Reader: Athol, I have a question about separate vacations. From what I have googled up they seem like a bad idea unless totally for a guys/girls only trip that is going to some place or doing something that is of no interest to the spouse; even in those cases views seem mixed.
My wife’s queen bee friend talked a bunch of single and married friends into a five day trip flying to a major city. I expressed my extreme displeasure with this since they are doing tons of stuff I would love to do there with her.
I have decided to treat this as a shit test and am agreeing and amplifying now that I have failed to talk her out of it (they scheduled it pretty quickly without much more than a couple of mentions). I told her I am great now with separate vacations (very enthusiastic). I have also talked with the other husbands and we are planning a similar trip like a Caribbean trip. Her first hearing of this left her scrambling for reasons for me not to go. She even backed off of doing other girls birthday trips where earlier she had alluded.
PS love your site, your advice has helped my marriage a ton. Other than this incident my marriage has vastly improved and we are both happy.
Athol: Ah the dreaded girls gone wild vacation plan. It’s a double bind in that if you passively sit by and say “Have fun honey!” you’re utterly defenseless to her cheating on you. But if you complain about it and ask her not to go, you’re a controlling jerk. So it’s lose-lose.
Look let’s be serious, the catch phrase these days is no longer “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, it’s “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.” If you’re a good girl who just wants to have fun, I’m sorry but the army of whores have taken over and established that trips to the Big Smoke are not to be good girls. That’s why they eviscerate their husbands about being controlling jerks and shame them into sitting quietly at home. If you want to be a very bad girl, it helps to keep the cockblock three states away and to forget to have your phone on.
So yes indeed, it is a major Fitness Test because it creates the perfect situation to cheat on you. This is why your male Body Agenda kicks in and you feel that all purpose skin-crawling-sinking-stomach sensation of utter dread. It’s like your spidey-sense gets tripped on and never ever shuts off again until there is no chance of this frakking trip happening.
So what to do.
I would tell her that it crosses the boundary of what is acceptable in your relationship. Just like kissing someone else crosses the line, or spending a couple thousand dollars without discussing it crosses the line, or being out all night and not answering your phone crosses the line. Or you getting a lap dance at a strip club is crossing the line. Being married comes with boundaries that define the relationship.
See we all have lines where on one side of the line we’re okay with what is happening, and on the other side of the line, we are very much not okay with what is happening. Where those lines lay is different for each couple, but monogamous married couples tend not to ever discuss them. Couples that are swingers, are into BDSM or are polyamorous talk a great deal about this sort of thing. They have conversations like…
“I was totally okay watching you get double penetrated by Mike and Toby, but then you went into a private room with Mike and I dunno, I just felt like I was starting to freak out about not knowing what was happening.”
“Well okay then, I guess if we’re going to keep doing this, we need to stay in the same room.”
“Okay, thanks. I just need to see you when we do this.”
“No I liked being spanked like that, but then you called me a ‘little bitch’ and it just kills it for me and I shut down on you.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, this is new.”
“I know, I didn’t mean to cry and be all dramatic. You can call me ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ or something like that, I have no idea why, but ‘bitch’ just sets me off.”
“Well okay then slut.”
“I didn’t mind that you had a date with Melanie tonight, I just felt so ignored when you came home.”
“Ignored? What did I do?”
“You barely said hello to me when you came in.”
“But I kissed you and we talked in the kitchen for like ten minutes.”
“I know. Just hold me or something when you come home. Like a few minutes.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you say?”
“Because I feel all crazy sometimes about this, but when you hold me it all goes away after a minute and it feels peaceful and right.”
“Well okay then.”
“Hey there’s just something about watching the most important person in my life, leave me at home for five days, while she goes and gets randomly drunk with her single and divorced friends, in a far away city where I have no ability to intervene if something is going wrong, will never get a sense of peace or closure about what really went on and have read dozens of stories on the Internet about other guys getting cheated on in the exact same situation, that just really puts me on edge. I’m trying not to throw up right now.”
“You’re a controlling jerk. Go fuck yourself if you think I’m staying home.”
Anyway, the whole girls gone wild vacation is typically predicated on disrespect and disinterest in the husband. Essentially she’s demanding that you passively watch her construct an entire scenario with a perfect cover for cheating. So even if she does nothing inappropriate, I can’t see how she’s going to respect you as a man after that.
But the more critical issue is that if she goes, she should be under no illusion that things will be the same between you when she comes back. Because like it or not, this is just something you’re going to react very badly about and things will be different. Your Body Agenda is all ramped up that the very worst thing in the world is happening five days in a row, you feel powerless to stop it and your internal relationship boundaries have been utterly disdained by your partner. That isn’t meant to be heard as a threat, just the simple reality that you’re not going to feel the same about her.
What drives you crazy is the implied threat to your oxytocin/vasopressin induced pair bond. There’s only two ways to stop it, either (1) she doesn’t go and the threat to the pair bond is removed, or (2) have the Body Agenda of the husband break off or diminish the strength of the pair bond itself… by which I mean stop loving her so much.
In short, don’t get into an argument about it. Don’t try and rationalize about it, because this isn’t something you have rational control over. I’d just say… “For me that’s crossing a serious line, I’m not going to be okay with that.” Which can’t really be argued against because it’s how you actually feel and will respond.
If she goes anyway after that, I think that’s a fairly clear signal she’s sending you.