Why can't I win even if I win?
September 17, 2010 3:13 PM   Subscribe

When you "win" an argument with your spouse, it's not really winning, or is it?

Long story short:

My wife and I want to visit her family over Thanksgiving, but I don't want to pay a ridiculous airfare. While she will see them for the whole week, I'm only seeing them for 1 day (Thursday). It's a heck of a lot less expensive this way.

She hasn't said it, but the conversations suggest I'm putting money over family.

I have explained that we would bust our budget to do it any other way.

She's not happy, but she'll go along with it. She hasn't talked much about it since, I'm getting the silent treatment, and I'm wondering if I need to change my position while I still can (the ticket can be changed within 24hrs).

I have "won" but she makes me feel like she has lost. I think this really is a win-win. We're both there for Thanksgiving Dinner, which is a big deal for her family. I hate the guilt trip I'm getting from her because this decision is for both our sakes. We keep joint finances.

I'm abiding by a budget we both came up with and if we deviate from this budget, we may not reach goals we both want, like a home.

So, I have a short time now. I think I'm right, but I'm also feeling that I should do what she wants to make her happy. We're newly married so I'm not accustomed to her being upset about something I do.

Is this a big deal or not? I feel I can defend why I made the decision and I think it's a good compromise. Those with more experience in the marriage or long-term relationship arena - let me know what you think.
posted by abdulf to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If your wife had gotten her way and convinced you to go, would you be giving her the silent treatment? It seems like the problem is her reaction to the compromise, not the compromise itself. If you spending a week with her family is something that has always been important to her, maybe she feels she had to give up too much in the compromise, but it kind of doesn't seem like an unreasonable compromise at all, to me. I mean, you could have insisted on going to see your family instead.
posted by elpea at 3:18 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Objectively, you ARE putting money over family. The question isn't whether you're doing that, but whether that's the right decision here.

The answer to "is this a big deal or not" is also obviously yes, it is a big deal to her. The question isn't that, or whether it should be a big deal to her (I'll follow an old advice column adage about not giving advice to people who don't ask for it).

The real question you should be asking is: should I attempt to have a conversation with my wife about something she's obviously upset about? Yes, yes you should. Tell her it's important that you talk about this. Ask her her feelings, explain that money IS more important to you than family in this situation for the following reasons: [list reasons].

And decide if a couple hundred dollars is really, honestly, going to ruin your ability to buy a house. This could also be part of the conversation: if we spend this money here, what won't we spend money on. It has to be this or something else, so talk about cutting budgets elsewhere (not antagonistically though).
posted by brainmouse at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

*I mean gotten her way and convinced you to go for the full week not just the one day.

And to add: if you always give her what she wants over what you want, you'll end up being unhappy. Compromises need to be balanced when possible.
posted by elpea at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Expecting someone to acknowledge when you are right. Expecting them to be happy about it is another.

It's been less than 24 hours since you settled this? Give her time to adjust to the idea, she'll stop pouting eventually. You haven't interfered with her plans to see her own family, and she knows you are trying to make the responsible choice.
posted by hermitosis at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Expecting someone to acknowledge when you are right....

is one thing. Expecting them to be happy about it is another.

posted by hermitosis at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she agreed to go along with your plan and yet is giving you the silent treatment, she is being manipulative. She is trying to use her coldness to either make you feel bad or to get you to do things her way (or both). This is why you don't feel like you've "won"; she's still fighting and this isn't resolved.

To add, I don't think that thinking about relationship disputes in terms of "wins" and "losses" is very productive. You are both on the same team, you know? Is there a compromise that can make both parties happy?
posted by kitty teeth at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Is this a big deal or not? I feel I can defend why I made the decision and I think it's a good compromise.

It's a big deal if it's a big deal. Why don't you talk to her about it? It may smooth things over a lot if you approach it from outside the perspective of win/lose, like "I can tell you're upset about this decision, can you tell me how you feel? I will be happy to listen." From there you can move forward non-confrontationally.

It seems like you are willing to change your mind for the sake of the relationship without it being a big deal to you, which is great. Maybe the way to frame it when talking to her is to make both perspectives the mutual concern of both you and your wife? Like, "honey, I want to make you and your family feel like I want to spend time together, but I'm concerned about budget too—how do you think we should be handle this?" If the mutual budget you guys came up with needs to be broken here, it's not unreasonable for a one-time, once a year thing. If it becomes a more habitual process of course that means the two of you need to re-evaluate your goals and how you're approaching them, but it doesn't sound like that's the case yet.

