Here is July’s installment of “Ask Shelby” with Chester County’s own Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley:
We just got back from our summer vacation and it was a disaster. My husband and I fought the entire time. He was mad at how much money I was spending, I was annoyed at how much time he wanted to spend with his parents. He expected me to watch the kids the whole time, and then he gave me a hard time when I wanted to go get my nails done! It felt like such a waste of a vacation! Why was our one week of vacation such a disaster and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen next time?
Needing a Vacation from my Vacation
Dear Needing a Vacation from my Vacation,
I hear you! So many couples end up fighting while on vacation. It seems to be a mix of different vacationing styles, stress from the pressure of cramming in a season’s worth of fun into one week, and lack of pre-planning. I have found some calm, thoughtful conversations before your vacation can really make a difference.
Next time, a few weeks prior, start the conversation with the idea of sharing your hopes, expectations, and concerns about the vacation. A simple, “What would you like to see happen during our vacation?” is a great way to start. Remember that this is an information gathering phase, so there is no need to judge, squabble, or veto anything just yet. Hear each other out. Talk about a budget: how much money you each envision spending and where you’d like to be frugal and where you’d like to splurge. Talk about responsibilities: packing, keeping tabs on the kids, making reservations, etc. Again, share your ideas for what you’d like to see happen and what your concerns are. Talk kindly about past obstacles and ways you envision doing things differently this time around. Talk about time alone, family time, time as a couple, and shared time with family or friends who are vacationing with you. Talk about hopes for activities and down time. After each of you has a good idea of what you both would like to see happen, first notice how similar your hopes are. Enjoy a moment of knowing you are with a compatible partner. Next, discuss the areas where your visions don’t line up and come up, calmly and kindly, with some ways to make you both happy. Be willing to not have EVERYTHING you hoped for, but know there is usually a way to achieve some shared vision that allows both parties to feel validated.
Be honest about what you’d like—this is no time to be a martyr. Also realize that compromise can take many different forms: if you want to sleep in every day until 10:00 am and your husband wants to get up at 6:00 am to start the tourism activities, you can either decide to rise at 8:00 am every day, or you can do an A/B approach: Monday, rise at 6:00 am, Tuesday, at 10:00 am. Also consider that he can get up at 6:00 am, do some things he’d enjoy, and you can join him after you get up at 10:00 am. Be open to many different possibilities and don’t get caught up in being right, or fighting to have it your way. This is your vacation you’re planning. It’s better to find a way to enjoy it than to have it all your way and have resentment and anger ruling the week.
I hope you enjoy your next vacation! And remember: this one spent fighting was only a waste if you don’t choose to learn and grow from it.
**Remember to check out Shelby’s website, Family Help Today, for a variety of useful information for couples, individuals, families, and kids. You can also find out more about Shelby’s AWESOME e-books on her site.