M.W. Asks: What boundaries do you suggest for family trips? I’ve thought about reserving my own lodging, but that can be expensive. However, staying in the same hotel room with my spouse (an active addict) takes an emotional toll and discolors my ability to enjoy my stay. So other than reserving my own room, what boundaries could I set? Thank you.
Thanks for reaching out with your question.
I will first ask whether you’ve thought about the possibility of not going on this particular family trip—but instead perhaps setting clear and self-respecting boundaries for yourself? Could you say to your spouse “I am strongly considering not coming on this family trip with you. Spending this kind of time with you while you are actively in your addiction takes an emotional toll on me and discolours my ability to enjoy myself. I am happy to discuss this with you—IF you are open to changing the ways you behave on our family trips.”
It’s important to let your partner know how you feel, while also setting a boundary that has a consequence attached that will mean something to them.
If you don’t feel quite ready for that, perhaps you could find someone else to room with while on the trip. Doing that will send a clear message to your spouse that this is no longer a situation you want to put yourself in. This will mean that you either already have someone in your family who knows at least a little about what you’re dealing with, or that there is someone you trust enough in your family to confide in.
There is a saying: “Our secrets keep us sick.” I deeply believe this to be true. Perhaps if your spouse knew that you were no longer going to stay silent about what is happening and how you feel about it, he/she would have more incentive to reach out for help.
Please remember that if nothing changes, nothing changes. Clearly, something is changing for you because you don’t want this same experience again. I see that as a very positive thing, even though it may feel a bit awkward and cumbersome for you at this point. But if you continue to go on these trips and stay with your spouse even though that makes the situation increasingly unpleasant for you, then it’s likely that your partner will think it’s fine to continue the problematic behaviours. It’s very possible that the most loving thing you can do for both of you—and maybe for your other family members—is to speak up about this and let your spouse know what changes you need to see happen, in order for you to attend this family trip.
You have every right to enjoy these trips as much as anyone else in your family. I hope this gives you a few options and some different ways to think about this.
All my best,