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Married to a Workaholic?

MomLiveMomLive Posts: 2,370Registered User Senior Member
edited March 2013 in Parent Cafe
My husband is a major workaholic. We've been married 23 years and it seems to get progressively 'worse' the longer we have been married. He owns his own business (accounting, tax and finance) and often goes into the office 7 days a week. Not unusual for him to work until 11pm or later a few times a week. When he's at home, pretty much all he talks about is work or the economy.Though when we're socializing with others, he can converse about other topics. Because he is a solo practitioner, he relies on me heavily as his only confidante about issues with staff and clients. Fortunately, I have the background to understand most of what he's saying though I have to admit I get tired of hearing about it. At home, he pretty much watches the news or Bloomberg non-stop or is working around the house. I can't get him interested in other shows.

It occurred to me recently that he really 'thrives' on being super-busy and stressed. There is not a day that goes by when he doesn't say he's way behind at work. He has a large client base and does quite well financially. I've noticed over the years that at home he is very grumpy but when he calls me from work throughout the day, he seems almost happy. He does relax on vacation and we usually have a good time.

When we did martial counseling the psychologist said he was a classic perfectionist with OCD tendencies. He is so much a Type A that if he dropped dead from a heart attack tomorrow, it wouldn't surprise me in the least (though he looks extremely fit for a man of 52 years. He doesn't exercise, he's just naturally thin).

I, on the other hand, am very much a Type B. I am very good about pacing myself and not taking on so much I feel stressed for extended periods of time but I get done what needs to be done in a timely manner. My favorite place to be is at home, puttering around, not doing much. Light cleaning, reading, surfing the internet are my activities of choice on a free Saturday (though I do get to the gym a few times a week).

So you can see, we are at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum. I've come to terms with it. Took me a long time to understand that you can't change another person. Since I'm an introvert by nature, I really don't mind spending so much time alone (empty nest). I work part-time in a professional job so I get lots of time around other people as well as a sense of accomplishment. I do feel guilty at times because he works so hard but I also know that it's not about me, it's what he would do regardless of who he was married to. Because I am so not a Type A, I have a hard time understanding why someone would operate that way (putting oneself under constant stress) but I've recently realized that he actually really loves the pressure though he claims not to (if that makes sense).

I'm really just curious if anyone else is in this boat? If so, how do you feel about it? Do you have any strategies that you use to encourage your spouse relax at home? Does living with a workaholic make you feel like a slacker?
Post edited by MomLive on
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Replies to: Married to a Workaholic?

  • KajonKajon Posts: 3,565Registered User Senior Member
    MomLive.....I share your story (only without the job). Do I feel like a slacker, no but much of the time I feel ignored and lonely. My H is very OCD with his hobbies.....we had the best time when we were dating and now that I think back, I wonder if I was his "hobby"?

    Last year we became empty nesters and I insisted that we take a class together. I gave him 3 choices and he selected stained glass. It was so fun and surprisingly he left work on time each week to attend the class. Then we would go out for a couple drinks and discuss what we had worked on/learned.

    I try and make a big deal out of dinner. (which is usually around 9pm) By big deal, I mean set the table, light a candle and make a yummy soup/salad/french baguette meal. I get a nice half hour out of him before he slips back into that other guy......
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Posts: 18,236Super Moderator Senior Member
    Same story here, even down to owning his own business that I help him run (no other employees). Just substitute "engineering" for "accounting." He missed a lot of our kids' activities while they were growing up, and when he did go, he was miserable, thinking about the work he should be doing. He's a wonderful husband, so I've just accepted that this is the way he is. I'm just like you, too! He doesn't understand how I can be happy sitting, reading a book!
  • tom1944tom1944 Posts: 5,273Registered User Senior Member
    Would both of you be happy if you downsized your life? He may feel he is required to do a certain amount of billable work to keep the family lifestyle intact.

    I would be happy living in a trailer but worked two/three jobs to afford certain family things. If I had my own business it would have been an 80-100 hour a week deal if not more if I needed to work that many hours to generate a certain income.
  • MomLiveMomLive Posts: 2,370Registered User Senior Member
    ^ I wish it were that easy. I would do it in a heartbeat. The truth is being a workaholic has nothing to do with how much money one needs. It's more of an anxiety disorder (took me years of counseling to see that).

    This (from Wiki) describes my husband to a T:
    "Workaholism is an addiction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's not the same as working hard. Workaholic's obsession with work is all-occupying, which prevents workaholics from maintaining healthy relationships, outside interests, or even take measures to protect their health.

    Workaholics feel the urge of being busy all the time, to the point that they often perform tasks that aren't required or necessary for project completion. As a result, they tend to be inefficient workers, since they focus on being busy, instead of focusing on being productive. In addition, workaholics tend to be less effective than other workers because they have difficulty working as part of a team, trouble delegating or entrusting co-workers, or organizational problems due to taking on too much work at once. Furthermore, workaholics often suffer sleep deprivation which results in impaired brain and cognitive function.

    As with other psychological addictions, workaholics are often unable to see that they have a problem. Confronting the workaholic will generally be met with denial.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Posts: 4,435Registered User Senior Member
    I've known H for 26 years and he has always worked more than anyone I know except his older brother who works as much. Now he has a full time job and also owns apartments with said brother. Most weekdays he comes home around 10:30 pm. On Saturdays he usually puts in 10 hours. Early in our marriage we made a rule that he could only "work" on Sunday if there were some extenuating emergency, so usually he takes Sunday off.

