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Married to a workaholic

(14 Posts)
BlackShuck Tue 19-Jul-11 07:53:08

My husband is working himself into the ground and I can't stop him. He puts in a minimum of 15 hours a day, plus around 15 hours travelling a week.

I know why he does it - he's terrified he's underachieving. He knows that's why he does it too, but he's almost proud that he can "manage". We had an argument last week because he proudly stated that all he'd had to eat all day was a piece of fruit, as he was working too hard to eat. He drinks every day (even if he hasn't eaten). He doesn't sleep - he either purposefully sets his alarm to get as little sleep as possible, or tosses and turns all night.

On top of this, he's signed up to do a marathon. So he runs an hour a day too.

During our little chat he admitted that he never switches off from work and has to force himself to to focus on spending time with me and the kids. He also admitted that he had these exact same arguments with his ex wife.

I'm not daft enough to think I can change him until something breaks (he doesn't think he'll break - he sees it as a challenge to prove me wrong). I just want to know if anyone has similar experiences or advice on how to cope?

ameliagrey Tue 19-Jul-11 08:50:39

I don't have personal experience though my Dh regularly works 12 hrs a day.

Do you have kids together?

When you first married him, was he like this then or has he changed?

What kind of work does he do? is it a case of he'd be out on his ear if he didn't perform? Big question though is- is he working towards the company's expectations- or his own?

In other words, are his fears exaggerated?

I don't think, TBH, you can do anything. it's like watching a smoker or drinker slowly kill themselves- unless they want to change, they won't be nagged into it. There is plenty of help out there- personal coaching is a great way to initiate life-work balance and some companies offer executive coaching for the same reasons. There is also CBT which will teach him to challlenge his fears and overcome them.

But none of this is any good if he doesn't acknowledge the problem.

Big question for you though it do you want to be a bystander watching this self destruction- or do you want to get on with your own life and maybe ultimately get out of his?

garlicbutter Tue 19-Jul-11 11:52:25

I'm not daft enough to think I can change him until something breaks (he doesn't think he'll break - he sees it as a challenge to prove me wrong).

What does this mean? He's pushing himself to a breakdown, he's testing you to see if you'll put up with more than his ex, or he's pushing you to a breakdown? Or something else again?? confused

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 19-Jul-11 14:32:33

sad BlackShuck

You offer caring observations about his choices and he responds with the challenge to prove you wrong? I call that immature.

Do you feel that your dh respects you?

He is going to avoid you more to prove you wrong. That may become an operational understanding of why his ex left. Have you spoken to her? The exact same arguments ... did he learn nothing?

Just guessing, but he sounds self-absorbed and you are essentially invisible to him.

You can try to cope by living emotionally independent from him for your own management of frustration. It may evolve into physical independence. He sounds so obtuse to the circumstances, it would serve him right.

LadyLapsang Tue 19-Jul-11 14:35:35

He sounds a nightmare at the moment but he is an adult and ultimately responsible for himself. Don't waste your time arguing about what he eats and drinks - obviously don't allow him to be drunk in charge of the children / driving. A lot of his behaviour sounds attention seeking and troubled. Did his relationship with you start of as an affair or had his ex wife asked him to leave because he was such a nightmare to be around.

If he works 15 hours pd and then commutes / travels 3 hours pd on top then he is only in the house for 6 hours on a working day - or does he work from home in the evenings?

turquoisetumble Tue 19-Jul-11 15:09:26

People seem to accept men being a 'workaholic' - likes it's some sort of lesser crime and OK because it brings in an income. But it's the same old story.

An addict becomes an emotionally immature individual - a child. They put their needs first (the addiction). Children and loved ones are like pets they like to have around but don't want to take responsibility for (apart from feeding, clothing - nothing that really interrupts their addiction)

They cannot be reasoned with and are extremely unlikely to see the light and change unless something traumatic happens that shakes their world (is that what you mean by until something breaks?)

If he's already lost one marriage over it, and you've talked to him about it and he just dismisses your concerns - well, it's not looking good, is it.

Can you live with it? Have separate lives? You can try an ultimatum and temporary separation, but I'm not sure it would help. I am sorry, but your options are fairly limited. sad

niceguy2 Tue 19-Jul-11 15:59:11

What does your husband want??? You say he's scared of underachieving but what does he want to achieve and by when?

In short, what's his goal? At what point will he think "Phew....i've made it!" Are his goals realistic?

Also, at the risk of sounding like a psyhcologist, what's his relationship like with his parents & siblings (if any)? If he's a huge fear of failure, I wonder what's motivating that? Understanding that I think will be the key to getting him to moderate his behaviour.

Lastly just remind him that noone ever lay on their deathbed thinking "I wish I'd spent more time at the office!"

BlackShuck Tue 19-Jul-11 17:52:55

Thanks for the replies. I'm at grumbling point rather than ultimatum point - it would just be nice to see if anyone has been through the same thing.

In answer to some questions, he goes through phases of working like this. He works for himself, so a lot of this work is stuff he creates for himself. He certainly likes to be occupied and gets bored unfathomably easily. And when I say he sees it as a challenge, I mean I feel he sees it as a challenge - he hasn't said "ha ha, I will prove you wrong".

I'm totally with you on the "what's the ultimate goal" question - I don't need to be convinced! I'm certain it all comes from a fear of getting old.

