Q: Hi Angie. I'm a 25-year-old female FIFO worker. I’ve worked a few different rosters and always feel time poor when I get home (especially in the area of socializing with friends, family and my partner). At the moment most of my time at home is spent with my partner. This is fine but I also have birthday parties, invitations and I do some beauty therapy for my friends too. I like and want to do these things, but it's so hard to fit it all in and spend quality time with my partner, who I feel is the most important person to me. But by neglecting my friends and family I feel I am missing out on an important part of my life, and when I fly back to work I feel unfulfilled in that area. I need perspective. How to do I keep everyone (including myself) happy?
Hi there and thanks for your question. This might be reading too much between the lines, but it sounds to me like you are someone who tries hard to live up to the expectations of others, and perhaps in trying to meet other’s expectations you lose track of your own priorities!
I have an exercise that I often use with clients: looking at different aspects of life; how important they are to you; and how satisfied you are in each of these areas. It is something that you can easily do yourself. Here’s how...
Think about different areas of your life and rate the importance and satisfaction in that area. The ratings are out of 5, with 1 being not at all important/satisfied and 5 being very important/satisfied.
Here's an example for the area of work/career.
How important is your work/career to you? Remember that 1 indicates not at all important and 5 indicates very important.
1 2 3 4 5
(circle the appropriate number)
Next think about how satisfied you are in that area of your life, with 1 indicating very dissatisfied and 5 indicating very satisfied.
1 2 3 4 5
(circle the appropriate number)
Do your ratings match? It's great if importance and satisfaction are both at the 5 end of the scale. It's not so good if importance is high and satisfaction is low.
Repeat this exercise for the following areas:
- Intimate relationships
- Family of origin (this means parents/siblings etc)
- Community life (volunteering etc)
Are there some areas of your life where the importance is high but satisfaction is low? Ask yourself "what would it take to move my level of satisfaction up one number?" (from 3 to 4, for example).
When you have completed this task, ask your partner to do the same. Then look at each other's sheets. As well as being a great thing to do individually, this exercise is really good for couples because it can:
- highlight shared goals
- shed some light on why arguments may be happening, and
- open up communication about each person’s struggle to balance all the things in life that are important to them.
Don't worry if you and your partner don't place the same importance in each of the areas − it would be unusual for couples to totally agree on this and total agreement is not necessary for a successful partnership. However, looking at the areas where you and your partner differ is a useful exercise because it might shed some light on why disagreements keep happening. Successful couples respect each other's goals and priorities and support each other to do better in the areas that are important to each of them. This is not always easy. Priorities may compete and time may be limited. Compromise from both of you becomes important.
This exercise is not a quick fix, but is intended to get you thinking and you and your partner talking. You might not always like the answers you get, but at the very least you might get some insight into why you're feeling dissatisfied about how your time is spent!
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.