My husband and I met and married in the throes of empty-nesting; and most of our vacations have been accompanied by various assortments of adult kids and grandkids.
We hardly know what to do with one another when we are alone.
Wait. Let me re-phrase that.
Not true. We absolutely know what to do with each other when we are alone, we just did not know what to anticipate or how we would interact on VACATION when we are alone.
So when we set off for seven entire days at the beach, it was with a bit of trepidation on my part, but hopeful optimism that even though we were over 50 and relatively set in our ways, we might re-kindle a bit of romance bouncing in the surf.
After several intense and meaningful discussions around our individual expectations for the trip, my husband, who nodded off several times during these scintillating conversations, nonetheless brimmed with eager energy when we boarded the plane.
We’d agreed that the first day would be spent on the beach, doing nothing but playing in the water and soaking up the rays. So far, so good.
Day Two, the tug-o-war began. My husband, the energizer bunny-man; and I, the please-let-me-lay-on-the-beach-with-a-book-woman, crafted a pretty good compromise, I thought; by agreeing on morning beach time, and after lunch, an activity or two.
Or four, if the decisions is left to my husband.
So Day Two, after lunch, we head up the coast to Clearwater, not foreseeing the inevitable traffic or the older population’s driving habits (slow…and slower) . So we finally arrive in a haze of irritability, park with some difficulty due to the crowds; and visit a public beach, restaurant, and various painted dolphins standing on their tails. By the time we get back to our condo several hours later, I have just enough energy to walk out to the beach and watch the sunset.
My husband suggests several restaurants, jet ski rental, a dolphin watch cruise or a quick drive to Sarasota, an hour and a half away. I look at him like he is crazy. We have been married long enough for him to correctly interpret this as: “I just laid out on the beach half a day, drove with you to Clearwater, hung out on a public beach, ate lunch at a restaurant, walked around admiring bizarro-painted dolphins standing on their tails…and you want me to DO MORE STUFF??? SERIOUSLY?? Without even a hint of an argument, he says “Umm, okay, let’s just stay in tonight.”
I think this means our marriage is progressing nicely. There was a time when he would have no clue why I had that irritated look on my face, and a marathon discussion would ensue. At least we are becoming more efficient with our communication.
Day Three arrives, and I ask if we can stay in and lay on the beach all day; with a few breaks for lunch in the condo. He gives me his long-suffering look, which I correctly interpret as: “What are you TALKING about? We fly all the way to Tampa, rent a car, drive to the beach; are surrounded by tons of cool stuff to do, which I have listed in an organized and obvious manner, and you want to STAY ON THE BEACH? SERIOUSLY?”
After quickly translating his look, I say, “If you want to go do some stuff go ahead. I am good here.”
Rather manipulative on my part, because I know him; and he does not want to do stuff alone. So he huffs out a sigh, and starts gathering up towels and beach stuff, because if he wants to be with me he is relegated to the beach. I smirk and congratulate myself on getting my way.
Later that day, however, dark clouds block the sun and storms roll in. To my surprise, I am forced to get off the beach and go do something. He beams in delight. Outwardly he says, “Oh wow, rain. That’s too bad, honey.” But I know he is smiling to himself on the inside.
Finally on Day Four, we start to relax with each other. Expectations are modified, personal tempos are slowed, and we simply…enjoy.
By Day Six, I thought we had experienced a tenuous victory over our few niggling differences, but then I imploded all over myself. And my husband by proxy.
We’d gone to Tarpon Springs, a Greek, sponge-diving village. Cute, historical, fun. At least it would have been fun if my husband had allowed me some space in the shops.
One pivotal difference in us is that I like to walk in shops and avoid salespeople. If I want some information, I’ll ask them after I have looked around on my own. My husband is exactly the opposite. To him, going into a shop is a merry-go-round of new opportunities to ask everyone in sight about what he is looking for, where to get it, how much it costs, and by the way, what is the best route to Sarasota?
This is why I simply pretend to not know him and hide between the racks while my husband chats up anyone without shouting distance. Never works, I always get pulled into the conversation anyway, but this time, I’d had enough. I shot him an evil eye that would have killed a coyote. The minute we stepped out onto the sidewalk I lit into him.
“WHY can’t you just let me enter a store and look around? WHY do you have to get a salesperson involved? They don’t know what I want! I do not want their opinion! If I do I’ll ask for it!! If you walk into a store with me STOP TALKING. Just for a few seconds!” I was so mad I was huffing and puffing. My husband, who I suspect is a little ADD, realized I was serious and tried to give me his full attention, in between roving glances at sponge shops, Greek entertainers, fishing boats, T-shirt shops, restaurants and pelicans.
I think he got the message, at least in part. And I, control freak that I am, realized that I became overheated into an angry mess about something relatively trivial. Irritating, but trivial.
By Day Seven, we packed completely in sync, as one unit, and were out the door before 9 a.m. While I tidied up, he chatted up the managers and turned in the keys. As I lingered on the condo’s deck, already missing the ocean, he lugged each suitcase to the car. With a jolt, I realized that his energizer bunny ways rather compliment my desire to linger and enjoy.
The secret to a satisfying vacation with your spouse is to appreciate the differences, not yell about them.
He is the pepper, I am the salt. He is the sun, I am the moon. Et cetera.
It has occurred to me that our differences make us darn near perfect when you stick ‘em together.