I am a dreamer. I like to travel. And I like to think out loud. That combination can occasionally be utterly stressful for my practical, linear, logical engineer husband. Before we got married, we knew all about how there’s usually a spender and a saver within each couple, or, if you’ve listened to Dave Ramsey at all, a nerd and a free spirit. Despite not budgeting for almost the whole first year of our marriage (I don’t actually recommend this), we had that combo nailed whenever we thought/talked/discussed finances: Micah is the nerd, and I am the free spirit. Micah would rather hold a tangible object, and I would rather invest in experiences.
This may seem like an obvious leap to you, but we didn’t realize that this pairing of nerd and free spirit also applied in other areas of our life as well until at least a good half year in. At this point, we’d already discussed at least five possible travel opportunities: Hawaii, Victoria, BC, Brazil, India, and Seattle. (I think your first clue that none of these trips happened could be that “get passports” is still an item on our to-do list). I get attached to this sort of idea quickly. It usually goes down like this: over-the-top excitement, bubbling over with out loud dreams about all the things we would do and see and experience, looking up airfare and home rentals, figuring out public transit, and finally pausing to take a breath. At this point, practical considerations like the actual state of our budget (or, as was the case early on, our imagined budget) and accumulated vacation days are usually brought up by Micah. I do get to the practical stuff eventually, but I like to take my time and savor the dream.
Our travel dialogues have served a greater purpose than just being flat out arguments about how we should use our money and resources. As time progresses these conversations get better and better, but at first it was rough. We learned pretty quickly that we have vastly different communication needs. We also realized that we had pretty different expectations when it came to how we communicated, and also how often and for what reason we used money to travel. For some reason, conversations about travel magnified these communication and expectation differences in our relationship. It turns out that Micah needs concise specifics when we talk. The facts. And I need the freedom to spill my thoughts out loud, to talk in circles until I get to the heart of whatever is on my mind. We both knew going into this that the other person was different, but knowing that and recognizing it in real life are two different things. We kept butting heads about the same things over and over, until we started to realize that what we need might not be what the other needs. Of course, all of that progress was much messier and more emotional than I’m making it sound right now.
Like our communication styles, our expectations were also different. Because we weren’t budgeting at first, I would take the general idea of our bank account and think that we could do what we wanted since travel was a priority for me. Micah’s expectation was that we would save, save, save and eventually travel when we got a budget set up and knew what we were spending. I like to be spontaneous and follow whims, while Micah would rather have a specific purpose in mind for traveling, like visiting family and friends. Cheap flights to Europe, on their own, are not as much of a motivator for him as they would be for me. My expectation was that we would follow that spontaneity sometimes, and travel fairly often.
At first glance it seems like our communication needs and individual expectations can’t be reconciled. We’re pretty different, sometimes opposite. But somehow it works. Somehow, when you step away from yourself and start to think about what the other person might need and what would be good for them, it becomes just a little bit easier to act on that, even when its counter intuitive to what you need. And then the other person does that for you, and it becomes this strange cycle of giving what they need and getting what you need. And maybe it’s bumpy and ugly at times, and it doesn’t make sense but somehow it works and you get closer and closer.
For instance, we just celebrated our two-year anniversary on June 23. We stayed home. And it was wonderful. But we did hit some bumps leading up to all that goodness. Same old story of mismatched expectations. I wanted to get out of town, and Micah wanted to save that money. I think in these situations when it gets a little heated we both think that the other person should clearly see reason and come to our side, but I was especially pushing it this time. He left for work, and I halfway dissolved into frustrated tears. As I processed, I realized that what I really wanted for our weekend was to celebrate well. Isn’t that what anniversaries are about? Celebrating each other, our love, and our growth over the years. Travel feels like celebration to me, so that’s what I thought we should do. I knew if I pushed hard enough, my husband might unhappily give in to my desire to get away, but we’d both be miserable the whole time. That’s not actually celebrating at all. The heart of my desire to get away with my love was to just be together. So, I had to let go of that big heaping pile of pride and apologize in order to get back to what matters — being together and celebrating well.
Author: Abi Losli