Here’s a question for you: my husband and I have a week off together. Last night he revealed that he wants to go to Paris and visit museums. I just want to go to a tropical island and lie on a beach somewhere! I think he should do what I want since I’m the one that really needs a vacation, and he always makes the decisions. Then I feel bad because I know how much he’s been wanting to see Europe. We have been waiting a long time for this, and I don’t want to get into a big fight but I don’t know how to avoid it either. How can we decide on this in a nice way?
Dear Can’t Decide,
If both of you want your own vacation really badly, it’s not going to feel nice. You will both feel the other person cares more about themselves than the other person. Irreconcilable differences make us feel unloved.
Here are the two dangers to trying to convince the other person to do things your way:
- The deep and long-term disappointments that you both have suffered throughout the marriage will get expressed. This is in the hopes that the other person will feel guilty enough to do what you want. And then, of course, you will both of feel like you don’t even deserve a vacation.
- You will start the “Remember what I’ve done for you” competition in which both of you outline what, since your first date, you have done for the other person, to prove that you are the better partner. This may lead to you finally agreeing to vacation…on separate planets.
- You could try to “sell” each other on your own vacations. He could research day spas and relaxation resorts for you in Paris, and you could seduce him into a Tropical vacation filled with history and culture. He sounds like an interesting man. Come to think of it, if he wants to go to Paris, he may also be romantic. I like him!
If this conflict can’t get resolved without dredging up too much pain from the past, use this “journey” together to come to terms with the fact that the marriage needs some work.
Channeling some of the negativity into a therapist’s office would be good insurance. Alternatively, if the marriage has a solid enough foundation of enjoyment and love to withstand talking about it, you may be able to tolerate each other’s negativity and selfishness enough to be playful in selling your own vacation package.
Whoever wins in this conflict, may not necessarily be the winner, either. Giving something to your partner, and thereby “losing,” often leads to feeling more loved in return. When you can feel loved, you are a winner. Wherever you decide to go, I hope you enjoy your journey together. Having married late in life, I always try to remember