WHAT CAN I LIVE WITH?
Did you already get caught in the trap of vacation expectations in your relationship or are you about to?
In these challenging economic times, perhaps not everyone has the luxury of going on a vacation this summer, but there are still many of you planning and taking vacations, and, as always, within those plans are a bundle of unspoken expectations about what might happen in your relationship while on vacation.
The scenarios are many, right? We finally have a whole week to ourselves while Mom and Dad take care of the kids. Or we got a really good deal on a hotel suite, and we have our own room for a change, while the kids scream and fight in the adjoining room. Or the kids are finally gone, and we are finally taking a vacation alone together, maybe for the first time in, well a long time. Or maybe we’ve been taking vacations alone together for quite some time now, but we never quite match up on what each of us hopes to have happen on our vacation.
The man envisions a lot of sex, because after all, no housework, no cooking, maybe even no kids. Absolutely no reason for those untimely, but perhaps well-timed, headaches. Wow! Oh Boy!
And she envisions sleeping peacefully for as long as she wants each day because there are no demands to be met. None! And there ain’t gonna be!
Again, the scenarios are many. She might be looking forward to getting up early, running along the beach, being the first in line at all the attractions, while he is looking forward to waking up lazily, of course, a little sex each morning, well, okay, a lot of sex, and who cares about the attractions out there! He has his mind and heart set on one attraction only!
Of course, it may be the woman who is looking forward to an abundance of sex for a change. No kids screaming at the moment just prior to orgasm, no in-laws constantly offering you their special opinion of the kind of wife you are or are not, nothing to get in the way of feeling beautiful, sexy, and free.
One person may be not only anticipating but desperate for a good dose of romance on the vacation, and the other person thinks of romance as work, and is looking forward to a break from everything, romance included. Or both people are looking forward to a romantic vacation, but each has a totally different mental picture of what romance includes and what it doesn’t include.
There is yet another scenario. Let’s say the vacation ends up being everything that each of you wanted and expected. You come home feeling refreshed and maybe even like newly weds. And now there is an expectation on the part of one or both parties that this is going to continue and, of course, it doesn’t, and, maybe even, it can’t. The return to the daily grind after vacation is just too complicated, to hectic, too demanding, to sustain the “high” of a vacation. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way, but most of the time, most of us don’t know how to sustain what we experienced or gained while on vacation. The vacation becomes like a good diet. It’s over, and we pack on all the stress and all the weight of the world and the demands of day-to-day living that we so bravely carried before our vacation.
Of course, as you plan your vacation together (or not, maybe one person does all the planning), you never share your expectations out loud with each other. In fact, sometimes, something inside of you tells you not to share your expectations, but just to hope! Oh my God, hope, like jumping out of an airplane with no parachute and hoping you might land on something very very soft and be totally okay! And you know, sometimes that happens. But most of the time.....Well, you know the answer to that!
Each person and each couple reading this obviously comes to the relationship with his or her own set of strengths as well as deficits. For example, you may, in fact, be able to communicate with each other quite well. And all you needed was this little reminder, and you’re going to sit down together and share your expectations and actually make a win-win plan for yourselves.
Or you may not be able to communicate at all, and you move through your relationship fluctuating back and forth from never ending silence to intense fighting. So you may feel hopeless about discussing expectations in general, let alone expectations for a vacation.
And, of course, many of you will be somewhere in the middle, and may have a pretty good shot at sharing your expectations, and so let me suggest to you how to do it.
Each of you write out what your expectations are. Or if you prefer, speak your expectations into some kind of recording device.
Promise that you will read or listen to each other’s expectation without any comment at all. YES, WITHOUT ANY COMMENT! You will read or listen to the other’s expectations several times over the course of several days, and again, absolutely NO COMMENTS. Just take in what your partner is sharing. Think about their expectations. In particular, think about what you can LIVE WITH. Not what you prefer, not what you agree or disagree with, but what you can live with. Not what appears ridiculous, crazy, outlandish, foolish, manipulative, game playing, silly, but simply what you can live with.
Then sit down together and read and listen again, but this time asking questions, simple questions for clarification, so you know for sure that what you are reading or hearing is, in fact, what your partner is sharing.
Then simply tell your partner what you can live with and what you can’t live with in terms of the other’s expectations and talk about ways that you can and will be genuinely responsive to those expectations you can live with. You could also sit down with another couple and share with them what you can each live with in terms of the other’s expectations and how you are each going to be responsive to those expectations. The point of the other couple is not to problem solve any conflicts for you or to give you any suggestions, but simply to hold you both accountable to what you decided you can and will live with in terms of each other’s expectations.
So what exactly do we mean when we talk about what we can live with? For example, one person says they are looking forward to more love making. The last thing on your mind for vacation is love making. But you know you can live with making love x number of times during the vacation. Yes, you may even prefer not to make love at all during the vacation for any number of reasons, but you know you can live with making love however many times you decide you can.
Or you may be looking forward to taking a break from exercise during vacation, and your partner is actually looking forward to exercising more than usual. You decide you can live with your partner getting up and exercising while you sleep in. Or you decide you can live with exercising with your partner two mornings out of the vacation time.
Now note, and this is important. Deciding, making a decision what you can live with is not the same as compromise and don’t make it compromise. Make it a decision to respond to those expectations you can live with. There is no “rule” that your partner will respond to an equal number of your expectations. This is not compromise or tit for tat. It is making a decision. It is deciding what you can live with. Try to keep it that. Don’t let it slip into compromise which is just another form of score keeping.
NOW, LET YOURSELVES BE VERY VERY VERY HAPPY that you both decided that there are expectations that you each can live with, and you are very very very happy that this decision is going to enhance your vacation and bring you closer together. It may not be the perfect resolution, but it is a resolution you can both live and that is what is important.
What we are looking at here or describing is learning to live interdependently in your relationship. It is a place in the relationship beyond independence. It is certainly way beyond counterdependence, the terrible two’s, where you spend most of your relationship time having temper tantrums with each other. And it is far beyond being stuck in codependence where the only part of the relationship you know is not being able to live without each other.
These different developmental stages of our relationship are not a linear process but a dance. It is a relationship dance that requires a willingness from each partner to become the “wholey” person God intended you to be.
If you are interested in looking into these developmental stages of a relationship in more detail, grab the book, From The Frying Pan To The Jacuzzi: Gourmet Recipes For A Gourmet Relationship. If what is in this book grabs you back, pass the word on or buy a copy for another couple as a gift. The cost is minimal to the high price we pay for choosing to live less than “wholey” in our relationships.
THANKS FOR READING AND THANKS FOR MAKING THE DECISION TO LIVE WITH SOME OR MAYBE EVEN MANY OF YOUR PARTNER’S EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR VACATION.