It’s an all too familiar scenario that I have seen amongst thousands of patients and at times, in my own home as well. One of the biggest sources of stress in couples arises from when one partner spends too much time and energy at work and not enough time and energy spent at home.It upsets your work-wife balance…
I can recall meeting Lisa during one of my locums in Brisbane and as it turned out, she was up to her neck with work-wife imbalance. In fact she was experiencing recurrent neck and shoulder tension at the time….
“When is this darn pain going to go away,” she pleaded to me.
“According to the test results, the treatment seems to be going to plan.” I replied as I was reviewing her case notes.” Let’s look at what lifestyle factors could be slowing your progress.” The furrowed brow and look of fatigue and despair on Lisa’s face gave me some clues as to what may be really going on.
Lisa seemed to know that I knew (or I was going to find out really soon). Before I began to ask her about her stress situation Lisa was looking up trying to blink away the tears that were welling in her bloodshot eyes.
“What’s been going on at home?” I asked.
The floodgates of emotions opened up as she painted the bleak picture that many a stay-at-home partner has been going through.
“I’m stuck at home with three young children and I hardly ever to get to see my husband. He’s working 14 hours a day 6-7 days a week. When he is home I get angry with him because he’s too worn out to help out with anything. But I’m worn out too. What about me? When do I get a chance to do something for me?”
If not appropriately handled this work wife imbalance generally plays out with the wife (or stay at home partner) beginning to feel increasingly isolated, abandoned.She ends up resenting the time the working partner spends at work. A common interpretation is that the working partner values their work more than their relationship and family. As a result the wife begins to withdraw affection and communication from the working partner and seeks greater connection through her circle of family and friends.
Best selling author of books like “Why Men Are The Way They Are”, Dr. Warren Farrell explains that in these situations the working husband will often gravitate towards his work place, as it is a place where he gets recognition and praise. It is also a place where he sees that he is making a contribution of some sort. In an effort to seek praise and affection from their partner men tend to want to provide more. It is their way of showing love. In wanting to provide more they will often spend more time at work that serves only to exacerbate the problem.
“I’m so passionate about what I do, I just can’t wait to get to work each morning. In fact,” he boasted. “I’m so passionate about what I do, I don’t look forward to going home each night.”
I exchanged quizzical looks with good friend and colleague, Michael who was sitting next to me. We were both concerned because we were both due to get married later that year. Michael leaned over and whispered through the corner of his mouth, “ I don’t know about you Paul but I want to enjoy going to work and when I go home.”
“Yeah. I wonder how long his marriage will last? ” I replied.
So what can the stereotypical working male businessman do to help create a work life balance that is sufficient to support a successful career and a happy loving marriage and family life? Is there anything that the stay-at-home Mom can do to restore this imbalance between work and home life?
In sharing some solutions to this dilemma I would like to point out that I am far from being a relationships counselor or the perfect husband. However, I am an astute observer. At times I have been personally challenged with this common scenario. I have witnessed many successful and unsuccessful relationships involving people in time-consuming and demanding jobs. I have come to the conclusion that it requires changes from both partners. It firstly requires bringing some gratitude and praise back into the relationship.
I hear you ask, “How am I meant to bring praise and gratitude back into the relationship?”
Well, you can start by appreciating that your partner is doing and communicating that to them in a way that they understand…
When you arrive home from a long day at work and the kids haven’t run away or set fire to the house, be grateful
If the house isn’t a dirty hovel, be grateful
If you get a meal cooked, be very grateful
If your wife and family are home when you return, be very grateful. A lot of men in your situation have arrived home to an empty house with a note left for them.
Genuinely uttering the words, “Thank you” or “I appreciate all the work you have done” can reconnect hearts where there were once walls.
Don’t think stay-at home partners are the innocent victims in all of this. You have been a big part of the problem and are therefore also a vital part of the solution.
When your partner comes home what can you be grateful for?
If you want your partner to spend more time at home, make the home an enjoyable place. Be happy to see your partner. If you forget how to greet your partner with enthusiasm, watch your young children greet them or watch how happy the dog is to see him. If the home is an enjoyable place the working partner will be trying their best to get home as soon as they can.
The other thing that can make a big difference to relationships in people with busy careers is for you to make it your responsibility to ensure that your partner gets to have some time to them doing whatever they want to do. My wife, Angela loves swimming and reading. When I make it my business to ensure that she gets to swim more regularly and have some time to herself she is more often than not a delight to be around. And the funny thing is, even if I remind her about her swimming and she doesn’t go I have found that it makes her feel happy that I have thought of her.
She also began to ensure that I had time for myself to do my exercise or just sit down and watch the football on TV. With a bit of time to myself, I am a lot nicer to be around.
Too many people with demanding and rewarding careers are often faced with the choice of career or relationships. By both partners showing appreciation and gratitude at home and at work you can enjoy both. Enjoying work and your life and family away from work is what they really mean when they talk about having a work life balance.