My spouse tells me that they feel underappreciated because I am “never here.” These words push the wrong buttons and make me feel cranky. If I was never here at work, my partner wouldn’t have all those nice things. Do I really need to find a work-life balance? It feels impossible. Does this sound familiar to you? How do you achieve work-life balance in your relationship?
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is not described by a set of percentages that depict how much time a person spends at home and how much time is spent at work. Work-life balance is a goal that depicts a proportion between the demands and needs of an individual’s personal, professional, and family life. When we achieve work-life balance, it becomes a state of counterbalance that is both accountable and flexible, which strengthens family cohesion and relationship happiness.
Relationships thrive on both give and take. The balance is never exactly even, but as each partner understands and accepts the give and the take, and flexibility is practiced, the relationship is nourished and is made a priority, even in the seasons when a busy or demanding work life requires extra time away from home. This is a healthy work-life balance.
How an Unbalanced Work-Life Affects Us
Unbalanced work-life typically shows up in our relationships. Our person may be telling us that they feel ignored, that we are ‘never’ home, or that our relationship is suffering because of our devotion to work. These are not the only indicators that our work-life balance might be ‘off,’ sometimes it shows up in attitudes. All in all, these are red flags that something is wrong and that our work-life balance may need adjustment.
Stress is also a negative outcome of an out-of-balance work and personal life. Studies indicate that technology has led to changes in the workforce. People are expected to work faster in shorter amounts of time and are prompted to remain connected to work (especially in high-profile and corporate positions), all of which substantially raise the stress level.
Stress does not stay in the fast-paced work environment, though. It is often brought home unknowingly, and it affects both family and home. Not only is stress unhealthy for our relationships, but we all suffer adverse health effects from it. It is reported that 75-90% of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Ways to Achieve a Work-Life Balance in Your Relationship
Can you simply work less and achieve a work-life balance in your relationship? It can help. But it takes a conscious effort and work from both partners.
Here are some ways to achieve a healthier work-life balance in your relationship:
Make Your Relationship a Priority
Sometimes it is hard to work less. There can be periods when it is nearly impossible. First comes first in our relationships, however, and this means that we must make any changes that we can make to ensure that it takes precedence. Despite the number of hours that we work, we must, and can make our relationship a priority. Remember to set boundaries. Setting boundaries can help us say no and decide when and how we want to relate to others, and when and how to spend our time.
A healthy boundary looks like this: I do not work late on Wednesday and Friday evenings. This ensures that I have time set aside to spend with my loved done. My calendar is blocked off, and my colleagues and staff do not interrupt. Those of us that work in high-pressure fields, like the medical field, or first responders, must set these boundaries in place to ensure not only do we emotionally make our relationship a priority, but that we are physically present, and that our special person can count on it.
Making your relationship a priority also requires commitment to:
- Taking the time to share and understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings. And that each partner does so without fear of rejection, shame, or stress.
- Create a sense of security within your relationship – protect and nurture each other’s intrinsic wholeness.
- Put your relationship first beyond any competing demands from the outside. The life that each partner has outside of the relationship should not sway or detract from the bond (trust, honesty, compassion, open communication, and emotional intimacy).
Understand the Season That You Are In
Phases in our work flow in and out similarly to how we go through seasons in our lives. We are constantly growing, changing, and life never remains the same. It is much easier to achieve calm over what feels like chaos (i.e., long working hours, stressful work projects) when we look at the situation as a temporary phase. By doing so, our relationships are kept in balance, even during times when our work requires more commitment.
Communicate Openly and Avoid Complaining
Open communication is key to bringing prioritization, calm, love, and focus into our relationship. When a relationship has open communication, partners can discuss just about anything openly, with honesty, and without fear of shame or retaliation.
Open communication allows us to sit down and have a conversation with our partner. “I know my work is in a crazy mode – and it may be this way (for a short time, or a long time). Let’s decide how we will always prioritize our relationship, regardless of how we must commit ourselves to work.” Open communication means that we listen to our partner, and we communicate how we feel with equal power regardless of who is working, and despite who brings home a higher income. Complaints and criticism are not a part of healthy open communication.
Statements such as, “You are never home for me,” expresses disapproval and unhappiness, and it places blame. When we avoid negative language, we effectively nurture our partner with compassion and put our relationship first.
Be Innovative and Flexible
Flexibility and innovation are supportive pieces that help to achieve a work-life balance.
Here are questions to ask that can help us be innovative and flexible despite any work demands:
- What can we do in the time that we have together to have fun, avoid stress, and not only protect but build intimacy?
- What can I do to show my partner that they are my priority even when we are not physically together? Consider a loving text, email, or words that say, “I am thinking of you.” Remember that the little things do matter.
- What can I do to speak and gesture appreciation for my partner? What can I do from afar, and what can I do in their presence (i.e., thank them, compliment them, hug or cuddle, complete a task for them, etc.)?
Set Tech Aside
Making our partner a priority involves setting devices aside when we are physically present. This can be difficult to do when we have high-pressure careers. It is easy to become and remain consumed by our work responsibilities when we never sever the connection (tech), and then we fail to shift complete attention to the most important person in our life.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says:
“One of the major problems that arises when people work to become more effective in life is that they don’t think broadly enough. They lose their sense of proportion, the balance, the natural ecology necessary to effective living. They may get consumed by work and neglect personal health. In the name of professional success, they may neglect the most precious relationships in their lives.”
Making Your Love Work
If you want to truly move on and find a balance in your relationship, you must reach mutual decisions that work for both of you, but this is not always easy, and you don’t have to do it alone. You and your partner can benefit from couples counseling.
Are you ready to have the relationship you’ve always desired – with the core elements that reflect support, understanding, and connection?