I think there is no time when a couple faces so many decisions as on vacation. Two weeks alone and many, many decisions each day. This challenges all couples and families. (See all my work on Master/Slave vs Friend/Friend) I think it hits so many people in their weakest spot – maintaining a sense of fairness while being quick about decisions. I recall a pharmacist telling me that vacation is the time when couples most load up on anti-anxiety medicine – more than for family reunions, even.
To avoid all of this trouble, tension, and pharmacy bills, Sandra and I have been using the following “scheme” for years. I think our times alone together, even with all those decisions to be made, are the best times of my year.
The principles are simple (FSQ):
The background is also straight-forward:
- For us, dialogue has become almost a matter of pleasantly interviewing each other. We use Pulling (not pushing) to invite each other to share. I think this is an advanced form of Imago Dialogue, with or without Mirroring, maintaining a pleasant and adequate (no surprises, nothing out of the blue)flow of information.
- Since decision making is essentially an individual activity, any group must come up with a scheme for building a compromise between the group’s diversity and their need for decisions. So we build this scheme or structure.
- Decision making takes effort. It is not always easy. It is also not passive, but active. Sometimes, lazily, I wish someone else would make the decisions. Sometimes I would prefer to make the decision, myself. So how do we “decide” who makes the decisions?
- Finally, while both of us are willing to stretch for the sake of the other, neither of us want the other to do something “they are not comfortable or willing to do.”
Our Compromise is that we TAKE TURNS!
Step 1: Sometime before the first day of vacation we do something, like flipping a coin, to decide who gets the first day. From there on we take turns with days throughout the vacation. This is exactly like the practice in Caring Days, Encouragement or Container Days. It creates a simple structure that we can live around and that seems fair to us both.
Let’s say I win the coin toss. We leave on Saturday and that is My Day. Sunday is Sandra’s. Monday is Mine again, etc. This “taking turns” goes on until we get home.
Step 2: On my day I do the decision making work. If there is a decision to be made, and neither of us care (we might both choose to passively let the other make the decision), then we know who makes the difficult decision. I do.
If someone wonders what we are going to be doing on Thursday, the conversation first shifts to “whose day is it?” And after that decision is made, via the structure (if I win the coin toss for this Saturday, next Thursday is Sandra’s day), then I smile at her, “What are you planning for Thursday?” This is all fair game, provides for fun, and works smoothly.
Step 3: Each morning (or at some other convenient time) when I know it is My Day, I interview Sandra about what she is in the mood for. I already know what I am in the mood for. As I interview her, I may get more clear about what I want to do. At some point in the interview, when I think I have enough information, I will recommend/suggest something I think we will both like doing.
If she says, “Fine,” meaning she is willing to do that, then the decision is made. If she objects, then I continue the interviewing process, but now with the information that my first recomendation contained some component that made her unhappy. (See the logic in my paper on Problem Solving.) After clarifying what was unconfortable for her, I will come up with a new recommendation that avoids that problem.
I recall one day when I wanted to go snorkeling. I wanted her to go with me. She wanted to lie quietly on the beach reading. Her decision (it was her day) was that she would help me get the boat and go snorkeling while she would lay on the beach. No, I didn’t get her to go with me, but she really didn’t want to go. Wouldn’t have been fun for me to have a grouchy partner. I could have stayed on the beach with her, but probably wouldn’t have been fun for her to have a grouchy partner. The water was crystal clear and under the shadow of the great Cabo cliff, thousands of fish lay hovering 60 feet off the bottom – even big ones and some elephant seals, too. Wow! What a beautiful day!
Summary: What we noticed last spring was that this plan means that we both do what we like on every day. It is a win-win all the time. Every day I get to do what I want or at least am willing to do. So does she. What could be better and quicker! And what could, in the long run, leave behind more pleasant memories.
This scheme has worked on every vacation or trip for years – probably since about 1995. And so, if you meet us on the beach in Mexico, in the mountains of Montana, on the streets of Istanbul, by a loch in Ireland, in a museum in San Francisco, don’t forget to ask whose day it is