My husband and I are in our 30s with a young child and a baby. We have a good, loving relationship and my husband is an excellent father and incredibly supportive of me.
My husband has a close relationship with his brother, who lives overseas. When our eldest son was a baby, my husband took a holiday to visit his brother, who at the time was living in India. It was my idea as I knew he was missing him and felt he needed a break.
Exactly two years later, my husband said he would like to make the same trip again. This time I was against it, as I felt that it was too expensive and that if he was taking his limited holiday days from work, it would be nice to take them with the whole family. My husband finally won out and went to India without us for a second time. This was just over a year ago.
His brother has now moved to South America and my husband and I have been talking about going there to see him in early 2017, leaving the children with their grandparents (it is not a good place to take children).
However, my husband has now said that he would like to visit his brother in South America this spring. I couldn’t go as I am still breastfeeding and would not leave the children yet.
I have made it clear that I feel very unhappy about this, but my husband thinks I am being unreasonable. He is now freelance, so has more flexibility on holiday dates, meaning he could also holiday with us later in the year. We can also afford the trip financially as he is earning better money now.
I just can’t help feeling that it is unfair of my husband to want to take regular holidays without his wife and children. He thinks I am being unreasonable and that it is the norm.
I can’t see how we can get around this. He has already said that he wants to be able to visit his brother regularly, wherever he is living, without being made to feel bad about it.
I feel resentful as I could not envisage taking expensive long-haul trips away from my family and don’t see why he should do this so regularly either. I am worried that if he goes, I won’t be able to forgive him, but that if he doesn’t go, he will resent me and feel trapped and stifled.
Am I being unreasonable? I feel confused. Part of me wants to be cool with this and I don’t know why I have such a problem with it.
Lots of people go away on business for chunks of time, leaving their partners and children at home. It’s what you decide is acceptable as a family that is important.
It’s wonderful that your husband is so close to his brother; in fact there are lots of positives in your letter. I wondered if you could work out what it is that’s really upsetting you. Is it the fact that he wants to go on these trips at all (which you can’t control) or the length of the jaunts? Or is it that you feel trapped at home and need a break but feel you can’t take one?
Your children are still very young – you’ve got a babe in arms – and those first few years are very intense. Any imbalance between partners, perceived or imagined, can take on enormous proportions. But it won’t always be like that. As your children grow, you will be called to deal with sibling “injustices” and will probably find yourself saying that being fair doesn’t always mean having the same thing at the same time.
I think that is pertinent here. Your husband does feel able to go away from his family, while you don’t. But a time will come when you can do more of what you want – whatever that may be. Maybe not far-flung holidays – your thing may be different. But you do need to attend to your own needs – even if only occasionally to begin with – because that is really important as a parent. Your supportive husband can help you with this.
What do you need now to make this a bit more OK for you? Do you struggle when your husband is away?
It would be great if he didn’t want to go away, but he does. You could of course put your foot down and I’m sure there will be plenty of people to call him selfish, but that doesn’t really help to move the situation forward. If you “made him” stay home, he’d either resent you, or he may go, and you’ll resent him. And resentment really is an emotion best dissolved and not left as an eclipsing whole.
It might also help if you look at your own children and imagine how lovely it would be if they are still so close as adults that they would travel the world for each other. Let him go away, but make sure you know what it is that you want and make sure you get it, so that the see-saw of your relationship isn’t too lopsided.
This article first appeared in The Guardian Family section on 6 February 2016.