Fighting with your partner on vacation is all too common. This article discusses how to avoid it.
This article discusses a few steps you need to take in order to make the most of those special, high pressure days on the calendar, when you and your partner are supposed to blissfully get along, whether they are holidays or vacation days.
A common complaint of many couples who come into my office is that they constantly fight on vacation or holidays.
Is this a problem for you too?
Why? Shouldn’t it be easier to get along without the pressure of work and the rest of life’s stresses?
Gay Hendricks, PhD, according to his book The Big Leap (highly recommended), would classify this as an “Upper Limit Problem.” Basically what that means is that as humans, we are basically set in our ways in a certain comfort zone with the degree of happiness we are able to accept. When things get to be too good for us, we find a way to mess them up.
Ever notice that happens to you? You get a promotion and you suddenly get sick, you take a big risk to create a new opportunity for yourself and you screw it up, or you finally have romantic time set aside to be with your partner and you just can’t seem to get along. You get the picture.
Another explanation is that we put the pressure on so strong to have an amazing time that there is no way of living up to it. Whatever reality is often gets magnified in our minds. By that I mean we often have ideas in our heads about how awful or enjoyable about something is that can be rather extreme.
Think about Sunday nights before a work week when you hate your job. You could really be miserable – but by the time Monday rolls around, it might not be so bad. The same can be true about vacations or holidays, but with the opposite effect, especially if you are banking on a great time with your partner when you already may be in a distressed place in your relationship. You think everything is going to be so perfect, but it never really is.
Vacations or holidays aren’t magic, and they often let us down.
Or, you may have hopes about what your partner will do for you that he or she just cannot live up to. That guarantees that you’ll be let down, and provides the perfect seeds for a big old fight.
Explanations are all well and good, and there are many more possibilities as to why this happens for so many couples.
But what can you do about it?
Here are 3 steps you need to take to avoid this problem if it’s something you struggle with, so that you can enjoy the most out of your vacations and holidays together.
Step 1: Take the Pressure Off
Vacations and holidays are just other days. Yes, they are special and worth looking forward to, but keep your expectations reasonable. If you tend to go overkill with excitement and think everything will be perfect, temper those expectations.
What I am about to say is not the most romantic thing in the world, but I like to think of most holidays as Hallmark Holidays. Especially Valentine’s Day. Aren’t flowers nicer when they’re unexpected, anyway? So with the holidays, sure, play along, but recognize that they are just other days, and don’t expect the world of your partner or else he or she is sure to disappoint.
Also, try avoid just trying to “get through” the days before vacations. I know, easier said than done especially if you are not a big fan of your day-to-day existence (and if that’s the case, then do something about it – no one else will). Inherent in this tactic of just “getting through” is the idea that everything will be okay when vacation arrives. Well, vacation will come and go and may not be as great as you expected, which instantly creates disappointment in yourself and your partner, and your regular life will await, so try to recognize that and don’t reserve all of your happiness for vacation.
Take the pressure off of yourself and your partner on those holidays and vacations so that you won’t be set up for disappointment.
Step 2: Recognize it’s a Problem and Create a Plan
This step is really important if you and your partner tend to have this problem of fighting on holidays and vacations. Recognize it’s a problem, together.
Use this post as a starting point and share it with your partner. Then sit down and discuss it. Or, even better, go into your phone or computer and create a reminder for yourself to re-visit this article before the next time you have a special holiday planned or a vacation scheduled, and look at it together.
Discuss this problem with each other and commit to resolving it.
Neither of you want to argue or be miserable with each other on vacation (or in general!)
It’s in your power to fix it, but you need to first be aware of it. Acknowledge it’s a problem with each other, and agree as a team to not let this pattern dominate what should be quality time with each other. Create a plan as to how you are going to get past it if you slip into distress-mode while on vacation, despite having already tried to take the pressure off.
A great starting point is to create a signal that you can share with your partner when you notice it coming up. Make it silly or stupid so you can at least laugh about it. Agree that this signal means “I feel like we’re getting into it and I just want to get along with you.”
You may not have the wherewithal to actually discuss it since you might be really annoyed or upset, but the signal is one way of staying connected and taking a step back from the tension so that you are not entrenched in it.
By recognizing it’s a problem and taking preventative action before it arises, with a plan to conquer it when it does, you are in much better shape to avoid fighting and enjoy the most out of your time together.
Step 3: Swallow Your Pride
So let’s say you have a signal that you created with your partner and you’re fighting and you’re mad and you know you should throw up the signal but you also are so angry you really don’t feel like it – or your partner gives you the signal and you just feel like ignoring it because you’re so angry…
Swallow Your Pride
I’m sure you have legitimate things to be angry about, but try to accept a peace offering, or offer one if you think of it. Much of your trouble might be solved with some humility.
Sometimes couples really get into it because they both insist on being right. Once I was at a training with the renowned therapist Terry Real and he said that he asked his couples, “do you want to be right, or do you want to be married?” Great question. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you’re right, whether you’re on vacation or not.
When many couples deconstruct a fight after it’s passed, it usually turns out to have been a grave misunderstanding, one that could have been avoided by giving the other party the benefit of the doubt. I know like all of this it’s easier said than done, but give it a whirl next time you get into it, especially if it’s going to cloud your trip or ruin a holiday.
What are your tricks to avoiding spars while on vacation?
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