Arguing while on vacation - how to avoid it?

Anna Daria Nowicka

Why do we end up fighting instead of relaxing?

Devastating impact of lockdowns. Before the pandemic, we had little time to spend with our partners and children. It was easy to get lost in the flurry of daily life, filled with family, school and work commitments. We lived from one weekend to another, and usually only made time for our loved ones during those two days. For many families a joint summer vacation was one of few periods of quality time. They simply couldn’t wait for the summer to arrive. Unfortunately, the lockdowns took its toll on the mental health of people, especially children.

“Child psychiatrists had never had to deal with such a massive onslaught of patients before. According to police statistics, the number of suicide attempts among children and adolescents increased by 77 percent from 2020 to 2021. Suicide is now the second most common cause of death among teenagers. During the pandemic, there was a rise in the number of patients with intellectual disability, and patients displaying aggressive and self-aggressive behaviors. They were unable to properly cope with isolation, chaos, and anxiety.”¹

The past two and a half years were challenging: working and learning remotely, combined with mounting feelings of stress, often had a negative impact on family relations. Sociological studies in many countries proved conclusively that lockdowns contributed to an increase in domestic violence.

According to a European Commission report2: “Lockdowns are associated with more reports of violence. Already last spring, during the first wave of the pandemic, a number of EU countries saw a significant increase in domestic violence. (...) According to statistics, violent events were more common among couples who had children, in a worse financial situation, and those where both partners had to stay at home due to restrictions. An increased prevalence was noted for individuals with previous experiences of intimate partner violence.”

People found it difficult to cope with their emotions, fears, and insecurities, and they often felt overwhelmed. Because of lockdowns, this year’s summer vacation may turn out to be even more conflict-generating. However, you can prevent this from happening.

Feelings of frustration and resentment that lead to arguing often accumulate well before taking off on vacation.

If neither you nor your partner are able to talk about their needs openly and assertively, it is highly likely for the ‘stronger’ partner to impose their wants or needs on the other. He or she will not only resent not being listened to, but may even, either consciously or unconsciously, take actions that bring the vacation spirit down. For example, he or she might ‘forget’ to pack an item that is important for the partner or complain about the hotel room, weather, and food, and ‘casually’ show photos of his or her friends’ fabulous holidays. Each suggestion will be rejected: “Not a good idea – it's too cold/too warm/too far away/too crowded...”. This is a way to sabotage the vacation by taking away all the pleasure it gives.

The two weeks before you leave on vacation are usually very stressful. You see the tasks pile up at work. You want to wrap up as many things as possible, so when you finally take off on your vacation, you are usually very tired and tense. In such an emotional state, every little thing can be a spark that sets off a blaze.

Another potentially thorny issue is packing your baggage. This happens especially when one partner always travels light, while the other carries heavy suitcases to make sure they have everything they might need. Without empathy and achieving a compromise, you’ll pack anger and resentment into your suitcases as well.