My partner and I argue about spending time with each other. She works nights and sleeps during the day. I am starved for time. How can I make her understand?
Opposing schedules can be very difficult on relationships if both partners do not do the work to maintain the relationship around that schedule. On the other hand, complaints, such as "she works night and sleeps during the day," can also be damaging to a relationship.
The challenge with any relationship issue is to figure out what you need and then talk about that - rather than zeroing in on what you perceive to be the solution.
Though you didn't say so, I am guessing you would like her to find a day job, sleep less, or be more available to you when she is home. I'm guessing these conversations revolve around what she needs to do to make things better?
In order to help her understand your feelings, you will need to clarify what it is you are feeling, and talk about that. The trick is sharing your feelings as your own responsibility (rather than blaming her for your having them) and then inviting her to help you resolve the hurt or pain you are feeling. This puts you on the same team.
According to David Richo in "How to be a grown up in relationships," all of us are born with five basic needs. These needs are:
Attention, Affection, Acceptance, Allowing Appreciation. We all need a balance of these in order to feel loved, safe, and secure. Given that your work schedules deprive you of time together, I would guess that what you might be needing is some affection, and some attention.
What I suggest is that you talk to her about what you really need, not about time, and not about her work schedule. Leave those out of the discussion and see what happens. Perhaps you could talk about the 5 A's, ask her which of these is most important to her, and share the ones that are most important to you.
Behind every criticism there is a desire. Because she probably doesn't have the gift of reading through your complaint about her job, she likely wants to feel appreciated (for working) and some allowing (meaning that what she is doing is okay - that she's doing her best and doing what she needs to do).
The other thing that David Richo says is that when we partner, in healthy relationship only 25% of our needs are realistically met by our relationship. The remaining 75% of our needs are still up to us to meet ourselves! This, I believe, is disappointing news for a lot of folks - and yet it makes a lot of sense. If you partner so that she can keep you company, entertain you, satisfy your external need for happiness, then you are likely to be disappointed 75% of the time.
So my last bit of advice is to consider other things for which you might be starving. Are you giving yourself enough attention? Do you offer yourself the appreciation and acceptance you need - or are you looking for that from those around you?
Being in a grown up relationship demands that we take care of ourselves so that we have something to offer our relationship. When we are able to take care of our own needs 75% of the time we significantly up the likelihood of experiencing true happiness that can weather the storms of crazy work schedules and other life demands.