Flying solo: Don't ruin a perfectly good holiday by taking your partner

Marriage is a glorious and noble institution, says Mary Killen. But that doesn't mean you have to ruin a perfectly good holiday by taking your partner

This month, I am off to Cornwall for five days without my husband. Next month, my destination will be Scotland, but again I will be spending five days without him. It's nothing personal, you understand – even though my husband is widely agreed to be one of the most annoying men in England, I still enjoy his company very much. It's just that this increasingly seems to be the way that things are working out for married couples in 2008.

We no longer have set weeks off work the way we used to. Millions work flexi-hours but someone has to plan ahead and this tends to be the grown women. Grown women seem to be the only ones into whom the knowledge has sunk that holidays have to be planned in advance and dates committed to. Men seem unable to grasp the concept that failure to book in advance will mean the villa/hotel/cottage/camping opportunity you are considering may no longer be available.

But it's very difficult these days, especially if you have teenagers in your life for whom every arrangement is provisional. And when you have a husband who prevaricates as badly as any teenager then your only option is to commit yourself to the holiday arrangement.

Admittedly, my husband's inability to commit stems from the fact that he genuinely doesn't know when he will be available. He is an artist and unable to predict when one commission will be finished and whether there will be a gap before the next one starts. The other trouble is that he is a gardening addict and does not want to go away at the peak gardening time of year.

Therefore, for the past two years if somebody says to me in February, "I am going to take a house in Polzeath the first week in July, would you and Giles like to come?", I reply, "Giles is impossible to pin down but I will come." Giles, on the other hand, greets any holiday invitation with dread (as he does dinner-party invites, although he always seems to enjoy them when he gets there).

For various reasons, I am usually in a position to bring a "spare man" if Giles won't come; a non-romantic arrangement, of course – but I prefer it to taking another woman. I like the butlering element, having someone to make a fuss of me – besides, with another woman, we'd just complain about our husbands all the time and that's not a holiday.

It hasn't always been this way. Giles and I used to enjoy going on holiday together, especially in the days when we both knocked back flagons of wine before we got too old to process the toxins, and until the children were about 14 and six. Then it became kind of impossible unless the holiday was in an all-inclusive resort with built-in childminders.

It was the same on mini-holidays when we used to go and stay for the weekend with friends in big houses. I remember the dreadful day our chief benefactress (installed amid rolling acres with swimming pool and woodland facilities) announced that she was giving up having people to stay at weekends."It was different when the children all went to bed at around seven and the grown-ups could start drinking," she observed. "Now the children are old enough to stay up, the dining-room becomes like an army barracks if you have more than one couple to stay."

And then the children started wanting to go on holidays with their own friends and without their parents. It was around this time that Giles and I started receiving invitations to go to "singles' weekends", without offspring, at a friend's house in Austria. There was nothing salacious about these invitations, just that our host has small children (in England) and so do most of his friends. Now that children's agendas seem to take precedence over our own, it is increasingly difficult for two parents to find the time to go away together. In the current economic climate, it can also be too expensive.

Our friend had to do it only once to see what a success it was. These parents became temporary singletons. For the first time in years they would find themselves without the responsibility of sharing bath and tea times and having their partner pull faces at them or tell the punchlines to their story just as they were building up to it. Most found that occupying the holiday persona of singleton was refreshing. "It was the break from myself and my usual boring, harassed, working-parent persona that I enjoyed so much," said one guest.

I, too, experienced this enjoyment and so, when my husband refuses to commit, I go on holiday alone or with another single friend of the opposite sex. What a relief it is to have a bedroom and bathroom to yourself, to keep the radio on all night or read with the light on. To spend the day walking gormlessly around shops picking things up and putting them down again without a furious man revving a car engine impatiently outside. To be able not to have to spend an entire day looking for your husband's keys or nagging them to ring someone back. It is a break from yourself to go on holiday without your partner.

There is another factor which comes into play. Excess and the tyranny of choice are the blight of the modern age. We are not showing off when I say that we have too many friends. Almost everyone does these days. It was different in the time when we all lived in small villages, but now we serially change jobs and houses and can stay in touch via the internet, there is never enough time to process friends.

Hence, it suits both of us that Giles has been invited on his own to stay with close mutual friends in Devon this summer. His host does not mind the fact that he is still prevaricating. He did so last year and turned up on the day.

"It's not that we don't love you too, Mary," said our friend as she issued the invitation to Giles (via me, of course, because he never answers the telephone). "It's just that when you aren't there Giles can talk in a silly voice and do his silly walk, which we all love but you don't."

Going it alone: Why people travel solo

Holidaying away from your other half is a growing trend: a fifth of couples prefer to holiday separately, according to research by Singular, a company that specialises in finding holidays for solo travellers. And, according to the travel company Opodo, at least 27 per cent of its customers in relationships now regularly travel without partners. Why?

"Trips away when I was small were fraught," says Alice-Azania Jarvis, 23. "Dad would be up at 6am shouting 'Who's coming for a walk?', while my mum would be groaning in bed, determined to have a lie-in. So we started holidaying separately: I'd end up on adventure trips with Dad, while my sister would go to France to read and take it easy with Mum."

"I have not been on holiday with my long-term partner in years as I end up looking after our daughter most of the time while she relaxes in cafés, museums and art galleries" says Marcus Thompson, 49. "There's no point being resentful while on holiday, so instead I cut out the resentful part and just take our nine-year-old away instead."

"I like to go to off-beat and supposedly dangerous places where my partner is not keen to follow me," says Jerome Taylor, 25.

"We find that the time away makes us appreciate each other more when we get back." Kate Burt

Mary Killen is the author of 'How to Live With Your Husband' (Mandarin)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert