Dear Thelma: My wife is unwilling to leave the house for holidays

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Dear Thelma,

I am in my mid 60s and I love to travel.

Thank God, I am blessed with good health.

The moment the interstate travel ban was lifted in mid-October, I packed my bags and drove to Taiping, Malacca and Johor.

I stayed a couple of days in each of these places. I love the outdoor and scenic tourist spots.

My problem is that I am married and my wife hates travelling. She is in her late 50s and still working. She will be retiring in another two months.

I have been pestering her to join me in my escapades and drive around the country but to no avail.

She is least interested and always tells me to go with my friends.

Most of my friends are either not in good health or they travel with their wives.So, I drive around alone and stay alone during my holidays.

I have no complaints but my wife will make a big fuss the moment I return home from a holiday.

She will make a big scene or throw a long face and say that she works hard for the money while I spend her money holidaying.

It is a ridiculous claim because I am retired and drawing a pension and I do not take money from her for my travelling expenses.

I just do not understand her – when I ask her to follow me on a holiday, she refuses and tells me to go alone; and when I return from the holidays, she makes a scene.

I have confronted her a couple of times over this and she has told me to leave her alone.

It became quite serious when her elder sister and her husband suggested that we take a drive to Langkawi with stopovers at Taiping and Penang to spend time together.

The idea naturally thrilled me to bits but my wife flatly refused and said that we could go without her.

When pressed as to why she refused to go on a holiday, she said that she had a lot of things to do in the house.

My only son is with us and he is in his early 30s and doing his Masters. He is able to take care of himself.

My wife has a lot of holidays which she does not want to take.

My wife simply does not want to leave the house.

At the moment she is working but she has made it clear that even after her retirement in two month's time, she would still not travel.

Going on holidays overseas is out of the question because my wife is scared of flying.

I do not understand her obsession with the house. Sometimes I feel there is a demon in the house that is holding her to the house.

She spends her free time doing all sorts of chores – cleaning, dusting, clearing, mopping, washing, gardening and cooking.

We live in a small house and it does not need to be cleaned regularly.

And whenever I go on my solo drive holidays, my relatives and friends scold me and say that I am shirking my responsibilities.

I have accepted my wife as she is and I do not feel guilty or that I have wronged her when I am on my solo holiday trips.

I enjoy my holidays, the drives and the tourist spots revisited.

The holidays keep me going and I honestly do not know how much longer I will have this zest to drive and go on a holiday.

As they say, make hay while the sun shines – I am making the best of what is left of me. Life is so uncertain and anything can happen in the blink of an eye and so enjoy life while you can.

There will come a day when I will not be able to travel or drive around independently and then I can sit back and enjoy the memories. I do not want to live with regrets.

My wife is a wonderful wife and mother. She is caring, loving and hardworking.

I love my wife a lot but I love my holidays too.

I am already planning my next drive and holiday in Pangkor Island with or without my wife.

What should I do? Can you drive some sense either into her or me? Should I stop my solo travels?

Please help.

An Old Travel Bugger

Dear Old Travel Bugger,

Living together harmoniously can be tricky because we have to balance personal needs with couple needs. Ideally, couples are in complete agreement over how they like to spend their leisure time. That way, they can work separately and bond in their free time.

If they have different ideas, they will spend at least part of their leisure time doing different things. This is because there's no point in making a person you love do something they don't enjoy.

So if Lucy likes pottery and John likes painting, they should go off and do their own thing. John should not make Lucy try to paint, and Lucy should not make John pot.

While this seems logical and sensible, it can be a problem for several reasons. First, our free time is usually quite limited. If we spend it apart, there may be too little time to nurture the relationship. Second, some activities can be expensive or tiring. This too will then affect the relationship.

In your situation, you are retired, so you have time. Your wife will soon retire, so she has time too. Also, you're using your own money and your trips do not impact financially on you both. Therefore, it seems sensible to suggest you do your thing (travel) and your wife does hers (not travel).

For the people who judge you: I don't understand where they're coming from. A marriage is not a jail sentence and you're not obliged to think as one on every subject. You're not harming yourself or your wife. This is simply a difference in personal needs.

But I would ask one question and make one suggestion. The question is this: is your wife simply a lady who doesn't like travelling, or does she have trouble leaving the house in general?

Travelling is not for everyone. Some people don't like sleeping in strange places, find eating out tiring, and are stressed rather than interested by novelty. If this is your wife, that's perfectly OK.

But if she's afraid to leave the house because she feels unsafe or anxious outside of it, that is an issue that needs addressing.

Agoraphobia is a mental health issue related to panic disorder, where the victim is afraid of being in situations where escape might be difficult or where help may not be available if things go wrong. Agoraphobics typically fear stepping out of their rooms or homes and become extremely anxious when asked to walk on the street, enter a lift, take a plane or go to a place they don't know.

Because agoraphobics feel ashamed of their fear, they make up reasons to excuse themselves. Like, it's too expensive, they have stuff to do in their safe space, etc.

So, is your wife also avoiding simple outings like walks, trips to the local wet market, visiting friends and taking various types of regular transport? If yes, then I suggest you speak to her very gently about this. Show her this letter and the answer, and encourage her to get help.

If she is agoraphobic, consult a mental health professional. You need a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who deals with mental health issues, or a psychologist or therapist with at least a master's degree in psychology or counselling. Thankfully, agoraphobia is quite treatable, so please don't worry.

Whether she is agoraphobic or not, this is my suggestion: you travel, she does not, and you both respect your differences. That means you don't pressure her to do things she doesn't enjoy and she promises there will be no long faces and no quarrels when you get back.

Also, as you'll both be retired, why not figure out an additional hobby that you can both share and enjoy?

Good luck, and I hope you have many fun trips.

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