How To Talk To Your "Workaholic" Partner

How To Talk To Your "Workaholic" Partner

Many couples encounter difficulties when it comes to navigating work/life balance, especially when one or both partners has a particularly demanding job. These days, certain industries encourage total focus on work, to the detriment of personal relationships and family life. It can be a challenge to discuss your concerns with your partner while respecting their focus on their career. Here are a few tips for how to talk to your partner about their work habits or job if you feel negatively affected.


1. Make sure to wait for a relaxed moment to bring up your concerns with your partner. 


2. Try communicating your concerns about your partner’s job or habits by focusing on how you feel, rather than on your partner’s actions. For example: “I’ve been missing our time together lately, I’ve been feeling kind of lonely,” as opposed to, “you’re always working at night”.


3. Always try to understand and validate your partner’s position before stating your own. For example, “I know you have a ton of deadlines to meet and barely any time to get it all done. That must be incredibly stressful, and of course you want to be as dedicated and efficient as possible, I get that. I also want to figure out a way for us to hang out, though, because I miss you.”


4. Consider ways to problem-solve around your partner’s job requirements or habits. For example, if it drives you nuts that your partner needs to be available to customers 24/7, perhaps there is a creative way for them be reachable without constantly interrupting your time together. Something like an hourly email check rather than an alert each time a new query arrives, or an automatic response that can let customers know they will be answered by the end of the business day. You can suggest brainstorming creative ideas together.


5. The more you pursue and complain, the more your partner will tend to withdraw or become defensive. It’s a well-known relationship dynamic.  Try laying off the digs and complaints about their job for a while, and see if that makes any difference. You may be surprised at their increased willingness to acknowledge the negative effects of their job or work habits on your relationship once you’ve stopped bringing up the subject as often. 


6. Try switching to more positive and supportive comments in general regarding their job, if you can. This may seem counterintuitive, but generally once your partner feels they have your support, they will probably be more open to considering ways in which they can improve or change the negative and challenging aspects. 


7. Take some time to consider the reality of the situation. For example, is this a temporary problem due to a huge project with an upcoming deadline, or is this something that will bother you for as long as your partner is at this job or in this career? Is your partner driving the problem or is someone they work for or with really the root of the issue? Is your partner happy and fulfilled at their "bad" job, or do they also wish they could switch careers or change their habits? All of these factors will affect whether and how you approach the issue together. 


8. Most people have relationship challenges both at home and at work. Much as you feel that your partner's job is affecting your relationship in negative ways, I can almost guarantee that they are also feeling similar pressures in the workplace as well, either from coworkers or employers/employees. Try asking your partner about their workplace relationships and how they are being affected by them. They will probably appreciate your empathy and consideration of the other important relationships in their life, and the conversation will bring greater insight to the ways in which their job or habits affect and are affected by all those around them.