Work a Lot, Lose a Lot

13 Aug

Letterbalm Workaholic GuyDear LetterBalm: My husband and I have been married 13 years, and he’s turned into a workaholic. He’s completely immersed in his work to the detriment of our marriage, his children and our life as a family. He works seven days a week, never shuts off his work cell, often goes into the office after dinner and works through the weekend. He loves his job, and he’s good at it, but we can’t take much more. He doesn’t pitch in around the house or spend time with the kids. Planning a family outing is impossible. I’m overwhelmed because everything falls on me, and I work part-time. I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together. He even takes calls during holiday dinners and family celebrations. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he doesn’t understand. I’m ready to leave him. How can I slow him down?

–Workaholic Widow

For a good explanation of your husband’s behavior, look to his early life. Was his father, mother or the person who raised him a workaholic? Is your husband motivated to be better and more successful? Maybe a family intervention is in order. Your spouse comes home for dinner, right? Plan ahead with your kids. Ordinarily, Ms. L.B. discourages marital discussions in the presence of children, but ask them how they feel about dad’s current role as part-time father. They’ll have opinions, especially if dad has consistently ignored them or made excuses for work. Shut down all distractions – computers, landlines, cellphones, everything, and sit him down at an empty table (no food distractions, dinner will come later). You speak first, something like this:

Arnold, the kids and I are staging an intervention because things can’t go on. Listen carefully. You’re an addict, and we all know it. You’re addicted to your job so much that you are no longer a functioning husband and father, just like your dad. You don’t participate in any of the kids’ activities, we haven’t done anything together as a family for months, and I can’t remember when you and I had an evening out, just us. Being a workaholic is like being on drugs – it affects your physical and emotional health. It’s serious. We’re making an appointment with Dr. Smith for a full physical evaluation, and we’re going to sit down with a behavioral counselor to pinpoint the reasons why you feel the need to work so much. The therapist can help us make a plan to honor your obligations at work, yet allow for time and energy for your family. Darling, if you don’t agree to this, I can’t guarantee that our family will stick together. We’re all sad and angry. We love you, and we want you back.

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