Just the other day, twenty years into our relationship, we stumbled upon a shocking new insight about values.
We’ve always understood the power of getting clear on your values as a couple. In The 80/80 Marriage, for instance, we argue that it doesn’t matter whether you value wealth, adventure, philanthropy, or stability. What matters is that you and your partner both feel aware of and aligned with these values.
So what new values insight surprised us?
The power of a separate subset of values that we’ve started calling “Vacation Values."
We learned about these by accident, from a looping argument that kept cropping up during the process of planning trips together.
Kaley wanted to have activities organized for each day. She wanted an agenda of adventure, a preplanned itinerary of fun.
Nate, on the other hand, wanted wide open space. He wanted a break from the feeling of having each moment of his day planned with perfect precision. He wanted to spontaneously stumble upon something fun and unexpected.
After years of this looping argument, we finally saw what was happening: we had different vacation values.
And once we could see this, we could now have a new, more productive, conversation about how to find a balance between these conflicting values.
So with summer approaching, the season of family vacations, we thought it would be useful to ask: What are your vacation values and what do you do when you and your partner have different values?
Your vacation values may be completely different from your values as a couple in the rest of life. For instance, you may value professional advancement and stability in ordinary life but seek the seemingly opposite experiences of lazy lounge-time and adventure while on vacation. So even if you feel clear on your couple values, it’s worth taking a closer look at your vacation values.
To do this, write down the top three values from the list below that describe your ideal vacation:
Rest, Self-Care, Wellbeing, Healthy Eating, Exercise, Reading, Adventure, Planned Activities, Group Tours, Museums, Shopping, Internet Surfing, Napping, Sleeping In, Partying, Eating Amazing Food, Going Out to Bars or Restaurants, Family Time, Lounging by the Pool/Lake/Ocean, Spa Time, Beauty Treatments, Playing Games, Sports, Planning in Advance, Being Spontaneous, Lots of Planned Activities, Lots of Open Space, Road Tripping, Vacationing Close to Home, International Travel, Learning New Languages, Cultural Immersion, Luxury Experiences, Sticking to a Budget.
And, of course, if you don't see your favorite vacation value on this list, feel free to come up with your own.
Once you've identified your own vacation values, see if you can convince your partner to do the same. This gives you the opportunity to get curious about the similarities and differences between your ideal vacations.
Areas of similarity are good sign. They indicate that you and your partner generally look forward to similar experiences in your down time.
Areas of difference signal a growth opportunity. They point to areas where you can now explore ways to break free from the perpetual arguments that often surface while on vacation.
Simply becoming aware of these differences represents a huge shift. Unlike before, when they lurked in the shadows of unconsciousness to create tension and conflict, you now see these differences in vacation values more clearly. And with awareness comes the possibility of change.
Awareness is great. But what do you actually do if you and your partner value completely different kinds of vacation experiences?
The short answer is to get wildly creative and see if you can find ways to balance your seemingly irreconcilable vacation values.
For example, if you value adventure in your partner values wide open time to relax by the pool, create a trip designed around both values. You might hike a mountain peak in the morning and leave the afternoon for spacious lounging time.
Or perhaps you value decadent meals at fancy restaurants while your partner values staying at the condo to barbecue burgers on the grill. You might find a Michelin-rated restaurant that just happens to have the most amazing burger in town. Or perhaps you stay in for a fancy grill-themed meal that the two of you prepare together.
The point here is that, when it comes to finding a balance between your various vacation values, possibilities abound. We just need to get out of the conflict mindset and into a more creative mindset to see them.