In general I've found that as much as possible, these issues should be about the two of you rather than one winning over the other...as you seem to already realize. Just keep that perspective in mind and approach her honestly and compassionately, and I don't think you can go too wrong.
posted by dubitable at 3:22 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Newly married, big deal to family, and you admit it is kind of about the money. Sorry, I don't see a "win" there. Also, is a one day RT that much cheaper than a one week one? I'd go, with the agreement that you can't afford to do this every Holiday...yet!
posted by lobstah at 3:23 PM on September 17, 2010

It's not a competition to be won or lost.
posted by stennieville at 3:24 PM on September 17, 2010

How much money are we talking about here? "A couple hundred," as brainmouse says? Or a couple thousand? Or what?

If it's literally a couple hundred, $200, I think that'd be worth it (and I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving). I notice you say you'd "only" be there on "Thursday." Reminds me of an interchange from Rocky:
Rocky: Listen, I don't want no turkey anyway, ya know.
Adrian: But it was Thanksgiving.
Rocky: It was what?
Adrian: It was Thanksgiving.
Rocky: Yeah, to you, but to me, it's Thursday, right?
It might be just "Thursday" to you, but Thanksgiving is really important to some people.
posted by John Cohen at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2010

Maybe it's not so much the money but that you put your foot down over your solution and she had no say in it?
If it were me, I would have said "Wife, if we splurge on money here, which is clearly important to you, we have to save somewhere else to meet our budget goal. What way of saving would you suggest?"
I can't tell whether you did this or not, but if not maybe that's why she's pissed off. Try and find a solution for what is your problem as a coupletogether with her rather than deciding between "her" and "your" wants, with a clear loser. Because right now it sounds like lose-lose to me!
posted by Omnomnom at 3:25 PM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

I like the way you framed this as when you "win" against your spouse, everybody loses. It's totally true! You are doing it right.

I don't love the silent treatment thing, but I get it. Go ahead and ask her if she wants to do it the other way. What's a few more months of saving compared to lifetime? Not much.

You'll both be happier in the long run. Budgets were made to be tweaked. Now you know this travel expense is a priority in your partnership. It's OK to make adjustments. You'll make up the money somewhere else or over time.

Have a great holiday!
posted by jbenben at 3:28 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is no "winning" a marital argument . . . it's about hearing each other's concerns and responding to them. I understand your point of view and your concerns from your question, but I can't tell what your spouse's are. Is this about missing you? Feeling that you, too, are part of the greater family and should be there for all of a family holiday? Feeling embarrassed about appearing without her spouse?

The other thing going on here, besides that it is important to hear your spouse's concerns, is that you want to try to establish a healthy way to resolve disagreements, if possible, and one of you not really talking to the other isn't the most desirable way to get there.

I'd suggest you tell your wife that it bothers you that she hasn't really been talking to you since this discussion. You may want to add that you'd love to find a way to make the outcome here one that you both can feel comfortable with. Ask her if it would help to just tell you how she feels, or if she has a different proposal that she thinks you should consider.
posted by bearwife at 3:29 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Did you discuss things like visiting family when the subject of budget came up? Also, I could see being frustrated at my partner choosing to come for one day instead of a full week to spend time with my family- and it might be difficult for me to see beyond the lack of time to see the money savings. Is this a possibility?

The biggest relationship lesson I've learned is that there is no such thing as winning arguments, because no one feels good. I suggest you talk to her and find out why she's upset about this, and that you talk through the budget plan for contingencies like this, and work on finding a communication style that works for you and your wife when you are at an impasse.
posted by Zophi at 3:33 PM on September 17, 2010

A followup on what I posted:

I realize that where I said "you are putting money over family" that sounds like it's inherently a bad thing -- it's not. Of course if we all had infinite money we would see people we wanted to see more and do things we wanted to do more. We have to make decisions, and sometimes those decisions SHOULD BE that money is, in this instance, more important to save or use for a different person than to go see family. I don't mean to imply you are necessarily in the wrong here (or that you are necessarily in the right, just that objectively, that it was you're doing).
posted by brainmouse at 3:41 PM on September 17, 2010

So it looks like "holiday trips to visit family" wasn't budgeted. Live and learn.
Sit down with your wife and try to re-work your budget to fit it in. Does she expect to go back for Christmas? Mom's birthday? etc? Lines will need to be drawn and kept to if you want to meet your financial goals, and when you both agree on them and the sacrifices you have to make, it's a team effort and not a "I/Me" kind of thing.

