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Married to the Job

Do you feel as though you are coming in second place to your partner’s profession? Has his or her workplace invaded your relationship space? Here’s a quick quiz:

  • Does your partner have “carpal tunnel thumb,” or use the PDA device stick to point at things as if a natural extension of his or her index finger?
  • Does the mobile phone appear to be surgically attached to the hand, or worn on the belt like a holster poised for quick-answering action?
  • Is your partner there physically but his or her head is buried in a PDA device like a 13-year-old on a Game Boy no matter what else is going on at the time? Or, is the desktop or laptop always fired up during all “free” time away from work?
  • Does the “How was your day?” conversation about work problem-solving go on for hours and yet still manage to find its way back into conversation after you’ve changed the topic several times?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you might just be dealing with a workaholic. Here’s how to get your partner to “unplug” and tune more into you and the relationship you share.

    1. Have the “intervention” discussion.
      Schedule some time to meet with your partner face to face (IM and SMS texting do not count!) and make sure that he or she turns off the phone. [Note: If you can’t seem to nail down a time to meet, send them an official meeting invite via Outlook that will automatically populate their calendar (kidding . . . sort of.)]Great places to meet are those that are away from “work-related areas” like the home office or the car (where many people conduct work business during their commutes to and from the office). Try a local coffee shop or restaurant, or go to your favorite outdoor setting like the beach or a favorite hiking trail. It doesn’t matter where you are, so long as electronic temptations are at a minimum.

      Once you’ve got your partner’s undivided attention, gently—but directly—approach the topic and impressing he or she that you really care about them and the health of your relationship with them, adding that you respect and admire their dedication to their job but that relationships do not have to come second to work if all of the components of life are viewed not in terms of distractions and priorities, but in terms of a work-life balance in which each facet of life—love, work, personal “me time,” family time, community time, school time (if applicable)—are complementary to each other; it is the balance of all facets that equals a full, healthy life.

      Then listen fully to your partner respond to your statement, working together toward finding ways to enjoy life more. Spending more quality time together will strengthen the relationship and aid in lowering personal stress levels which impacts overall physical health and well-being.

    2. Schedule one to two regular “date nights” per week.
      Being in entrenched in a treadmill of work feels a lot like gambling—you have many small wins, and you keep thinking that if you just keep pushing harder and harder a little bit longer to see how far you can go that there must be a payoff around the corner soon that is worth burning the candle at both ends right now. After all, that anticipation and ebb-and-tide rushes of accomplishment can give a life purpose and the feeling of direction—both which are not bad things.However, if that quest to climb toward success constantly comes first in life, the quality of the other aspects of life can suffer or never develop. Literally years can go by before realizing that there are equally important aspects to pursue, like love, relationships, spiritual pursuits and community involvement. Living in the land of “I’m almost there -” can leave you nowhere, so it’s important for the workaholic to find balance. It’s also important for the partner of a workaholic to help alleviate the feeling of being taken for granted, and spending more quality time together is the key. (And no, “work dates” do not count -)

      Schedule regular “date nights” one to two times per week. They need not be overly planned or expensive, nor do they even have to be out on the town—you could order delivery or make a special dinner in, or do hors d’ouerves outside on a patio with a glass of wine or other non-alcoholic beverage. If you go out, try different things that you’ve never done, like seeing live music or theatre, or try something fun and different like a driving range or mini-golf course. The key is to get into the habit of taking time out for both of you to not only realize that there is life outside of work, bit also to reinforce your strong bond and enjoy each other’s company.

    3. Be honest.
      Dating a workaholic creates drama because the other partner will not feel as though he or she is getting enough attention to be satisfied in the relationship. But instead of making half-joking comments to your partner about how he or she loves her PDA device more than you or that it seems as though he or she communicates more with the people at work than you, the best policy is to be honest. If you’ve had the “intervention” discussion and things are still the same, revisit the issue. And, if you skipped over that step, you should set up a time to speak uninterrupted with your partner. The sooner he or she knows what you’re thinking and feeling, the better. The right person will make time for you when prompted with a calm, heart-to-heart discussion.


    1. Be flexible.
      As with all work and all relationships, there are more stressful and work-filled periods than others, so be sure to be sensitive to what is going on and adjust accordingly. For instance, some partners like some “alone time” after working a long day to unwind, so grant that to him or her before you breach the subject of how you might be feeling put off.It’s okay to listen to your partner about what is going on in the workplace—just make sure that you partner reciprocates by listening and engaging with you, too. And then make time to shut off the devices, step away from the desk chairs and get back to enjoying each other’s love and company.