Q. This has a similar theme to a few letters this summer: Our vacation with friends took a weird turn between my husband and the wife in the other couple. We have known this couple for decades. My husband and the couple-husband worked together, which is how the friendship began. We have hiked and traveled together many times, but it has never been a comfortable friendship for me. Not a dealbreaker, just a lot of work. She and I have little in common, very different personalities.
This trip, a weeklong mountain hike, was postponed from last year. It felt different from the start. My husband acted irritated with me and super delighted with her. She was super cute/flirty with him. At first, no big deal after the intense year of isolation, but the dynamics got old quick. Their interactions were more intense after a couple of drinks. We didn’t get into any fights but it was chilly between us. I have no idea what the other husband’s take was, he’s very quiet.
FYI, no one disappeared or snuck out of hotel rooms, so settle down commenters. Before our last hike, I woke up with classic markers of altitude sickness. Headache, nausea, paranoia, symptoms that I shouldn’t go higher, but when I said “I feel sick,” my husband looked at me like he was completely fed up. So I went on the hike. I rationalized that we had acclimated for a week, and that I was certain they’d leave me sitting in the car for seven hours while they hiked. It was brutal. It could have ended so badly.
I made it to the summit but don’t remember much. When my husband finally realized I was in serious trouble, he brought me down quick. Overall, it made a big impact on him — what could have happened if I went into full-blown high altitude cerebral edema — but we are totally avoiding the conversation that led to me making that hike when I had symptoms, and why it wasn’t on his radar. The crappy week of lousy behavior ... we’re not talking about it. It feels really painful now. I’m so angry. I see pictures of that last hike, of which I have NO recollection. My gratitude for him getting me down has worn off and I’m left with, “Why did that have to happen?” How do I approach this?
P.S. I am also done with that couple.
A. I’m glad you’ve had some time for the gratitude to wear off, and for your brain to figure out what you want to say.
And you do know what you want to say. Honestly, this is perfect: “I see pictures of that last hike, of which I have NO recollection. My gratitude for you getting me down has worn off and I’m left with, ‘Why did that have to happen?’”
Then you explain why it did happen, from your perspective — that you were hurt, rejected, afraid of being a burden … so you kept going. Ask your husband what he thought about the trip and how he frames what happened.
As you discuss, try to focus less on this other woman and more on the connection between the two and how it changes with different company. Is he ever overly dismissive and irritated with you at home, when there are no distractions? Is this the aftermath of 2020 isolation? When else has this dynamic surfaced, if ever? What vacations have you both enjoyed over the years?
You’re beyond ready to talk about it, so pick a time that seems neutral (not during another fight) and go for it. If the two of you are better processing in writing, let him know you plan to send him some thoughts, and ask if he’ll respond after reading.
Approach it with honesty. The trip hurt — emotionally and physically — and you need to process it with him before you let it go.
Also, yeah, no more vacations with this couple. In the year 2021, no person should have to continue to spend multiple days off with someone who makes them miserable. None of us have the bandwidth for that, and I’m not sure we ever did.
Saying “I feel sick” is extremely different than letting him know you are suffering from true altitude sickness. It is your body and you chose to put yourself in danger. Your husband doesn’t read minds; if you wanted him to stay behind with you, you should have asked for exactly that.
^This! The letter writer never said she asked him to stay behind. It doesn’t seem she told him how she was feeling physically in any detail. When he rolled his eyes, that would have been the time to say something like, “No really, something is wrong” and go from there.
I think you are annoyed at your husband for acting flirty with the other woman and for the hike. These are two separate issues. On the hike side, I think you should take some responsibility. No one forced you to go on the hike. You chose to go because you *thought* your husband was “fed up.” You’ve been with your husband for decades (right?) - at this point you should be able to clearly communicate that you have the symptoms of altitude sickness and stayed behind, regardless of what you thought he was feeling.
^They are not separate issues. He was annoyed at her symptoms because the other woman, who he obviously has a crush on, was fully able to go on a hike.
You approach it by having a conversation. Will it be fun? No. But letting it fester and stew is not helping either of you. Get it out in the open and talk it through, but don’t forget to listen. Try to put your anger aside. If you don’t feel like you can do that, or be productive, a couples counselor can help.
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