Ellen’s husband is a workaholic. Before their relationship became serious, she often admired how goal-oriented and driven he was.
As their commitment to one another grew stronger and they eventually married, what Ellen previously saw as a character strength turned into something annoying and hurtful.
After almost two decades of marriage, Ellen has grown used to being very flexible. Changing plans at the last minute and making apologies to others for her husband’s absence has become commonplace. She appreciates the abundant salary that her husband brings in and she is happy that he enjoys his work.
Ellen only wishes that her husband was as intense and focused on their marriage as he is on his career.
She feels lonely and resentful more often than she likes to admit.
In these days where businesses are trying to do more with less, putting in extra time at work happens a lot. Couples find themselves planning date nights and time together far in advance just because their schedules– both work and family responsibilities– have become so full.
Some people take putting in that extra effort at the office to a compulsive level. These people are workaholics. There are certainly varying degrees of workaholic behavior and some really need the help of a professional counselor or therapist.
In general, a workaholic is defined as someone who has an “unrelenting” and “compulsive” desire to work.
If your partner seems to you to be a workaholic, you may already have experienced tension in your relationship when you have tried to talk with him or her about this. Perhaps you’ve used different tactics and brought up the subject of your mate’s work habits in less direct ways.
But, still you encountered defensiveness and maybe even hostility from your partner.
The way that you communicate what you want and what you’d like to change about your love relationship or marriage is crucial.
You can essentially say the same thing but have drastically different results depending on how you say it.
Remember these Dos and Don’ts as you talk with your workaholic mate…
Do be honest.
The time for claiming to be “fine” when you really aren’t is over. As much as you don’t want to make your partner angry, you lying about how you truly feel when he or she cancels your date (for the umpteenth time) is not going to help your relationship.
Being honest doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to pick a fight with your partner or that you’re going to try to guilt trip or manipulate him or her either. It’s about being real and authentic about this situation and your experience of it.
Don’t assume that you know why your partner is a workaholic.
You might have a good idea about why your mate seems to compulsively work. Maybe he or she has a low self esteem or had a traumatic childhood and you believe that there is a link between the workaholic tendencies and these things.
You might be accurate and you might not be.
If you are interested in why your partner works as incessantly as he or she does, find ways to ask. When you two are alone and talking, you might ask your mate something like this: “Please help me understand why you work as many hours as you do….” or “I want to understand why you work so much…”
Whatever you choose to say, make sure that you truly do want to better understand.
Really listen to what your partner says in response.
Do focus on how you feel and what you want.
Again, being honest is really important. You might not be able to force your partner to stop working so many hours or to keep your dates, but you can let him or her know that you have feelings and preferences too.
Keep your words focused on how YOU feel. Instead of saying something like, “You don’t want to be with me,” try “I feel sad and lonely when we don’t have regular connecting time every day.”
Resist the urge to assume that you know how your partner feels or what motivates him or her to work so much. Instead, be clear about how you feel and make requests to help bring some positive changes.
Do be flexible AND honor your boundaries.
It is important to be flexible in a relationship because there are often times when negotiation and patience are required. At the same time, it’s essential that you honor your boundaries and needs.
You might not have a choice when your mate calls to tell you that he or she will be working late even though you two have tickets to a concert that night. If your partner has made the decision to stay late and work instead of go to the concert, you have the power to be honest about your feelings AND you can decide what you will do.
Maybe you’ll decide to invite a friend to go with you to the concert instead. Perhaps there’s a way to switch the tickets to a different night.
Give yourself the space to be flexible when it feels okay to you to do so and also to honor your boundaries and make the choice to do what you want to do given the situation you’re in.
Don’t issue an ultimatum– unless you are willing to follow through.
It can be tempting to issue an ultimatum to your workaholic partner. It can be frustrating and upsetting when you’re honest about how you feel and try to set boundaries or create agreements and nothing seems to bring the change you want.
The only time that ultimatums are effective are when you are 100% willing to follow through with your threat. If you set before your partner the choice of his or her work OR you, it’s possible that your partner will choose work.
You might be ready to make the choice to end the relationship is significant changes don’t happen– there’s nothing wrong with this. Just be sure that you are making the decision about what’s best for you in the long-term and the short-term in advance of communicating.
Susie and Otto Collins are married soul mates, certified relationship coaches (thru the Hendricks Institute), authors, speakers and seminar leaders who are on a mission to show men and women all over the world how to keep the love, passion, connection and spark alive forever. If you want to create a closer connection with your lover or spouse, please check out their Magic Relationship Words <— here!