Do Workaholics Make Good Husbands?

Nancy B. Alston

Workaholic husbands often find to their dismay that they end up without a family. Almost 50% of divorces are initiated by women whose husbands are too busy at work and find no time for wife and children. Wives are becoming more assertive in expressing their needs and expectations. Husbands cannot just be providers. Many women have become economically independent and therefore less dependent on husbands to bring home the bacon. What women of today are looking for are partners who will treat them as equals, share in the domestic responsibilities, assist in nurturing and disciplining children, and working towards emotional intimacy in marriage.

Some reasons why men turn into workaholics:

• Traditional upbringing: From childhood, men are brought up with the belief that they are merely providers and protectors. They are to be hard working, logical, brave and assertive. Girls learn to be obedient, submissive, efficient in housework and in the nurture and care of children. They must also pander to the needs of men.

• Over ambition: Some men are obsessive about their work. Their sense of self worth comes from their reputation at work, excellence in their profession, financial integrity and recognition by colleagues and society at large.

• Wife’s economic independence: Men don’t mind successful wives as long as they are less successful than them. But if a wife is better placed in her job, her husband may subconsciously resent her. Competition takes over. His ego drives him to work overtime until he is on par with or overtakes her.

• A boring marriage: The man prefers to spend more time at his job than go home to a nagging complaining wife.

• An exhausted wife: Children and housework have sapped all her energy. She goes about like a zombie, performing the chores she has to finish and then collapses into bed with fatigue. The husband feels neglected and prefers to stay longer at work or socialize with friends.

• Infidelity: The man may have fallen out of love with his wife. He uses work as a cover for his dalliance.

• Extended family: In-laws living at home may interfere and create tension between husband and wife. The man stays away for as long as he can, to avoid friction.

• A spendthrift wife who is happy spending her husband’s money and does not care if her husband is at home or not, as long as he gives her money to splurge.

Causes of Disconnect:

No “together” time:

– A man who spends long hours at work and reaches home late in the evening, is too tired or irritable to make conversation with his wife or listen to her problems. He has a hasty dinner, then spends a few minutes watching the news on TV and falls into bed exhausted.

– A man who is in love with his work is usually a megalomaniac. He may be socially, economically or politically successful and expect his wife to be his handmaiden. Marriage to such a man can be hell. Many true life examples come to mind.

Leo Tolstoy a famous novelist and a staunch Christian had compassion for his serfs and set them free, but treated his wife and family shabbily. After he died Sonya wrote, “There was little genuine warmth about him… No one will ever know that he never gave his wife rest, and never in all these thirty two years, gave his child a drink of water or spent five minutes by his bedside, to give me a chance to rest a little from all my labors.”

Albert Einstein the Nobel Prize winning physicist was a tyrant who expected total compliance from his wife. “You will stop talking to me if I request it.” “You will not expect any intimacy.”

Jane Walsh Carlyle a writer was married to Thomas Carlyle an author and essayist. She had to put her own career on hold to provide him with a quiet domestic atmosphere and vigilantly protect him from noise and unwanted visitors. She sacrificed her own talent to promote the ambition of this “man of genius.” He treated her like a domestic servant and was indifferent to her needs.

– Famous men like artists, musicians or film stars who are away from home for long periods of time, are often negligent of their wives. Being surrounded by fawning fans, they are prone to multiple relationships.

Effect on wives:

1. Loneliness: Women find no meaningful relationship within the home nor do they have the time to cultivate friends outside. They are isolated in a cocoon of loneliness. Self – esteem plummets. They feel insecure, go into depression and in some cases, even commit suicide.

2. Career women have to cope with dual responsibilities of running the home and performing well at their jobs. When no support is forthcoming from their husbands, they may look elsewhere for sympathy. Extramarital affairs are known to happen. Divorce is the easy way out.

3. Career women are usually under a lot of stress especially when they have no support or encouragement from spouses. Stress-related diseases like hypertension, heart disease, depression or psychosomatic illness may occur.

4. Such a woman may be too strict with her children or too indulgent. Delinquency, drug or alcohol addiction, neglect of studies and unbridled social networking may follow.

How to turn a workaholic into a caring husband:

• Good Communication: A workaholic may be totally unaware of his wife’s simmering discontent. She may appear to be happy performing her domestic chores while harboring resentment against the man who treats her like a robot, expecting her to keep his house in order and warm his bed at night. The woman must take the initiative to inform him of her needs and expectations, but she must also learn the art of communicating. No nagging, pleading or scolding. No rushing at him with a list of complaints as soon as he enters the door after a hard day’s work. She must communicate her needs in a loving manner when he is in a receptive mood, and preferably when they are alone together.

Being confrontational could be counterproductive. Marriage is to be lived out daily. It requires responsible involvement of both partners. Each must contribute time and love to keep it going. Household responsibilities are not demeaning. They are opportunities for loving service. While browsing at a book shop, the title of a book struck me. It said, “I take out the garbage because I love you.” The value of interdependence in daily tasks, in nurturing each other and in disciplining children, cannot be stressed enough. Decisions on important issues should be a joint effort.

“Give your partner the best you have and God will give you in return, the best marriage you can long for,” says J.A. Petersen.

• Striking a healthy balance between work and home: One must learn to prioritize. Professional activity may have to be pruned down in deference to a happy marriage. This applies to working women as well. Successful women should not give their husbands an inferiority complex. An atmosphere of openness and determination to resolve conflict will help solve problems.

• Appreciation of the partner: Men need to demonstrate their affection through word and deed. A middle aged man with three children said that he made it a point to find something new every day to compliment his wife. I’m sure that his wife appreciated his thoughtfulness and loved him all the more.

• The gift of time: A man who spends time with his wife confirms that she is valuable to him. Some men stay on in the office to escape household chores or meet children’s demands or avoid spending time with their wives.

Some work overtime to bring in more money for a luxurious life style and a relaxed retirement. But in the process, may lose the love of their wives and families and may not live long enough to enjoy a peaceful retirement. It is not worth their while to buy their way out of family time.

• If work is just an excuse to keep away from an unexciting marriage, then it is time to dig deep and discover the cause of the problem. What makes the wife happy or unhappy, excited or bored? The man should be proactive in his approach. He must express genuine interest in her likes and dislikes and show her that he cares. He must focus on what is best for both of them as a couple. Taking her out on a date or on a holiday and finding ways of recreational companionship would make the marriage more exciting.

• Is physical intimacy lacking? There should be open discussions about it. Are the reasons physical, psychological or emotional? Sex is an integral and inseparable part of married life. Michael Warner says, “Couples should schedule a time for physical intimacy.” A family therapist counseled, “Teach your children to respect the locked door.” If your problems cannot be solved through discussion and negotiation, outside help must be sought from doctors, counselors or psychotherapists. If your love life is in a rut, it will create a permanent barrier to your relationships.

Workaholics should remember that too much work and too many hours spent away from home will kill intimacy. So priorities should be organized and non-essential jobs dropped in favor of home and family. The word “Too busy” is unacceptable to the modern woman. Many marriages fail because successful men turn out to be ‘renegade husbands.’ Women need husbands to validate their lives as equal partners and make them feel valued, loved and cherished.

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