Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Husband Wants Me to Cancel My Trip Because of the Coronavirus, But I Don’t Want To”

I have a vacation to Florida planned with my 6-year-old coming up that would involve a short, direct, round-trip flight. I think it’s probably ok to go, with precautions, but my spouse would rather we postpone (he isn’t going). We have elderly relatives in our house, so there is an issue if this results in COVID-19/coronavirus exposure. My kid is REALLY looking forward to the trip, and if we don’t go now, the trip will have to be next year (it seems like the projections are the virus is spreading, so it’s going to take a while to renormalize). My husband and I have very different comfort levels with travel in general and, overall, with risk (he comes from a line of self-proclaimed germaphobes, and I…do not). I’m not sure how to navigate this in a way that won’t leave one of us angry and resentful. This is such a first-world problem, but what would you do? — Assessing the Risk

Your question is essentially about risk, and your job is to weigh the different risks against the potential gains. Of course, there’s the risk that you and your child will be exposed to the coronavirus while traveling to and vacationing in Florida — that risk, according to the CDC, is low. (The risk is low even in communities where the virus is currently spreading, but it is slightly elevated for healthcare providers treating patients with coronavirus and for people traveling to international locations with a wider spread of the virus.) Of course, the situation is changing rapidly and, depending on when your trip is scheduled, the risk for traveling to Florida specifically, or being confined to a small space with others in an airport and airplane, may be higher than it is now, and you will need to re-assess the risk closer to your trip (and pay attention to CDC recommendations for travel).

Besides the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, you risk two other things: resenting your husband if you miss your trip; and his resenting you if you don’t. You have control over the former; you can make a decision based on information provided to you and on your own wisdom, and you can take ownership of that decision. Rather than cancelling the trip to appease your husband, you would decide to cancel the trip only if YOU felt it was the best decision. He might resent you for taking the risk, but the resentment would likely only materialize if you or your son actually were to develop coronavirus. (Again, the risk of that is currently very low, and if you did catch the virus, it might be impossible to prove where you got it.) You can also limit your risk of both exposure to the virus and your husband’s resentment if you communicate about what precautions you plan to take during the trip.

There’s one more potential risk related to your trip: You risk disappointing your kid if you cancel — a risk that is sure to materialize if you do postpone. But kids get disappointed and it’s not the end of the world. (One might even argue that experiencing mild disappointment builds character, especially when guided through healthy ways of coping with said disappointment.) You could do something else fun during the time you’d be in Florida, and you can promise to re-schedule as soon as possible (which may be sooner than you think, possibly).

You asked what I would do in your situation, and it’s impossible to say exactly since I don’t know your husband or your kid or the elderly relatives you live with and can’t appropriately assess the risk that involves them (and I’m speaking most especially about the risk to your relationships as opposed to the risk to their physical health). But I can tell you what I’m doing in my own situation. We – my husband, two kids, and I — have an international trip planned in April (to Mexico, which is not currently on the CDC’s list of countries to avoid). It would be our first international trip in nearly eight years (so the first for my 4-year-old daughter and the first my 8-year-old son would remember) and also a celebration of my husband’s 50th birthday. We’re really looking forward to it and would hate to cancel. But! The trip is still five weeks away and we are resigned to cancelling it if, by then, the risk of exposure — in Mexico, in airports, on planes — is much higher than it is now. We’re paying close attention to the CDC recommendations as well as to updates from our local health department. We will re-evaluate our plans with any change in the risk assessment locally, as well as in Mexico.

In coming weeks, I expect more and more disruptions to daily life for all of us Americans. School cancellations, trip postponements, long lines at grocery stores and pharmacies, price gouging, and halting public transportation are all possible. We may all be called on to make some sacrifices to limit the spread of this virus. If you have a chance to get away before such a call is made, this might be a good opportunity to do so—-but only if the benefits outweigh any risk to your relationships and physical health.

My boyfriend and I have been in an LDR for over five years. I’m 62 and he is 64. He lost his job six months ago. That was an opportunity for him to move nearer to me to look for work, but he chose to stay put. He grew up in my town and has always said he wants to be back here. His 27-year-old adult son lives with him, and he feels he needs to know his son is OK to be independent. Meanwhile, I am losing patience. He has now found a job where he currently lives, so there’s no end in sight for his not being local. I don’t know what to do. I am unsatisfied with his decision to stay put when the loss of the job was the opportunity to move here. — Unsatisfied

 
You have two choices if you don’t want your relationship to continue being a long-distance one: You can move to where your boyfriend lives, or you can break up. He’s made it clear through his actions, if not his words, that he has no intention of leaving the town where he lives. He’ll continue telling you what he thinks you want to hear – that he’s always wanted to move back to where you live — but wanting something and actually taking steps to make it happen are two entirely different things. You can’t even be sure he wants what he says he wants, but you CAN be sure of the steps he’s taking, which are to stay put exactly where he is. It’s up to you to decide what YOU want and to take steps to make it happen. If what you want is a relationship that isn’t long-distance, you either move to your boyfriend or break up with him and find someone local.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

