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Improve Your Relationship Through A Volunteer Vacation (VIDEO)

09/01/2012 09:09 am ET | Updated Nov 01, 2012

As a couples therapist, I hear a lot about the challenge of finding quality time and the importance of vacations. Many couples are balancing two demanding careers not to mention kids, chores and family demands. It is no wonder that when couples do finally plan some romantic time away, many opt to lie on a beach somewhere -- preferably a location accessible through a direct flight -- and chill. Many couples and families are getting ready to do just that for the last few days of summer. For sure, unstructured beach time is a wonderful way to de-stress, reconnect and recharge.

However, in terms of building intimacy through shared experiences, lounging on a beach is not necessarily the answer. Through my work with many couples, I notice that planning a brief vacation doing something more meaningful (and less vegetative) can do a lot to enhance a relationship. As a client recently described:

My wife and I plan such luxurious trips to treat ourselves since our work is so demanding. But the volunteer trip we took with our church did more for our marriage than any five-star restaurant or high-end resort. We were helping others together and it was such a welcome change of pace from the rhythm of our daily routine. Sharing a joint purpose and taking the focus off of daily life brought us back to what it was like when we first met.

Whether vacationing as a couple or as a family, there are many options through which your vacation time can be used to make a genuine difference.

GlobeAware, Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross are a few of the wonderful organizations to consider. Many places of worship also arrange trips to volunteer. Or , since it is election season, consider volunteering on a political campaign.

Pick a candidate you both truly believe in. Spending a weekend with your partner canvassing for a candidate you respect can help make a difference and help your relationship. (Plus, canvassing is good exercise!) No, it is not necessarily relaxing, so take your relaxing holiday this weekend and plan something more meaningful for a weekend (or week) in the fall.

It is not uncommon to feel hesitant about taking a trip to volunteer. The experience will obviously entail breaking out of your routine and going beyond your daily comfort zone. However, try to push through that hesitation and tell yourself that you and your relationship will grow from the experience!

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