Life's no Play with a Workaholic!

May 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Relationship Space

Work and play? Did I just hear you repeating our theme of the month with just a hint of sarcasm?

What?  Was that something about play not even getting a look-in in your relationship?

“He’s always working.  He doesn’t need me/us. He’s too married to the job.”                                      Sam from Perth

workaholicIs that an internal rant conversation that YOU have about your partner?  Of course, it might not be a him either!  Women are not exempt from these issues. But for the sake of ease (and seeing Karen tells us this magazine has predominantly women readers) let’s use the term “he” in this discussion?

Whatever gender your workaholic is, is resentment building in your head about how work and play fit (or don’t!) into your family/relationship?

Still Interested?

Have you continued reading  because you want to know what to do?

Well, like all problems there’s more than one answer.  But, let’s see what we can come up with.

First of all, let’s take a look at just what’s happening.

Just because it SEEMS like he’s always at work, doesn’t mean that it’s the truth.

After all, when you’re resentful you’ll notice negative evidence more than positive.

Why not do an objective assessment of how much time is spent on work?  How much time gets spent on commuting?  (I know you want to be grumpy about this, but bear with me here!)  Grab a pen and paper and log it for a while.

When you were going out, he only had eyes and time for you and was choosing you, over all else.  So while he started out choosing you above all else, somewhere along the line things changed.  The besotted lover turned into a workaholic with a slow increase in the levels of work. Maybe the increases were as subtle for him as they were for you.

And you know what?   It WAS ok by you as much as it was ok by him!

But I didn’t …

Now don’t jump down my throat yet!

There is always some form of mutual contribution to issues.  Somehow, and definitely unconsciously, you’ve sent messages to him that the change has been ok.

It might be you’ve just turned a blind eye to the long hours, or appreciated having total control over the TV remote.   Maybe you praised him and adapted your lifestyle to the heavier pay packet.  Or maybe way back at the beginning neither of you ever explored what were your core values (You?  Quality time.  Lover? Money to provide for you.)  In failing to identify how the differences might play out in your relationship and setting some boundaries, you’ve both contributed.

Now the elastic of acceptance that’s been stretching for a long time, has pulled taut and you’re resentful, or at least getting worried.

Unfortunately there are consequences to all our decisions, mistakes and omissions.  Yes, it’s crappy isn’t it?

All is not lost.

In fact that tight elastic is doing you a favour.  It’s prompting you to know what you want, and to learn how to ask for it.

So you need to be clear.  What DO you want?

Grab that pen and paper again and jot down some lists.

What have been the disadvantages to being partnered to a workaholic?  What have been the advantages?  There will definitely have been advantages!  So some honest soul-searching should pull out both pros and cons.

Where will you compromise? And where is your not-negotiable, not-going-there, “line in the sand”?

When you know those things, you’re getting ready to have an important, if tricky, conversation.

Don’t forget, what’s taken a while to create is not going to be gone in an instant.  No matter how much you might wish for a magic wand to make it all better.

My message here at Relationship Space is persistent.  You only have control over your own decisions and no-one else’s.  Making change is a matter of taking baby steps.

Having That Chat

Quiet Chat TogetherAttacking this issue (and your partner) is not going to solve this or any other difficulty.  It’s a loooooong bridge from defensiveness to win-win solutions.  And seeing you want the solutions, a win-win is your best chance.  (Hint: Causing defensiveness is THE best way to sabotage it.)  A softly, softly approach will get better outcomes, despite how much you might want to vent your frustration.  Reducing anxiety for both of you will give you a better chance at improved results.

So what you’re looking for right now is to improve the current situation. Maybe even an hour of play time might be a good aspiration to start with.  (Remember, baby steps!)

When you talk, don’t forget that it’s not just the number of hours that are up for discussion, it’s how EACH of you feels about it.

You’ll both also have some other stuff tumbling around under the surface about what it all means about you.
They will be things like:

  • Whether this means you’re a good person/partner/parent
  • Whether you’re an effective worker/parent/lover
  • And even if you’re really lovable

So tread lightly here for both of your sakes.

Bearing all that in mind, why not practise being partners?  Why not partner together to START to solve the problem that is impacting on both of you?  What’s in it for you?  The change you want.  What’s in it for him?  He may well appreciate the pressure coming off and a positive approach.

Being committed partners requires you to take an approach filled with curiosity and much listening.  I warn you, you’ll be amazed at how effective this weird approach can be!

Do you reckon you can do it?

Let me know how it goes. Or if you have tried other more or less effective methods share them with us all.  We all can learn from each other.


2 Responses to “Life's no Play with a Workaholic!”
  1. When you live with someone who enjoys their work (and we both do), every now and then the balance can get out of kilter. But “having that chat” has helped us both over the years.

    Your wisdom always hits the right spot, Chris. It’s like you have some hidden camera into our lives.

  2. Chris Owen says:

    Thanks Angela
    Didn’t you know I DO have a camera …
    Well allright maybe I don’t.
    But maybe the wisdom is about how often we fall into the same holes as everyone else. It’s always so reassuring when others make the same mistakes as us isn’t it? We feel so normal!