Family

Husband’s fear of flying sentences wife, toddler to long road journeys

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Q: My husband and I will be traveling to attend my mom’s wedding. It’s either a 13-hour drive (now that we have a child, it will probably eat up an entire day) or a 1 1/2 -hour flight, plus brief transportation at each end. My husband hates to fly, mostly because he is frugal and dislikes being shuffled around by airlines, but also has slight confinement anxiety. He has a prescription for this when he has to fly, and it works well. Meanwhile, I enjoy flying, don’t mind paying for the convenience, and do not want to sign on for a gruesome road trip with a toddler, who is well-behaved on a plane. This difference makes it hard to plan not only this trip, but also future travel. I proposed that I fly with the toddler, which would give me more time to spend with family, and that he drive, if that’s his preference. It infuriated him that I would “abandon” him to drive alone. He thinks the only answer is that we both do the road trip, which I do not think makes sense. What do we do?

Spouse

A: You have my sympathies. It’s one thing to have a partner who is irrational on a particular issue — we all have our stuff, after all — but another for a “furious” partner to expect everyone to live in service of that irrationality.

You have two advantages, though — time and distance.

Let’s say a drive is seven hours, where flying instead would involve 30 minutes to the airport, a 90-minute cushion for parking and security, a one-hour flight and another hour on the ground at your destination — so, four hours. Call it five to be generous and allow for delays and other hassles of air travel.

That means the cost of indulging your husband is two or three hours. Are you OK with that? You decide for yourself, of course, but that doesn’t sound awful.

Now take the trip you’re contemplating. The flight and ground transportation look to be about a four-hour commitment, compared with a 13-hour drive, which pegs your indulge-the-spouse cost at 9 hours. In a car with a toddler. Instead of with family.

Again — you decide what’s right for you.

So do the math, figure out what your pain limit is for extra driving, then explain it to your husband. Make it clear — you will gladly accommodate him up to X hours, and after that you hope he will accommodate you by either traveling separately or adopting your pain limit as his “absolutely has to fly” threshold.

You can’t make him agree to this, of course. You can, however, not agree to gruesome car trips and even fly solo against his wishes if you must. While it isn’t ideal, it’s a valid response to accusations of “abandoning” him, which are controlling and manipulative.

If that’s his default, then make sure good marriage counseling comes next. Do that alone, too, if you must.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at Washingtonpost.com.

Washington Post Writers Group

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