Same Crap, Nicer Scenery: How to Reduce Arguing on Your Next Vacation

Imagine this: You and your partner are about to take a summer vacation. You each pack, make the trip and unpack when you arrive. Your bag contains: your e-reader, candles, an eye mask, personal massager, and an assortment of teas. You’ve been looking forward to lazy days lounging around so you can unwind on this trip. You look over as your partner unpacks his bag and can’t believe your eyes! His bag contains: a snorkel, flippers, sport glasses, daypack, hiking boots, cycling shoes, shorts & helmet. Okay, I realize this is an exaggeration but stick with me. I want to illustrate a point…

Now your thoughts begin to run wild: “He isn’t planning on spending any time with me this trip. He’d rather do activities. He’s here to adventure, NOT to enjoy my company. How could he not know we’re here to spend time together RELAXING?!?”

Maybe your partner’s thoughts begin to run wild as he can see the things you’ve packed. He may be telling himself: “Her e-reader!?! She isn’t planning on spending any time with me this trip. She wants to read. She’s here for R&R, not to enjoy MY company. How could she not know we’re here to have fun together EXPLORING!?”

What can get generated by this stuff we’re telling ourselves? Hurt feelings and arguing. Both partners may come to feel annoyed, hurt, disappointed, and disconnected. And if there’s any similarity between this scenario and your childhood, this situation is being exacerbated by your history of past hurts. And all this on a vacation you’ve spent effort and money to make happen! It’s the same crap occurring in nicer scenery.

Not expressing expectations BEFOREHAND gets couples into conflict. In addition to the time it takes to plan your trip, I’d encourage you to add in time to talk about your expectations. Use these sentence starters:

• The first thing I want to do when we arrive is…
• During the trip, I want to be sure we/I…
• It’s not a big deal to me if we don’t get to…
• My intention for this vacation is…
• How you and I can enjoy each other’s company is…
• I’m thinking that the amount of time we’ll spend with others vs. by ourselves OR together vs. us each doing something independently is…

A 30-minute conversation before you leave could save you from conflict, arguing, and hurt feelings on the trip. It will allow for more time for what you’ve traveled for: to enjoy each other’s company, to relax and/or feel energized, and to reconnect with yourself.

BONUS if you have children: My MOST enjoyable family vacation was when my kids were teens and I initiated a discussion before the trip. I said to the family “There are four of us so each person gets to choose the activity the whole family will do for one day AND the other three have go to along on that day WITHOUT COMPLAINTS.” It was wonderful! We each did things we wouldn’t have chosen and all had a good time. But the joke was on me: When two family members presented their idea, internally I rolled my eyes thinking that wasn’t going to be something I would enjoy. But I had to adhere to my rule and go along without complaints. To my great surprise, I had an AWESOME TIME on both of those days!

If you and your partner need help talking about expectations for vacation or other topics, don’t wait any longer. Contact us at 908-246-3074, EXT 1 or email us at getsupport@couplestherapycenterofnj.com. Help is just one phone call/email away.

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