For years now, my wife has been talking about how great it would be to rent a condo and spend a full week in a cottage at the beach. So for her birthday I surprised her with reservations for fall break. She was so excited – until she learned that I agreed to take an extra shift at work this summer to pay for it. She keeps complaining that I will miss family time while the kids are out of school. I’m busting my tail for something she wants… and she’s complaining. I have to tell my boss next week what my schedule will be, and I don’t know what to do.
-Tired and blindsided
Dear Tired and blindsided,
Argh, on behalf of women everywhere let me apologize for how much it can look like we don’t appreciate what you men are doing for the women you love! You planned a wonderful surprise, made the sacrifices you felt you needed to make for it… and you feel like you’re being punished because of it.
The problem is, though: this is a case where the surprise you thought you were giving her may not have been the surprise she most wanted.
Yes, staying at a fantastic resort, and sipping a drink on the beach as the waves break under a blue sky is a thrilling fantasy. I can almost hear the saxophone music and feel the foam wreaking havoc on my pedicure as I dream.
And yes, when she was dreaming out loud, your wife sure loved the idea. But the reality of what it takes to get to that fantasy – at least right now — may not be what she most wants. Speaking from experience, I know how not-fun it is to barely see the man you love – or for the kids to barely see their dad – for months at a time, during a season that is traditionally the period of the year when the family can hang out more. Your wife was looking forward to some wonderful summer time together over the next few months… and suddenly learns that it may not happen.
So as much as your wife would love a luxurious week at the beach, it sounds like she may not want to trade off these weeks of summer closeness and together time to get it. And you might be surprised to learn that, in that way, she’s like most women. In my For Men Only research, I learned that most wives would gladly give up material things, dream vacations, and even their entire financial security if that was what it took to have their man around more often.
So although it is wonderful that you wanted to provide something special – and sacrifice to do it — she is probably wondering “But what good is renting a condo if he has to be away from us so much to get it? What good is going on vacation, if he is too overworked and exhausted to have fun with the family?”
So before you tell your boss anything, I suggest having a friendly, open conversation with your wife. If you can, try to set aside the I-Don’t-Know-What-You-Want-From-Me feelings, and just ask, “Would you truly rather have me around more this summer? Or would you truly rather have the week at the beach, and me be gone a lot more while I’m working?”
Explain what you calculated about the cost of renting a nice condo for a week, and put it all out on the table – how much you need to make, how many hours you need to work, and break down the details of what it will take to pull off the vacation. You may think she would prefer to make the trip happen this fall, but in truth she may think it makes more sense to put it off for a little while, so you both have more time to save up.
Or maybe you can find ways where you don’t have to work a full extra shift this summer, if you figured out how to do the beach week in a less expensive way – staying in a cheaper place, or cooking most of your own food instead of eating out.
You have not because you ask not, right? I hope when you ask, you will be encouraged to hear that your wife does appreciate you. And it is precisely because of that that she wants to make sure she and your kids have the time they most want… with you.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. Learn more about speaking inquiries here.