I love beach vacations. They’re my favorite, even though I never really had one until I was an adult. Beaches hold more interest for me than simply a place to get a tan. Frankly, I don’t really tan. I’ve always joked I’m like plastic. I rarely burn, and my version of a tan is achieving other people’s normal skin tone. Beach vacations tend to be times of reflection. There’s something about overlooking the immense ocean, spanning the horizon, that makes you reflect on what really matters.
When I was a toddler my mother took me to the beach. I don’t remember it, but I have proof I was there because one of my favorite photographs of me with my mom is us playing in the sand.
Then there was that time as a teenager. My mom and dad drove by a beach on our way back from a dentistry conference my father attended near Disney World. That time we walked around for a few minutes and got back into the car.
My next beach close encounter was in August of 1985. On our honeymoon, my first husband and I stayed in a hotel by the beach in San Jose, California. We never actually stepped onto the beach though. When I suggested we do so, he announced that he doesn’t like beaches. I didn’t push the point.
My reflective beach moments began in 2000, at a beach spot along the California coast — Hwy 1. My first husband and I went back to California for our 15th wedding anniversary. I made him pull over to the side of the road and let me walk on the beach. I wanted to sink my toes into the sand. As I felt the cold sand between my toes, I wondered why I had not insisted that we walk on the beach on our honeymoon. Probably because what happened on our honeymoon foreshadowed the dynamic that would exist in our relationship for many years. He told me he didn’t like doing things, and I went along to get along.
I began to wonder, “How much of my life have I missed because I went along with whoever I was with?” This question planted deeply into my mind. Gradually I began doing the things I wanted to do — even if that meant doing them alone or with my kids.
My most pivotal beach moment came on the way home from a family beach vacation. My first husband and I took five of our six children to Seagrove Beach, Florida in August 2011. I’d spent the days by the ocean with our kids while my husband laid in the bed watching TV. During the ride home, I began evaluating my life and decided that something had to change. I decided I wanted more out of my life and out of a marital relationship. I needed connection — real connection. I wanted to feel alive!
The decisions I made in the car that day were so pivotal, they changed the entire trajectory of my life. Immediately after making the decision that things had to change, a vision opened up to me of what my life could be with a connected partner. Eventually, because of the decisions I made that day, my 28-year-marriage ended in 2013.
The next beach excursion I took was with my second husband the summer after we were married. While I enjoyed relaxing on the beach, something seemed to be missing. I thought perhaps beaches were only really fun if children came along. I loved the beach vacation with my kids in 2011, and I assumed that because they weren’t with us, that’s what made this vacation a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
In retrospect, I realize the quasi-boredom I felt on this beach vacation foreshadowed the end of my second marriage 9 months later.
That brings me to the long weekend beach vacation my third husband and I just took to Florida’s Forgotten Coast – Carrabelle Beach and St. George Island in April 2018. The temperatures ranged between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cloudy and incredibly windy most of the time, but we had a wonderful time. The company was great and the food was delicious.
A long-time friend told me when we returned, “I’m so glad this beach vacation went so wonderfully for you… considering how the last two went.” I hadn’t really made the connection about beach vacations and how they indicate my level of connection with my spouse. But it’s true, this vacation was a completely different experience.
There are so many wonderful things to celebrate in our marriage, that I sometimes get a little timid to fully embrace and celebrate them. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. What if I wake up and find it was all a dream?
This isn’t to say we don’t have our moments. Frankly, our relationship takes work — a lot of open, honest, vulnerable conversation. We both have things from the past that come back to haunt us on occasion.
Yet, we are committed to each other, committed to talking things out, working them through, and seeking understanding. We’re both quick to forgive and quick to own our part of any misunderstanding. Life is like that, isn’t it? Wonderful, carefree beach vacations and the nitty-gritty day-to-day work-it-through seasons. My mother taught me to love work, and it’s a good thing, because anything of any value takes work.
I count myself blessed that I have a husband who knows how to embrace the beauty and the fun in the day-to-day. It’s wonderful to have a man who is willing to work to keep our communication in good order. It’s making all the difference. The third time really is the charm.
Click here for a recap of the places we ate and visited in Florida’s Forgotten Coast – Apalachicola Bay, Carrabelle Beach and St. George Island area.