Context: My boyfriend uses a wheelchair.

Problem: The two of us have opposite preferences on how we want to manage our time together. I like having things planned and organized in advance. I constantly think about what we can do next, be it a trip, a night out or a date. My boyfriend does usually enjoy participating in the activities I plan for us, but quite often he gets tired of my having to plan everything in advance, because to some extent I need his involvement in the process. He himself often prefers to have no plans, i.e. to wake up and decide what to do next on a step-by-step basis. A few examples of the conflicting situations:

  1. When we wake up in the morning during weekend and have no plans for that day, I panic that we'll spend the whole day at home and I push him to make some plans to go out. However, for him the whole purpose of a Sunday morning is not having to think about what he should or will do. Either way one of us ends up disappointed and in a bad mood.
  2. When I think of some activity that we agreed to do together, I like the regularity in it. I haven't managed to find a way to make such regular appointments with him, which I see as a lack of commitment on his part. On the other hand, he doesn't like having a fixed schedule and responds to my attempts as if I were limiting his freedom.

Question: How can I approach my partner about planning and organizing our time when it's something I enjoy and he finds tiring?

Not a solution: I would like to remain in this relationship, also because I do value the differences between us as something I can learn from.

Edit: A few points of clarification in response to answers/comments:

  1. When I ask him why he does not like to plan things, he tells me that from time to time he likes to have nothing planned so that he can do whatever he wants when he wants it. Also, when I consult my plans with him he often asks me if we really need to talk about it at that moment and it's tiring for him to make decisions about something far in the future.
  2. We both have a lot of individual hobbies, so each of us has something to do when left on their own. Perhaps I prefer to do my things when he is around (busy with something else), so I easily miss his presence.
  3. I am flexible when things do not go as planned.
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    Hey and welcome to IPS! This sounds like a tough situation and I'm interested to see what kind of answers you get. But I think you may need to edit your "Question" portion. We prefer one question per question here :) Maybe you can narrow this down to "How can I approach my partner about helping make plans with me even though it's something he hates?" – scohe001 Jul 9 '18 at 23:46
  • Quick question. Does your partner have things he enjoys doing without you? Do you have things that you enjoy doing without him? It's perfectly fine to have things to do on your own or not, but I'm interested if there's a mismatch. – Ynneadwraith Jul 10 '18 at 14:17
  • Did you ask him what he likes in not having a plan? If so, what did he answer? – LinuxBlanket Jul 10 '18 at 16:12
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    Is money an issue? In particular, do your 'planned' activities usually end up costing substantially more than you would spend in an 'unplanned' activity? (regardless of which of you is paying) – Bryan Krause Jul 10 '18 at 22:28
  • @BryanKrause Thanks for bringing it up, now that I think of it, it may be relevant to why plans matter to me so much, however the other way round. If I have my activity planned, I know what I'll get for the money I pay. Also, the costs of a well and early planned trip are usually substantially lower that organizing everything at the last minute. My partner is a bit more relaxed on his finances. This is a point worth discussing. – HelloMyFriend Jul 11 '18 at 17:58

As someone who is also a creature of habit, I understand the need to plan things out and have routine tasks. We know your side, but how does he feel? Have you ever asked him why he wants his to be more free flowing? Maybe it's extremely personal to him and relates to why he is in the wheelchair. He decided that tomorrow is never a given and wants to live in the moment, in the now. It sounds like you want to force him to do things your way instead of coming to a mutual compromise of understanding.

You say that you hate when he asks for a weekend off, but have you considered what he needs in that alone time? Think about how hard it is for him to have to get dressed and prepared for the day. I'm sure there are days in there that he probably does not feel his best and does not have the energy it takes to prepare for a weekend with you.

You also make mention that you want it to be less frustrating from both sides, but you want to force him to understand your logic.

Try having open dialog with him. Maybe once every month or once every 2 months, you can plan something like a nice road trip or whatever it is you guys enjoy doing. Then say, once a week, you guys agree to driving lessons. The key though is that you have to be receptive of his feelings too! If on one of these weekly meetups, he doesn't feel up to it, then be supportive of that.

You can't plan everything in life, you can't control how someone feels from one day to the next. You don't know that tomorrow you are going to be too tired from an extra hard day of work until you go through it. Maybe those weekends he requests "off" from you are weekends he truly wants to spend with you, but something came up Friday, Thursday.

Try to be more open to listening, and less demanding of how you feel and I am sure you can indeed learn from your differences and find a happy middle. The first key to this though is to be receptive to his needs as well as yours. By understanding each other, you can move forward with your growth together as a couple; but thinking your way is the best way without really hearing him out can actually be detrimental (in any social interaction).

Maybe your way truly is the best way, but that doesn't make it correct persay. What is right VS what is best is not always the same thing. So again, try to communicate with him and listen to his side and see what your differences can make!

