Odd Hours At odds with your spouse over the hours you work? Let Dr. K show you how to overcome the grind for a little more personal time. BY DR. KAREN SHERMAN
Kaia Lai (www.kaialai.com)
Don't let your job's long hours put a strain on your marriage
My irregular work hours are really starting to tick off my husband. I can't quit, so what can I do?
Back in the ol' days, the wife stayed home while the husband worked 9 to 5. Now, those days are now just a memory. Today's reality is more than likely that both partners are working and that the hours are far from the traditional 9 to 5. It’s also not unusual that one partner—and it could easily be either the husband or wife—may be working unusual hours. Unfortunately, what has also changed about our society is that you don’t have the choices you had in years past—you have a job and you keep it for the sake of finances.
One of the key points I always make to my couples is the importance of making your relationship a priority. After all, if you keep putting other things first, eventually just like a plant that hasn’t been attended to with proper water and sunlight, there’s no relationship to come back to. Certainly a couple who has these unusual work hours is going to be challenged to make sure their relationship takes precedence.
Before any problem can be dealt with from a practical point of view, the emotionality of the issue must be addressed because when people are upset emotionally, they aren’t able to think clearly. So, it’s important the person who has the unusual hours validate the unhappiness of their partner.
Validation doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it does mean that you have to let your partner know you understand his/her point of view. To be concrete, you might want to say something like this, "I really understand that my working these kinds of hours takes away from our time together and puts a lot of pressure on our relationship."
Even with strange schedules, there are still many things that can be done to make your relationship a priority and let your partner know they matter to you. Here are some tips I offer couples to get you started:
Find 15-20 minutes each week that you share in common and make that time solely for the two of you to have as down time. No business is to be discussed at this time. Use it to do things like give each other foot massages, dance together, look at old pictures and reminisce.
Send each other e-mails or leave voice mails to let your partner know you’re thinking about them.
Leave a surprise note or card—unexpected items have great value.
Remember to notice your partner and compliment him or her.
When your partner has done something, even a mundane task, make sure to be appreciative.
When you come home, make sure to look for your partner and spend a few minutes together before looking through the mail or listening to messages.
When you have a meal together, turn off the TV and don’t answer the phone.
Yes, it’s hard when your time together is strained. But making the most out of your time will help you beat the odds. After all, quality does beat quantity!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.