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Those of you married to a lawyer

223 replies

Ancientruins · 12/02/2021 09:40

Does it ever get better?

He's a lovely man and he earns a good salary but I'm twenty or so years in and the work never stops. I mean never.
Not on holiday. Not during births. Not during house moves.

And although a devoted husband and father who totally gets stuck in when available, that tends to be only two half days at weekends if we are lucky. And then he is so exhausted he either forces himself to join in, falls asleep while we are watching a film, or he looks so wretched I send him to bed to catch up on sleep.

Things are much better when we are on holiday; he becomes so much happier and more relaxed although business calls still creep in here and there. And of course it takes him ten days on either side to fight through the work and then catch up again to even get to the point where he can leave the office for a few days.

It used to work well because I very much like my own company and I have a close and supportive family, but as time goes on, I am starting to wonder what's the point, why do you even need a wife, do you just expect me to sit here and wait until you are available in fifteen years when you are retired? Isn't the point to enjoy the journey along the way? When I ask him this he says "but the reason I am doing this is for you and the DC". What am I supposed to say to that?

It sounds selfish because I know he loves me and relies on me being "around" but I am getting a bit tired of being at the bottom of the priority list which appears to be: work, DC (quite rightly), dog, household necessities, life admin, wife. Except by the time he gets time to focus on me he is so tired his eyes literally glaze over when we speak. I try not to take it personally.

I'm thoroughly fed of him constantly being on his phone, or conversations, meals , evenings being interrupted by calls from clients. When we were first married it was a joke that as soon as we started a conversation , he would rush out of the door to the office, to the airport, to a client meeting. Our teens actually named him "the smoke" because that's all that's left in his trail. The joke is starting to wear a bit thin!

People assume there are monetary compensations but I am lucky enough to have my own source of income so I am not dependent on him for that.

He says he can only do his job now at this level because of all the hours and the expertise he has built up over thirty years. And I know his work is in an important field which he finds incredibly challenging, and intellectually satisfying. But it doesn't leave time for anything else, and as the years go on, there doesn't seem to be any hope that things will change before he retires, if he doesn't drop dead of a heart attack or stroke first.

I miss him Sad

OP posts:
sofato5miles · 12/02/2021 09:46

Talk to him. Say this is not what you want from a marriage. I have several friends who are senior in legal firms and yes, it is always like this. There all a type.

One woman switched to in house at 50, for the life change. One set up with a VC firrm, but still similar hours for him.

The problem is it attracts a certain type. Before you throw in the towel ask him what his priorities are in life and tell him that this is not how you want to spend yours. Seriously.

Or you accept it.

Normaigai · 12/02/2021 09:53

I'm a lawyer and I agree it's a type. It's actually not the job making him work like this - he wants to work like this. There are plenty of jobs / positions in law where this isn't required, even at partner level. I think you'd find if he changed jobs it would be the same - he's a workaholic. I am too so I recognise it (although I am not this bad!). The problem is (corporate) law encourages these types and often they're held up as models. It is a choice though.

Talk to him but this is who you married. Unless he actually wants to scale back, you need to accept this is him (and decide if you want to live like this).

Bluntness100 · 12/02/2021 09:58

I think this is very typical of the legal profession, my daughter is a trainee and she tries to maintain a balance but she’s often on line at ten pm. It’s the nature of the beast. I know many of the senior associates are working well into the wee small hours regularly. Unless you stay junior in a high street firm then I think this is really what you’re signing up for. Sorry op.

Ancientruins · 12/02/2021 10:01

Thanks Sofa I have talked to him and he agrees with me, with certain caveats, but nothing ever changes.

So yes I suppose it is as stark as having to decide whether to accept it or not. I feel very stupid as life has been so busy that I have gone along with it , believing it would get better at some point. It's only just struck me under lockdown that it won't.

OP posts:
Normaigai · 12/02/2021 10:09

Commonly working to 10pm is normal. Never finishing a conversation isn't. I know people who are like this - they thrive off the buzz of bring so needed.