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    Thank you for your answer and particularly for your comment on physical limitations. I try not to assume that something is difficult for him unless he tells me so, but perhaps we should talk more openly about it. – HelloMyFriend Jul 10 '18 at 21:50
  • @HelloMyFriend of course! you want to treat him normally and that's definitely the right way to go about it... but that doesn't take away the fact that it is still draining on him whether he wants to admit it or not.... I definitely encourage you guys to be more open in talks about it and just encourage open talking in general! good luck. – ggiaquin16 Jul 10 '18 at 22:01

You two look exactly like my girlfriend and me! She likes to plan things in advance in order to relax, while I'm the opposite. I find organizing things quite stressful, and having a timetable to follow quite suffocating. I want to be able to change plans on the spot: if there's a better opportunity to grab, why do I have to fix my day into a chrystallized structure? Also, my friends are quite like me, we usually all plan things only some hours before meeting.

As for weekends, they became our hell. It's the only moment when we don't have to work, so each one of us wants to enjoy it at its most. For her, it means planning in advance what we're going to do so that we can take advantage of every moment; for me, it means it's a time to relax and I don't want it to be contaminated by a stressful activity such as planning.

We're still in the process of making things work, but what worked most until now was having an open communication about our time management preferences. These are the key points that help us; they can be explored by the two of you together or separately as "homework":

  • Why do you prefer one way over the other? Why do you like (or need) knowing that every Monday at 10 you'll go jogging? Why do you think of a future plan? What will happen if you don't plan it? The opposite questions for him: why does he like about not planning things in advance? What will happen if he plans them? Knowing exactly what you look for when you plan things (control? Shared participation? Relax?) and when he doesn't (freedom? Open possibilities?) will open the route of fulfilling your needs in other ways.

  • Explore the weaknesses of your own approaches. If you've been dating for the last two years, there will be at the very least one occasion in which the strategy of the other person saved the day. Acknowledging this brings us to the next point.

  • One way of acting is not preferable to the other. They are equivalent, just different. Do not try to convince your partner that your way of managing time is better. Sure, planning allows to do some things that are not possible with only improvising, as you yourself said; but, on the other end, being able to come up with a plan when something else fails is a good ability. My girlfriend and I are currently in the process of learning the strenghts of the opposite approach.

  • If you say that's important, then that's important. The same is for your partner. Understanding why something is important is a part of the process, but respecting that something is important, even if we don't understand, comes first.

  • Repetita iuvant. Repeating important concepts more than once, in more than one way and one occasion helps the other person to get it better, especially if that one thing is not among their values. Do not get tired of repeating things: what is not grasped with a simile, may be with an example.

The other keyword is compromise. For the weekends, we restrict the possible activities to a few and plan a general structure. For instance, we decide that if the weather will be sunny, we'll go to the seaside, or, if we end up waking up late, to a park. Or we decide that we'll meet some friends at happy hour: this means that the previous activity, whatever that will be, will have to end at 18:30 maximum.

Also, since I know that having things planned in advance relaxes my partner, sometimes I put myself in her shoes and I propose plans. Sometimes it's the opposite, and it's my partner that does not mention future plans for a short period of time (an afternoon, a day).

As for the weekends off, agree on them instead of being subjected to the decision of your partner. Don't be passive to his request. The weekend time is stressful for you as well: why not take this time for you and plan the day exactly as you want? Without somebody that does not like planning, you will be able to do many things!

  • Looks like we are indeed very much alike! Thank you, your answer gives me a lot to think about. I have one question -- do the timing and the form matter to you? I have noticed that a text message during work hours is not going to be well-received, but talking about some plans in person is much easier. Have you worked out how and when make any plans, e.g. shortlist activities for a weekend? How does you girlfriend communicate her intentions to you? – HelloMyFriend Jul 10 '18 at 22:01
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    @HelloMyFriend glad it helped! It depends on the content: I'm happy to receive a text message saying "Let's go to the seaside this weekend!", much less happy if it reads "Since you didn't bother planning anything, I think this is the weekend in which we finally go to the seaside with the 9:34 train". As for how to make plans, we tend to do them little by little, not all in once. This is way more acceptable to me than sitting down and having to schedule all my weekend time... [1] – LinuxBlanket Jul 11 '18 at 10:16
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    ...[2] For instance, today I tell her that I'd like to go to the cinema on Saturday afternoon, tomorrow she tells me of a birthday party that same night and after a while that she would like to take some time on Sunday to study etc. It's important also not having a strict timetable (except for some activities like going to a show etc, of course). We decide a time/place range to make things happen: get up before 10, be out by 11, have lunch in that nice area, get back with one of these three trains... Also, from time to time, she just makes her plans and joins me once I decided mine if she can. – LinuxBlanket Jul 11 '18 at 10:23

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