiday. But I can’t help thinking your situation is different. Your husband has announced his plans out of the blue, with no apparent thought for your feelings.
So what to do? I can feel your trepidation as I read your letter, but you’re going to have to be brave, grab the bull by the horns and find out what he’s really up to.
Do it immediately. Sit him down, ask him to rewind and explain again why he wants to go on holiday without you. Don’t be confrontational, but do tell him how hurt, even shocked you are. It’s going to be a difficult conversation, but you musn’t get over-emotional. You need to make it easy for him to talk.
Yes, there might be another woman, or it might be a midlife crisis, or he might be able to convince you it is all about the walking and the solitude.
Whatever it is, you need to know and you need to know now. Marriages go through stages of re-evaluation, where you have to sit down and see if you’re both on the same page.
But most of all, a marriage is about sharing — the bad stuff as well as the good. Open the door to that conversation and help him blurt out the real reasons for his solo holiday. Then you can deal with it together.
Middle-aged men need time alone
Dom says: Middle-aged men need time alone
I’m going to shoot straight to the end of your letter and say that the concern seems to come primarily from your friend.
But, honestly, I think she’s overreacting. Calm down and chill your boots. I’m not sure there’s much to worry about at all, and I don’t for a minute think your marriage is doomed.
There are lots of reasons why a man in his 50s might want some time alone to think. Perhaps he’s wants to review his career, or he’s worried about his children, or his health, or your health. And it may well be he needs time to sort these things out in his own mind before he shares them with you.
His decision to holiday alone has offended you, and, yes, it is offensive, but you shouldn’t automatically think of it as a rejection of you. It’s not.
People take solo breaks for a variety of reasons, and while I’d be surprised if Steph wanted to do it by active choice, we’ve often been forced to holiday apart because our son, who suffers from severe epilepsy, has been unable to travel and one of us has had to stay at home with him.
There are justifiable reasons for wanting to do it. Your husband’s desire to take time out and enjoy his own company for once sounds perfectly plausible to me.
Could he be having an affair? Well, of course he could, but I think you’d have picked up on other clues by now. Has he been acting suspiciously in any other way? Taking odd phone calls or ‘working late’ more often than usual? If not, and it’s simply a case of this sudden need to travel alone, then relax.
To me, this sounds like a rather mild midlife crisis. Let him go and chew over whatever’s bugging him, and all will be revealed when he comes home.
The fact that he’s chosen the Alps as his destination should, I think, reassure you. After all, there’s no better place to put problems into perspective than an awe-inspiring natural landscape. He wants to think, not stray.
My advice to you is to tell him right away that you’re hurt, which is a perfectly fair response, but also that you understand that he needs to do this, and you won’t stand in his way. Tell him you expect a full debrief when he gets back and send him off with your love.
Meanwhile, take a break yourself — though perhaps not with that friend you mention — and have fun choosing a joint holiday with your husband for later in the year. If you play this right, it will end up strengthening, not damaging, your marriage.
If you have a question you’d like Steph and Dom to tackle, write to: stephanddom@ dailymail.co.uk