When Work Interferes with Love

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on When Work Interferes with Love

4 ways to deal with a partner who puts work ahead of your relationship

An increasing number of people are finding that their relationships are affected by a partner’s tendency to overwork. Putting the demands of their jobs ahead of the needs of the relationship can occur for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

  • Economic shifts: Fewer jobs and higher employer expectation from a smaller number of employees.
  • Less job security: Some people have to put more time and energy into work to remain competitive.
  • Technological interference: It is difficult to get away from work, given the potential for constant availability and access.

Whatever the reason, prioritizing work over love eventually creates serious relationship problems. Primarily, those problems arise out of discrepancies in the need for time together and relationship focus between partners.

“Nothing left”

The person who overworks is often left feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. He or she has very little energy left to devote to their partner, let alone anything else going on in their lives.

Children, family, and health all suffer a lack of attention as well.

People who overwork tend to assume that their relationship should be able to withstand the stress of their job, without having to invest much effort in it. This is a big mistake. Their partners often feel increasingly lonely, neglected, resentful, and taken for granted.

Tips for the partner whose partner overworks: 

1. Signal Your Needs.

Let your partner know what’s going on with you.

You may have already voiced your displeasure fairly vocally if you’re very frustrated at this point. Most people tend to do so in a harsh way that isn’t typically received well. That isn’t unusual, and certainly understandable.

However, do keep in mind that solely communicating what’s wrong doesn’t help much. Try not to undermine your overriding point: you value your relationship and want more time with your partner. Approach your partner when you’re feeling relatively calm. Share your thoughts and perceptions regarding the impact of his or her overworking in a softer gentler way.

Express your concern, avoiding criticism and blame.

2. Listen to What Your Partner is Saying.

Take the time to find out why your partner is driven to work the way they do.

What’s the back-story? In what ways is your partner affected by the way he or she works?

How does he or she feel about the impact of work on his or her life and your relationship?

Make the effort to be a relationship investigator. Try to listen, understand, and accept where your partner is coming from–without attempting to persuade him or her to see it your way. Why are these work habits so important or necessary? It’s easy to assume that your partner cares more about work than about you. This isn’t usually the case. You’ll likely be surprised by what you learn. Increased understanding tends to soften hard feelings and improve your willingness to work out solutions.

3. Compromise.

Work on trying to find some middle ground. As the partner of someone who overworks, you definitely want something more satisfying from your partner. Perhaps you hope for less time at work, more nights out together, or time away. The odds are good your partner wants something from you as well. Often, the overworking partner expresses a need for more support or less pressure.

Make time to talk about what you both see as an ideal situation. Discuss what is negotiable and what isn’t. You might agree to be a more active participant in your partner’s work functions. Your partner could agree to put away the smart phone to devote more undivided attention at home. Learn to make clear, reasonable requests and determine what you are both willing to do to improve your relationship.

4. Find Other ways Ways to Meet Your Needs.

Even if your partner is willing to meet you halfway, it may not be fair or realistic to think that he or she will be able to give you as much attention as you want or need. Whether by choice or by circumstance, you may find that you have to take greater responsibility for meeting your own needs instead of pinning them all on your partner.

Get what you can from your partner, then try to think outside the box. Hire a babysitter or call on friends when you need a break from the kids, rather than resenting your partner’s lack of availability. If you’re lonely, look for ways to get involved in your community or make standing lunch dates with friends to offset the time your partner is busy.

Over-worker or Workaholic?

It should be noted that there is a significant difference between living with an over-worker and a workaholic. An over-worker takes his or her work very seriously and invests a lot of time and energy in being successful. A workaholic’s identity is tied to his or her occupation.

If you find yourself in a relationship with a workaholic, it’s best to seek help from a professional.

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