Traveling with someone you love is fantastic in so many ways… until it’s not. Close confines and stressful conditions mean that bickering is pretty much inevitable and, if you’re not careful, it’s easy for silly conflicts to mushroom cloud into nuclear arguments.
This is something I know a thing or two about. For over six years now, pretty much our entire relationship, Mike and I have been traveling together. Like they say, it’s the best way to truly get to know someone. While we make pretty great travel companions now, that first year was not always easy. We argued our way through China, Thailand and Vietnam, then the next year through South America. The good times outweighed the bad by FAR, but I think we could have saved ourselves some long, silent bus rides with a little better knowledge of how to deal.
So while I’ve written before on how to survive travel as a couple, I wanted to talk about something a little more specific: The inevitability of the travel fight. Here is what I’ve learned about how to keep a little disagreement from turning into a big one, and how to still love each other even when you feel like murder.
Check Your Blood Sugar
Seriously, this is my biggest piece of relationship advice on the road (or maybe even not on the road). Hangryness is real, and it effects us all.
It took me months to figure out that 95% of the time when Mike was cranky or angry, he was really just hungry. Some people go total Jekyll and Hyde when their blood sugar drops, and my husband is one of them. I on the other hand, get overly-emotional when hungry. That’s a great combination as you can imagine.
Now at the first sign of unreasonable crankiness I insist we eat something. When we travel I usually carry snacks in my purse- granola bars work great, and it has made all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding pointless spats.
In my experience, 99% of all travel fights can be traced to one or both parties being hungry (see above), tired, or stressed. Travel is so fun but it can also be really stressful, especially in more difficult countries. It’s really easy to channel that annoyance are your surroundings into annoyance at your partner.
When I find myself getting irritated with Mike on a travel day I try to check myself: Am I annoyed at him or annoyed in general? Sometimes a quick stop for a coffee or a beer, or maybe a nap, can save a mood that’s otherwise circling the drain. If you’re constantly at each other’s throats, consider the idea you may be traveling too fast, and slow down for some relaxation.
Practice Alone Time (Even Together)
Spending 24 hours a day together, every single day can make even the best relationship crack under the pressure. All of a sudden your partners adorable quirks are just infuriating and literally everything they do is annoying as hell.
The best way to stay off each other’s nerves is to find some time to be alone. Split up for the day and spend a few hours by yourself. It may seem counter-intuitive, you’re traveling to be together after all, but it allows you to regenerate some of your good will. Plus you will have something new to talk about at dinner!
If it’s really not possible to spend time apart, learn to practice alone time together. Mike and I can sit in the same room for hours, each doing our own thing, not speaking. He’ll play a computer game maybe, I’ll read a book. Is that sad? It can be a valuable skill when you’re trapped in a tiny hostel room together.
Communicate (when calm)
Sometimes you will have serious issues that crop up during travel and need to be hashed out. Try to have these conversations while calm and ideally, while sober. Nobody wants to be that drunk couple screaming at each other outside the hostel.
Instead of hurling accusations, work towards resolving the problem with a compromise or a solution.
Keep Things in Perspective
Otherwise known as choose your battles. Are you super pissed off that your partner ate the last granola bar/ didn’t check the opening hours for the museum/ had a total directions fail and now you are hopeless lost? Understandable, and maybe worth some quiet stewing, but once your blood pressure goes down a bit, remind yourself that you are on an amazing adventure with someone you love (who probably has some redeeming qualities despite their inability to read google maps)- how lucky is that?
You can’t control how other people act, but you can choose your response. You shouldn’t bottle up your feelings, but you can choose a measured response, or a sense of humor, over anger. Ultimately your attitude is going to dictate your trip.
When things just seem too much, there’s always tomorrow. A good night’s sleep can cure most disagreements, then you can get back to enjoy your vacation, and each other.