The lament "Ah, if only we could get away" is often heard from office slaves this side of summer. But while it may seem grim minding the fort while everyone else is away, going on vacation is a minefield for the unwary.
This is why some people opt for what the travel trade calls a home-based vacation, instead - not necessarily staying at home, but staying over for a night or two at nearby hotels or resorts and splurging on fine dining: simply an extravagant extension of normal life.
It may seem like paradise - getting away from it all with your loved one to that beach hotel on the Cote d'Azur or an idyllic island in the Greek archipelago for a glorious week or two.
And that's the rub. Periods of unstructured time - the break from routine - can play havoc with relationships. If you are used to having time apart, being together all day, every day, for several days can send the best relationship into an acrimonious tailspin.
I have known relationships to survive, not so much in spite of, but because of, the regular absence of one partner on business trips.
Absence really can make the heart grow fonder. Hence the adage, "I married him for better or for worse; but not for lunch."
Couples on vacation are often put in a proximity and an interdependence for which they may not have a script.
When away from routine, there should be a new division of privileges and responsibilities, and a rediscovering of each individual's role.
According to Jackie Walker, a relationship coach based in Edinburgh, early September and mid-January - the periods just after a vacation - are peak times for couples to seek relationship counseling or initiate divorce proceedings.
"Vacations are stress times for relationships," Walker says. "People go back to work after end-of-year and summer holidays and say, 'I can't go on living like this anymore; I'm not going through another year."'
They suddenly realize they have little in common with their partner; and the time they spend together is either spent proving who is right, or blaming each other, rather than enjoying their relationship and supporting and encouraging one another.
"In daily life, couples can be so busy with work and social commitments that they spend little time together," Walker adds. "But sometimes all day, every day, for a couple of weeks is too much. If you are used to having time apart in your daily lives, allow for this when you are on holiday."
Vacations are a good time for taking stock and reflecting upon our lives. "But if you've been burying your head in the sand about relationship problems, long, hot, leisurely days" can allow time to admit "that something is very wrong," Walker says. "Many couples take a holiday in the hope of reviving a foundering relationship, but it's the late summer that I get a high level of inquiries for counseling - the divorce lawyers are busy at that time, too."
Paradoxically, relationships often founder when a couple returns from vacation. A return to the reality of daily life convinces them that they will be happy only if they leave their partner.
"That affects a lot of people," Walker says. "They may be right; but sometimes it can be helpful to recognize the things you need to change about your life so as to feel happier all year round."
Walker says there are three parts to a relationship. "There is him, there is her, and there's the relationship. And very often the third part is forgotten; people work on the assumption of 'I'm doing this' and 'I'm doing that' and forget about the 'we' part."
If you are still thinking of taking a late vacation this year, here are some tips for divorce-proofing your relationship:
Decide what you both want out of a holiday and agree on joint or separate activities. Give each other space.
Agree on who takes responsibility for what: booking flights, hotel and car rental.
Agree on a budget and who's paying for what.
Try something different; if you always do beach holidays, try a rural retreat, somewhere quiet to go and walk and talk, or an activity holiday with friends.
Go on holiday without your partner and come home to a revitalized relationship.
A lot of the pleasure is in the expectation; but be realistic; expect the unexpected, and for things to go wrong.
7 months ago