You’re in self-quarantine and the upside is that you get to spend more time with your spouse now that they have less travel time and can’t go to play golf, or whatever outside interests they may have. Six weeks in and you find them less available than ever and the reason is “I’m doing what needs to be done to keep us fed”.
Work-life balance is elusive to many people in the world, and there is a fine line between an unbalanced lifestyle and addiction. Addiction is when the first place someone goes when they are stressed or want to feel better is that thing, even when to do so is damaging and violated their own values and principles. That can be drugs, food even work. The cost of addiction to the family can be far more subtle when the addiction is work
Work addiction is similar to food addiction in that just as food is needed to sustain the body, work is (for most people) necessary to sustain a lifestyle. The key difference is while food addictions show up more immediately in the body, work addiction’s costs are more subtle. Work addiction is often rewarded with business success while almost every other addiction has very direct negative repercussions.
The cost to the family and the other spouse is an individual who is physically not present and often emotionally elsewhere at the same time. Because “work” is so highly valued in most cultures, the family finds itself in a supporting role, particularly if its a single income home. When both spouses are working, it is not unusual for both spouses to be seeking their personal satisfaction through work alone. This can go on until the children go to college and one or both individuals don’t see the sense in continuing on together.
The question becomes how do you recover your relationship? How do you rebuild trust and intimacy when the commitments you made to one another have been back-burnered by you both in the name of sustaining income? Make no mistake, it takes two to get to this place, blame and anger will not sustain the marriage. Here are some next steps you can consider to begin to shift this dynamic.
The first step is owning where you are and standing for what you believe. If you’re married to a “workaholic” and done with that quality of relationship, get clear what you want. Deep believer in keeping your commitments? Then get clear that you will hang in for the long haul. If the commitment no longer seems valid, than be willing to get out.
Letting go means accepting that where they are is where they are, you can NOT change them, you can only change yourself. What are the behaviors and expectations you need to release to be at peace? Accepting them as they are and releasing your expectation that a radical change will happen fast is vital to moving forward. You may also need to accept that once you make changes, your spouse may not stay in the marriage even if you will. Willingness to let go completely is important here.
What will you need to change about yourself in order to remain functioning in the marriage and hopeful? One thing is for sure, who you have been showing up as is not helping you have the experience you want to have so where do you need to shift? You may need to get some outside help for your marriage and/or for yourself. Read Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie, written for people in relationship with addicts. Learn more about what you have done that allows this behavior to flourish.
What have you given up personally for their success? What dreams, skills talents did you set aside? Are you happy with your health and fitness? What do you need to feel better about yourself? If your in this for the long haul, you will want your personal battery to be recharged always!
“Workaholics” often are Personal people obsessed with their vision for their business and/or themselves in their business. They don’t see work as work but as a means of fulfilling a vision that they have. At their best, they will always have a large part of their brain focused on what they are creating. Get that they are never going to be “normal” in this regard. They are simply not interested in 9-5, leave work at the door kind of life. However, they are not incapable of love and need support so do not lose hope. The good news is that when someone loves what they do, they transmit that excitement to other areas of their lives, and that is usually part of what draws their spouse to them in the first place.
Have a conversation about what you want. Do not talk about “the problem”. Talk with your spouse about the kind of interaction you are craving with them and engage in a conversation about what might be in the way. Hint: Opening with “you are a workaholic and this has to change” probably won’t go very far. Instead create a vision for what your time together could be and strategize on how to get there. Have a conversation about values that you share, about doing what you. These conversations may happen with a third party depending on where you both are emotionally.
In any relational issue that has been longstanding, the chances of a radical change are unlikely. First, schedule time together and make sure its calendared. Come to an agreement that it does not have to be a lot of time. Make a priority out of Time together will be the priority. Not necessarily immovable if something comes up, but not to be moved far or more than once. Make sure that the time is without phones or devices, just the two of you.
Workaholics tend to be very goal-focused. Use this trait by focusing them on how to build the kind of time that is missing in your relationship. How much time? When? What do they need to do to clear themselves and their time for it? When in doubt apply business principles to your marriage since this is the language they speak. Create a Mission and vision together. Articulate your “contract” together and what does it mean in the context of your vision and mission? Talk about work-life balance together.