    The constant absence used to bother me, but he can be difficult when he's at home (always seems to want me to tackle some project or other, like every 10 minutes), so we got used to it and it's ok. The kids have grown up this way. I have too many hobbies to manage, so I don't get bored or anything while he is out.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Posts: 18,236Super Moderator Senior Member
    (always seems to want me to tackle some project or other, like every 10 minutes),

    Yes! Just like my DH.
  • turbo93turbo93 Posts: 2,364Registered User Senior Member
    Maybe said workaholics have not figured out what we human factors engineers have known for decades, that is, that productivity diminishes as more hours are worked, error rates go up, and so on.

    My rule is simple - no unpaid overtime - ever. The Mrs on the other hand seems motivated to save the IT world from the Martians, so she normally puts 60 hours a week (tho working from home she can bake a cake during work hours :)).

    The problem with workaholics is that they create expectations for the rest of us that are well beyond what we signed up for.... I can see working a few extra hours in a crisis, but when the boss expects 60 hours a week for years, he/she better be aware of what he's getting.
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Posts: 12,738Registered User Senior Member
    I don't know. My husband might be a workaholic, but I've been too busy to notice. :p
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Posts: 18,236Super Moderator Senior Member
    Last month, I attended a webinar about managing risks at engineering firms. Two of the facts the speaker quoted were that the average engineer at successful firms works 50 hours a week, and the average principal of these firms works 57 hours a week (he didn't define "successful," which annoyed me). The work week was shorter for less successful firms. Someone asked, "So you're saying we should pay engineers overtime?" and he said, "No! That's part of their salary!" Sigh. My husband is doing for a Texas firm right now, and they are paying him time and a half for overtime hours! Since he's putting in long hours inspecting houses damaged by hurricane Sandy, he's doing OK (thank goodness, because work has been horribly slow lately).
  • sorghumsorghum Posts: 2,022Registered User Senior Member
    He likes working, you like pottering around. As long as he doesn't complain if you spend the money he doesn't have time to enjoy, should be fine.
  • 3togo3togo Posts: 5,232Registered User Senior Member
    edited January 2013
    Mom3ToGo is not a workaholic but does work a lot .. and, IMO, to some degree it limits our marriage and our relationship with our kids. The kids and I all know the deal and it is manageable. For me it is likely to become more problematic (disappointing?) when we become empty nesters and when we could retire. For fun awhile back I started my bucket list which is very long and part of why I could retire now ... on the other hand Mom3ToGo has nothing new on her bucket list and right now does not see retirement anywhere on the horizon. There is nothing wrong with her viewpoint or position ... however I find our wildly differing outlooks on our later years quite troubling and scary.
  • lje62lje62 Posts: 3,592Registered User Senior Member
    I thought I was reading about myself. minus the accounting ! My husband is a workaholic , always has been . he last few years has been because of the economy more so than because it is what he prefers to be doing. He goes into work early and usually stays late...then wen he comes home, he's back at it.

    We also own out own business and I work there too , but more so the seasonal end of it. I really want to scale back but again , due to the economy probably can't realistically .
    We have discussed selling part of our business , but difficult to find buyers in the economic climate we are in. Got so far as talking with a realtor , but the numbers he came up with were unrealistic ....and it would make more sense and money to keep operating.
    I really look forward to a calmer life while we can still enjoy it
  • MomLiveMomLive Posts: 2,370Registered User Senior Member
    The constant absence used to bother me, but he can be difficult when he's at home (always seems to want me to tackle some project or other, like every 10 minutes), so we got used to it and it's ok. The kids have grown up this way. I have too many hobbies to manage, so I don't get bored or anything while he is out.

    That pretty much describes the situation here. My husband tends to drive me crazy when he's here....always wanting to rearrange the pantry or cabinets or, at the very least, the dishes in the dishwasher. I have come to really enjoy the solitude and never get bored. The thing that worries me the most now is what will happen when he retires? He talks about doing so at 60 but I can't see that happening. He would last a week at best. He even ran to the office on Christmas Day for a few minutes to pick up some files!
  • turbo93turbo93 Posts: 2,364Registered User Senior Member
    I would rather extend my working years to 70 (Mrs. T's father is a practicing civil engineer at 80+ in the old country, and my father worked part time in government till he was 80 or so) if the alternative is to make a killing in my 40's and 50's and destroy my health by overworking.

    Those who seek the answer to why Americans are stressed out / depressed / overweight / etc only have to look across the pond to Europe for answers. Our German subsidiary is as productive as we are and work under 40 hours a week...
  • intparentintparent Posts: 13,458Registered User Senior Member
    productivity diminishes as more hours are worked, error rates go up, and so on.

    I actually don't believe this. I had some period early when I was building my career when I would work 80, even 100 hours per week. And honestly, I was VERY productive for pretty much all of those hours. And I actually really liked the work, which probably helped me keep focused and productive while I was doing it. I think some people can't be productive for those kinds of hours, and it would be harder if you didn't love what you were doing. I think I would not be able to work those hours now productively (pretty sure I would spend at least some of the time stewing about being forced to give up other things I enjoy now). But there are some people and some situations where people can work productively for long hours.
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