Look into maybe getting a credit card that gives you miles so future trips may not be so expensive.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:42 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Show her this thread.
posted by Biru at 3:42 PM on September 17, 2010

You're right, there is no real win when your partner is unhappy. So why do you need to win this one? I'm asking this as someone who has started a lot of unnecessary fights/prolonged many a conflict with her boyfriend out of the sheer need to "win". I'm also the more budget-minded one in our relationship, so I can relate. But it's easy for me to go overboard with my frugality, and it might be for you too. If you don't have a pressing need for the money, consider spending it as a gift to your wife.
posted by spinto at 3:44 PM on September 17, 2010

If it were me, and this was important my husband, I would go for more than one day. Because if it's important to him than it's more important than money. She's not busting the budget on something frivolous. She's wanting to spend time with people she loves, people she doesn't get see very often, and she wants to share those people with you.

Maybe there's a way to compromise on this. You want to keep to the budget and she wants to you to see her family for a week. Are there other items in the budget she might be willing to trim temporarily to afford your visiting her family? Could you cut the cable bill or go out a few less times a week? Or maybe you can go for more than one day but less than a week.

There are things in life and marriage that are black and white and there's no middle ground (either you have kids or you don't), but this fortunately is not one of them.
posted by bananafish at 3:45 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Talk to her about it more. Try to understand why she feels like it's important for you to go for longer.

First holidays with family as a newly married couple? I can see why she might feel like it's important for you both to go, and for you in particular to make a point of being happy to go (rather than the reluctant bare-minimum of a single day). You're establishing yourselves as a new unit within the larger family, and you'll be putting forward a united front in various ways with her family.

Maybe there are roles that men in her family take on (the men always carve the turkey, the men always make the creamed onions, whatever) and she is tacitly wanting to see you take on those roles?

Is it possible she feels like you dislike holidays, or dislike her family, or dislike the various obligations of family-at-holidays or whatever, and you are using the budget thing as a backdoor way to avoid having to do this thing you kind of don't want to do anyway?

Whatever you end up deciding, the two of you need to clear the air more about this and get it fully settled between you, so you can present that united front. It's bad for both of you if you both end up feeling resentful about it; the resentment will emerge in divisions between you at the holiday in front of her family, and that will suck.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:50 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

bearwife nails it. This is about the money, it's about family, and it's about how you two resolve differing priorities. A conversation that ends with one person giving the other the silent treatment isn't really over.

Part of being a newlywed is learning how to work things out. Translation: learning how to argue in a productive way.

It sounds like you're not done with this conversation.
posted by ambrosia at 3:52 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Looking at it from wife's point of view:
Maybe she was hoping to spend some time with you AND her family, together? You just got married and maybe she wants to share some of her previous life with you, and show her parents what a wonderful person she married and have them get to know you more. But, no, you're too cheap.

From your point of view:
You just got married and should be saving up money, especially in this economy and if you want to build a family life with house and maybe children and other things. You shouldn't even be going on a trip this soon, and if you are you should book months in advance to save money. She is unreasonable to expect lots of expensive trips until you are established. Plus who wants to spend time with family when you just got married?

My point of view:
You both lose with what you're currently doing - she gets a week of "so where is your husband?", "doesn't he like us?", "are you struggling financially?" and more, and you get her thinking you don't value her wishes or family or maybe even dislike them. In this case I'd value building a relationship with her and her parents over saving money and both go for the whole week. But I would definitely discuss this not being a regular future event, maybe every 2 or 3 years or off-seasons, something that fits your budget. And you're not allowed to mope or mutter about money or anything that will ruin it for her if you go for the whole week, then you might as well not. Marriage is tough at first as you need to learn to argue and make compromises.
posted by meepmeow at 3:53 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Welcome to the world of married life where an agreed upon financial compromise is acceptable...until it isn't. Hypothetically, if you played one round of golf per month @ $75 per round, you'd defend that expense as a deserved stress reducer/pastime. Your spouse might see it as a $900/yr. habit that (s)he cannot comprehend.

So, yes, it is a big deal. And it is not about winning and losing.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:55 PM on September 17, 2010

It's a big deal to her. If you have an argument, its relative importance to both of you has to be considered. You're taking a stand on principle -- an agreed-on budget. She might agree with you, even, but she cares in a way she can't defend in a rational way, which is frustrating. The bottom line is she kinda wants you there, despite the budget.

