Vacation sounds like so much fun, right? What can be better than taking a break and relaxing with the one your love? You make the arrangements, book the hotel and flight, count down the days and anticipate the zen. What can go wrong? Yet often, things do go wrong. You return home disappointed, irritated and confused.
Generally, the frustrations I’ve experienced on vacation have been triggered by one or both of us making too many assumptions about what each of us wants. Too often I have held unspoken and unrealistic expectations that my wife should now what I want.
Where do I go from here?
Before taking off, take the time to think about what this break means to you; what do you need from it and how do you want to spend that time? What do you want to take away from it? Write this down and include wish lists in your preparation. Be as specific as you can.
Share and listen. Demonstrate an active interest in what your partner shares with you from their list. Notice what you feel when you hear it. What surprises you? Avoid giving negative reactions, but ask questions to understand what their desires mean to them. (How important is this to you? Would you be disappointed if you didn’t get to do it? What help do you need from me to make it happen?) When your partner finishes, switch turns. As you share, give your partner room to think out loud. Our sharing is about exploring and expressing what’s on our mind, not so much pushing for agreement.
Treat your shares and wish lists as a work in progress and give them time and room to develop and grow through dialogue and reflection. Sharing in this format can have a deep impact on us. If this happens be sure to inform your partner: “Listening to you speak of how much you want this, I’m thinking…”
Tension and conflict are inevitable in a close relationship. Be direct when something is not feeling right with you in a gentle way. Generally speaking, the first three minutes of a difficult conversation determine the direction that conversation is likely to take. How can you let your partner know about a frustration without resorting to defensiveness and retreat?
Finally, take time to play and laugh. Be grateful. May your next vacation be a blessing.