Work Infidelity: Are You Married To Your Job?

Work Infidelity Married To Job

This problem causes projects to go everywhere the worker goes, regardless of what family or friends say: in briefcases or luggage, under car seats, in glove compartments, in car trunks, beneath spare tires, in dirty laundry bags, stuffed inside pants or a skirt, and, in at least one case, hidden in a secret compartment of another person’s suitcase, unbeknown to that person.

Once people start bootlegging their work compulsions, you might as well admit it: They’re desperate; they must get their fix at all costs, even if it means being deceitful and dishonest, even if it hurts the ones they love the most. Elizabeth confessed: “I remember my ex-husband saying to me, ‘I feel so lonely. You’re here in this house, and I feel so lonely.’ At the same time, he was saying that I felt lonely, too. Work was what was filling me up. He wanted me to fill him up, and I couldn’t.”

If your partner is like most people suffering from this, she caves into your demands by concealing work in an effort to please you and avoid criticisms, much like people with substance use disorders hide beer bottles. They might hide memos or files in a suitcase, pretend to rest while you’re off at the grocery store, or feign going to the gym and working out at the end of the day in order to sneak in an extra hour or two of work.

Kate’s work projects became her weekend lover. She lied to her family so she could rendezvous with work at the office: “I’d tell my family I was going shopping on a Saturday, and I’d end up in my office working. Or I’d tell them I was going to my girlfriend’s house. After calling my girlfriend’s and not finding me, they’d call the office and say, ‘I thought you were going to Dottie’s.’ I felt like I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.”

In his book Working, Studs Terkel described how the broadcast executive Ward Quaal concealed his working from his family: “Although I don’t go to the office on Saturday or Sunday, I do have mail brought out to my home for the weekend. I dictate on Saturday and Sunday. When I do this on holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving, I have to sneak a little bit, so the family doesn’t know what I’m doing.”

Related: 7 Somewhat Painful Facts About Shared Work

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Have you put life on hold because of a mate who suffers? If so, you could be enabling the very behavior you wish to erase from your life. Many partners and spouses build their lives around work because they want to feel connected and supportive. That’s natural, right?

But molding your life around this malady only leads to more hurt, disappointment, and enabling. When you’re longing to spend time with your partner, the key is to stop postponing your life. If you plan a trip to the zoo with the kids and your spouse cancels (for the umpteenth time) because of last-minute job demands, go without her.

When your main squeeze promises to be home in time for dinner and never shows, consider eating on time without him and, instead of putting dinner on the table at midnight, let him fix his own meal. Not out of anger but out of self-care.

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Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D

Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is a journalist, author, psychotherapist, and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has authored 42 books including his latest, #Chill: Turn Off Your Job And Turn On Your Life (William Morrow, 2019) and Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians who Treat Them (New York University Press, 2014), and Daily Writing Resilience (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed mental health clinician. He maintains a private clinical practice in Asheville, NC, and writes for Forbes, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. You can reach him at bryanrobinsononline.com.View Author posts