Dear Carolyn • Partner A works long hours outside the home. Partner B is a stay-at-home parent. Weekend rolls around. Partner A wants to spend one day on a personal hobby/activity that would involve interactions with good friends, but not family. B wishes A would spend time with family instead. Partner A deserves time to unwind after working so many hours during the week, but B also deserves a break from near-constant single parenting. Obviously this is not a unique situation, so why does this feel like such a battle with us, repeated ad nauseam?
Dear Weekend Duties • Because Partner A is apparently insistent upon blowing off family, that's why. Yes, P.A. deserves time to unwind, but: not for an entire weekend day; not at the expense of P.B., who also deserves unwinding time from working crazy hours; and not at the expense of the kids, who will soon see right through P.A.'s absentee parenthood, if they don't already. So, to meet all needs: Partner A gets one weekend day a month for the hobby. That, plus one weekend morning sleep-in, one weekly night out with Partner B courtesy of a standing arrangement with a sitter, and, where possible, a few hours solo each weekend. Tweak to suit. Deal?
Dear Carolyn • My spouse hates his/her job and I have no idea how to be patient. I don't enjoy mine, either, and it seems all my spouse wants is for me to listen to constant complaints. I find myself getting more and more angry. Help.
How to Deal
Dear How to Deal • The first and possibly hardest step in a situation like yours is to stop seeing this as your spouse's failure to suck it up. Instead, try seeing it more constructively, as a difference between your spouse's coping method and yours to the same problem. The ultimate goal is lofty mutual respect and empathy but don't be afraid to get there by a distinctly earthy path, such as a daily, 30-minute get-it-out-of-your-system complaint window Life at the end of your tethers is hard for you both, yes, but those other three little words "I get it" have magic in them too.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.