Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: About three years ago my husband and I (no kids) went on a big vacation with my husband’s family. I really wasn’t interested in going, but his mother had pushed for a family trip for a long time, his father had just gotten over cancer, and it coincided with a big anniversary for his parents. I told my husband I was happy to do it this one time.
We went, it was fine, but afterward I maintained that I had no intention of making this a regular thing.
Well, now an even bigger anniversary approaches and tentative discussion for the trip has started as though it’s a given. I don’t want to go!
I didn’t feel comfortable the whole week we were together. Before that trip I had mentioned my fear of never getting alone time, but my husband promised we would do our own thing as much as we wanted. Instead we ate every meal as a group, and if we ever hinted we’d go off to do something alone, then everyone else would tag along anyway.
When I said I wouldn’t do it again, he said I was being selfish. So now I don’t know what to do.
How do I make it clear to my husband that I’m not going on this — or any — trip? We all live near one another, so it’s not like it’s an excuse to spend quality time together.
Carolyn says: Well, wait — what did he say about the broken promise of some alone time?
I realize the issue is macro and I’m going micro, but couples do manage to make such differences work when they find ways to compromise. And, it should go without saying, when they honor those agreements.
You agreed to Big Trip I based on a promise of alone time, and he reneged.
So you have that as a valid objection to Big Trip II. And his calling you “selfish” after he reneged is rich, because how is it not selfish of him to insist on your misery just to get what he wants?
Of course, when you’re launching selfishness accusations at each other like marital darts, you’re both losing the argument, so let’s back up for a second.
You said you wouldn’t agree to trips as a “regular thing.” It’s three years. Not unreasonable. So first think of ways to go, not ways to opt out.
Start by asking him to describe how closely he thought the last trip aligned with what you’d agreed to. No sarcasm, just, “I want to understand how you see this.” Then give your view as needed, with examples. Then suggest changes for this time — ones you don’t need him to make happen.
Build in access to your own transportation — rented car, bike, kayak, unicycle, anything. Or suggest doing half the trip — planning upfront to arrive late or leave early. Or talk to your in-laws? Maybe one of them understands introversion better than your husband does.
Any cooperation means you can work toward agreement from there.
No cooperation means, as always, your problems are bigger than this trip, so solutions would have to be, too. Think communication, mutual respect for differences, boundaries — and counseling, if you’re building any of these from scratch.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.