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Wrong travel partner can doom trip

Vacation time is almost upon us. Fun, relaxation, memories to be cherished.

Well, unfortunately, not always.

For some people, it means arguments, tedious negotiation and sometimes therapy for weeks before and months afterward.

So what's so upsetting about taking a week or two off from work to travel and take in some sights?

That depends on how you like to travel and what sights you want to see.

If the husband wants to spend two weeks taking a car trip down the California coast, and the wife gets violently carsick, you've got a big problem.

Ann Jenkins is a Dallas family therapist who says she's seen it all.

"I see couples who manage to get along almost every other time of the year," she says. "But something about vacation drives them crazy.

"I remember one couple who had saved for 15 years for their big trip to Europe," the therapist says. "Now these are people who manage very well in day-to-day living. She is very organized, and that fits in well with her taking care of the house and the kids.

"He is in a creative job, has a secretary. Their social life is fairly structured, and they manage time alone to indulge in their own personalities.

"But the trip to Europe was a disaster from the very start. She wanted an organized tour, even with plans made ahead on restaurants. He wanted to rent a car and just stop whenever they wanted, depending on only a guidebook.

"This was their dream trip, and they each accused the other of trying to ruin things. They settled on tours because it was cheaper. He hated it. They came in for counseling a month after they got home."

But why was this so traumatic after 15 years of marriage? Surely they had taken vacations before?

"Yes," says the therapist, "but the first few years they couldn't afford to do anything before they were having babies. Then they took vacations with the kids. These were camping trips or visits to their parents. They were sharing the stress of traveling with kids. They didn't have any choices."

But this doesn't just happen to married couples. Friends who have never traveled together before can also find trouble.

They only know each other from the workplace or living in the same apartment complex or are just exercise buddies. They don't know what it's like to be with each other constantly.

One woman reports she had been friends with another young woman for two years. They double-dated, shopped together and spent a lot of time gossiping on the phone.

What fun it would be to go to New York together to see some plays.

"It was awful," the woman says. "My friend was up every morning at 5:30. She exercised in the room. On vacation, I sleep until at least 10. I wanted to go to ethnic restaurants and eat things I could never get in Dallas. She is cheap and only wants familiar foods. A hamburger or a salad at every meal was fine with her.

"She also talked me into waiting until we got there to get Broadway tickets. That's because she wanted to wait until the last minute and stand in long lines for cheap tickets. We spent hours just standing in line. Now we barely speak."

"Settle (such) questions before," advises the therapist. "Know what you're getting into. It cannot only save a vacation, it can save a friendship."

What about tips for those married couples who have different ideas of getting away?

"Separate vacations," she says. "It can actually save a marriage."