Normaigai · 12/02/2021 10:09


Theoscargoesto · 12/02/2021 10:12

I’d only say, as a lawyer formerly married to a lawyer, that all you can do is keep the lines of communication open and work (both of you) at your marriage. I’m afraid mine didn’t work out-after 28 years my H left (younger woman in office cliche) and I felt I had put up and put up, as you describe. My happy ending was to be a lovely retirement with the benefits that come from a hard working and high earning life (as you say holidays and so on were times we reconnected, we actually liked each other), and I truly believed that would happen. My H was clearly unhappy but he didn’t tell me that, we lost (if we had ever had, which is a whole other story) the ability to talk about what mattered.

You may not change his work ethic, it was where my H got a lot of self-worth, but if both of us had wanted to stay together and had communicated better we might have done that. 6 years on I’m not sorry it’s worked out this way, but I still wish I hadn’t had to learn that.

ellenpartridge · 12/02/2021 10:14

I agree it's him, he's a certain type, and it's actually largely his choice to be like this. It's not the job.

I'm assuming he's at one of the big City firms. Me too, have been for years ever since I was a trainee. In my experience what you're describing is fairly common but is not actually required or inevitable. I do think there has been a culture change in the last few years where this type of behaviour is becoming less usual.

minipie · 12/02/2021 10:23

Watching as I am in the same position, although DH is a banker not a lawyer. (I used to be a city lawyer myself but stopped work because both of use doing this type of jobs with DC was near impossible).

I have said to him exactly what you say in your OP - that I am lonely, that feel at the bottom of the priority list, that our lives are constantly on hold waiting for him to be done with work.

He promises change and nothing changes.

SandSeaBeach · 12/02/2021 10:24

It’s a choice. He chooses work over family. You also have a choice. You’ve indicated that you don’t need the money. So why wait for that heart attack. I have two friends whose (previously fit and active) husbands have had heart attacks before 45. Both regularly working over 12-14 hours a day. Both very high earners. Both now frightened to go on a family bike ride. But it is a choice.

Ancientruins · 12/02/2021 10:26

Thanks for responses.

When you say its a type ; I don't think my dh, outwardly anyway, fits in to that category. He can be quite relaxed, good fun, good sense of humour, and he has lots of interests even though he never has any time to engage with them.

But when I confront him with the hours he works and ask if it is really necessary; he has what appear to be serious, reasonable and credible (as far as I know but I don't know a lot) answers as to why it is. He does have a team working for him but I have no idea whether he is good at delegating or not.

He used to work very late at night but only does that when necessary nowadays. The trouble is calls start coming in from the US around about 6.30pm so he is rarely finished before 8pm, usually 9pm. So the dc and I started eating separately because they were hungry waiting for him all the time. And that does start to chip away at the amount of time you spend together as a family.

OP posts:
MsTSwift · 12/02/2021 10:32

Above a certain level this is a choice sorry. Dh and I both worked like that in our twenties - I was worse as did international travel too. We had very high salaries but walked away cashed on our chips and left the City. Dh works hard at his regional firm. but rarely weekends and usually done by 7 I run my own business and work part time (still in law). It’s no life.

MsTSwift · 12/02/2021 10:34

The problem is law attracts those who are conscientious (swotty) and the consequences if you cock up are massive so this combination means you get sucked in to working round the clock out of obligation and fear. I used to be in the office every Friday night until midnight. Bloody sad.

pog100 · 12/02/2021 10:34

Of course be can choose not to work like this. He doesn't. You write very eloquently and directly. If he can't change his life in response to your talking to him, I think you need to change your life. It's not so much a threat to him but you have to mean it and follow through. Use your independent means to forge a life you want. You don't have that long left. (Spoken as someone much older than you)

Normaigai · 12/02/2021 10:35

You can be outwardly fun and chilled and still be a workaholic!

