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Do you think you and your spouse or partner can live together 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 240 square feet of space - more or less? Put that way, it seems daunting, yet thousands do so happily in a recreational vehicle or RV!
When you consider that for many of these couples, one or both have been working and out of the house for years until right before they take off together in their RV, it means two adjustments. Not only do they adjust to living in a tiny space, but they are also adjusting to living together constantly. Either one can be a big adjustment. Adjusting to both together can strain the relationship. A little knowledge and planning can ease the way into all this togetherness.
At first, it may seem like you are on vacation. And you are. That is familiar and you have past behavior to draw on. As the days move on, it may feel like too much togetherness. How do you cope? Here are two important suggestions from other RVers:
1. You and your spouse must like each other.
2. Both you and your spouse must want to live this lifestyle, even if only for a certain period of time.
If you have those two things going for you, the rest can be worked out.
1. Own space: Have your own bit of space, however tiny. You might stake out a certain place to sit in the evenings or a place to work on crafts or hobbies. Claim a cupboard or bin underneath for the things you like to do read, carve, bead, knit. Do not go into your spouse's cupboard without permission. George and I each have our computer spots and work to remember not to interrupt the other without asking permission. Even though we are only a few feet apart, we have a sense of separateness.
2. A retreat: The bedroom or perhaps a corner can be a "retreat" for whomever is needing a little "space." If one of you heads to the bedroom, you can say something to the other, or the other should ask permission to enter. Using the bedroom as a personal space shouldn't interfere with the other's bedtime, however.
3. Different bedtimes: One spouse may already stay up a little later or wake up earlier. This gives the other a little "alone" time.
4. Marriage saver: Whoever watches TV alone should use headphones. Listening to music should be the same unless both people want to listen. The fact that one partner has on headphones gives both a sense of privacy. I call headphones "marriage savers!"
5. Solo activities: Do some activities by yourself. You may be traveling in close quarters but that doesn't mean you have to be joined at the hip and do everything together. Walking, biking, walking the dog, shopping, rig maintenance can be done alone. I enjoy plays and George does not. If there is a local theater production, I'll attend by myself.
6. "Jaimie day": Substitute your name for Jaimie and go off for the day on your own. I learned this from Kay Peterson, one of the founders of the Escapees RV Club. When she was feeling like she needed some space, she would tell her husband she needed a "Kay day." She might go to the library or walk around a mall - something on her own. It didn't need to involve spending money, just some time away. Invariably these days were renewing, and she had things to share with her husband.
7. Get involved: If you are staying at an RV park or resort, check to see if there are any activities going on in the park or community that you might have an interest in. Invite your neighbors over to sit with a cup of coffee or an afternoon drink and snack. If you're there several days, you could organize a get-together to work on a hobby like writing, beading or quilting. Men can meet other men by raising the hood of their truck or motorhome!
8. Find friends: Join an RV club or interest group within it so you can have individual friends as well as couples who are friends. Working or volunteering on the road can give you time to do your own thing plus the chance to interact with other people.
9. Recognize stress: Recognize when you are getting stressed from traveling. Packing up and changing locations every day can be stressful. Schedule some days to putter around and for rest and relaxation.
10. Communication skills: Improve your communication skills. Here are two techniques. One is to argue by the numbers. When you have a difference of opinion, state how important it is on a scale of one to ten. Often an item is very important to one and not that important to the other so that makes the decision. If you both have it ranked high, then you need to negotiate. but many decisions become non-issues. The other is to designate one day a week for arguing - say Tuesday. And you can't write it down! On Tuesday you can discuss any of the issues from the week that you still remember!
Most couples we talk to are closer to each other and are better friends for having decided to RV together. It can, however, end the marriage. Either that, or the couple will get off the road and go back to a more conventional lifestyle where they have more physical space and their own activities. One may even get a job to get away from their spouse.
If you respect each other and recognize your partner's need - and your own - for personal physical and psychological space now and then, you can create an even better relationship and enjoy this lifestyle. Keep in mind that your partner may need more or less space than you do. Each needs to take responsibility for themselves and find ways to meet this need. And remember not to take your partner's genuine need as a personal affront to you or your relationship.
Jaimie Hall Bruzenak is an RV Lifestyle Expert. She has been RVing since 1992. She is the author of Support Your RV Lifestyle! An Insider's Guide to Working on the Road, and other RV books.