19 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cdobbs March 3, 2020, 9:42 am

    LW1 my PhD is in microbiology and I studied virology as part of my degree….the thing about coronovirus is it is going to establish globally….i can see it being Cold&Flu&Coronovirus season as just becoming the norm….i get that with elderly people living with you there is a greater risk of them developing a more serious illness and wanting to protect them….having said that i would say go on the trip….and best way to protect yourself is wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face (eyes, nose, mouth) with your hands….facemasks don’t work (the virus is smaller than the pore size of the material)….one extra level of precaution is that the virus is shed in feces so after using the restroom and flushing the toilet the virus can be aerosolized and cover multiple surfaces in the bathroom (including the doorknob)….so either don’t touch the door handles in public bathrooms with your barehands or if you have to use some hand sanitizer after leaving the bathroom

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    Eleanor Anagonye March 3, 2020, 9:53 am

    LW2, I’ve been in that situation before. He’s not going to move, and you should make your decision based on that information. If I were you, I would end it unless you are really and truly OK with being in an LDR indefinitely (i.e., only continue if you won’t be resentful).

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  • avatar

    Jennifer March 3, 2020, 10:15 am

    I agree that you should go. Can you just imagine how resentful you’ll be if you cancel the trip, and then you end up catching the virus at the gym instead?

    I’m facing a similar situation, as I’m supposed to fly at the beginning of next month. A family member is refusing to fly now because of it, and I just shrugged and said, have fun staying home. I had plane tickets about ten days after 9/11, and I flew then too. People said I was crazy to fly, and I just shrugged then too. It was one of the best plane experiences of my life. The airport was practically empty as was my plane. There were no lines, and the security was heavy enough to calm any minor fears.

    Here’s the thing. If this virus spreads like they say it will, it will be everywhere. Unless you plan on shutting in with a giant hoard of groceries, you will likely be exposed somewhere. I just don’t like living my life based on fear. Now, if as Wendy said, a few days before your flight, they are saying DON’T FLY OR YOU’LL DIE!!! then don’t fly. But right now, the threat level is just not there yet. Lots of kids have died this year from the flu, where is the hysteria over that? I’m not saying that the coronavirus isn’t deadly or that precautions shouldn’t be taken, but the level of some people’s hysteria seems a bit much. It is a new thing, and the media’s constant hyping of it to get clicks isn’t helping.

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  • avatar

    brise March 3, 2020, 10:22 am

    LW1: There is more risks of being randomly inflicted a quarantine if someone in your surrounding is infected than getting actually infected yourself (or your child). You don’t want to be block for weeks in a Florida hotel room, do you?
    Perhaps you can cancel now and go with your husband later this year, which would be actually more fun for him too? The virus won’t make it during the summer: the outbreak will calm down with the heat, at least for a while.
    LW2: The problem is that he was in a weak position to make such a decision to move and quit his life. It was the default solution: not appealing. It is also more difficult to find a job where you know nobody. I quite understand his decision. It doesn’t mean that later (say, in some years) he won’t choose to move on a schedule that he can control and plan ahead. Ask him about serious planning. If you get fed up with the long distance, end it. Anyway, I wouldn’t consider that he is definitely lying to you and has no intention to ever live in your town. He just needs a job to function. But for the next years, sure, you will have to travel to meet each other.

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  • avatar

    Liz March 3, 2020, 11:44 am

    LW1, stay home. I think it would be incredibly selfish for you to go and be willing to expose your senior family members. Really, I don’t know why you even debate this. Are your memories that important?

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    • avatar

      Lucidity March 3, 2020, 8:05 pm

      By that logic, it’s selfish of the LW to leave her home for any non-essential reason during flu season. She should probably home-school her child, too, because we all know schools are cesspools of germs from which kids are constantly bringing home virus after virus.

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  • avatar

    Kalindria March 3, 2020, 12:05 pm

    I have had stage 4 cancer for over six years now and am currently undergoing chemotherapy. My immune system is the definition of compromised. That said, I have scheduled a train trip from Seattle (yes, I live in the epicenter of the US COVID-19 deaths) to the San Francisco area this Saturday. I’ve got a few qualms but am still going as of this morning. I go in for a chemo infusion on Thursday and will talk it over with my oncologist and see what she says. After all, they’ve kept me alive so far!

    Two things I’ve learned in traveling this cancer journey is that you can’t live your life in fear and no one gets out of here alive. That said, I have two fine examples of living life bravely in my parents who leave next week for a long vacation in Tahiti and Moorea.

