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Can a workaholic change and work less? Marriage on the rocks

(28 Posts)
namechangeforever Fri 19-Oct-12 13:55:53

I have realised I am married to a workaholic. He cannot stop working and it is as real addiction as any other like alcohol or drugs. He is addicted to adrenaline. I told my DH that I wanted to separate this weekend if he won't change. I am wondering if anyone has ever been married to a workaholic and managed to get them to reduce their hours? What did you have to do and what does it take to make it work again?

I have bought him a book about workaholics and he has promised to read it. He has promised last night that he will start to change, though gradually as he is so over-committed at work.

But we've had many conversations in the past where he's promised to come home early or invest more time in the relationship and then hasn't. I guess the difference is this time I've said I will leave and he knows I mean it 100%.

What are our chances? I've realised now I'm deeply unhappy in this relationship as it stands and I want rapid change, yet I can see that that is not realistic. Can I have any hope?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 19-Oct-12 14:05:09

I've never been married to one but I know quite a few. I don't think they are addicted to adrenaline, quite honestly. Some are genuinely trying to get up the greasy pole, putting in the extra hours while they're young and able to burn the candle at both ends. Some are addicted to self-importance and enjoy being the 'big fish'. A suprisingly large number would simply rather be anywhere than home I've concluded. If they're not at work, they're on a golf-course somewhere or driving motorbikes across France. I know one man that volunteered to work in a different country 5 days a week and join the DW and 3DCs at weekends only. He rationalises it that he's providing the very best income for his family but I also know that he and his DW have a very stormy relationship and he enjoys the time away. Which is the bigger motivation I wonder?

No idea how you get someone like that to turn into a homebody....

BabblingWreckSimianBrain Fri 19-Oct-12 14:22:29

This is a tough one. There are worse flaws a person can have than being workaholic but I believe it can be as damaging to a relationshp as many other addictions are.
He has to want to change. He'll tell you he works so hard for you, for the family. I think they believe it.
The only thing that caused my exH to change was our divorce. It took the loss of the marriage to help him realise how bad things were.

NiniLegsInTheAir Fri 19-Oct-12 14:35:28

My sympathies, I'm married to a workaholic. It's a very difficult situation to be in - especially when both DH and others tell you that you should be 'grateful' he works so hard as a lazy partner is so much worse. In my case, my 'D'H uses work for the following reasons:
- To boost his own personal feeling of self-worth
- To gain respect and kudos from others
- To avoid doing childcare/house stuff which is apparently all my responsibility although I also work full-time
- To be 'the breadwinner' that everyone in my little family (including me) looks up to

My 'D'H cocked up his paternity leave (deliberately IMO) so he ended up taking 1 week off rather than the 2 he was entitled to, he also refused to come to my 12 week scan due to work responsibilities, refused to help with childcare arrangements when I had one week of study away last year, and refused to have anything to do with hospital apps etc when I was diagnosed with DVT last summer. He regularly refuses to attend social events etc because of work and his overtime and he doesn't do a strenuous or high-powered job.

I don't know how you get a workaholic to change, I havn't had any luck. But we havn't quite reached the point where I'm going to throw him out, although we're not far off. Wish you the best of luck, I hope he sees what he could be losing smile

daffydowndilly Fri 19-Oct-12 15:06:58

I met a lovely lady who is married to a workaholic, and has managed to get him to change, but basically he had to go to a treatment centre for a period of time and get intensive therapy, just like any other addiction and then work a recovery programme. But she had to put down a boundary and tell him it was change or he was out.

RightsaidFreud Fri 19-Oct-12 15:17:18

I've seen this play out in my parents marriage. My mother has always been a workaholic. Always. My dad knew this before he married her, members of her family even sat him down before they got married to make sure he knew what he was letting himself in for. Holidays have been ruined, and it has deeply affected my parents marriage. They are still together after 28 years of marriage, but every so often, it flares up, my dad gets very angry and upset that once again mom has put work first. My mother always says she will change, and she never has, and i doubt she ever will. She didn't change when she had me and my sister, shes not changed in 28 years, so why would she change now? My dad has had to comparmise a lot in his life. Growing up, I don't suppose it was something I really noticed, it was all i knew. As an adult, its horrible to see. Be very careful, you don't want to end up X years down line regretting how you've spent your life, always coming second.

fiventhree Fri 19-Oct-12 16:01:33

Mine was, before I even met him he developed a long term condition due to over work.

I never managed to get him to agree to change until I was already at the solicitors, and then he has pretty much, and we also went to Relate. He isnt 100% different in that regard but very very much better.

