Married To A Workaholic: 6 Ways Too Much Work Affects A Relationship

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If you’ve found yourself on this page, you’re either in a relationship with a workaholic, or you have a sneaking suspicion you might be one yourself, and are worried about the impact it could be having on your partner.

If you’re married to a workaholic, they might have always had these tendencies, or perhaps you’ve noticed they’re developing more of an obsession with work as the years go by, and you’re growing increasingly concerned about it.

If you are the workaholic, perhaps you wear your workaholic nature as a badge of honor, boasting about how busy you are all the time.  Or maybe you’ve only just realized or accepted that you really do have a problem when it comes to work.

Whether you’re the workaholic in your relationship or not, we’ll start with some insights into how one partner working too much could take its toll on the relationship.

Keep scrolling after that for some tips on how to approach this if your partner is the one who’s always got their mind on their work, or how to develop a better balance if it’s you who works too much.

6 ways too much work affects a relationship.

When one partner becomes obsessed with their work, it can have these damaging effects on the relationship.

1. It means you’re not present physically.

If you’re working, that usually means you’re not at home. You might be in the office from first thing in the morning until late at night, or you might be away on business trips. Essentially, you just aren’t around very much.

But even if you work from home, being squirreled away in a home office 24 hours a day can also mean you barely spend any time in the same space as your partner. 

This lack of time spent together not only creates physical distance between you, it leads to emotional distance as you start to lose track of what’s going on in the other person’s life.

2. It means you’re not present mentally.

Just because you’re in the same space as the one you love, doesn’t mean you’re truly present.

One of the main problems with working too much is that it can feel impossible to properly switch off.

You’re with your partner, meant to be having dinner, having a heart to heart or enjoying a well-earned ‘day off,’ but your mind keeps drifting back to that new client you’re pitching for, what your co-worker said the other day, or the unpaid invoices you need to chase up.

That means you can’t truly relax, be yourself, and enjoy the moment, and your partner can see that in your eyes.

Much as you think you’re doing a good job of pretending you’re listening, they’ll always be able to tell when your mind is actually elsewhere, especially if they tell you something important that you promptly forget.

That can be very hurtful and make your partner think that you’ve lost all interest in them, or that they are less important to you than your work.

3. It skews your priorities.

When you spend too much time working and interacting with colleagues, professional problems can start to take center stage.

A problem at work can be blown out of all proportion, and getting something wrong at work can begin to feel like the end of the world. Your entire existence revolves around work and the success (or lack thereof) that you are having.

You forget about all the wonderful things in life, like your family, friends, and the hobbies and interests that you’re really passionate about and that actually make you happy.

It can mean you forget just how important your partner is to you. You may stop treating them with the respect and care they so deserve.

4. It stresses you out.

No matter how much you enjoy your job, there’s nearly always going to be stress involved, especially if you’re spending more time on it that you should.

Deadlines, co-workers, budgets… whatever it is, working too much can push your stress levels through the roof.

And that’s not great for your relationship.

Stress can put you on edge, make you impatient, and mean you have trouble sleeping or get poor quality sleep. That’s a recipe for marital disharmony if ever there was one. 

5. It can take its toll on your health.

Stress is really bad news for your health in so many ways. But working too much can throw more problems into the mix.

If you’re overworked, you probably don’t have the necessary energy or interest to be cooking the healthy, balanced meals your body needs.

Chances are that working too much also means that you can’t find the time or won’t make the time to exercise.

Failing to look after yourself properly can mean that you start feeling down.

It’s hard to feel confident and to give and receive love when you’re not feeling comfortable in your own skin, and not getting the nourishment and exercise you need to keep the happy hormones flowing.

And all that, of course, can start causing problems in your relationship.

6. It might mean you can’t handle your share of the mental load.

A modern relationship is about true balance. It’s a partnership, with everything split 50:50 regardless of gender.

Every couple will divide things up differently, but if you’re working too much, you might not be able to do your fair share. This can cause resentment.

If you’re caught up with your work, then it will be your partner who has to remember your mother’s birthday, remind you about doctor’s appointments, remember when the kids have their extra-curricular activities, and generally run your lives.

If they have a full-time job too, then putting all that on their shoulders is unfair. Even if you are the main breadwinner, you still need to be willing and able to pull your weight for your relationship and your family.

4 tips for dealing with a workaholic partner.