It's the way it goes sometimes. In this house, we try to throw to the person who cares more. It means that most of the time, we get our big needs met.

It works pretty well.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As others said, just because your wife might agree with you intellectually doesn't mean she can force her emotions to line up immediately--giving it time will likely solve that issue.

On the other hand, it's just as likely you didn't "win," you only convinced your wife she couldn't win, so she said "fine" without agreeing with you.

Give it a few hours, or until tomorrow (to cool off the emotions), and then address it again--that should help you figure out if you're in world 1, where you don't need to change your ticket, or world 2, where you either need to change your ticket or at least discuss further.

Even if you figure out that you still disagree, and don't offer to change your ticket, bringing it up in the context of "I know you're not entirely happy about this decision and want to discuss it with you again because I'm not trying to make you unhappy" can go a long way...
posted by _Silky_ at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2010

When you "win" an argument with your spouse, it's not really winning, or is it?

In response to a similar question, I believe it was Dan Savage who said (heavily paraphrased): "In an argument you should be aiming for a draw. If you're aiming to win it means you think your partner's an idiot, and then that makes you an even bigger idiot for being with someone you think so little of."
posted by wackybrit at 4:08 PM on September 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

Ignoring the feelings of your in-laws for the moment, you have also elected to spend the major portion of a 4 day holiday weekend away from your wife. I don't know her, so I can't say for sure, but I imagine that when she was thinking of what married life would be like she never thought that this was the sort of occasion you might prefer to spend out of her company. It might have less to do with her family than with her wanting you to be with her.

From one point of view, your reasoning can be seen as that it is cheaper for you to spend less time with your wife. That this is true does not make your wife feel better. It is possible that by repeatedly choosing to save money by spending less time with her, she will eventually come to appreciate the financial advantages of spending less time with you and take up the matter with enthusiasm. Strategies for quickly convincing her of this may include sending her on romantic dinners and dates alone, especially on your anniversary -- you should find that quite soon she is all to ready to visit her family for an extended period, and won't even want you to go. As a bonus, you will save on her food costs without her around.

It's preferable to fully implement this strategy before buying a home, you can save a considerable sum of money by purchasing a smaller one, as there will be no need for the space you would need with your wife living there.

Yes, it is a very snarky answer -- and I admit a few things are exaggerated. Presumably you would not send your wife to dinner by herself and be patting yourself on the back over the savings. But think about the message you are sending to your wife here.

I'm guessing that you might be flying into a small regional airport. Perhaps there is a larger one some hours away that would be cheaper?
posted by yohko at 4:43 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm wondering if this isn't about you not spending time with the family, but about her having to spend an entire week with them by herself. She may not have had this scenario in mind when she initially made the plan to spend an entire week, and now it looks daunting to do it alone. If you think this is the case, I would say damn the expense and stay the week. If you don't you will be paying for the money you saved with a stressed out spouse for far longer than a week when she returns.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:43 PM on September 17, 2010

You are newly married. You just basically put your wife in a position where she has to explain for six days why you aren't there with her.

I think you two need to revisit the conversation and figure out a way where you can save money elsewhere. Sometimes the most sensible decision moneywise is not the most sensible decision lifewise.

(I am assuming this is not a situation where you do not HAVE the money but where you are preferring to SAVE the money for future house, etc. Trust me, better a rental apartment where love is than a mortgage with a pissed off wife.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:46 PM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the GREAT thing about budgets: a good budget gives you permission to spend money.

When you don't have a budget, you feel like you have to just sort of randomly slash at occasional expenses to keep control. With a budget, you can say, "yes, we have the money to take this trip" or what have you.

Maybe you feel like you have to make a stand on budget issues? If you're the more budget minded person in the family, it can feel like money just kind of leaks out, without your control, and so you tighten up on larger ticket things automatically.

I would suggest sitting down with her and saying, "look, I understand this matters to you; we obviously should have given more thought to putting holiday travel explicitly in the budget. Let's go over it and figure out where we can find the money to make this trip happen right, and think about a budget for Winter Holiday travel, too."

That sort of keeps the language on the fact that money doesn't come from a magic tree, without you two just digging in your heels.

Something poly people say is "Love is infinite; all other resources aren't."
posted by endless_forms at 4:47 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

figure out a way where you can save money elsewhere.

