My first response was “lucky you” your husband wants to surprise you and take care of all the details. However, I do understand that money and who controls it is a very complex issue and one that is not solved simply by giving good gifts.
We all have different values in life and ideally as partners we need to respect the desires of the other. It is difficult when one of the people in the relationship is inflexible with meeting the values of the other. On small matters my advice is to appreciate the thought and reasons why your partner purchases as he does, but when confronted with the larger matters of lifestyle and values it’s best to have a serious conversation so you two can align.
Vacation weeks can be viewed a lot like money. In that they get saved, budgeted, and used. Just as you budget your money, have a conversation around how you budget your vacation. In other words, take the days that are available to each of you and split them in a way that you each get to have the type of vacation you want. Diversity is good for everyone and his participation in your less expensive vacation will build understand of one another while at the same time saving money to spend on those things at home that you would like to see finished.
Have this conversation sooner, rather than later. When you allow any problem to build, over time it will become larger and less manageable. Ultimately, if left unresolved this could end up being a deal breaker for you both.
For those who are just beginning in a relationship, Mom always told us that if you and your spouse disagree on how to spend money you have 3 choices:
1. Make more than them so you hold more of the financial cards and can be the one in charge of things such as booking the holiday.
2. Be upfront with what you can afford and do not go in debt over your partner’s spending habits. So if you have $500.00 to spend on a holiday then give them $500.00 towards it and they can chose whether to top yours or not.
3. Get used to the fact that money will be a constant area of tension and understand you both likely have different spending habits.
Do I always abide by my moms advice—of course not! I recognize I am adult who can challenge my partner and argue my point when needed, but there is a matter of having good timing.
Consider a hypothetical situation. Al tends to buy me a nice piece of jewelry for my birthday. Actually, I would prefer spa treatments like or Fraxel or Thermage (laser therapy to make me look younger), but what do I do? I continue to take the necklaces and smile and love that he gave them to me. At some point I’ll mention it would be nice to give me a gift certificate for spa treatments so his beautiful jewelry will look as nice as possible on my neck. I’m not holding my breath on that one since he thinks Sophie Loren at 80 is hot.
There are three entities in the relationship: you (your partner), me (the individual), and us (the relationship). The ideal situation is to have a balance between all three, but based on your note, it sounds like the scale of fairness from your perspective is off balance when it comes to holidays and spending.
I agree that the first place to start is a conversation where you convey appreciation for what he has done and also share how you feel. The longer you go without sharing how you feel about this situation the more problematic it will become. Before you jump into a potentially landmine riddled space, get straight in your head first about what you really want and how that can get supported by both of you.
Research shows when people believe they’ve behaved in a considerate, fair way in a situation but feel they’ve been treated unfairly in return, they react far more strongly which can have an adverse affect on the “us” part of your relationship. It can also create assumptions not grounded in fact.
Taking turns with events and activities in our shared life makes us feel more part of the overall experience. When addressing this situation with your partner, consider the following:
- Don’t keep score. It won’t help and will only make you feel more angry and frustrated.
- Consider the upside of the current arrangement. At this point it sounds like you’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about the negatives so spend some time with the positives of what he’s doing. Create a pro/con list. Identify what you like about the lead up to the holiday, while you’re on the holiday, and how you feel after it’s over. Buried in that list just might be some things that actually meet your needs. Gaining insight into the pros/cons of the experience might show you like the arrangement better than you realized.
- Define what “fair” means to you and why it’s important. This will make it easier for you to share it with him.
- Stay vacation. If you’re worried about money, give him some creative options that can meet your respective needs for fun and adventure.
- Don’t choke. Despite his good intentions you feel “invisible” in the process. Keeping stuffed inside will get you nowhere. If he doesn’t know you feel this way, how can he respond? Give him a shot.
- Make a trade-off. If controlling the holiday is so important to him, offer a compromise where you are fully in charge of a different shared experience you two have each year like where holidays are spent.
- Don’t make your first assumption your conclusion. In the absence of information, we tend to make it up. Thinking about it too much creates this trap.
- Appreciate and be grateful. It is a lucky thing to be treated well and given surprises. Research shows that guys tend to feel happier when their partner is happy.
Two people in the relationship. Both people want to have a voice at the table and a chance to make the other feel good by taking initiative on shared experiences. Consider how you can partner on that.
- Talk about it. Get clear on what you need the share it. No one wants to be invisible.
- Take turns. Less likely to feel they’re being treated unfairly.
- Money is a sensitive issue and both people want a voice at the table. Timing is important.
If you want to be more involved in the process, try planning a surprise for him – get away weekend, a stay vacation, or even a special night out. Pick something you both would enjoy. Maybe play one of the games suggested here to get ideas. Find examples in your relationship where you both have collaborated well and taken turns. Use those positive experiences to frame your conversation.
Let him know how much it means to you to be part of the process. You’ve made an assumption that he does this to control things, but unless you have clear evidence, it’s best not to throw that into your conversation. It’s tempting to make assumptions when someone has been sitting with this kind of frustration for a while so be careful with that.