I’d venture to say that most of us have been stuck in one of those awkward situations where another couple fights in front of you, right? Disagreements seem to find the worst time to bubble up, leaving bystanders stuck wondering if it’s better to attempt to deescalate the conversation, STFU, or run for the door. Now, imagine being in that situation, only trapped in a cabin for an entire weekend. Well, I can — because it happened to me. My couples' vacation was awkward, but it taught me something super valuable.
It all started when my boyfriend Seth and I decided to take a trip to the mountains with our friends, Marcus and Patricia (names have been changed for obvious reasons). They’re some of our closest friends. So, naturally, they seemed like the perfect couple to get away with. We couldn't have been more amped.
When the weekend finally rolled around, we were all itching to get out of the city and into some fresh air and green spaces. We stocked up on snacks (a road trip essential, amiright?), loaded into a luxurious GMC Terrain, turned up a curated Spotify playlist, and set off for a seven hour drive north. The trip was off to a perfect start. Laughing, singing, enjoying the sights. Our car even had heated seats and WiFi — could things get any better?
After our first night and full day together, we gathered around the dinner table and remarked at how much fun we were having. We had gone for a breathtaking three-hour hike, eaten incredible food, witnessed baby deer relaxing right in our backyard, and, of course, drank a lot of wine. “How had we not done this before?” seemed to be the question on all of our minds.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I thought, at least once, that this was all great content for the ‘Gram.
However, everything took a turn the next day. We took a morning tour of a local cavern, followed by a visit to one of the oldest preserved gold rush towns in California. Sounds fun, right? And yet, somewhere between these two activities, Marcus and Patricia stopped talking to each other.
Like, completely. And Seth and I still don’t know why. (Of course, this drives the nosy person within me crazy.)
At first, I thought introverted tendencies might be at play and that someone probably just needed some space. (Girl, been there!) But when the ice-cold silence continued into the night, I started to grow concerned.
“Maybe we should go pick up some pizzas,” I said to Seth, in an attempt to sneak out of the house and give Marcus and Patricia an opportunity to hash things out in private. Instead, Marcus stood up and put his coat on. “I can go with you, Seth.”
I’ve never felt so tense eating pizza in my life.
When I came downstairs the following morning, it was clear nothing had changed. Marcus and Patricia spent the morning apart, went on separate walks, and barely acknowledged each other. Meanwhile, Seth and I scrambled to make sense of what was going on. After all, we didn’t see anything happen to warrant a fight. So, we were stuck trying to act as if everything was totally normal — when it very clearly was not.
I remember climbing into the driver’s seat as we prepared to head home, thinking, “They have to talk to each other at some point over the next seven hours, right?”
Wrong. Fam, it was uncomfortable.
Despite it being awkward, it was eye-opening to see another couple fight. Maybe this makes me sound simple — but it made me realize how easily we idealize other people’s relationships. Marcus and Patricia are two people I’ve always assumed had a happy, easy relationship. From the outside looking in, everything about their relationship seems perfect.
Seeing them experience a blow-up firsthand reminded me that every relationship has ups and downs, despite what the couple might look like to outsiders, or what followers can see on social media. And, face it: sometimes the downs feel like very big downs.
I should preface this by saying: I’m no stranger to vacation fights. I get it. When you’re traveling with your partner, fights are inevitable. So many things can go wrong on a vacation, and it’s easy to fly off the handle when you’re away from the comfort and conveniences of home.
Relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter warns about comparing your relationship to the ones you see online, or even the ones in your own friend group. "Comparison will always leave us feeling horrible about ourselves," she explains. "The mind wanders to, ‘Everyone else is having amazing adventures, are blissfully in love, and so much happier than we are.’ This negates all the worth of our relationship and our day-to-day life.”
This trip reminded me how important it is not to compare my relationship to the ones around me. It taught me not to focus on what other relationships might have that I don't have — or to assume that other couples have it better. Every partnership has its challenges. Every. Single. One.
Fortunately, Marcus and Patricia talked it out and made up when they got home. (I get it. Sometimes you need to be home and have a good sleep in your own bed!) But as for me, while I can’t promise to spend less time looking at dreamy vacation photos on Instagram, I know I’ll think twice before I jump to jealousy.