Dear Inside His Head,
My husband I have two totally different vacation styles, so I’m feeling stressed about our vacation next week — instead of excited. I like to get up and do things and he likes to just hang out, stay at the beach (or lake) all day and not even go to dinner at night. I like to explore the places we visit and NOT cook. I know one way is not better than the other, but I’m not sure how to let him know I don’t really enjoy our vacations.
We can usually only afford one vacation a year, so I’d really like to have fun, not be stressed out or irritated the whole time. What’s your advice for making it work for both of us? I don’t want to just go exploring by myself or with the kids. I’d rather have my husband with us since we could split up and do our own thing at home. What do you think?
GUEST HUSBAND: Vacations are often like marriages themselves, full of compromise. This can be especially true for couples who like to experience vacation differently.
My wife loves the beach and there is no doubt that is her happy place. Her VERY happy place is a beach 18 hours from here, so driving a family of 7 (dog goes too) is my self proclaimed biggest sacrifice for our beach vacations.
Unfortunately for my wife I tend to believe that this “sacrifice” excuses me from participating in other activities during our vacation. This obviously isn’t true, but selfishly I do tend to think this way.
Depending on the year, I REALLY need the time to recharge my batteries from work and my favorite thing to do is… NOTHING. Unfortunately I tend to think, “doesn’t everyone want to do nothing just like me?”
I believe there are two steps to finding vacation harmony:
Step 1: Discuss your expectations of your vacation before you go, because even though you’ve dropped obvious hints numerous times, my guess is, he has no clue. (There is a part of the man’s brain that is apparently missing where hints are acknowledged and decoded).
Step 2: Compromise on what you do during the vacation. Spend time doing what you love and spend time doing what he loves.
Hopefully this will lead to a better experience for everyone.
MAVERICK: I think in this case, communication and keeping expectations realistic is important.
He likes to relax and you like to go and do. So, you should do both, sorta.
Divide the vacation into some days where you get to do exactly what you want to do, and you get to do it all day long. Same for him.
Example, if it’s a beach day for him, the family gets the whole day at the beach The whole day. No complaining, no whining, no sabotage. Same goes for you: a day shopping and eating out to your heart’s content.
That way, each of you knows what to expect and no one is disappointed. Expectations are clearly communicated and both parties do their best to manage them.
Some days negotiate a split, maybe running around most of the day on the promise that the family is back at the beach to watch the sunset and then with plans to run out for a quick bite to eat. Or you go fishing at the lake early one day, have a quick lunch, and then spend the afternoon sightseeing and grabbing a special dinner.
Also, unless you’re connected at the hip, it’s allowable to do things on your own. If your husband likes to just hang out, arrange to go catch a show, grab a massage or visit a gallery on your own.
If kids are involved, likely they’ll want to stay with dad if he’s beaching or at the lake but consider allowing the kids to go with one of you if you’re doing something solo that’s kid friendly.
In the end, you can divide the time amicably if you work on it and communicate your needs.
There’s nothing worse than being the spouse who wanted to be at the beach to watch the sunset while the other spouse insists on doing something, say like, wandering around a local flea market. Neither activity is better or worse, but unmet expectations can result in long-term resentment.
GRAY: Vacations should certainly not stress you out. It’s never unreasonable to expect a few days of give and take for each other.
If you can endure a few days of beach-combing with him, then he should be willing to put up with tours and room service. Finding the right destination is the key with compromise because room service doesn’t work if you’re in a tent out in the middle of nowhere.
But instead of finding the right destination I think you should step back and think about how you want to feel when you return home. Does he want to feel the peace of having no schedules and expectations? Do you want to be entertained and pampered by city sites?
Maybe taking separate vacations is something you should consider. Different experiences can be vitalizing and sometimes a little time apart isn’t a bad thing. Googling “separate vacations” will offer a ton of articles lauding the merits (as well as the shortcomings) of doing your own thing.
What about family time? You said you can do your own thing at home and the reverse is equally true. If you want family experiences it shouldn’t be the responsibility of your vacation. Nor is it the burden of the vacation to make everyone happy – it’s yours. And that happiness may not come from the same places. And if you’re miserable doing what your husband wants and he’s miserable doing what you want then that’s not making everyone happy – it’s just spreading the stress and irritation around.
And never underestimate the power of the staycation. It’s rare that I encounter someone who has taken the time to explore many local attractions – and the obvious benefit is if you find new things you really like then you can enjoy it all year.
So my advice is compromising, splitting up or going nowhere. But no matter the choice, it should be what brings the most happiness to each individual without making someone suffer the experience.
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