By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
It’s vacation time! Now you just need to figure out where to go and what to do. And so the trouble begins. You want and need some quiet, relaxing time to get recharged. But your partner is keen to explore the world, or at least some interesting corner of it. Now what?
Like with so many other conflicts, the place to begin is with “caring communication.” I say “caring” communication because in addition to sharing and listening in ways that allow you to understand each other, you also need to empathize with each other. To start, try this two-step process with your partner:
Within yourselves, consider and clarify your own wants and needs. Ask yourself: When I think about time off, what do I imagine doing? What would it feel like to do this? What needs does this type of vacation meet?
Share these thoughts and feelings with each other. Each person should explain what they would like to do for vacation and what about this trip is appealing to them. For instance, you might choose going to the beach for a week because being near the ocean is relaxing. It would allow you to de-stress, something you need after a particularly difficult time with family or work. Your partner’s job is to listen and try to understand what this vacation means to you. He or she should then explain this understanding, which you can clarify if it’s not fully accurate.
At this point, before you move on to the decision-making stage, make sure you’ve been able to connect with one another’s needs and that you each sincerely want the other to have their desired vacation. Once you’ve achieved this ”vacation empathy,” you’re ready for some creative problem solving.
Look for how you can both get what you want. There are many ways to do this, such as:
One vacation that includes elements of both of your ideal getaways: For instance, you might go to an all-inclusive resort where you can relax while your partner explores nearby culture and other exciting activities (e.g. parasailing, scuba diving). You might choose to come together for some things and do others on your own.
Two shorter vacations, one for each of your needs: If you have the time, you might be able to enjoy more than one vacation. Then it’s just a matter of deciding on whose vacation preference comes first.
Get what you want separately: There are different ways you can do this. You might get out of town for a mini-break (perhaps with friends) on some weekends, and then come together for a vacation you’d both enjoy. Or, you might decide to vacation separately. This is not for everyone, but it has its advantages. You can each enjoy your preferred vacation and then spend the rest of your time off this summer (e.g. weekends, holiday weekends, evenings) doing things together.
Vacation negotiation can be tricky, but if you act as a team and remain invested in meeting both of your needs, you can work through the conflict and strengthen your relationship in the process.
The Art of Relationships blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.