He has stopped working at weekends and manages to stop by 630 most evenings.

crescentmoon Fri 19-Oct-12 16:54:43

i had abit of a wobble this summer because i had always thought DHs career trajectory was inevitable, that he had to put in the long hours, that we had to be prepared to move to wherever he next needed to be, that he had to read and study and use time at home to further his work blah blah

then i met a couple of people both married to men in the same line of work DH is in. and their husbands consciously decided to quit the rat race and just take jobs as they came and be at home more to help with the children. i was really gobsmacked and my certainties slipped. DH and i had lots of 'conversations' about how these two couples decided to run their lives. as a result although DH didnt change his work habits he made more of a conscious effort to try and make up for it more at home. what i took from learning about those two men was that another lifestyle was possible and whilst it would take a 360 change to achieve it i want to make it our goal eventually!

7to25 Fri 19-Oct-12 17:32:48

I am married to a workaholic by anyone's standards.
he is very easily bored and sees work as a means of constant stimulation, travel and a way to meet "interesting" people.
He also loves his job.
I am more than pleased to leave the interesting people to him!
If you are self-contained and self-soothing and independent then it can work for you.
I don't think you can change a workaholic but I put "dealbreakers" into his work calendar and he respects this.
I would never expect him to go to a medical appointment or obstetric scan with me, he would be itching and twitching around and I can do it perfectly well myself.
He won't change, you have to decide if you can put up with it.

panicnotanymore Fri 19-Oct-12 22:03:51

I don't think you can change people, and I wouldn't be happy if someone decided I had a character flaw and started trying to change me. I think 7to25 has a good approach.

JessePinkman Fri 19-Oct-12 22:39:26

Yep I'm with 7 too.

If you meet a workaholic why expect them to change?

Enjoy it for what it's worth and enjoy your own company. Make things as nice for the dc as you can, but you would do that anyway.

EngTech Fri 19-Oct-12 22:44:21

From a male perspective

Been there, done that etc

What cured me?

Chat with doctor along the lines of "What part of death through overwork / stress do we not understand"

I heeded the shot across the bow

OH got her DH back and I do my contracted hours and no free overtime

namechangeforever Mon 22-Oct-12 18:44:23

EngTech did you end up in hospital? How did you get in front of a doctor?

DH never, ever, ever goes to the doctor for anything. Has even been known to buy in antibiotics from abroad and self-treat as he 'doesn't have the time to go'. He's never had a day off in the 10 years I've known him.

Any ideas how I could get him in front of a doctor?

Appreciate the idea of 'not changing' someone 7to25 panicnotanymore and jesse but would you walk away from an alcoholic? And not try to change them? Not try to get them into a recovery programme?

I don't think you quite understand what true workaholism is, I have every confidence DH will die due to overwork in the next 10 years, perhaps less, due to a heart attack.

cogito those 'workaholic' friends, are not true workaholics, otherwise they would not be seeing 'friends' or 'playing golf'. True workaholics only work. They don't have any friends, they don't play sport, they don't have any outside interests. All they do is work. Though it sounds like the end result is the same: avoiding intimacy. No wonder the wife gets angry, but that just pushes the husband away even more. And so the cycle continues...

Tryharder Mon 22-Oct-12 18:50:56

I came on the thread to say that you were being unreasonable, that you should appreciate that your DH wants to earn money, get on and that you invariably enjoy the trappings of a high earner and yet bemoan that effort that it takes to be one.

But reading your last post in particularly.... you are probably not being unreasonable at all! When you say "workaholic", what kind of hours do you mean?

Wonderifitsme Mon 22-Oct-12 20:04:25

Does he run his own business by any chance?

I am married to someone who used to be similar. A lot of his identity and self-worth was wrapped up in his business.

That did actually change when the dcs came along. We kind of agreed it beforehand, having both had very difficult childhoods. But it was, and is, not easy for him.

Avoiding intimacy, yes. Risking health, also yes. Feeling torn between family and work - double yes.

I doubt you can change him, but you do have some voice in the relationship I would hope. It sounds like you've laid down your cards. I would say: the ball is in his court, but you need ( well at lest my dh needs) really specific discussions on what you are prepared to live with - whether that's sundays at home; one full weekend off; going away with x frequency, etc. Then it's less about changing his personality and more about the boundaries in your relationship.

If he doesn't stick to it - deal breaker. Plus of course you have to want it to work, to be prepared to give it one last go. After that, it's up to him. Good luck.

namechangeforever Mon 22-Oct-12 21:40:36

Thanks wonder. Useful post.

Yes he runs his own business, within a very large business. He has his own P&L and takes huge risks with money every day, hence the addiction to adrenaline, which is a subset of the overall addiction.

And yes, so true, yes yes yes, ALL of this identity and self-worth is wrapped up in his performance at work.

We have 2 DC in the 5 years but it hasn't changed him. If anything he's got worse. He feels even more pressure to provide for us I think.