You are changing your position slightly though - working to 8/9 is probably something inevitable in (what I assume is) city law. Never finishing a conversation isn't. Neither is not switching off whilst your wife is giving birth!

I work those hours except I massively protect my weekends. City law is never going to be a 9-6.30 job.

AtLeastPretendToCare · 12/02/2021 10:38

If he is a partner in a large city firms and has US clients (particularly if not east coast) then it is never going to be 9-5. But the up side is he gets very well remunerated for it.

AtLeastPretendToCare · 12/02/2021 10:42

To add if the issue is seeing the then it is worth thinking about how he does that. Perhaps having breakfast with them pre school or stopping for lunch with them whilst WFH is more practical. Or take 6-7 out to have dinner and then back to work later.

Fleurchamp · 12/02/2021 10:46

It isn't just lawyers. My DH is the same.
They are workaholics. They have to be the last man standing. Despite what they say it is a choice.

As @minipie said - I also had a City career which had to give way as there just wasn't any compromise on his career. I don't regret changing my job because it has allowed me more time with the DC but I do regret not making him step up more as a dad. I have enabled him to behave this way.

However, our Saturday evenings are sacred. They always have been - he knows I will not tolerate him working on a Saturday afternoon/ evening and he does comply. We talk then, no TV, etc. Keeps us connected at least.

I agree it is lonely. Especially at the moment when he is working away upstairs but not here, if that makes sense, and he is now working until 11pm at night because he can.

Ancientruins · 12/02/2021 10:48

Minipie you've hit the nail on the head - that's exactly it - as though our lives are permanently on hold. Just recently that feeling has progressed to wondering whether he cares about the quality of my life at all. We are all responsible for our own happiness but when you are married , you naturally assume it's possible to achieve some degree of compromise and balance.

I begin to see what you are all saying about it being a choice. I don't know why I didn't think this through properly before because right from the start it was obvious that work was going to be all consuming in his life whether he was married or not.

Theoscargoesto I really feel for you. That must have felt like such a kick in the teeth after twenty-eight years. I am very glad you are in a better place now. Your post is very sobering because it's where my dh gets a lot of his self-worth too.

I'm glad to hear there has been a culture change at some law firms now as although I recognise our privilege, I wouldn't wish this half-life on anyone. Having said that, I still love him and there's a nag at the back of my mind that this might all feel better after lockdown. But then I kind of know it won't because he will then be back to travelling.

OP posts:
Palavah · 12/02/2021 10:49

Have you asked him when it will be enough? He says he's doing ot for the kids but if he's been a city lawyer for 30 years and you have independent wealth then you must be close to 'enough'?

I think you need a bit of a 'come to jesus' chat. What's your reality and how do you want it to be. What's his?

I suspect he's got to the point where he doesn't know how to do anything else and is scared it will come crashing down.

Fleurchamp · 12/02/2021 10:52

I also keep thinking things will be better post lockdown. I think my DH thinks because he is physically in the house he is "here" and so it is ok for him to work late/ work all weekend. Usually if he is working in the office he will be home by 8pm, might take a call or check email but would actually spend time with me in the living room but now he just stays in his study all evening.

He made more effort to spend time with us when working out of the house but now it is snatches of time here and there when he feels like it.

timeisnotaline · 12/02/2021 10:57

I don’t buy the doing it for you and the kids. I’ve never accepted that from my dh - it is always things I’m sure hed be doing anyway. ‘Oh really, you’d be doing 9-5 if we didn’t exist?’ Fat bloody chance.
If you are truly unhappy, I would insist on a sabbatical. 3 months, all in one lot, to take within the next say 2 years. He can afford it, others have done it, it’s not a foreign concept. You’ve given and given, so say I need to remember if we properly like each other and what kind of dad you are before I decide to stick it out until retirement with you. Make it clear this statement in no way means you accept being last until retirement.

