Cindy’s husband, Gene, is climbing the corporate ladder. He puts in long days at his office and brings work home to finish up at night and on the weekends. Cindy appreciates Gene’s devotion to his job. But, all the time he dedicates to work makes her feel like she’s less important than his clients and the office politics. Her initial requests to spend more time together resulted in Gene getting defensive or putting her off with promises that things will change soon. In Cindy’s mind, however, something has to give.
What to Say:
Cindy: I’ve been thinking about your work. While I appreciate how hard you work to support us, I’m worried about the toll your long hours are taking on us.
Gene: I know. My boss is really demanding and I just don’t know how to cut back without risking my job security. With last year’s layoffs, we have ten people in my department doing the work of twenty folks.
Cindy: It sounds like you are between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to put your career in jeopardy, but I fear that we are losing touch with each other. Even when you are at home, you seem restless and distracted.
Gene: What am I supposed to do? I can’t afford to lose my job.
Cindy: I don’t want to blame you. It’s just that I never pictured our marriage being filled with work, work, and more work. I’ve been thinking about ways to get our home life back in balance.
Gene: I hate working so much, too. But, I don’t know how to make it better. We’re in a really busy season right now.
Cindy: Let’s put aside both of our task lists, turn off the TV, and have nice dinner tonight. Then, let’s agree to some specific limits on your work hours. I’d like you to cut back enough to feel like we’re getting a little more time together. If that doesn’t work, then let’s consider updating your resume and contemplate getting another job. I love you more than the money you make, and I’m not willing to lose you over this job.
Why This Works:
Using this approach, Cindy simultaneously builds up Gene and challenges the status quo in their marriage. She attacks the problem without attacking her husband. She reinforces their bond, but puts Gene on notice that the current situation is harming their relationship. By emphasizing her love, Cindy helps Gene understand her needs without him getting too defensive. In that light, she can offer options to improve their situation that prevent escalating into a major argument.
What Doesn’t Work:
It would be counterproductive for Cindy to yell at Gene or silently stew about the problem in her mind. When couples feel disconnected, the solution requires active communication to address the core issue. Expressing anger, outwardly or internally, can flood the other person with emotion that causes him or her to shut down or fight back.
Try This Activity:
When your spouse complains about your lack of time, it is usually a signal that his or her “love tank” is on empty. This is especially true if their love language happens to be spending quality time together. To help refill your partner’s love tank, take these steps:
- Go to www.5lovelanguages.com and take the free love language quiz.
- Next, work with your partner to make a list of 10 activities that would make him or her feel loved.
- Put those ideas on your calendar and follow through on your good intentions.
- Ask your partner to rate these two things on a scale from 0-10:
- How much they think your job steals family time.
- How close their love tank is to having the warning light come on.