Therapist A is a counsellor with a psychodynamic approach with experience of working with adults and young people.

It sounds very reasonable to want some time on your own and to have your own interests and activities separate from those of your partner and for her to respect that need. However, it would seem that for this difference to be so much of an issue in your marriage, the conflict must be less than rational and based on some very difficult underlying feelings on both your parts.

There is a lot of background information you don't give but I am going to ask some questions that might help you to think about the situation. What does your wish to have 'own time' mean to your partner? What is her anxiety about? Does she feel that you are being selfish and leaving her with the responsibilities of home and the children? Is she jealous of your being able to have "own time" and travel opportunities? Does she fear that you would rather be with someone else? Or does it go deeper and play on feelings generated in her past to do with, fear of separation from a loved parent, or exclusion or abandonment?

Equally you need to think why you need the time on your own? Do you experience your partner as overly controlling, invasive or clingy? Perhaps as you grew up you were encouraged to do things on your own, maybe you liked to get away from your siblings or parents or perhaps you are an only child who has always been used to his own company. Your partner perhaps grew up in a tighter knit family where she never got used to her own space and so doesn't really understand the need for it. Or perhaps she was very close to her mother or a sister or felt uncertain of her father and feared rejection. All these are possibilities but of course, without knowing more we cannot be certain. What I am certain about is your need to try to go deeper and understand what is going on for you both and this will involve talking to and listening to each other, rather than arguing. It involves trying to be honest with yourselves about your more difficult feelings and realising that the past is in the present. It has shaped you both and what you expect of your relationships.

What seems to be a 'matter of fact' dispute between you is undoubtedly symbolic of a lot more in your relationship. If it is difficult for you to work together to understand what is going on do try to find a therapist to help you.

Therapist B is a Relate-trained counsellor with experience of working with relationship issues and is an experienced couples counsellor

I'm really sorry to hear about this problem with getting some time to yourself to play sports etc, & wonder what it is that your wife is really worried about? It sounds as though she might be feeling a bit insecure for some reason, or maybe she doesn't have enough to interest her apart from her 'role' as a wife & mother.

Given that you feel strongly about the need to follow your own interests, maybe it would be useful to set some time aside to just talk quietly & gently about what you would both like to get out of your life, as you may then discover what might be lacking for your wife. If you can suggest it just as an effort to discover more about what your wife would like to do as well, without turning into a blame exercise which is quite common for couples in family disputes, it might help her to explore what her expectations are about 'marriage' for example.

Sometimes couples have unconscious thoughts about what 'roles' partners play in a family situation,& it may be that your wife had some family patterns established in her mind already. In any case it does seem important to try & find out more about what she fears by you going off & doing things that don't include her? It may be that she feels lonely or resentful that you have other interests, but if you can find out more about her own practical & emotional needs then you might both be able to come to some kind of compromise, whereby you can share the child care for example, & give each other the opportunity to follow different pursuits.

It is difficult to comment further without knowing some more about your family relationship, so if you'd like to write further please feel free to ask for more suggestions about how to approach your wife, so that you can share your feelings instead of it becoming a difficult issue which is distressing to you both.

Therapist C is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with experience of working with relationship and many other issues.

Therapist C's answer to this dilemma will be published when received