There are plenty of obvious — and not so obvious — signs your job is ruining your marriage.
If you’re getting the sense that’s the case, you’ll want to do everything you can to turn things around before it’s too late.
“By recognising the early symptoms and being proactive, you can better learn to separate work from your personal life — and be successful in both,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage,” agrees. “You want to recognise red flags early that your work is impacting your marriage so you aren’t blindsided by your spouse before it’s too late to make any changes.”
Here’s what to do when you realise your job might be ruining your marriage.
Be honest with yourself about what’s happening.
The first step to dealing the a problem like this is acknowledging it.
If you think work is spilling into your personal life too often, it probably is. “You may be fortunate enough to have a partner who has a high tolerance to ‘feeling your pain,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting them personally,” says Taylor.
Take greater responsibility and accountability.
“It will give you greater confidence if you begin doing some soul-searching and self reflection,” she says. “Create alone time just for that purpose. Analyze the difficulties you’re having at work. You may need to commit them to paper or record them onto your smartphone. When you read about or listen to the issues as an outsider, you can be more objective and definitive about solutions.”
Try to train yourself to draw a better line between work and home. Consider leaving a reminder note somewhere visible in your home, such as “Fun,” or “Unplug,” Taylor suggests.
Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes.
Try to empathize and picture yourself as them. “Would you be worn out by the frequency or toxicity of the conversation over time?” Taylor asks.
Get outside feedback.
Ask trusted friends if they feel like your work problems dominate your conversations.
If they say no, it doesn’t mean this isn’t happening at home with your partner. But if they say yes, it will confirm that you might have a pattern of “poisoning” conversations with work related drama. “If they’re good friends, they will provide honest feedback that you can apply to improving your marriage,” she says.
Ask your partner if they want to hear you vent.
Your spouse might not want to tell you to stop talking about work, but if you ask them how they feel about your venting, they make take the opportunity to be honest.
“Before you broach the subject of that morning’s staff meeting or the project due by Friday, catch yourself and ask your partner if the topic is evoking too much concern or frustration. Tell them that you greatly appreciate their honesty because you value your personal time with them and need a reality check occasionally,” Taylor advises.
Find a professional to vent to instead.
Constantly complaining to your spouse will cause them to be stressed or frustrated, which can put a strain on the relationship. So, instead of coming home and venting to them every night, find someone else — a career coach, mentor, therapist — to talk to.
You don’t want to cut your spouse out of these discussions completely, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you talk to them about, all the time.
Address the issue(s).
You’re married. You need to communicate!
Find out if your job or work schedule is actually the problem. Then talk through the specific issues at hand. Find out what’s bothering your partner and ask what you can do to make things better. Together, come up with solutions and a plan. And don’t just have one conversation. Make this an ongoing thing.
Include your spouse in your decisions.
“Have a serious conversation with your spouse about your mutual goals and long term plans,” says Kerr. “Even though it’s your job that’s creating the difficulties, treat your spouse like a partner in the decision-making process. Create a plan if that’s what it takes and set some goals and timelines. For example, is your spouse okay with the situation carrying on for six more months until you’re finished with a major work project and can then make substantive changes at work?”
Also, before you make any big decisions, like quitting a job or accepting a promotion, talk to your spouse to see how they feel. It might make a huge difference if they feel like their opinion or feelings are considered and valued.
Make changes at work.
Maybe you’re having marital problems because your work schedule is getting in the way of your personal life, or your new boss is making you a miserable person. Whatever the issue, do something about it!
If there’s absolutely no way to remedy the problem at work and you want to save your marriage, consider finding a new job that will allow you to have better work-life balance.
Make a concerted effort to become their support system.
“Try to begin actively listening to your partner’s issues,” Taylor suggests. “Ask thoughtful questions of your spouse about their job and how their day went. By taking the focus off yourself, you’re more likely to clear your head while helping them. This will help create more balance in a relationship, and you might even glean some helpful pointers.”
The phrase “it is better to give than receive” has its virtues in this situation, she adds.
Plan fun activities (and don’t cancel them!).
If you are committed to going to dinner together or watching a movie, stick with the plan.
“These types of activities will force you to shift your mindset away from work and toward building a more positive relationship,” says Taylor. And following through with plans will prove to your partner that they’re your priority.
When you constantly flake on plans, it leads to a slow build-up of resentment from your spouse and creates the impression you are choosing your work intentionally over your personal commitments, adds Kerr.
Find a new hobby or activity to do together.
When things are rocky, it can’t hurt to try doing something new together. Plus, if you find something you’re both passionate about or enjoy doing, you’ll have something to talk about aside from work.
Come up with a schedule.
Create some mutually agreed upon goals with your spouse, Kerr suggests. “For example, choose two nights a week when you’ll be home for dinner.” Another idea: Make Mondays “Date Night.” “Just remember to leave any phones and work talk at the office,” he says.
Also keep your spouse in the loop on your work schedule, so there are as few surprises as possible.
“Share your upcoming work schedule as far in advance as possible so your spouse can plan their life properly and so they know what to anticipate in the month ahead,” Kerr says.
Consider marriage counseling.
If things aren’t improving, remember there’s no shame in seeking outside help.
“If things have deteriorated substantially, then consider marriage counseling and really think about whether your job is worth risking your marriage for. If need be, make a mutual decision to look for a new job,” Kerr says.
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