In his defence we do get some time together, and he does make time for the kids (his kids not mine). He just doesn't make time for resting, eating and sleeping. Resting bores him. I can pootle along occupying myself - I'm not asking for more attention.

It's more about a strategy to cope for me, and how to stop worrying about his health. Sometimes I decide I'm not "enabling" him and take a hardline on not nagging him into going to bed and not doing his share of the chores. Then I think if I don't nag him to go to bed, he'll be up at 2am emptying the dishwasher having got up at 5 the day before. And yes, I know that's his choice, but I get a tired, broken shell of a man as my husband in return.

Plus, he (entirely unintentionally) make me feel inadequate. You can never say "I'm too tired to bother with the ironing/go to the gym" when the person you live with works twice as many hours as you and still exercises every day and finishes all his chores. I feel lazy for needing to sleep more than 6 hours, and a bit fat for being hungry 3 times a day. That's something I've got to deal with.

eslteacher Tue 19-Jul-11 18:41:20

BlackShuck - I can certainly sympathise with some of what you say, as I think my DP shares some of your DH's tendancies (works a lot, very motivated to create and achieve, loves his sport also). I find this hard to deal with partly because I'd like to spend more time with my DP and partly because, like you, he makes me feel lazy by my own comparison (not his).

We had a conversation fairly early in our relationship about all this, and decided we have to accept our differences in terms of motivation, but also take the other person's feelings into account. For me, this means I can accept DP's current busy schedule, but if he tried to add anything else without dropping another activity or project to make time for for example training for a marathon...he knows I would go mental and it would be a tipping point for me. I'm genuinely not interested in being in a relationship with someone I don't spend time with on a regular basis.

Can you not take a stand against the marathon? If he's already working 15 hours per day PLUS travel how on earth is this feasible? When do you ever see him at the moment - does he work from home? Is he around at the weekends? Even my DP doesn't do 15 hours a day + travel, I can't even imagine how you can maintain a relationship like this!

I agree that mostly you can't change people. You have to accept the type of person someone is, but even so there are limits and he should be respecting your needs as much as you respect his. Have you tried sitting him down and making it clear how much you hate this and how worried you are about it? Reminding him that the point of life is not to work yourself into the ground but to be happy and make others happy, love and be loved? Point out that you're not that happy at the moment, and surely he isn't either? Try to agree some quotoas / specific timeslots for him to spend with you and the DCs?

eslteacher Tue 19-Jul-11 18:45:46

Also meant to say that my DP genuinely needs very little sleep. As in 4 hours a night is fine for him (though that is the minimum, not the average). I see no ill effects in him after a week of 4 hour sleeps, but it seems like you think your DH needs more than that? Does nagging him to go to bed actually have a result, ie he does it? If he just ignores you anyway most of the time then I would stop trying to take responsibility for getting him to bed and making him do his chores - its too scarily similar to a parent/child relationship!

BlackShuck Tue 19-Jul-11 19:29:25

Thanks riverboat - nice to know people understand.

The way it works is this - he works away from home most of the week (the travel includes a big chunk of travel at the beginning and end of the week, plus the daily commuting from the flat he stays in to to where he works). I also used to do this, but stopped because it was doing me in, and I know it does him in too. His laptop is usually on between 7.30am and midnight during the week and probably 2 hours on a Saturday, and 3-4 hours on a Sunday.

He does his fair share of the house stuff, but sometimes I feel guilty and do it for him. He also asks me to nag him to go to bed ("come and tell me when it's 11:30pm") but rarely listens. I could probably get him to agree to time limits, but he hasn't got the willpower to stick to them.

I did ask him what made him happy and straight away he said me and the kids. I told him to stop looking for happiness elsewhere in work, but it's honestly like a compulsion. After a 20 hour day yesterday, I saw he was posting work related stuff on Twitter at 1am...hence my little flip out this morning.

It's wrong of me, but I just hope he finds this marathon so hard it puts him off doing another one. Knowing my luck, he'll be signed up to an Ironman by Christmas wink

LadyLapsang Thu 21-Jul-11 18:43:49

So how much time does he spend looking after his children if he is training for a marathon and working at the weekends - I'm presuming they live with their mother for most of the time. Do they come round and then you look after them for the majority of the weekend?

confidence Thu 21-Jul-11 22:12:07

What exactly is the problem? It sounds like he's a decent bloke and you do get time together - and presumeably have a reasonable material standard of living if he's working so hard. Is it just that you don't understand his nature or choices, or don't approve of them?

My advice: Make sure he's made a will, and then let him know you're right behind whatever he wants to do. grin

niceguy2 Thu 21-Jul-11 23:00:39

I have to agree with confidence.

From where I'm standing you've got a man who is driven, hard working, fit and motivated to succeed.

The only problem would be if he wasn't spending enough time with you or his kids but from your earlier post it would seem that it is not your primary concern.

If he's able to run marathons and run his own business then I'd say he's fit & intelligent enough to decide when things are getting too much.

What I'd suggest is perhaps once in a while booking a weekend away somewhere remote, out of range of a computer, mobile and broadband and just the two of you go. That way he's forced to slow down.

But right now enjoy the fact you've got a man which I suspect many women would give their right arm for.

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