Running your own business, or working ‘round the clock in a meaningful, fulfilling career can be great for your sense of self-esteem, not to mention your bank account. But if your partner has begun to complain that your attention is always focused on work and never on her, you’ll want to reevaluate where your priorities lie. What are some of the signs that your relationship is at risk, and what can you do to reverse the damage?
Your spouse is upset that she never sees you
“Either he is at work, or he is thinking about his work,” says Monica, who is married to a high-performing financial analyst named Frank. “The number of dinners that have gone cold…I can’t even tell you. And even if we do manage to have a date night out, Frank’s cell is dinging like crazy with incoming messages, and he isn’t ‘with me.’”
It is indeed a difficult task to want to invest oneself fully in one’s career, but also be completely present for the family. It is helpful to remember the old adage “Later in life, no one regrets not working enough, but many regret not spending enough time with the family.” You will want to have an open, honest conversation with your spouse. Talk about why you work so hard and your belief that doing so will allow the family financial ease and a feeling of security. Ask your spouse to suggest some ways that you could keep on your career path but also show her how important she is to you.
Commit to one date night each week where your phone is off and you are not allowed to peek at it. When you come home from work, limit your contacts with the office to two-agreed upon email/text/phone check-ins, with the other time spent focused on the home front. The goal is to show your spouse that you realize that she is feeling ignored, but also not lose your place on the corporate ladder.
You pour all your energy into your career, leaving you tired when you get home
In the office, you are a star: you are full of great ideas; you participate actively in meetings and lead sessions like you are on the TED stage. But all that output takes its toll, so when you get home, all you want to do is collapse in your chair, a drink in your hand. Your brain needs to shut off so you spend your downtime watching TV. Your spouse is unhappy because she sees you giving it your all on the business front, only to be a couch potato on the home front. You recognize this is unfair to the family and need to find a solution.
It’s all about balance
Elite athletes know that they need to parcel out their energy to stay the course. If they give it all in the beginning of the race, they will quickly burn themselves out and finish poorly. It’s the same for the high-performing professional. Spend some time with a professional work coach who can teach you expert time management skills. If you can master how you manage the fast pace of your office, you will not need to spend your evenings and weekends in a horizontal position on the couch.
Get your spouse on board when work ramps up
If you know you are in for a heavy work week, inform your spouse in advance. Explain to her about the situation, and make it clear that this is exceptional. “When I know that Frank will be completely involved in a big project at work for, say, the next two weeks, it makes it easier on me because there’s an end date to his hectic schedule,” says Monica. Letting your spouse know that you’ll be wrapped up in work but eager to reconnect once the rush is over can do a lot towards getting her on board and supportive. Remember to express your gratitude for your spouse’s understanding—send her a text during your busy day telling her your are thinking about her even in the midst of this huge project; leave her a love note in the morning before you leave for the office, give her a strong hug when you get home (even if it is late) and ask her how her day was.
Take your annual vacation, and make it incredible
Man does not live by work alone, even if he is trying to grow his own business. It is important for your own mental health, as well as for the family dynamic, to take vacation time. Don’t leave the planning of this to your wife alone. Be involved in creating your dream vacation. Scour the internet together. Talk about what you both want to see and do. (This can be part of your quality time, away from the business talk.) And when you finally are on holiday, unplug completely. Inform your clients that you will be away and not checking emails. The world will not fall apart. Devote your time to your family, to new explorations and discovery in a place that is not your home or office. The mental health benefits to unplugging from work and changing your environment are proven. You will return home to a more loving and emotionally-bonded spouse, and be a more refreshed and energized professional.