“Every winter, my college girlfriends and all our husbands get together for a ski trip. It’s always a great time and one of the only instances we get to see each other throughout the year since we all live in different states now. The only problem is my husband and my oldest and best friend constantly butt heads. They argue and bicker a lot and have both told me in no uncertain terms they don’t like each other. Should I ask the two of them to work out their differences, or should I make up an excuse so he doesn’t have to attend this year?”
In my experience, large groups of friends can usually get along for a short trip with minimal conflict, but micro-feuds between pairs can rear their ugly heads from time to time. It seems you’ve drawn the short end of the stick here, and the issues between your husband and your friend are giving you a headache.
It’s probably petty. It’s also common, and the conflict can run the gamut from mildly annoying to completely destroying a trip for everyone involved.
How you approach the situation depends on whether or not you think it can be resolved, where the tension exists and who it affects. I think you need to ask yourself a few key questions and then remember this: The solution is about minimizing discomfort, not eliminating it.
Can an issue be resolved here or is the conflict rooted in personality differences?
Eliminating the conflict is unlikely, but you never know, so I’d start here: Is there a root source of the conflict between your husband and best friend? Maybe he made a poor first impression when they initially met? Or she made a few jokes at his expense in the early days of your relationship and it got under your hubby’s skin? If so, and if you can talk to both of them about it, it might be worth sitting them down together to address their issues. Maybe if there is an apology (or two), everyone can move on.
If they have consistent disagreements even after an old beef has been put to rest, then they may just have clashing personalities, which makes a joint resolution less likely. If you’re considering sitting them down to address the feud, it probably won’t work, or at least not for long. There will always be something.
Who feels awkward by this conflict? Everyone? Or just you?
I totally understand that it’s probably uncomfortable for you when your best friend and husband are arguing or throwing jabs at each other. But is it affecting the vibe of the entire group? If it’s just you, then you have more flexibility in how you can handle this and who goes skiing or stays home. If it’s causing issues with the entire group dynamic or the mood of the trip, then it absolutely needs to be addressed, and there must be a resolution before you hit the slopes. Ask them both to commit to zero-conflict with each other for the entire trip.
If one of them, let’s say your husband, protests, then tell him he can stay behind if he chooses or you can both not attend; it’s not fair to ruin everyone’s trip. If it’s your friend who protests, then you can tell her you and your husband will stay home, as that choice is out of your jurisdiction. Sad as that is, it’s better than entangling the entire group in their issues.
Be upfront with your point of view with your husband, and make sure you land on a mutual decision. No matter what, you are a team and a unit—in front of your crew and behind closed doors. If this is a couples' trip, then you both need to mutually decide on what makes the most sense and is realistic.
Do they have to get along?
Does the rest of the group even notice or care about the petty remarks and mild arguing between your husband and your best friend? (If you’re unsure, ask a friend or two.) If it’s just you this fighting affects, then you need to ask yourself what exactly you are feeling before deciding how to deal.
Many personalities hate conflict, while others thrive on it. If you are the former and your partner is the latter, this may be even more challenging for you. As much as it sucks, sometimes our friends don’t love our partners and we just have to accept that. Can you accept that? Are you the only one who feels awkward because you wish things were different?
Maybe you need to put this in proportion. How big a deal is this? You may decide it’s not that important if your husband and friend get along. Ideal? Yes, of course. But critical? No. They only need to come face-to-face about once a year. If there’s an annoying remark or two, let it go. Keep their interactions to a minimum and move on.
Maybe you feel disrespected by this conflict, because, let’s face it, they’ve both basically told you they hate someone you love. If this is the case, sit them down and explain that their behavior upsets you, their bickering is petty, and you will never enjoy another ski trip unless they can set aside their differences. If they see they’ve hurt someone they love, it may help patch things up between them just enough for you to enjoy this trip (and all future trips).
They don’t get along. Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’s OK. Everyone, including you, should be able to deal with that. What’s not OK is destroying others’ time together or letting them continue to hurt you with this conflict. Take the route that will rectify the situation on behalf of everyone and/or yourself. While this fight is about them, the solution shouldn’t be.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and the author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.