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Avoiding Vacation Distress

avoiding vacation distress

Picture this: You are getting ready for your family vacation.  You, your partner and your kids are meeting up with members of your extended family for a beach getaway.  As you organize, pack and run around like a crazy person you are dreaming of long walks on the beach with your partner and romantic dinners while your parents watch the kids. As the vacation begins, you quickly realize your husband has other plans, because it is your family he assumes you want to hang with your sisters as much as possible, so he takes care of the kids, entertains his in-laws and attempts to give you as much girl time as possible.

You leave the vacation, bummed and disappointed.

Doesn’t he want to be with you? 
How could he ignore you all vacation?  

By the time you get home you are hurt and furious and you end up in a huge fight.

You know what was missing from that picture?

Expectations.  

There is a quote that says, “Expectations are premeditated resentments”.

I disagree with that quote–I think it should say, “Unspoken expectations are pre-meditated resentments.”

There is nothing wrong with having expectations.  In fact, I think expectations are one of the best things about planning a date night, trip, party or event.  Looking forward to something can be the best part of the event.  However, not sharing those expectations with those closest to us can be TROUBLE.  The amount of fights my nearest and dearest and I have dramatically reduced once I was able to openly share my expectations with him.  When I was able to share what I wanted from a date night or a trip (even when I knew the expectations were unattainable) we were able to head into the trip/night ready to make it happen.

I can hear you saying, “But sharing your expectations…that is SCARY”.  Yep, it certainly is.  I agree.  So it is best to start with those we love and those we know love us.  Remember, your partner wants to give you what you want…sometimes they just don’t know what it is.

In the above example: He GUESSED that you wanted to spend time with your family, so he gave you that gift. Unfortunately, he guessed wrong because there was no conversation about expectations.

Here are my tips on how to have a conversation about expectations.

1. Admit you have expectations.  Admit to yourself that you have a pre-determined plan for how the trip is going to go.  If it is a date night, admit to yourself that you want to feel beautiful, you want your spouse to look at you like you are the only person in the world and you want to feel like you are dating again.  

2. Get Specific.  Once you know you have expectations get specific about what they are.  This is more than just saying, “I want to feel special”.  The key is to dig deeper. What does special look like and feel like to you?

  • Do you want your spouse to make you feel like you are beautiful? How does he do that? In what he says or what he does? Could he buy you something to make you feel beautiful? 
  • Do you want to talk about something other than the kids?  What do you want to talk about?  
  • Do you want to be able to spend time on vacation reading and relaxing alone? How much time?  A whole afternoon? Multiple days?  
  • Do you want to feel like you are dating again? How does that feel?  Do you want to do what you did when you were dating? Talk about what you did then?

3. Have a conversation. Before the event, sit down with your partner and share your specific expectations. Tell him what he needs to know to hit your expectations for the event/trip.  So if you are envisioning long walks on the beach–TELL HIM.  If you want time with just him and the kids–SHARE THAT.  If you want to spend time on the beach every day reading alone–EXPRESS THAT.  Sharing expectations are like sharing our needs. We won’t get them met if we don’t express them.

4. Be Realistic. Recognize that not all your expectations will be met.  These are hopes, not guidelines.  So yes, it would be awesome to have long nights of walking under the star-lit sky and eating by candlelight. Doing that nightly, while vacationing with 10 other people and 2 kids under the age of 6 probably not realistic. But it is realistic to discuss how you can accomplish part of that.  Sharing expectations allow a negotiation to begin.

Picture this (version 2):  You are getting ready for your family vacation.  You, your partner and your kids are meeting up with members of your extended family for a beach getaway.  As you organize, pack and run around like a crazy person you are dreaming of long walks on the beach with your partner and romantic dinners while your parents watch the kids. As the vacation begins, you know some of your expectations will be met because you and your partner chatted about it.  He is planning a romantic night at a nice restaurant, and you have already asked your parents to watch the kids.  At dinner, you have the rule no kid talk allowed, and you have an amazing conversation about what comes next for both of you professionally and personally.  You have just enough time to take a quick walk on the beach before it starts raining.  But you don’t mind the rain because you got one of your expectations met. The rest of the vacation is relaxed and fun (with the inevitable stress and squabbles that occur when families gather).  You leave the vacation feeling relaxed, refreshed and connected to your partner and family.  It has been one of the best vacations ever.

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