First off, I’d like to apologize for the title. It conveys that summer is over – which it most definitely IS NOT. As a resident of Alberta, Canada, I know now not to wish summers away. These long, warm days are the gift we receive for weathering a sometimes unforgiving and bitter winter. That said, summer can be rough on relationships. Oftentimes summers are peppered with camping trips, weekend weddings, family visits and bucket-list adventures. This sounds amazing, right? How could such fun and relaxing outings wreak such havoc on a relationship? Here are just a few ways:
- Money. Money is one of top 3 topics that couples argue about. Summer can be an expensive season and couples can disagree with how and when to spend their money.
- In-Laws. Summer is a time when families often come together. Unfortunately, this can bring drama. Conflicting personalities, past experiences and long days together spent in tight quarters can cause couples to fight about time spent with their extended families.
- Time. Another common topic that can cause rifts in relationships. How do we spend our time? Couples can find it challenging to each other’s needs when it comes to spending time. Do we spend the weekends together or apart? How much time do we each spend on our hobbies and with our friends? Are we busy every night? Or do we keep it to one social engagement a week? This can be a hard balance to achieve.
- Travel. Travelling is stressful for the most harmonious of relationships. Throw kids into the mix and it can be downright chaotic. Transportation, deadlines and navigating new locales can cause some big fights. Unmet expectations can arise as well – who booked the flights and hotels? Who packed the trailer? Who puts the kids to bed? How will we spend our days?
If any of these sound familiar, rest assured that you’re not alone. Summer travel and winter holidays take the cake for the most stressful times of year for relationships. Curious about how to avoid or repair summer relationship damage? Give these 3 steps a try:
- Revisit a moment throughout the summer that was particularly stressful for you and partner. Bring it up in a gentle way – focus on the facts and your feelings about the situation. “Do you mind if we talk about the time we were late for our flight and got into that big fight in front of the kids? I know that was a tough moment for us, I felt as though I was all alone, and we weren’t a team.” Ask for your partner’s point of view. Listen openly and with curiosity.
- Repair. Take ownership for your part. Apologize (if necessary) with sincerity while acknowledging your partner’s hurts. “I know that I need to work on responding to you better in stressful situations. I’m sorry I yelled and blamed you. I was feeling really anxious and I took it out on you. I never meant to make you feel like you weren’t being helpful.”
- Plan. Make a plan with your partner for managing a similar situation in the future. Be descriptive. “Next time we take a flight, let’s leave 30 minutes earlier. If I need help packing or getting organized, I will ask you. Let’s make a checklist so that we can be on the same page about what needs to be done.”
Conflict in relationships is never fun. However, conflict can opens doors for establishing a deeper understanding of ourselves and our partners, strengthening feelings of safety and security and building confidence for managing future conflict. Our hope is that by doing so you can prepare your relationship for the next potentially stressful situation. Good luck!