Well, fast forward to the actual trip. Someone who was in the travel group discovered on the day before they were set to leave that his passport had expired and he consequently could not go. He asked my boyfriend if he wanted to take over his reservation, since his spot at the all-inclusive resort was paid for and it was nonrefundable. My boyfriend called me at work, when I was about to go into a hearing, and said this had happened and asked if I’d mind if he went on the trip. I was really caught off-guard and pressed for time, but said that, although I would be sad not to spend the holiday with him, it seemed silly to have a paid-for vacation to go to waste. He got the time off work and left the country within twelve hours.
We are now several days into his surprise adventure and I am not handling it as well as I thought I would. Intellectually, I understand that he didn’t set out to abandon me over New Year’s and abscond to a fun foreign country, but I’m having a hard time not being bitter and cranky about this. Instead of spending this time together, like we’d planned, I’m stuck in a snowstorm at home, feeding his cat, while he is on a tropical vacation that I am not on because he didn’t think he could get the time off work.
I don’t know what I should have done differently that would have resulted in a better outcome for me. I definitely didn’t have a chance to think fully through what it would mean for him to be gone when he called me at work, but I’m not sure more time would have changed my response. If I had told him not to go, I don’t know if he would have actually stayed home, or if that’s even what I would have wanted – again, seems like a waste not to have someone use the vacation! I would have felt very selfish telling him to stay home. That said, this is so frustrating because it is a trip that I wanted to go on, but didn’t go on, because he didn’t think he could get the time off work and I didn’t want to go without him – and then he got the time off work and went on the trip without me.
I know I didn’t tell him not to go, but I guess I was hoping he would be a little bit more understanding about the impact of his choice. Is there a better way I could have handled this? What do I do with this now? — Sad and Snowed In
Sometimes people we love make choices that upset us and there’s nothing we can do to prevent those choices without causing additional conflict or drama. This is one of those cases, I think. You could have told your boyfriend you didn’t want him to go, which is, basically, the truth. Say what you will about the waste of a paid-for vacation not being used, but, if you’re honest with yourself, you didn’t want your boyfriend to choose the paid-for vacation — a vacation you wanted to go on in the first place and turned down to be with him — over spending New Year’s with you. You could have said, “Oh, wow, I understand the temptation of this amazing opportunity, but, you know, you had the opportunity for months to go on this vacation and you thought you couldn’t get time off and so we decided together that neither of us would go. I would be disappointed if you decided at this point to go without me, but it’s your choice to make.” That’s all the truth. And then, if he still decided to go on the vacation, at least he would know that you were going to be disappointed and he could plan for that.
As it is, you told your boyfriend that “it would be silly to have a paid-for vacation go to waste.” You said nothing of being sad or disappointed. When he put you on the spot, calling you at work, you gave him the easy out. You let him off the hook. You said one thing without sharing how you entirely felt. You didn’t want him to go. You wanted him to stay with you and spend New Year’s with you. In the future, be honest about what you want. Don’t be afraid of sounding selfish. You can even say, “This may sound selfish, but I really want blank.” That way, Greg (or whomever you’re addressing) has the full story, knows where you stand, and can make a choice accordingly, understanding the potential repercussion/conflict.
So, what do you do now? Tell Greg when he gets back that you missed him and that, had you had more time to think about what his going on this trip would mean for you, you would have told him how disappointed you’d be to not spend the holiday with him. Tell him that in a sense you felt rejected for something better — something you turned down to be with him. Tell him that in the future you will make a better effort to communicate your honest feelings, but you also need him to make a better effort to consider your feelings, be empathetic to your needs even when you don’t always express them fully, and to take opportunities to prioritize your feelings over his when it really matters.
This too will pass, and ultimately it’s just a small bump in the road. There will be more hurdles, and you will have your feelings hurt again and sometimes you will be the one doing the hurting. The important thing is to learn from this and to communicate as best you can when you know what it is you want and need. Give positive reinforcement when choices are made that validate you and make you feel loved and important, and don’t be shy about expressing when choices leave you feeling less than important.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.