My husband loves to travel and always either pays for, or gets an upgrade into, the first-class cabin. When we travel together with our children, he buys himself a ticket in first class and puts us in economy or economy plus. He even did this recently on an overnight flight to Paris. He justifies flying alone in first class because of the cost, and the fact that our kids (12 and 16) might feel alone if I were to travel in first with him and leave them in the rear cabin. I feel that this is unfair.
I don’t think our kids would mind if they were in economy plus and my husband and I sat together in first class. Is that unfair of me to want? My husband has suggested traveling alone on a different flight ahead of us so that we don’t feel badly about the disparity, but this does not really address or solve the problem of the inherent selfishness in his thinking. Am I wrong? We are happy to travel, and love going places together, but it is still very strange. — Name Withheld
From the Ethicist:
The institution of marriage has always taken on characteristics of the society in which it arises. But a modern marriage is meant to be a pairing of equals, in which each partner treats the other with respect, consideration and dignity. Each has a say in the making of significant decisions, and each cares about the other’s comfort and preferences. Your husband has another view. He evidently thinks that because he’s the ticket-buyer in the family, his own preferences get priority.
“We are comparison machines,” the social psychologist Susan Fiske has written, and the comparisons we routinely make are with those closest to us. Your husband isn’t entirely oblivious of this — hence his proposal to enjoy his warmed cashews and lie-flat seat on a separate flight from yours. But the best way to address feelings of inequity in intimate relationships is through creating greater equity.
You would have mentioned if your husband claimed a specific physical or medical issue (e.g., a need to keep his legs elevated) to justify his seating choices, which means that whatever his reasons for flying up front presumably apply to you. And your kids handle being away from you all day at school, so yes, they could surely handle a few hours on a plane without either of you. Still, if your husband thinks that only one adult per trip should fly up front, why not suggest taking turns?
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