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Career and jobs: how to live with a workaholic

What turns people into workaholics? A look at the reasons why spouses spend long hours at the office...and how to bring them home and improve your relationship or marriage.

There's a lot of truth to the notion that whatever initially attracts us to a relationship holds the potential to be the very same thing that will later annoy and repel us. For example, a man who is popular and has lots of friends will be accused of spending more time with them than with his spouse. A woman who makes the decision to go back to college in pursuit of higher education will be deemed at the start as ambitious, and then criticized for studying too much instead of partying. The same principle applies to individuals whose work ethic reflects diligence to earn a healthy wage and yet whose long hours away at the office are interpreted as neglect of hearth and home.

The first thing that needs to be understood is the call for moderation and compromise. Excessive/compulsive behaviors are as destructive to the well being of the participants as it is to those around them. The second thing about these behaviors is that they are sometimes symptomatic of deeper problems and, in the face of an impending break-up or divorce, may require professional counseling to address.

If your significant other is putting in unreasonable amounts of overtime and/or bringing work home, there could be several reasons for it. Knowing what the reasons are will enable you to fashion a response and develop an appropriate course of action.


Has your mate always been a workaholic or is this situation relatively new? If it's the latter, the additional hours could stem from several external factors. Perhaps his/her division is suddenly short-staffed and new hires have not yet come on board. Has the company undergone a reorganization that impacts workflow? Was it recently awarded a contract with a time-sensitive deadline? Maybe your partner just acquired a new boss and wants to make a strong impression of being an above-and beyond team player? This could further be in concert with upcoming promotional opportunities.

If the two of you make a point of talking regularly about each other's work, you'll have a better handle on current conditions and know whether the excess hours are only temporary. One such way to accomplish this is to set up a "decompression" time when you both get home and, if you have children, the latter are occupied with schoolwork, chores or friends. This is a chance for the two of you to see where you are, what's going on, and what to expect in terms of the allocation of time for family and fun. What it is not a time for is to introduce problems and complaints that will give the spouse even more reason to stay away.


Couples never feel comfortable discussing finances. If escalating costs have been pinching your pocketbook, it's possible that your partner is working longer hours to simply keep a roof over your heads and food on the table. Unfortunately, what begins as good intentions to bolster financial security often results in emotional deprivation.

It's critical that both of you know what the family budget is and work together to increase cash flow and decrease household expenses. Suffice it to say, however, many marriages fall apart when the lonely partner voices anger over the time spent apart and the workaholic voices resentment that his or her extra wage-earning isn't being appreciated.

If it's not possible or practical for the spouse to take a part-time or full-time job, then it's time to put your heads together and determine what kinds of cost-cutting measures are necessary to prevent the working partner from getting too exhausted as the breadwinner.


Is your home life peaceful or a constant battleground? If it's the latter, it's small wonder that men and women not only stall leaving their desks at the stroke of 5 but also fabricate excuses for going to the office on the weekends. Unruly children, a chaotic/messy house, or a spouse who has scripted a day's worth of nagging problems to hit one with upon arrival at day's end become compelling reasons to simply hide out at the office.

By the same token, a house that is always devoid of life communicates, "I don't think it's important enough for me to be here when you get home." Such are the conditions that cause people to drift into substance abuse, extramarital affairs, and workaholic tendencies. Sometimes all it takes it putting yourself in the shoes of the person who is walking in the door after a long day and strive to create the kind of welcoming environment that will make them regard home as a haven.


How do you tear someone away from the office when the office is under the same roof? At the outset of your spouse either starting a home-based business or simply bringing all of his/her work home on a nightly basis, it's important to establish some ground rules. The first one is that you, your offspring, and your friends and neighbors respect the worker's "territory". This means that you're not popping your head inside the door every ten minutes and asking them to do something for you. It means that you're not treating their home office like a catch-all for toys, laundry, hobbies, etc. It also means that you're not doing anything that is going to interrupt the flow of work that's going on (i.e., playing loud music). The second rule is that every time they step outside of the office, they are stepping back into the house and, as such, need to leave work on the other side of the door. This strategy, of course, only has a chance of succeeding if the first rule is being regularly enforced and respected.


Many people work to live. Others are lucky enough to live to work, relishing a career niche that allows them to get paid for what they really love doing. You obviously knew this when you first got together. The dedicated doctor, the aggressive lawyer, the struggling musician, the impassioned actor. Did you really think they'd give up their dreams for the convenience of an 8 to 5 day job just to keep you and the kids company?

Be realistic! If spouses are putting in lots of time doing what they love, you need to (1) find a way to be supportive and participate, (2) carve out "us time and make the commitment to nurture it or (3) find something exciting of your own to occupy your hours apart. What this accomplishes is the affirmation that (1) you think what they are doing is important, (2) you think the relationship is important enough to schedule date nights and mini-getaways, and (3) you are vibrant and intriguing enough to make them want to spend more time with you!

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