Whether it is dating, marrying, or starting a family with, partnering up with a workaholic may be a bunch of work itself. Addiction to work is the one that gets praised with recognition, prestige, and financial compensation in today’s competitive culture. Despite all its benefits in the professional realm, workaholism may have quite a negative impact on one’s family and romantic relationship. Partners and children of workaholics may experience a variety of emotions when they feel like their partner or parent prioritizes work over them. Some of these emotions are loneliness, disappointment, sadness, or even anger. While being frustrated over cancelled date nights, missed school games, or hearing constantly about work is a completely normal reaction, there are some proactive steps that a loving partner can take to make things better. Here are five of these steps:
- Don’t criticize: Whether the problem is your partner’s excessive work hours or virtually all else, criticising rarely helps. By drawing attention to all the negative qualities of your partner, what you will most likely end up with is a frustrated partner ready for self-defence or counterattack. What you can do instead, though this might be a little more difficult than raging at your partner, is being vulnerable with them. Talk to them about your deeper emotions masked behind anger and frustration and how much you miss them when they are not around. Such an attitude may enable your partner to reconnect with you and re-evaluate their priorities.
- Show that you need them: Does your partner really know that they are needed as a partner or parent? Is it possible that they might have gotten the idea that their contribution to the relationship/family should be solely financial? We may unknowingly push our partners away from certain chores or activities if we believe that we are doing it better than them. This may result in better and more efficient outcomes indeed, but it may also reinforce our partner to hold on even more to what they do best: work. By encouraging your partner to take up more responsibility at home and appreciating that contribution, you may help them in creating a more balanced life.
- Schedule a family/couple activity: Value the quality of time spent with your partner and family over the quantity. Given their hectic work schedule, it may be unrealistic, as well as unnecessary to demand an extensive amount of time from your partner. You may rather find an activity that you all enjoy and schedule it for a few hours each week. Setting it up with a predetermined date and time as an official “we time” may help prevent work-related tasks from intervening.
- Get curious: Rather than labelling your partner’s work addiction as an unacceptable problem, get curious on why they are doing what they are doing. Inquire with a kind and non-judgemental attitude about the drive behind sticking to such an overwhelming work life. What does work mean to them? Were they brought up in a perfectionistic family culture? Do they have such a belief that no matter how hard they try; it is never enough? Getting answers to such deep questions may not only enable you to empathize more with your partner but it may also increase the intimacy between you.
- Look into your relationship: Reflecting on how your relationship is going is almost always a good idea. Rather than sweeping issues under the rug, be open with each other about how you perceive your relationship. Is there a deeper problem between you that your partner tries to avoid by overworking? Talking about problems may not be enjoyable ,but it is definitely the first step in resolving them if you take up an optimistic and willing attitude.
You may come to realize the improvements in your relationship by integrating these tips into your shared life with your partner. However, never forget that there are limits to what we can do as individuals.
If you believe that no matter how hard you try the progress is minimal or non-existent, working with a mental health or relationship professional may help you to get more satisfying results. You can book an appointment here.
Dilek Demiray is an intern at Willingness. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and she is currently completing her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. As an aspiring psychotherapist, she is interested in cognitive-behavioural and systemic therapies.
Lisitsa, E. (2013). The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/
Wong, B. (2021). 6 Ways To Improve Your Relationship If Your Partner Is A Workaholic. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/workaholic-partner-relationship-tips_l_5c6b03a7e4b0e8eb46b89898