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    • avatar

      CanadaGoose March 3, 2020, 12:31 pm

      Your parents are in for a huge treat. Moorea is the best – I liked it better than Bora Bora. I actually thought about heading there to wait out the virus, it’s so remote. If they can get a walking tour with archaeologist/anthropologist Mark Eddoers they will absolutely love it. They need a lot of bug spray, fyi.

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  • avatar

    Tui March 3, 2020, 12:08 pm

    Go to Florida. The USA is very low risk and this mass hysteria is being driven in part by racism. I wish people would get this upset about the vaccine preventable illnesses that are already present and spread through communities where people think they know better than scientists. Make sure you and all the family are up to date with any vaccines including the flu. That has killed far more people world wide and will continue to do so. The problem with viruses like the flu, and corona viruses (and the common cold is actually a coronavirus), is that a lot of people are carriers without having symptoms – around 60%. If there is more concern nearer the time, make the decision then.

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  • avatar

    Bittergaymark March 3, 2020, 12:13 pm

    This stupid virus is most like killing two international trips of mine. Two. And only after me not leaving the country in over 7 years. Sigh…

    Honestly? At this point if I fall victim and die of Corona it would be a blessing in disguise. Here’s to hoping. Everything just feels… over.

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    • avatar

      katmich15 March 3, 2020, 2:09 pm

      BGM, I know you are sarcastic a lot so forgive me if I’m being dramatic, but your last sentence alarmed me, you ok?

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      • avatar

        Allornone March 3, 2020, 2:35 pm

        I agree. I know BGM can be pretty dramatic, but a few of his last comments have made me scared for him. Since I’m not too far off there myself, I’m a bit concerned.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous March 3, 2020, 4:35 pm

      Thank you for your concern. I appreciate it. But rest easy. It is not warranted. Fear not. I’d never kill myself. (A select few would rather hilariously overreact.)

      That said a tragic Corona death would solve the unsolvable in a rather handy way. Really — it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

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      • avatar

        katmich15 March 4, 2020, 10:32 am

        Glad to hear! Sorry though, I hope you don’t get your Corona wish 🙂

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  • avatar

    taurons March 3, 2020, 12:45 pm

    LW2: He’s using his 27-year-old adult child as an excuse to not move near you? In what ways is his 27-year-old son not “OK to be independent”?! Why?! That seems like the most outlandish of his ‘reasons’. I would do WWS and reevaluate the relationship, in a nice stark light.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 3, 2020, 3:05 pm

    My question about the first letter is, should the LW not travel during flu season at all? Sure, the elderly family can get flu shots, but you can still get the flu even if you had the vaccine.

    I get there’s more concern with coronavirus due to the perceived fatality rate (though since a lot of people may have been sick with it and not know it, I’m not sure how accurate it is) and no vaccine, but the flu is pretty deadly too.

    Are the people who are talking about LW1 like she’s stupid and a terrible person in agreement that she shouldn’t travel during flu season too? What about going to the grocery store and touching the cart? Or touching an elevator button?

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  • avatar

    Miri12 March 3, 2020, 4:31 pm

    Don’t come to the internet for health advice. Contact your doctor and get a medical opinion, and then go from there.

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  • avatar

    Gi March 3, 2020, 8:09 pm

    LW1 – look COVID-19 is a major concern and it will be for awhile. The rate of fatality is about 3% vs. the flu fatality is about 0.1%. That is the cause for concern and why it is being hyped, it is not just to get clicks as someone said, it is asking people to precautions.
    Now to travel or not, that is your decision to make – not ours. Wendy had some solid advice for you. If you where going to travel to areas that have a level 3 or higher travel advisor per CDC, then I would say delay the trip. Otherwise it is your call and your comfort level. Yes having elders in your home is another consideration to take into your decision to travel or not. But let’s remember that you can catch something else (measles) and give it to the elders.
    For the person who advice on doing the basic stuff you would during the flu season (wash hands, don’t touch your face and so on) that is solid advice.
    I will not disagree that there is some panic going on but in a sense it is always good to be prepared. It is also good to now what your level of comfort is and what precautions you will make during your trip.
    You say your husband has very different comfort level on travel overall then you; so even if you reschedule I feel he still wouldn’t go on a future trip.
    So basically keep informed on what is going on through CDC, please don’t rely on twitter or facebook or some other form of social media and only go to a trusting site for news and updates. Go on the trip if your comfort level is there, take precautions as noted and have fun.
    If you don’t go, then plan other things that would be fun, but make sure it is your comfort level and your husband knows what precautions you will be taking.

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  • avatar

    Nardo March 3, 2020, 10:41 pm

    LW1 — Taking a 6 year old to Florida on vacation? Perhaps to Disney for spring break? Which gets visitors from all over the country if not the world (affected areas included)? In addition to the recycled air on the plane, add the following to your list of risks: hotel, rides, and rental cars.

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