How Working Too Much Impacts Your Marriage

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Do you often feel like your personal life gets in the way of your work? If so, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with your job.

For some people, dedicating themselves entirely to their career may seem like the right thing to do, but others close to them may see it as a problem. "The pull between work and family has never been greater," says Barbara Killinger, Ph.D. "Although there is much talk about work-life balance today, it remains elusive for too many workaholic families." Leaving work at the office is more difficult than it seems when we can work virtually anywhere and anyone can reach us at any time. Setting boundaries between work and pleasure can be difficult, but working too much can have a negative impact on your marriage.

What Is a Workaholic?

A workaholic is someone who works compulsively at the cost of sleep and spending time with loved ones.

Because workaholic spouses often sacrifice their personal life to get ahead at work, it's usually at the expense of their partner. But recognizing the signs of being overcommitted to your work as soon as possible and being proactive about a lifestyle change can help turn things around before it's too late to mend your relationship with your spouse.

Read on for more about how being a workaholic affects those around you and what you can do about it.

Signs You Might Be a Workaholic

It's important to understand that being a hard worker is not the same thing as a workaholic. A hard worker can still have a balanced life, leave work at the office, and be emotionally present and engaged when home or away from work. If you have several of the following traits, take a critical look at your relationship with your career. 

  • Work is your number one priority.
  • You miss out on life events for work.
  • You are financially stable, yet work excessively anyway.
  • Your family complains that you work too much.
  • You try to find ways to make more time for work.
  • Being unable to work seriously stresses you out.
  • Missing work due to illness or injury puts you in a panic.
  • Hobbies and leisure are sacrificed due to work.
  • The amount you work has impacted your health.
  • You find a way to work even if sick or injured.
  • You rarely take vacations, and if you do, you still work while out of office.
  • You always bring work home with you.
  • You find it hard to be "in the moment" because you are thinking about work.
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How Working Too Much Affects Marriage

Spouses of workaholics can feel estranged and disconnected from their partners. "The spouse who has become well aware of coming in second in a list of priorities begins to lose confidence in her own desirability," says Killinger. A power struggle can ensue in the relationship as the workaholic becomes more autonomous.

A workaholic could potentially experience angry outbursts over little incidences as a result of their guilt for working too much, and these outbursts take a toll on a marriage and a family. To further exacerbate the problem, a partner who expresses their feelings about their spouse working too much could be met with hostility and anger. Workaholics could even begin to expect a spouse to cater to their needs, as they are the ones busy and working all the time. As their entitlement grows, discord in the marriage could result.

Real intimacy requires two-way communication and a mutually agreed-upon sharing of power.

Another unintended consequence can be an erosion of both the emotional and physical intimacy between spouses. "Real intimacy requires two-way communication and a mutually agreed-upon sharing of power," says Killinger. When open communication and regard for each other's emotional well-being takes a back seat, the trust, respect, and friendship necessary for real love fly out the window. Once that happens, many couples can no longer enjoy sex for lack of emotional connection, and the act often becomes more about self-pleasure and relieving tension.

How to Prevent Work From Hurting Your Marriage

Whether you simply work too much or are a true workaholic, it can put your marriage in danger. Here are some ways to make sure work doesn't impact your relationship negatively.

  • Understand the importance of drawing a line between work and home.
  • Decompress before you walk in the door. For example, use the car ride home to listen to music, a podcast, or something else besides business calls. 
  • Make sure that you do not use the master bedroom for your home office.
  • When you first arrive home from work, embrace your spouse physically and emotionally. You can spend some time talking together about how the day went or other things that you may need to decompress from. Do not do anything else until you do this first.
  • Do not use your work schedule as an excuse to cop out on doing your share of the household chores.
  • Try to do one thing at a time. Don't attempt to multi-task.
  • Turn your cell phone off entirely. Also, turn off other electronic devices that could interrupt your ability to spend time with your spouse and children.
  • Set aside time for hobbies and leisure. Exercise is especially important.
  • If you work at home, make sure that you have some sort of a buffer zone between your home office and the rest of your home.
  • Stick to your scheduled work hours as often as possible. It isn't fair to your spouse or your kids to work longer than expected routinely.
  • There may be times when you have to work longer than you planned. Just don't make the extra work hours a daily occurrence. 
  • If your work schedule will temporarily include longer hours for a while, make sure that you have at least one night during the week and one day during the weekend to spend time together.

Intimacy is an expressed goal for many recovering workaholic couples. Their struggle is a challenging but exciting journey.

If you find that you can't put your life in balance, get professional help through counseling or executive coaching. "Intimacy is an expressed goal for many recovering workaholic couples," Killinger says. "Their struggle is a challenging but exciting journey…Exploring one’s own strengths and personal weaknesses plays an important role in this journey." It is worth understanding the underlying reasons why you continue to engage in unhealthy behavior to avoid harming your spouse and family due to the lack of nurturing in your home life.

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