This is an excellent point. If it's truly about the money for you, you should be looking for other places where you can save enough money to make room in your budget for a longer visit than just a single day.

Talk about how her behavior makes you feel--indeed, the silent treatment is not a healthy way to deal with conflict--but stop thinking about this type of disagreement as a place for you to make your case like an opposing lawyer. The budget is tight and it matters to your wife to spend a holiday with you and her family? Your reaction shouldn't be, "I can't come because the budget says so and here's my documentation to support that," it should be, "This might be a tight squeeze financially, but let's look at all of our options together and see if we can do it."
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:59 PM on September 17, 2010

It sounds like she hasn't fully bought into the budget, or that the budget isn't specific enough.

If there are exceptions to the budget, then that needs to be agreed between the two of you. Either "we'll pay whatever it takes to spend Thanksgiving with your family / travel for my mom's 60th birthday party", or have a contingency pot for extra expenses that you can choose as a couple to spend on additional costs. Thanksgiving happens every year though, it's not unforeseeable, likewise Christmas / significant birthdays. Maybe you need to tweak your budget to build those things in? Or agree in advance what the "whatever the cost" events will be?

Reading your post, it does sound like a sensible compromise, but if she's not seeing it that way, then that's something you need to address with her. It's not "money over family" - that should have been part of the budgeting process. It sounds like "I know we agreed a budget but I think this is an exception". Which is a valid point which needs to be discussed (and possibly a new budget drawn up).

Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by finding.perdita at 5:00 PM on September 17, 2010

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

Look, she'll get over it. You guys are newly married. If this is the worst fight you've had so far then you're doing pretty well. As your relationship matures you will figure out how to argue with each more effectively and things like this won't seem like such a big deal.
posted by bq at 5:52 PM on September 17, 2010

If your main argument is sticking to a mutually agreed-upon budget, then be prepared to stick to it like glue for quite some time now. You've established that adhering to the budget is more important than visiting her family. You may be right, but every non-budgeted or questionable purchase you make from now on can be scrutinized by your wife as also being more important. And she'd have a point.
posted by rocket88 at 6:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

A conversation that ends with one person giving the other the silent treatment isn't really over. (ambrosia)

This. You haven't won anything.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:22 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think it's more important to start the traditions you want as YOUR family. Maybe you should stay where you are and have a Thanksgiving with your friends, or volunteer at homeless place or something. When you get married, your family of origin takes 2nd place, I think.

So, rather than carp about the $$ for the trip, perhaps you could suggest to her that you want to start your own special traditions. If and when you have kids, are you going to lug them back to hometown holidays?
posted by Ideefixe at 6:37 PM on September 17, 2010

We're not the ones to answer whether it's a "big deal" or whether you made the "right" decision, because those aren't objective things to be judged here. Whether it's a big deal is a question of whether it's a big deal to your wife (it sounds like it is.) And what does "I'm right" even mean to you? That your position is the correct, ideal, best balance of people's feelings against financial considerations? Does that mean you feel she's "wrong" to think that it's worth the money for you to be there the whole time?

Look, budgets are about priorities for spending money, and joint budgets are about joint priorities. It seems like she thinks this expense would be worth the money, and you don't. So talk with her about how she would suggest you adjust the budget (cut back elsewhere) to cover the cost. Since she's the one who feels more strongly about this, it makes sense that she should make more of the sacrifice-- but for the sake of marital harmony (working as a team for what's important to both of you) I'd suggest you be willing to also make some sacrifices of your own.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:26 PM on September 17, 2010

I see another option. Why not you go for the day and she stays a little while longer. That is less expensive than both staying albeit more expensive than the both 1 day round tripper.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 PM on September 17, 2010


"While she will see them for the whole week, I'm only seeing them for 1 day (Thursday)."

That's exactly what the current arrangement that she's unhappy with is...
posted by brainmouse at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2010

JohnnyGunn, that is what they are doing already.

While she will see them for the whole week, I'm only seeing them for 1 day (Thursday).

I have "won" but she makes me feel like she has lost. I think this really is a win-win. We're both there for Thanksgiving Dinner, which is a big deal for her family. I hate the guilt trip I'm getting from her because this decision is for both our sakes. We keep joint finances.

