Delaware Therapist: Reconnect with a Workaholic Spouse or Partner

Delaware Therapist - Workaholic Spouse

If you think the standard 40-hour work week is plenty, you may have trouble connecting with a partner for whom work is the “primary focus” of their life. But such troubles are not deal-breakers, and a couple that values other qualities beyond career goals can successfully compromise their differences in work-life scheduling.

To you, it may seem like your partner values their career over your relationship. This is not uncommon—many people cite conflicts over work schedule as the reason for ending a relationship. In fact, some data suggests that workaholics have twice the divorce rate compared to the rest of the population.

Here are some tips from a Delaware therapist to help your relationship survive if your partner is a workaholic:

Try to understand their side. It’s important to try to understand the why behind your partner’s attitude towards work. Sit down and have an open conversation about what your partner gets from their career.

In some cases, it may be a temporary situation—your partner may need to put in some extra hours in a new career path, or to achieve a specific career goal. They may feel it’s necessary to support their family, or to earn a better future for the both of you.

Other times, “workaholism” is a symptom of a deeper issue. Perhaps your partner is working excessively to combat depression or feelings of inadequacy. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important to try to get your partner to open up to the possibility of getting help. Unfortunately, aggressive probing of personal issues will likely cause your partner to withdraw, so you need to know how to do it.

In most cases, understand the why will prevent you from a good amount of resentment towards your partner. Avoid an accusatory approach—instead let your partner know you are just trying to understand them better.

Work towards a “couples’ answer”.  At the heart of all strong relationships is the ability to hear two (often different) points of view and create a “couples’ answer” that both partners can support. For example, if your partner is willing to set aside time for just the two of you, you might agree to let them work late hours on other days without guilt-tripping or nagging them.

Set aside time for the two of you. Many workaholics run on extremely tight schedules, and often let work hours bleed into their free time. This leaves little room for the “down time” couples need to strengthen their relationship.

Talk to your partner about designating a time that is just for the two of you, like a date night or even a quick lunch. It doesn’t have to be a huge block of time, but it is important that the time is dedicated to your relationship. This means no email checking!

Focus on yourself. Part of maintaining a strong couple relationship involves a frank look at ways you and your partner can adapt to each other’s lifestyle. You may find a considerable amount of strain lifted from your relationship if you find ways to occupy your time when your partner is unavailable, like making new friends or developing a new hobby.

Finding value outside your relationship is a way of growing and maintaining your separate self.

Schedule a counseling session. Don’t be afraid of therapy. It’s not just for couples on the rocks (although it’s certainly helpful in those situations). A Delaware therapist can serve as a coach/guide while you work out answers that allow your relationship to continue to grow in a positive way.

Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803