Chris Aman

My husband and I take a trip together every other summer. We've been to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore, and a few other places besides--but they're always relatively close. When I've suggested going to further away places (like a dream vacation to California), he suggests other, closer areas. How can I help get him out of this eight-hour-car-ride bubble?

I don't think you are alone! I have seen many with similar issues in their relationships. What it has ultimately boiled down to is communication. First of all, do you express how you feel about taking a vacation to places further from home? If so, in what manner are you expressing this? Is your husband's response in relation to a particular fear of going further (for example, financial reasons, children at home or being uncertain about the particular area in which you are going)? People often like to stay within their comfort zones. Are the places you want to go outside of his travel comfort zone? I would recommend you review effective communication skills so that you and your husband are better able to communicate about your next vacation, and all other events in your life.

Start by finding the right time to talk. If something is bothering you, make sure that you pick a time that works for both of you. If they are in the middle of something that may not be a good time to interrupt and begin a serious conversation. It takes time to redirect thinking, and when one is pulled away from something they are involved it will take time to redirect focus. If you begin a serious conversation before they are ready you will end up frustrated. So set a time to talk.

Make sure the conversation is face to face. Text messages, letters and emails are not effective means of communicating as these messages can be (and often are) misinterpreted. Communication loses its effectiveness when components such as body language are missing.

Don't attack your partner even if you mean well. By attack I don't mean in a violent manner. To communicate effectively you want to use words such as "I" and "we". The minute you throw in the word "you", your partner will begin to put up the defenses in order to defend against the attack. For example, "you never want to go anywhere different" sounds like an accusation in need of defending. If this were restated in another manner, such as "I really would like to go to California this year, can we work it out?", you are now facilitating conversation and keeping the defensive reaction low. It becomes a conversation in which both have input.

Be honest in all of your communications. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but it will never hurt more that the loss of trust that develops when lies are uncovered.

Watch your body language during communication. Make sure you are focused on your partner and what is being said. Keep the phones away and let them know you are there to listen.

And make sure you do listen! By this I mean, try and avoid that nasty habit so many of us have in which we are planning our response after we hear the first three words stated by our partner. For instance, your partner responds by saying, "I don't want to go to California this year, I don't care for the attractions that are there; let's find somewhere we can both agree on." What you hear is "I don't want to go"; you immediately stop listening and forming your attack response with "You are so boring! Why can't we ever go anywhere fun?" By the time you finish that statement and realize what your partner has said, it has become a full-fledged battle over who is in the right because the accusations have now begun and you are no longer even talking about your vacation plans -- you're discussing how long you've found your partner to be boring!

In a nutshell, work on your communication. Be direct, be honest and be open to listening. There are many potential reasons as to why your partner doesn't want to go. Take the time to pay attention to what he has to say and make compromises as necessary. It could be as simple as he doesn't realize how much you'd like to go!

Chris Aman, MBA, MSN, APRN, NP-C, is the co-owner of Inspired Life Wellness Clinic, where she is a psychiatric provider for teens and adults. She and her husband, Jason, have six children and live in Bismarck. They enjoy outdoor activities in the summer and hibernating in the winter.