Triple yes to your three: Avoiding intimacy, yes. Risking health, also yes. Feeling torn between family and work - double yes

At the moment I've said I'm out of energy on the 'asking front'. It's up to him now to prove to me that it's worth me staying. He's said it will get better but I've heard that repeatedly in the last 10 years.

And looking at the time it's 9:40pm and he's still not home, so I don't see how that's an improvement at all yet as he would need to be home by now for it to qualify (usually he comes in at 10:30pm, leaves at 7am, sleeps about 5.5 hours per night, every day every day every day).

Are you saying I need to lay down specifics and say Wednesday 8pm, Friday 8pm. No questions, that's final.

Would it work I wonder? Guess it's worth a try.

Scarynuff Mon 22-Oct-12 21:42:46

Can a workaholic change and work less?

Only if they want to.

And then they would need professional support. Workaholics suffer stress when not working, so they need strategies to deal with that. CBT can help.

But, obviously, they have to really want to stop.

If you are not happy in your current situation OP, you will not solve it by trying to change him. All you can do is decide whether or not you are willing to continue to live like this until he drives himself into a inevitable early grave. Sorry sad

He has promised last night that he will start to change, though gradually as he is so over-committed at work

I am sure you see the irony in this statement. It's clear that he has no intention of changing.

HappyHalloweenMotherFucker Mon 22-Oct-12 21:43:47

In answer to your question... only if he wants to

Like with any other addiction, maybe they have to reach rock bottom first.

Wonderifitsme Tue 23-Oct-12 00:15:13

Sorry, went offline for a bit.

I think IMHO you have to first decide what you are prepared to live with (in specific terms I.e. 2 evenings a week home before 8pm, 1 weekend in 2 at home, etc). Think about whether that's realistic for him/ he is likely to manage it and whether you have the resources to cope the rest of the time. If you don't...and you do need to be pretty independent to make it work....then maybe it is the end of the road.

Then agree it with him. I'd say for my DH, he did need a voice in it, or just felt resentful. It felt weirdly like a work negotiation....maybe that's why it worked....

Then he has to commit to it and stick to it. You, for your part, do have to show some flexibility if there is a total disaster I.e. if the roof falls in on the office but it's his 'home by 8 or divorce' night.

Anyway, that's how things worked out here. I wouldn't say things are perfect but they are much better. I didn't want to leave the bastard, he's a good man and i love him. Just spends too much bloody time at the office. Hope it's the same for you. Good luck.

Abitwobblynow Tue 23-Oct-12 13:51:43

I went to Relate and the person spotted him as a workaholic straight away.

She said that people who can't do intimacy unconsciously choose jobs/careers/shifts that keep them away. They live behind a wall.

so they have the wife/kids/family but don't have to do the real stuff of relating to them.

namechangeforever Tue 23-Oct-12 14:02:03

Thanks wonder. I will try that approach too, try combining them. It seems to be what's happening anyway to some extent.

Abitwobblynow yes you are absolutely right. He avoids his family like the plague, the one he was born into. Visits then once a year for 2 days and then gets straight back home to work again and it's always over Xmas so it won't interfere with his 'busy schedule'.

He has slowly de-prioritised his new family (me and the 2DC) over the last 10 years, to the point that we now get very little of him too.

Did Relate help? I have wondered about couples counselling but it would very very hard for me to get him to go (pride, denial) and also, he'd no doubt say he's too busy to go.

How did you succeed? And did it help your marriage?

BessieMcBean Tue 23-Oct-12 14:15:37

She said that people who can't do intimacy unconsciously choose jobs/careers/shifts that keep them away

Wow, this ticks so many boxes with my DH, though he was not as extreme as yours *Namechange".

Though my DCs are grown up now, am pleased to say they don't seem too affected by DH not being around half the time. They are fine. And DS seems determined not to be obsessed with reaching the top careerwise and always has lots of social life.

lowercase Tue 23-Oct-12 14:27:33

Have you had a look at workaholics anonymous?

Doing a 12 step programme would cause a complete change, but only if he wants to...

My heart goes out to you OP.

Abitwobblynow Tue 23-Oct-12 14:30:52

Sorry, no success, he ended up cheating (all part of the same thing).

The only thing you can do, is focus on yourself, your development of friends and career, starting to squirrel money and see what happens.

You see, in order for him to change would require three things: him admitting he does this. Him being prepared to look inside and the emotions that he doesn't want to look at. You being important enough not to lose.

My H wasn't prepared to do any of those things, so good luck.

mouldyironingboard Tue 23-Oct-12 14:52:18

I think relate counselling would help you to decide how to move forward so it may be worth trying even if you end up going on your own.

Years ago, a friend of mine was married to a workaholic and she ended up getting divorced as she became extremely unhappy. Her ex died fairly young as he ignored his doctor's warnings after developing high blood pressure etc.

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