VickyBHF · 12/02/2021 11:04

Married to a city banker here (not a lawyer, but similar field/pay scale I assume). At the top level, where I presume your DP is at, it IS a choice. The RIDICULOUSLY long hours can all be over once you reach partner / MD level if you are fair at delegating and your team respect you and want to work hard for you. Otherwise, you’re right: what’s the point?

Ancientruins · 12/02/2021 11:09

Fleurchamp Flowers the loneliness is the worst bit! It's a good strategy about ring-fencing Saturday night's for family but being honest, I am not sure at this stage that's going to be enough. I feel awful writing that down in black and white though.

Atleastpretendtocare yes, during lockdown, he does eat with us a few nights a week and then gets back to it. We occasionally have a rushed lunch together when teens are out of the house (not often atm).

You are changing your position slightly though - working to 8/9 is probably something inevitable in (what I assume is) city law. Never finishing a conversation isn't. Neither is not switching off whilst your wife is giving birth

Yes, I must admit saying "he never stops" is hyperbolic. He did work all hours when younger. And he did take work calls during long labours! Now he is older, it's more accurate to say that when he does stop he is totally wrung out so doesn't have the energy to do much else. And he seems stressed and disengaged. Not just to me either. Numerous doctors have told him that he needs a three week holiday with no work calls at all. He says it would be too much work to get to the position where he could take that amount of time off. And again, as MsTSwift says, the consequences of a potential cock up are huge.

Pog100 absolutely and that's why I am posting. I already have a major project planned for after lockdown and when last teen leaves home. I suppose, if dh doesn't change, the choice is whether I want him there "in the background" or whether I should plan for a fresh start on my own.

Thinking this through, being entirely honest, I don't want to leave right now but will I want to in another five years or so? I think that's quite likely sadly.

Thanks again for everyone's post. They are certainly food for thought.

OP posts:
DE8ORAH · 12/02/2021 11:20

Have name changed for this.

Everyone telling you it’s a type and his choice are correct. You say “ no he’s not “ and then go on to give examples of how he is EXACTLY like that type.

He will never change until he is too old or too ill to work. I’ve been to funerals of men like this and their colleagues all say

“ What a great guy he was - he was working right to the end, even in hospital between his chemotherapy sessions / before his heart bypass”.

That’s what these men live for . Yes of course he will SAY he lives for you and the kids. But look at his actions not his words.

I used to be married to one of them. It was always going to be better in 6- 12 months when X or Y happened. Then it was another and another excuse. All of these excuses were entirely plausible. Of course they were - that’s their job, to be plausible!

He worked all the time. Weekends, holidays. Nothing stopped him. He worked on our wedding day - the date was changed twice to accommodate important cases.

He spent most of my labours outside on the phone.

The kids never saw him.

We didn’t need the money and he wasn’t even super well paid, considering how much he earned for his firm. But he would never cut down.

He was going to go to 4 days a week at 50 and 3 days at 55, then work 3 days a week until he was 65.

None of that happened. He’s in his 60s now and still billing 2,500 hours per year. Plus of course all his non billable hours.

For those of you who are not good at mental maths - that’s 48 hours a week, every single week of the year. And he has other management work on top, so he probably works 60 hours a week.

He has many health problems and I’m be surprised if he lives into his 70s. He won’t stop until he has a stroke or a heart attack - very likely with his medical history.

I divorced him years ago. He hardly ever had the kids and his main concern on divorce was how he was going to manage the housework etc in his own home. He hates staff because their take time to manage.

He can only relate to the kids now that they are older and can have intelligent conversations about his work. He had no interest in them as children until they were 13-14.

This is your life OP. You cannot change your husband and he doesn't want to change himself.

So stay and make a life for yourself and your children without him. Buy in help.

Or go.

Don’t do what I did, which was spend the best years of my life hoping he would change. And struggling to do everything myself.

In the end it was the constant lies and broken promises that finished me off. The book of proverbs says “ Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. In the end I wasn’t broken hearted, I was just sick fed up waiting.

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