Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: Most of the time, my husband will not accompany me on road trips (51/2 hours) to see my family. He says he hates driving. When he does see my family, he gets along with them fine. But we have two small children, and handling them both is a hassle. I do it because I want to see my brother and sisters and family. That's the background.
So this past weekend, my husband is on the phone with his brother and sister, and as I listen, they plan this epic road trip from Pennsylvania to Michigan! And he's so excited, he just ropes me right in for this trip. It's petty of me, but I want to just say: "I don't feel like taking a road trip!" just so he can see what it feels like to deal with two small children by himself while family is asking questions.
Is it unfair to expect him to join me on road trips, too? It feels like he only wants to go on trips when it's on his terms.
Answer: Bean-counting is just a terrible idea. Either state your problem with the status quo, or figure out some way to embrace it. The in-between, where you say nothing and allow your anger to accumulate, is a marriage-killer - even when it seems like the issue is too small to merit that kind of power.
Meanwhile, the issue (if I read you correctly) is that you're angry about traveling solo with both kids. That has a lot of merit, where comparing the apples of visiting family to the oranges of a brother-sister road trip doesn't.
So I wonder: Why don't you find a creative way around the central problem? Instead of always traveling solo with both kids, why don't you mix it up and travel, say, once with everyone, once with no kids, once with Kid 1 and once with Kid 2 - on a permanent rotation? That way, not only will you distribute the effort more fairly, but also each of you will have a chance to nurture a closer bond with one child at a time.
Yes? No? Maybe?
Reader comment: The real issue is that her husband lied about the reason he won't join her. And lies are marriage-killers.
Answer: I think lied is too strong. Something genuinely unappealing can genuinely become appealing when it involves fun payoffs (cool destinations versus in-laws), and special guest stars (adult sibs as travel buddies). Plus, an accusation of lying would drive a wedge where sympathy would probably accomplish more.
"I get that you're excited about road-tripping with Brother and Sister. But all this time I've traveled solo with the kids to see my family because you 'hate' driving. It's just not sitting right with me."
Reader comment: You know what kills marriages more than bean-counting or lying? Making decisions ("just so he can see what it feels like") purely on the basis of how much pain/discomfort you can inflict on your spouse. And speaking of lying? She said yes to her husband, and now is saying no to Carolyn. Maybe work on that, too.
Answer: Fair 'nuff and well said. Both need to revisit a fundamental of marriage: Have each other's backs.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.