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When your Partner is a Workaholic

The lack of balance between work and a relationship very often leads to partners drifting away from each other. While the work-obsessed partner is unable to understand the importance of nurturing a relationship, the other partner has to repeatedly struggle with feelings of disappointment and anger at broken promises, cancelled dates and a feeling that they are not important as their partner’s work. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few ways to reclaim your workaholic partner.

Don’t nag

The very first step in coping with a workaholic partner is to quit nagging. Merely whining about how selfish it is of your partner to break promises and how neglected you feel when he/she is nose deep in files will do nothing to solve the situation. Rather use an objective tone to point out what your partner has missed by working late or bringing back work from office. Or you could share how you and the kids felt your spouse’s absence at an important occasion at school or a social event.

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Stop enabling your spouse’s workaholism

Just like the spouse of an alcoholic needs to stop enabling the addiction, similarly you too need to stop finding ways to accommodate your partner’s obsession with work. As a spouse you may be delaying family supper by a couple of hours till your partner finishes with his/her Powerpoint presentation. Or you may be keeping up the kids beyond their bed time so that they can wish their dad good night after he returns home. No matter how much you try to fit in your partner’s work schedule, it will never be enough. Not only will you keep disrupting your family’s routine but you will be actually enabling your partner’s need or desire to work late.



Understand your partner’s nature of work

Once you have a better understanding of the kind of work your partner does, it may help you to accept its limitations and obligations better. People who are engaged in emergency services like fire-fighting personnel, ambulance drivers/attendants, critical care personnel and law enforces cannot help being summoned to work at odd hours and on-call days. Visit your partner place of work when it is convenient, attend office parties and get to know his/her employees or boss. Greater exposure to your partner’s work environment may enable you to understand or even take pride in his/her nature of work.

Bond with your partner’s co-workers

If you are fed up of being stood up by your partner at your friend’s parties or at family get-togethers, try to bond more with your partner’s co-workers and their families. You will not only develop more empathy for the environment your partner works in, but more importantly you will be better able to relate with families who are faced with similar grueling schedules of their partner or parent.

Develop mutual interests

Workaholics often feel a compulsion to be busy even when there is no need to do so from the employer or organization. If you recognize this tendency in your partner, try to find hobbies which will allow you to spend more time with your partner without the latter feeling that he/she is not doing anything and hence wasting time. It may be something as involved as remodeling the guest room or as simple as taking a brisk walk in the neighborhood park – as long as it is something you both enjoy.

Prioritize social events

This may be a more difficult thing to do but when your partner prefers working late at nights to attending social events, you need to prioritize. If there are around three get-togethers scheduled every weekend, Decide which one is really important to you both and ask your partner to attend that. This way he or she will not feel pressurized to leave his work and at the same time you will have your partner accompany you to the event which is most important to you.

Ask to set boundaries

Couples threatened by workaholism would do well to come up with a plan assigning both vocational and domestic duties for either partner. Once things are put down in black and white, then it is easier to choose priorities. For instance if your partner sees that he/she is looking at 100 hour-weeks for the next five years, then they may be more careful about its impact on their health and the relationship. Again putting things in writing might enable your partner to set aside few hours every weekend exclusively for your and the kids.  For instance designate Saturday nights tech-free night when neither of you will take calls on the cell phone nor sit with the laptop. However it is better that you start out with short-term plans and be open to reassessing them with changing situations and priorities.

Bring back the focus on yourself

While you may be trying every trick in the book to cope with partner’s workaholism, at the same time, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your kids, if you have any. Leave your spouse at home and catch a movie with a friend or your kids if your spouse wishes to bring back work from the office. Don’t cancel a scheduled weekend trip to your parents’ if your partner prefers to have a video-conference meeting on Saturday afternoon. Go ahead with things you enjoy and have already planned and let your partner experience the consequences of his/her workaholism once in a while.

Consider taking help

If you feel that you are out of your depth while dealing with your partner’s addiction to work or it serious enough to be affecting your relationship, then you should lose no time in seeking professional help. Counseling or going for therapy might not only help you to cope with a workaholic partner but even help your partner to achieve a better balance between work and family.

A study conducted by Bryan Robinson at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in 1999 found out that on an average the divorce rate is twice as high among couples where one partner is a workaholic. While the revelation of the impact of workaholism on relationships is nothing new, what is worrying is that with a rising divorce rate as a general trend, higher number of workaholic partners may create further pressure on an institution which already seems to be under great stress. So use the above guide to better cope with a workaholic spouse and look for ways to nurture your marriage into a healthier relationship.