5 Steps to Keeping Your Couples Vacation Conflict-Free

Couple lost on road trip reads map and checks under hood of carAfter weeks of planning and preparation, you are finally off to enjoy the beach, mountain, cruise, city, or countryside. Or perhaps you’re a spontaneous traveler who found a deal that was too good to pass up, and you’re off on your trip before you know it. Some people are great at keeping travel costs low, but for many of us, no matter how well we intend to budget, travel costs have a way of going up and up. Regardless of how much time and money are spent, vacations are supposed to be fun, right? Then why do so many couples spend so much time fighting in paradise?

On my vacations, I have noticed a surprising number of couples arguing. On one trip, a couple went back and forth for over an hour because one partner did not want to snorkel. The woman remained uncompelled to goggle up no matter how many times her boyfriend told her she was going to miss out on an amazing experience. On another trip, at the airport, apparently a woman was boarding the plane too slowly and was nudged in the back by her partner. This was met with a loud, “Don’t shove me!” On a couples’ cabin trip, I woke to find one member of a bickering couple had elected to sleep on the couch instead of sharing a bed with their partner.

When I see vacationing couples fighting, I always think, “You have spent way too much money to come on vacation to be unhappy,” quickly forgetting that my partner and I have had our own disagreements while on vacation. But seeing other couples fight and argue serves as a reminder to keep things amicable and enjoyable during my travels. After all, who wants to be miserable while on vacation?

Here are five tips for a conflict-free couples trip:

  1. Anticipate stress. One way to reduce stress is to recognize that parts of your travel will be stressful. The more you can prepare for stress, the less likely stress will be impactful. Packing, airports, lost items, reservation mishaps, and getting lost are all par for the course when it comes to traveling. Displaced anger and frustration can lead to unnecessary arguments. For example, your baggage doesn’t make it onto the plane, and when your partner asks where you would like to have dinner, you retort, “Nowhere, I have nothing to wear!” Your frustration lies with the airline, but your partner is the target of your aggression. Understanding that mishaps will arise, most of which your partner can take no responsibility for, can help keep you calm when faced with stressful events.
  2. Hold back on “the talk.” If your plan is to enjoy your vacation, your trip is not the best time to bring up a serious issue or discuss an ongoing problem. While on vacation, you may feel like you have a captive audience in which your partner cannot escape a long-overdue conversation, but resist the urge to start peeling back onion layers. Those burning questions you have will be there when you get home, and an enjoyable and bonding trip just might make that issue seem like less of a big deal.
  3. Work out issues before the trip. If you know you are not going to be able to enjoy your trip until an issue is worked out, set aside time to work on the problem before your trip. To help with developing a resolution that will make your trip enjoyable, you can preface the conversation by sharing your desired goal. For example, “When we go on vacation next week, I want to really enjoy my time with you. That’s why I want to talk about (the issue) now, so it won’t get in the way of us having a good time.” Chances are your partner also wants to have a good time and doesn’t want to waste time going over something that could have been addressed before you changed time zones. Setting up the conversation this way could help foster motivation in coming up with a solution before the trip.
  4. Take time out for yourself. No matter how much you love someone and how well you get along with them, being with someone 24 hours a day is bound to lead to some friction. There is no travel rule saying couples cannot have alone time while on vacation. This doesn’t mean going on separate trips or spending the day apart. Partners can carve out alone time by engaging in solitary activities while together (reading at the beach, listening to music while at the slot machine) or designating time out for themselves (taking a morning run, enjoying a spa service). A little time alone can help ward off travel annoyances.
  5. Accept your partner for who they are and how they travel. During my last trip with my husband, I shared that either I was going to have to change my entire personality or he was going to have to accept my vigilance and thoroughness. He chose to accept my personality, which means accepting that I will ask, “Did you lock the door?” and “Do you have the keys?” This is a two-way street in that I have to accept that when my husband is on vacation, he is on vacation. I have to accept that time means little to him and there is a high likelihood multiple trips will be made to the hotel room to retrieve forgotten passports, wallets, and sunglasses. Instead of seeing differences in personalities as travel problems, appreciate what your partner’s personality has to offer. To my husband I bring organization, while he reminds me to relax.

The point of vacation is to get time away from the everyday and replenish. What better way to do this than with your partner? Agree on an argument-free trip so the two of you can focus on having an experience that strengthens your love and appreciation for one another.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kimber Shelton, PhD, therapist in Duncanville, Texas

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 10 comments
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  • Ivy

    Ivy

    September 13th, 2016 at 10:13 AM

    Separate vacations?

  • Emily D

    Emily D

    September 14th, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    Usually we have to make a vow to not talk about anything at all serious, and try not to drink too much.
    Typically the alcohol usually brings out the very worst in both of us, and unfortunately that’s what we like to do a lot of when we travel!

  • Reg

    Reg

    September 14th, 2016 at 2:20 PM

    This can’t be something that one of you wants to do and the other is just along for the ride. I think that to get the most out of it this has to be a compromise somewhere or something that both of you are equally invested in and that will make the whole trip even easier. There is not as much to worry about or argue about then when both of you truly want it to be a good experience.

  • mills

    mills

    September 14th, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    You just, you know, act like adults?

  • Sims

    Sims

    September 15th, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    I happen to think that vacations that include the entire extended family are much more stressful than when just my husband and I go away together.
    He and I are pretty much in sync when we go out of town knowing what each of our expectations are for the trip. We always plan things up front, is this going to be for doing stuff or just relaxing.
    But the family vacations with cousins and grandparents? Unbearable to me. I would rather let all of them go and I will stay home.

  • val

    val

    September 15th, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    I am not anticipating any kind of stress for my vacation
    what in the world would i have to look forward to if this is what I am thinking about?

  • Lydia

    Lydia

    September 16th, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    wine, lots and lots of it

  • Loretta

    Loretta

    September 17th, 2016 at 9:11 AM

    If you have a solid marriage to begin with then this is always going to be a non issue. Of course any couple could have arguments or disagreements when they go anywhere, vacation or not. That is normal and I don’t think that it is good to imply that only healthy couples don’t argue about the little things, of course we do, sometimes we can all get petty.
    But if you are in a strong relationship then you are not going to let one disagreement define your relationship that you have with each other. If this is what you are doing and you are keeping score, then you are not on very solid ground together anyway.

  • carroll C

    carroll C

    September 19th, 2016 at 10:35 AM

    From my experience if you have chosen to go somewhere that is pretty laid back and low key then there is a good chance that this is how the vacation will go as well. You sort of feed off of the vibes that you get from the places where you visit.
    Like I am an uptight mess anytime we go anywhere with crowds so that just really stresses me out.
    My wife knows that if she wants laid back Carroll, we better go to a laid back venue.

  • Thad

    Thad

    September 20th, 2016 at 2:05 PM

    With my ex it was always about what he wanted to do for fun and never taking into consideration anything that I might want to do.
    Yeah, there was a lot of resentment there with having to do things that I was never all that into and him taking no real interest in anything that I wanted to do.

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