Well, she obviously doesn't think it is win-win, so maybe it is time to revisit this decision. Maybe you have to delay buying a house for a few more months. That might be totally worth not having her family think you don't like them, or her not getting to spend her first Thanksgiing as a married woman in the way she had hoped.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Hon, we need to talk. I understand that you're not happy with the decision I made, but I understand it because you're giving me the cold shoulder, not because you're expressing your feelings about it. If you want to tell me to fuck off, I'd rather have that than the silent treatment, but what I'd really like is to hear how you feel. I've already told you why I feel the way I do about this, and I might be willing to change my mind, but shutting me out won't make it happen. Talk to me."
posted by davejay at 10:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

You two have a family now, and that takes priority. The fiscal health of that union is pretty damn important. A great many marriages fail because of money problems, often due to one of the partners not grasping financial realities. Sure, it's a bit crass to put it this way, but the sooner you both get on the same page about money the sooner you can deal with all the other woes that plague any new relationship.

Frankly, if the airfare for a trip is going to put that much of a dent in the budget to disrupt the purchase of a home then perhaps you're not in a good position to be buying yet. Life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Way too many new couples do not grasp this. Everything will take longer than you'd like. The amount of stress some folks tack onto themselves because of fantasies about when things "should be happening" is disastrous. can't say whether that applies here, but it's something to think about.
posted by wkearney99 at 10:07 PM on September 17, 2010

endless_forms is on the money. Further: presumably the budget is something that you agreed to-- so it doesn't make much sense to me that family should 'trump' the budget. It is not 'family' as a whole that you are arguing over- it is a family holiday. This might be really important to you, but there will be countless wonderful and meaningful things that you could do with your families if you had the money. The point of a budget is that you make planned, disciplined decisions about which of them you follow through with. This, to me, means that neither party gets to be playing the 'this is more important than the budget'-card. EVERYTHING good in life is more important than money... but unfortunately money is required to facillitate a number of important experiences. Those you comment that this one expense won't stop you from getting a house... well, that is the beginning of a slippery slope!

I would also look at ways to make this work within the budget (sacrifice something else) and encourage your wife to be involved in this process-- if she has ownership over this decision then it is not an argument about family but instead is a logistical issue that you are both working to resolve. The conversation should then be: family trip vs. clothes/haircuts/nice groceries/nicer house. Then you can both decide which one you want more.
posted by jojobobo at 11:24 PM on September 17, 2010

I see you're a lawyer. (Me too)

You cannot approach marital arguments like you do legal arguments. Zealously advocating your position will get you nowhere when dealing with your spouse (or really, most interpersonal relationships). Rather, use your lawyer brain to approach the situation like a mediator instead. Figure out what each side's priorities are, the strengths of each of their arguments, and use these to work towards a solution each can live with.
posted by AV at 6:20 AM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments.

I ended up cancelling the ticket - fortunately I could get a full refund within 24 hours of booking it.

As for the "win" and lose language, I only meant it to mean that in this particular discussion, my idea was agreed upon yet, it didn't really feel like it was a honest agreement. I don't treat my wife as an adversary.

The home was illustrated as a long-term savings goal. We have a travel budget which includes large ticket expenses like wedding trips, graduations, and it allows us both to see her family at various points during the year. If we were to spend too much on this particular trip, it would hamper our ability to make other travel that's just as important. A few hundred dollars here is equal to a plane ticket for another occasion.

I voiced her position and mine and tried to lay out what was happening regarding this trip to her in a neutral manner. She said she was upset because there wasn't enough discussion at the beginning and she felt I didn't take her point of view into account. She says she understands that I understand her concerns. She's now okay with the 1 day visit because it allows us to visit again in a few months for some other event. I'll be rebooking the ticket, this time knowing she is fully on board.

Sleeping on it helped a lot as well. That advice that you should never go to sleep while having a fight or something doesn't seem to work for us.
posted by abdulf at 7:25 AM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yay! I like happy ends. Well done for getting it out in the open again. The fact that you cancelled the flight because she wasn't happy and rediscussed it must have made her feel better, too.

She said she was upset because there wasn't enough discussion at the beginning and she felt I didn't take her point of view into account

So next time make sure to let her come up with a solution with you. I think I know where you're coming from. Often I have this perfect solution in my head and it solves everything and tadaaa! This is what we're doing! And then my husband feels steamrollered and I am upset because he does not aknowledge my great solution.
He's taken to saying "hey, look, I want to do some deciding too!" And then I realise I'm doing it again.

Now that that's over, I think you should really ask her to not do this silent treatment anymore. It's poison for relationships and it's a kind of power trip itself.

'nuff advice. Have fun with the holidays.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2010

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