The scene couldn't have been more idyllic. From my vantage point — a sun lounge on the wooden deck of a villa perched halfway up a jungle-festooned hill — I stared out across the water.
Huge limestone formations bobbed on the horizon, a flotilla of stunning yellow and brown cliff-faces topped with a mop of green. I marvelled at the silence — the wonderful, all-encompassing silence — broken only by the occasional bumblebee buzz of a long-boat as it sluiced through the still waters of the bay far below.
And then I looked across the villa's private plunge pool and saw a woman reclining on a sun lounge, engrossed in her book. She looked utterly familiar to me, and yet so strange.
Where once I could have told you exactly what she might be thinking, what worries, concerns, fads and interests were uppermost in her mind, it occurred to me now that I only had the vaguest of ideas what was going on inside that head.
Certainly, apart from her views vis-a-vis the daily challenges of raising of our two small children — whether to continue our son's soccer classes and when he was next due for a haircut or how to juggle our daughter's day-care and whether we could afford two or three days a week — I had long ago lost track of what made her tick.
This getaway was long overdue. The time had come to start dating my wife.
When your every waking moment is dominated by your children and their needs, it's all too easy to take your eyes off your relationship and the importance of the nurturing it also requires.
And so, my wife and I had booked a trip to Thailand. Leaving the children with their grandparents (an arrangement, it transpired, that the children were far less stressed about than either of us), we jetted off to the glorious surrounds of the Six Senses Resort and Spa on Koh Yao Noi, an island in the sun-dappled stretch of water between Phuket and Krabi.
It was an extravagance, to be sure. Seven nights in the lap of luxury where the biggest decision on any given day was whether to leave the villa for a spa treatment, spend the day ambling about the island on a rented motorbike or while away the hours poolside, reading, sleeping and ordering room service.
And while we should have taken to it like a duck to water, we both found the first couple of days disconcerting. It's strange to go from having barely enough time to take a shower on any given day, to having all the time in the world. We had forgotten how many hours there are in a day — and found ourselves wondering what we had done with all the free time we had pre-children.
We hadn't so much drifted apart since the kids had arrived, as stood back helplessly as the needs of two little humans drove a wedge between us. There was no question about the certainty of our relationship, but seven days on an idyllic tropical island together served to remind us how much we missed the one-on-one time we previously had as adults. Here, finally, was a chance to recharge and reconnect.
Encouragingly, all it took was a couple of romantic dinners, a bottle of wine or two, an island-hopping day trip and a spot of kayaking for us to re-find one another — and happily, be pleased with our discovery.
We felt like a young couple again. It was liberating to be able to go to beach with only a towel and a book. No heaving great bags of stuff. No need to be constantly on alert to avert life-threatening kiddie accidents. It was life pared back, as it once used to be.
We realised how important it was to see one another in a different context. Even just to see her next to me in the gym exercising (a sight our tag-team child minding had previously rendered impossible) was massively important. And the evenings spent dining together without having to worry about getting home for the babysitter reminded me of our courting days and the reasons we fell in love in the first place.
To see my wife as an independent human being, not just as a child-minding associate, rekindled the passion. We laughed, a lot. And then there was the sleep.
By the time our week together came to a close, I had mixed feelings. I was missing the kids, and longed to see them, but I knew within hours of being reunited I would be pining again for this time in our bubble in splendid isolation.
Where to stay:
Eco-tourism at its most luxurious, the beauty of the Six Senses Resort & Spa, Yao Noi in Thailand is that it is 5-star luxury in casual attire. The emphasis here is on 'slowing down' — a feat made all-too-easy with a staff who anticipate your every need, facilities that are state-of-the-art yet rustic, a mind-altering spa with a vast menu of treatments and a breakfast buffet you could easily live in.
The relatively under-developed island of Yao Noi is dotted with other, less flash resorts and lots of local shopfronts offering every massage imaginable at dirt cheap prices.
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