[Two Pronged] Her family keeps going on our vacations
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Please call me Edward. I have a problem with my wife and her family regarding taking vacations. Every time I propose a vacation with her, her mother and sibling always (or in most cases) want to come with us and she can’t refuse.
I love my wife very much. Since we are always busy on weekdays, we try to have a vacation once in a while. I want to travel with her, discover, and create memories together as a couple. I need to have enough alone moments with her. We need enough privacy to discuss about the things we both care for, intimate conversations, and quality time together to build or maintain a healthy relationship. We need to strengthen our bond intimately.
Am I too selfish in saying that it frustrates me that my mother-in-law and her sibling are always in the picture when it is supposed to be just the two of us?
That is my main concern, it affects my way of expressing my love and affection for her if there's always somebody in the picture other than just the two of us.
But of course there are other concerns such as financial. Instead of preparing a budget for me and my wife, I would then need to include both her mother and sibling. I cannot afford to always include them in the expenses for travel and accommodation regardless if we travel locally or abroad.
I would appreciate it very much if you can give me advice how to handle this. I'm raising this issue hoping it to be addressed and published online so others who have similar situation could relate and possibly join with the discussion.
Thank you for your email. What does your wife say when you tell her this?
Actually it was just today that I had the courage to express my thoughts with her regarding the issue but only through a text message, and I got no reply. She's not very vocal with such issues. I'm not sure how she would handle it if I raise the issue on actual conversation.
What led to it was that we were having our breakfast today (before going to work) when I mentioned another plan for vacation. This time I decided we go somewhere farther than usual to lessen the possibility that her mother and sibling would join, and she immediately said that I should expect them that they might ask to join. Deep inside I was disappointed, then minutes later I opened up the issue through text message so she would have enough time to compose herself but she seems not prepared to answer.
Thank you for your emails.
Going on vacation with the spouse's family can be a great idea, particularly if they are paying! For you, however, it has lost its appeal, not least because they are with you every time and on your nickel too. Few people can fail to sympathize with your desire for an intimate and romantic time away from home and most will share your sense of frustration.
But the picture you paint of your lives and your account of how you have tried to deal with this issue seem curiously incomplete. Like vast swathes of the world your weekdays are too busy for 'quality time' together but there are also weekends, 52 of them, during which there ought to be opportunities for "strengthening the bond" as you call it. If there aren't and so the only time to bond is on vacation but you are never alone even then, you seem to be suggesting that you have never had time to discuss anything in depth since you got married.
You don't say how long you have been married but clearly this whole vacation issue has been around quite some time yet clearly you have not aired it openly with your wife. Instead, when it crops up, your reaction is "deep inside". Frankly, unless your wife is a mind reader, deep inside is where it will remain unless you change tactics.
Your wife may not be aware of how concerned you are, or alternatively she may be aware but feels no need to do anything about it until you actually sit her down to talk to her about it. Bear in mind that weaning her family off their free vacations may not be easy. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing choice, just slowly reduce the joy of their company to whatever is manageable.
If it turns out that your wife does not share your desire for romantic getaways for two, then perhaps you will have to come to terms with the fact that you have very different views of your marriage. This again will not be the moment to be disappointed deep inside but to sit down for a frank discussion. Write to us again if there are further issues you wish to discuss.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your email. You asked: “Am I too selfish in saying that it frustrates me that my mother-in-law and her sibling are always in the picture when it is supposed to be just the two of us?”
The answer, as I am sure you knew since yours is a leading question if I ever read one, is “No, you are definitely not ‘too selfish’ when it frustrates you that your mother-in-law and your wife’s siblings go on these vacations with you.
However, I can’t help wondering how your relationship got this far if you haven’t addressed two of the most basic issues when people live together: money and in-laws.
While your question above is evocative and would inspire anyone who reads it to make awa to (feel so bad for) you, there is something not quite right about this picture.
It is simply the tip of the iceberg, and many things have probably contributed to your wife’s and your ability to ignore the elephant in the room called non-communication.
But take heart.
There is light at the end of the tunnel and, unlike the poet Robert Lowell, yours is not that of an oncoming truck. You have plucked up the courage to text your wife and by doing this, you have begun to chisel at that iceberg of fear and insecurity. You have started a conversation, ostensibly about your vacation. Yes, your vacation and how you spend it is important, but even more so is your attempt to start connecting to each other more deeply.
True, you did it by text and that need not be responded to, which is exactly what your wife did. But you took the first step and having done that, I hope you will also take the second.
When you go home tonight, ask her if she got the text you sent. If she says she didn’t, or she forgot what it said, then tell her. Once there is no doubt she knows what you are talking about, ask her how she feels and get the ball rolling from there.
It will not be easy. Your wife clearly doesn’t want to talk about this and you too would probably be more comfortable ignoring the issue the way you have in the past.
You said: “I'm not sure how she would handle it if I raise the issue on actual conversation.” Now is the time to find out, Edward. Yes, I know it is scary and that you have no idea how this conversation will turn out. But if you want a relationship not only occasionally free of your in-laws, but also free, most of the time, from mere politeness and empty chitchat, you have to persist.
That is the only way you can start working towards a relationship where conversations go beyond what you have both gotten used to and been comfortable with. That is the only way questions not only about money and in-laws, but also about a future together (which hopefully you will both still want) love, pleasure and joy can be answered.
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