Before I left for my first cross-country road trip with my now-wife, one of our friends told us it was going to put our relationship to the test. All that time bottled up together in a tiny car is sure to stretch the communication skills and patience of any couple. They were right, too. Traveling with someone, whether you're newly in love, or years into a serious thing, takes patience, kindness, compromise, and a who hose of important communication skills. Unlike daily life, tough, where those communication skills are used on a longer timeline, traveling with someone forces you into a different kid of reality. In this reality, you're together every second with very few breaks, you're making more decisions than normal, and there's an unspoken pressure to enjoy every second. Those things together create the perfect storm for some next-level arguments.
If you anticipate these events in advance, and have your communication skills on lock, you can use moments of tension, non-stop decisions, and constant company to bring your relationship to another level of closeness. Plus, it makes for a better vacation, which is the real goal, right?
When I worked with couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, healthy communication tips for couples were my daily life, so I've got you covered. Run through this checklist and see which skills you need to get on lock. Think of it as a task equally as important as buying your plane ticket, or booking your hotel.
1. Learn How To Say What You Want
Being on the road is no time for the, "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" game. There's money involved. There's some FOMO. There may be some jet lag or some road delirium. There's never enough time. If you don't want to miss a show or you're not up for an intense hike, you need to be vocal, direct, and kind. You might be a laid back person who just likes to go with the flow, but all people have opinions. Besides, how will your partner know what you want to do if you don't vocalize it. It's your trip, too!
2. Learn How To Say What You Need
Instead of worrying that you're being annoying, or being a buzzkill when your needs interfere with your plans, learn to express your needs in a healthy way. That means when you're hungry, you need to say, "I'm hungry." And you need to say it within enough time that you can plan to find a place to eat before you become a hangry beast. Or, "I need to pee" even if you're halfway through an epic mountain hike. Your needs are important and deserve to be recognized.
3. Learn How To Communicate Your Real Feelings
If your partner makes a wrong turn for the three millionth time and won't ask for directions, your instinct might be to snap and yell some things that you wouldn't say in front of your mother. Then you have to spend the next hour or more in close quarters, either arguing or enduring some painful, angry silence. It's important to know the difference between thinking your partner is the worst kind of idiot, and expressing that you're just frustrated, tired, or bored. That usually involves learning to think before you speak, which is trickier for some people than it sounds.
4. Learn How To Make A Decision
Decision making comes easy to some, but to others, it's like pushing a semi truck up a mountain. When you're traveling with your partner, you have to be able to make decisions. You have to be able to chose what you want to do, where you want to go, what you want to eat, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you're the type who would rather lay on the ocean floor without an air tank than make decisions, you better start practicing as soon as possible. It's tiresome, stressful, and frustrating to be the person who has to make all the decisions in a relationship, and it leads to resentments. Not fun on vacation.
5. Learn How To Back Off
If you're in a healthy relationship, that means you've established healthy boundaries. One of those boundaries should involve things you can and can't say to your partner, and when you can or cannot say them. For example, if your partner is already irritated because you're lost, it's probably not the best time to talk about the state of your relationship, or how you wouldn't be lost of they would have listened to you in the first place. Knowing the signs that you've hit your partner's boundary line are crucial.
6. Learn How To Disagree
Disagreeing isn't the end of the world. It's super common. But if you don't know how to disagree productively, or at least civilly, your whole vacation is at risk. People who disagree in a healthy way don't call names, make demands, throw around ultimatums, or pout when they don't get their way. They express their ideas, listen to their partner's ideas, and look for common or middle ground.
7. Learn How To Be Clear & Direct
When you're not clear and direct, misunderstandings happen. Misunderstandings lead to hurt feelings, anger, and basically bad times. Don't beat around the bush or try to phrase something in the way you think your partner wants to hear it. Just come out with it, and ask your partner to clarify what he heard, so you know you're on the exact same page.
8. Learn How To Compromise
Compromise is perhaps the most important communication tip when you're travelling together. If you have completely separate interests, the only way you'll be able to ensure you both have a good time is if you both get to do things you want to do. That means sucking it up when the activity isn't on your bucket list, and being sensitive to your partner when they're struggling through something they hate. A positive attitude and a spirit of adventure can make just about anything fun.
9. Learn When Saying Something Isn't Important
Sometimes communication is about what you don't say. Every thought that enters your head isn't airtime worthy, especially the pointless negative thoughts we all have from time to time. Important to note: your body language is also key. Sometimes a silent eyeroll says more than a long rant ever could.
Probably the most important tip of all is to learn how to apologize. If you can do these things, the couple's part of your vacation will be smooth sailing. Maybe literally.
Images: Pexels (10)