My partner and I love to travel. We both traveled a lot before we met each other and are excited to do it together forever. My problem is this: he thinks his way of researching and booking hotels/experiences is the only legitimate way to do it. Usually, to avoid an argument, I go with the flow and let him do all the planning and arranging. To be fair, he asks for my opinion, however, if I suggest something different, he generally brushes it off..
We are struggling now because I am starting to feel marginalized and left out. He wants to be in charge, but also complains that he “has to do all the planning.” How do you think we can resolve this and work together on planning without getting mad at how the other does his “research”?
Eleanor says: For some people, knowing more than others is a way of demonstrating superiority. This is a strange phenomenon, because whether you know more than others or are right about what you think you know is often a matter of luck. However, for some people, knowing the right way to do things can become a real point of pride. It may seem (to them) to demonstrate good things about them; they are delicious, witty, conscientious.
And they may actually be right – it can be a blessing to have someone in the family to make sure you don’t get scammed by a tour company or book something that looks better than it is. The danger is when knowing too much turns into knowing best; when knowledge isn’t something you’re excited to share and grow together, but something one of you has and the other doesn’t. Knowledge can start to feel like the zero sum in the relationship, like the possibility that you have some necessarily implies that he has less.
It seems to me that the challenge is to get rid of the idea that planning and organizing is something you can both share. How can you do this collaboration again?
One thing to be clear about is whether this is really a matter of you not liking your “research” or if he just doesn’t want to do what you want him to do. If you like group tours and he hates them, or one of you likes restaurants and the other likes street food, there’s no need to pretend it’s a scheduling problem or even that someone must be wrong. You can simply find time for different activities during your vacation. There’s only so much two separate individuals can be expected to get together indefinitely: it can be healthy (and fun!) to do separate things some days. That way you don’t always have to plan joint activities together, and when you enjoy your side mission, it can be an inevitable proof to him that you can plan after all.
Another strategy might be to tell lots of stories from your time traveling alone. How have you solved problems, anticipated complications, had a good time even when things went wrong? It’s incredibly easy for people to project an image on you and then start seeing it as if it were real: you can remind him that you’re planning a lot on your own before he starts thinking you can’t.
Worst comes to worst, if you want someone to know something, there’s always the option of telling them: you can say, “Actually, I’ve traveled a lot, and it makes me feel belittled when you think you just don’t know how I do plan things. Can you tell me what you think I don’t understand well?” If he’s a good enough sport, you might even be able to do a little with him – spend a day planning it yourself, laugh at how badly (by his standards) it can go.
It’s a terrible feeling to spend the last of your vacation time and money in a way that disappoints you. But you know that too. You’ll both resent it if planning and knowledge start to feel like skills that only one of you has. Each of you must be committed to proving this idea wrong.
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