Charlie Answers:

Dear Sue & Bob,

You two have a problem, a fundamental difference in how you want to spend your time, and a fundamental difference in how you expect each to act in relation to your families.  Yikes!  My first reaction to your letters was surprise at how diamterically opposed you are in your positions.  Bob wants more time with friends and family, Sue wants more intimacy at home and new family traditions for Christmas.  At first, these differences seem almost unsolveable.

What's the win/win for both of you?


Hope But they need more than intense feelings. 

I think that the answer lies in your commitment and love for each other.  If you both value the relationship with each other as the primary relationship in your lives than you have two options:  compromise or find a third way. The compromise is what you are trying: basically, you are negotiating how to spend time both together and apart so that each of you gets some of what you want. 

You Owe It To Sue

In the case of Christmas, the plan was that you, Bob, were going to compromise and do it Sue's way this year -- Christmas Eve with your family and Christmas Day with hers.  The sudden change in plans is a breach of that contract, I think.  I believe that Bob, you owe it to Sue to forego Christmas Day with your family this year.

An Alternative To Compromise

The problem with the compromise approach is that you are both partially dissatified and resentment can build.  A third way is to identify what are the most important core values to you in your relationship.  What are you two trying to accomplish together?  How can that best be achieved?  Your answers to these questions will create a plan for a third way of approaching the issue.  That way it's not my way or her way, it's OUR way.

Take Control of Your Life, Not Bob's Life

But, I'm worried about you, Sue!  Bob says that you haven't worked in quite a while, and that you are no longer as independent as you used to be.  Could it be that you are looking to Bob to satisfy too many of your needs? Is it possible that if you were to take more control of your life outside of your relationship with Bob, that you might feel more content?  Are you depressed?

And Bob, Sue has a point about the separation from friends and family that marriage requires. 

Charlie You Infringe On Her Privacy

Your "open door" policy infringes on Sue's sense of personal space and privacy.  It gets even worse when you have kids. 
Hope Yes, but they have some significant differences. 

It doesn't mean you sacrifice your close relationships -- on the contrary, the beauty of having your own family is the balancing act between those most close to you, and the others who orbit your complicated life.  It's hard, but it's the most fulfilling dance there is, I think.


Good luck!  You're not alone.  I think every couple plays out this same dance in their own way to their own music.


Tell us what you think