Dealing With a Spouse Who Works Too Much

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If you are married to a workaholic, you may feel as if you are married to an unfaithful spouse who's replaced your intimacy with an intimacy for his or her work. The sense of being alone, the number of broken promises, feelings of anger and disappointment, and a belief that you are not very important are all similar for spouses of cheaters and for spouses of workaholics.

These issues, if left unmitigated, may result in spousal discontent or worse yet divorce; in fact, according to Maureen Farrel who penned "So You Married A Workaholic" for Forbes in 2007, "on average, couples in which one partner is a workaholic divorce at twice the average rate."

When one partner works excessively, he or she is not nurturing the marriage, and it is also unhealthy to maintain a life that is so out of balance, which can easily put you on the road to infidelity or divorce. Sometimes it takes a wake-up call such as a personal or health crisis for the workaholic to snap out of this behavior. There are things you can do that won't have you waiting around for this to be the impetus for the change.  

Tips to Keep Your Marriage Healthy

If you find yourself frustrated with your spouse's constant obsession with work, it's important to remember that even though you don't agree with his or her viewpoint on the issue, the situation itself puts you and your partner both under intense amounts of stress; as a result, conversations about being a workaholic should be approached cautiously and with compassion.

As frustrating as it may be to not scold your spouse for his or her overworking tendencies, nagging won't work. Instead, share in a positive tone what your spouse has missed by working late or by bringing work home and not being present to you and your children. Additionally, you should try to stop enabling your spouse's workaholic behavior—you may be enabling your spouse's need or desire to work by delaying family meals, keeping kids up longer, postponing activities, or spending your money on items and services (like takeout) that you could do without.

Instead, consider letting your spouse experience the consequences of working too much by serving dinner at the normal time and making your spouse eat the cold leftovers once he or she finally emerges, hours later, from work. If your spouse doesn't want to go out of the house with you, leave your spouse at home and take the kids to the movie, or if your spouse is too busy to take a few days off, take a weekend trip to visit family without your spouse—don't put your life or your children's lives on hold waiting for your spouse to make time for you.

Alternatively, you could try to entice your spouse out of work mode by suggesting an activity that you could both do together. Although this may be considered a bit manipulative, providing an opportunity that your spouse will enjoy could ease the tensions between you and allow for an honest discussion of the problems that are arising from your spouse's workaholic tendencies.

When to Seek Professional Help

Solving your marital issues related to a workaholic spouse can feel like an insurmountable task, and oftentimes it is almost impossible to do alone. Fortunately, though, psychologists and marriage counselors are available to help mediate open dialogue between you and your significant other.

If your marriage is in serious trouble due to your spouse working too many hours, then marriage counseling could be an option that will help. Even if you can simply get your spouse in for the initial therapy session, you may be able to help him or her to understand the gravity of the problem and the toll it's having on you and your relationship personally.

It's important during these sessions to discuss setting boundaries you both agree to that will not only help your spouse overcome his or her workaholic behavior but help you both communicate to one another openly and with compassion and empathy. If your spouse agrees to a day with you or even a few hours, setting boundaries like "no cell phones at dinner" could significantly reduce work-related stress during your alone time.

In any case, the first step toward overcoming marital issues related to living with a workaholic spouse is to start a conversation, express how the behavior makes you feel, and work together toward an amicable compromise that leaves you feeling more appreciated and your spouse's need to work fulfilled.

Article updated by Marni Feuerman