If you are married to, or in a long term committed relationship with someone who works excessively long hours, here are some things you can do to improve the situation.

1. Be honest with them.

You’ve probably been hiding your true feelings about their workaholic nature, particularly if they’re the one bringing home the bacon.

Sit them down for a talk when you both have some downtime. Start by letting them know how much you appreciate everything they do. Follow that by telling them how much of a toll their work is having on your relationship and how you’re concerned about the future if things don’t change.

Having an honest talk like this can help you avoid the big argument that will be inevitable when you finally reach breaking point.

2. Set some goals together.

After you’ve had a heart to heart, it’s time to think about what could realistically be done to change the situation.

Make promises to each other about small changes you could both make that will improve the situation, but avoid empty promises that are either unrealistic or ones you know you won’t be able to keep.

3. Manage your expectations.

The most important thing here is not to expect them to transform overnight. If their life has revolved around work for a long time, then it will be hard for them to adapt their habits.

Look for small signs that they’re making positive changes, but don’t be disheartened if they don’t make big changes straight away.

And expect some setbacks along the way. There will be times when their work takes over again, and this is not something to worry about too much if it is only in the short term.

4. Lead by example.

When it comes to things like this, it’s so important to practice what you preach.

You can’t complain about your partner’s workaholic tendencies and then spend your own evenings or weekends replying to work emails or generally letting work get in the way of your relationship or family life.

So, have a think about how healthy your own work-life balance is, and what you can do to improve it.

Between you both, you’ll be able to find a happy medium, not neglecting your work, but always putting the people you love first.

4 tips for the workaholics.

If you happen to be the partner whose work gets the better of you more often than not, these are some simple things you can do to make the situation a little less detrimental to your relationship.

1. Reflect on your priorities and goals.

The first step is to take some time out to look at your life.

Think about what you’re currently prioritizing – is your relationship on that list?

Then, be honest with yourself about the goals you’re working toward. Are they all professional? Do you have any personal goals to do with your family, friends, or passions?   

It’s great to be ambitious at work, but work isn’t the be all and end all.

It should essentially be a means to an end to allow you the financial freedom, and the time, to enjoy life with the people you love and make a positive difference, whatever that means to you. 

It can help to write down what you honestly think your priorities and goals currently are, and then think about what they should be, or what you’d really like them to be.

2. Put boundaries in place.

You default to workaholic mode much of the time. And if you’re ever going to change that, you need to put some strict boundaries in place until you successfully change your habits.

It’s not enough just to vaguely say you’ll try to do better. You need to break it down and set tangible goals that you’ll know if you’re sticking to or not.

Decide that from now on, you’ll never work at weekends. Or you’ll always be home by 7pm. Or you won’t bring work home with you.

Make sure they’re realistic considering your specific job and lifestyle, and that they will make an active difference to your relationship. 

If you tend not to take all your holiday, then book a holiday in right now so that you’ve got some quality time with your partner and family coming up.

If you’re a competitive soul, turn it into a challenge. If you finish work by 7pm every night for a week, give yourself a prize.  

Once you’ve decided what your new boundaries are, you need to make sure you stick to them. Don’t look at them as optional, but as iron clad.

Of course, you won’t always be able to follow them religiously. Things will come up unexpectedly. But as long as you’re clear about the personal being equally important as the professional, you should be able to be strict with yourself. 

3. Get someone to hold you accountable.

When trying to make a big change in life, most people find they need someone to keep them on track.

This isn’t a job for your partner, however, as it could cause conflict between the two of you if they try to make you stick to the goals you’ve set.

A trusted friend is normally best, especially if they’re someone who’s got similar workaholic tendencies they want to work on.

You could check in with each other now and again for a chat about the progress you’re making, where you could do better, and how it’s impacting your relationship.

It could even be a manager or superior at work. If they agree that you are working too hard, they will probably see the benefit of you easing up a bit. They can be there in the office, or on site to tell you to go home.

4. Show your partner that you’re trying.

Your partner shouldn’t be your accountability buddy, but they do need to be able to see that you’re making an effort.

You’re bound to slip up now and again, but as long as your partner can see that you’re actively trying to make a difference and are making them more of a priority, then you’re on the right track.

Tangible things like a weekly date night or a surprise weekend away will help prove to them that you really are committed to changing.

Still not sure what to do about your workaholic husband or wife? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.