Everyone wants to smooth things over after a fight between romantic partners as quickly as possible. While time does heal all, time also takes too damn long. So, occasionally, a couple will try to get back in that lovey-dovey zone with some quick fixes, like showering each other with gifts or planning a weekend getaway, hoping their troubles don’t follow them to Palm Springs or Martha’s Vineyard. Nobody fights on Martha’s Vineyard, right? In a way, this type of move makes sense. Things swing drastically to the negative side after a fight, so you want to do something drastic to push them back to the positive. You just want to feel good and in love again, and if that feeling can’t come naturally when you’re just sitting around watching TV post-fight, maybe something out of the ordinary, like a nice trip or some flowers, will bring it back.
There are a couple of problems, however, with using gifts, trips, and other grand gestures to try to fix relationship problems. For one, it’s expensive, and consumer debt can cause even more fights in a relationship. Secondly, it doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If you just throw a romantic getaway or private chef’s dinner for two at every argument, it’s easy to start to think, “Well, we don’t need to actually fix our problems!” So the root issues get buried deeper and deeper, and probably come back stronger and stronger. Do you use grand gestures to cover up a toxic relationship? Or perhaps have a partner trying to distract you from his toxic ways with presents and trips? Here are some signs.
You get along better when you’re away
You struggle to get along in everyday life. The daily stresses of work, other social obligations, potential jealousy related to friends of the opposite sex, responsibilities to your family, and time limitations challenge your relationship. But the second you two get to a suite at a resort, a remote Glamping site or charming cceanside Airbnb, it’s smooth sailing. You get along great so long as there aren’t things around like, other people. Or dishes to do. Or calendars to coordinate. With a margarita in your hand and a masseuse working on your back, you two are two peas in a pod.
Everyone gets along that way
Here’s the problem with basing your relationship strength on how you get along when you escape to a romantic getaway: pretty much everyone gets along under those circumstances. Research has even proven that vacationing together strengthens a feeling of relationship satisfaction (something travel companies may tout in their advertisements). And that’s a piece of information worth knowing. But don’t let it trick you into thinking, “We can just go on a trip any time we aren’t getting along.” To be able to say that you and your partner don’t fight when your every need is catered to by hotel staff and you don’t have the stress of work isn’t saying much about the strength of the relationship.
It can’t just be the two of you
Some couples can find that other people are the cause of their relationship problems – or at least that’s what they think. Maybe fights about one person having too busy of a social calendar drift away when you two just go away somewhere, and there are no friends there, asking for your time. Maybe arguments about in-laws aren’t an issue when you travel to a different time zone where they struggle to reach you. The problem is that other people will not disappear entirely. How you get along with one another’s friends and family is a big predictor of the success of the relationship. In fact, research has found that if a man reports being close to his mother-in-law, his risk of divorce drops drastically. So if you two can only get along holed up in a Marriott or some foreign land where you don’t have to deal with anybody, that’s a problem.
These gestures always take priority
Perhaps you screw over your friends on a regular basis to make room for these spontaneous trips or romantic evenings to save your relationship. Many a friend has been left ditched when you had clear plans because your relationship “has to come first,” and you and your beau got in a blow-up fight and feel you must pack your bags and go on a vacation right now to fix things. Maybe you’ve flaked on friends’ birthday dinners and book readings, and other events that were meaningful to them, because your relationship argument required immediate and intense attention – like making a big romantic meal at home, alone, until you get along again. If you can only get along through the use of huge gestures, that usually necessitates canceling on other people.
Your relationship is killing your friendships
If you must turn to drastic measures and grand gestures to fix relationship problems, then that means just keeping your relationship afloat requires a tremendous amount of precious resources on your end. Money is of course one of those resources, but also time and attention – your relationship gets all of your time and attention at the drop of a dime because arguments require booked flights and romantic staycations, pushing everyone else to the wayside. In other words, if you do use grand gestures to cover up a toxic relationship, you’ve likely found your friendships taking a hit. And that’s bad for you – it’s literally bad for your health. Studies have found that women with early-stage breast cancer were more likely to die from it if they didn’t have many friends. Think about that next time you want to flake on your best friend for the third time to jet off with your boyfriend to smooth over a fight.
Your social media is a misrepresentation of your relationship
Based on your social media, people would think that you and your partner must be SO sweet to each other. Every single post is a collage of his most recent huge display of affection, like a dozen roses left for you, a surprise hot air balloon ride on a Sunday morning, a limousine for date night. On social media, you appear to be the perfect couple who showers one another with affection and presents. But when you look at it, you get a pit in your stomach, knowing that what people see on there is a drastic misrepresentation of the truth.
The story behind the photographs
The real story behind that photograph of the life-size teddy bear wearing a diamond necklace for you is that your partner gave that to you two days after saying absolutely terrible, horrendous, insulting, frightening, and even unforgivable things. The roses left for you? Those were a makeup gift after you two broke up for the tenth time. You slammed doors, drove off in the middle of the night, and a few days later, roses showed up, a tear-filled reunion occurred, and you never talked about the fact that you, um, totally called it quits 36 hours ago. Every gift is an apology or take-me-back present. That’s the truth behind the photos.
You worry about downtime
You worry about nights when you’ll have no distractions. If you aren’t at a concert or at a fancy dinner with a wine pairing complemented by a sommelier talking you through each dish, or on a romantic brunch date, you wonder whether or not you’ll get along. The truth is that the toxicity of this relationship is always there, waiting for its chance to pounce, and you’ve been trying to outrun it by keeping busy with over-the-top romantic dates and gestures. But if it’s just the two of you, at home, winding down after working from home and watching TV together, you sense that if you just so happen to disagree, another blowup fight could be on the horizon.
This has been your most expensive relationship
If you can’t get along simply watching Netflix and making food, your relationship will get expensive quickly. In some cases, maybe the problem isn’t even that your relationship is toxic or tumultuous, but rather that there isn’t any real sort of spark there. Only external factors can create a spark, like elaborate and expensive experiences. But if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t feel excited to be around this person if there isn’t some form of entertainment outside of your conversation. If left to your own devices, things either fall flat, or they turn into an argument.
You really can’t put a price on happiness
If you’re in a relationship where you keep spending and spending, hoping that happiness is just on the other side of this next vacation or this next set of gifts, unfortunately, that’s likely not true. Research has even found that being in a loving relationship is a much bigger indicator of happiness levels than getting a salary increase. It’s proof that more money can’t solve issues of depression or dissatisfaction in life. Using grand gestures and massive spending to avoid facing toxicity in a relationship is simply not a sustainable model. You’ll go broke before fixing even one relationship issue. And if you can’t get along doing something “boring” and simple with your partner, how are you supposed to spend a life together?