2. Think through the problem and describe it carefully: This is not the time to just blurt out whatever comes to mind. Writing it down first is a valuable tactic here. Also, try to state your problem as a problem for you, and not to blame your partner or anyone else. For example, say "I feel frustrated when you come home late, because I worry that something is wrong." Rather than: "Why can't you be on time?" or "You're always late, and it makes me mad."
Before your appointment time, figure out what your problem is and how to state it so your partner will understand — and not feel attacked. Ask your partner to agree that he or she will hear and try to understand what you're saying without interrupting.
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Then, ask your partner for his or her opinion of what you can do together to fix the problem. Do not get into who is right or wrong, but rather, focus on understanding each other and coming up with a solution. "It doesn't work for me not to know what checks you wrote. I understand you're busy, but can we find a way to fix it? Maybe we can get checks with carbon copies, and then when you come home, you can put your copies in the checkbook, so I can figure out what our balance is."
3. Generate options: Take turns challenging each other to come up with the best solution for the problem. Have fun with it, don't be afraid to be silly, and you'll free up your thinking to come up with more creative options. "I know: let's win the lotto! Then we won't need to know how much we have in the bank!" can turn into "Maybe we can have an account with online access, then I can input the checks I write, and you can check the balance any time."
4. Discuss the possibilities: When you have enough ideas of what to do, discuss them thoroughly. Which would be best for both of you? Consider how your partner would feel about all decisions, as well as how you feel. Try options on for size and imagine how they would work in action.
5. Try it on: If you're not sure which decision would work, consider trying one or two of them out for a short time, to learn from your experience. For example:
If you're struggling about your schedule, and one of you feels like you don't have enough time together, while the other feels pulled by work commitments, try a schedule change you may not think will work. See what you can learn from it anyway.
If you've been a stay-at-home parent and you need or want to go back to work, take a temporary job for a couple of months to see how it feels and how it changes your family life.
If your job offers you a shift change, talk over how the changes will affect your day-to-day life: who picks up the kids, who shops, who cooks, how you'll get the maintenance done, and what time off you'll have together. Once you've done the research or tried on the change, you'll have a much better idea of which solution will work for both of you.
6. Clarify your choice: It's unfortunately easy to think you've agreed upon something when you actually are thinking two different things. To avoid this problem, when you think you've reached a decision, state it out loud. "OK, so we've agreed: we're going to…" It can even help to write it down, in case your memory is different later. If find yourself disagreeing about what you decided, you can check in with your written agreement.
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Drastically different schedules are a hurdle to a marriage, but with clear communication and a thorough plan (plus love and respect!), you and your spouse will be seeing eye-to-eye in a whole new way.