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How to Deal With a Spouse Who Is Unhappy in Their Job

by Sara Richmond-Walls, studioD

The daily grind can sometimes result in a daily marital blow-up. When a spouse is unhappy at work, that frustration can infiltrate other aspects of his or her life and can even bleed into the dynamics of the married relationship. While these frustrations are perhaps most powerful for the spouse experiencing them first hand, dealing with a spouse who is unhappy with their job can be an awkward, walking-on-egg-shells position. If your spouse is bringing home slumped shoulders and a broken spirit, consider these tips for a happier outlook.


Some people can easily separate the stress that they feel at their job from their home life. Others, however, allow negative work experiences to come home with them and affect interactions with a spouse. Displacement of workplace frustration can result in heated arguments over issues about which couples rarely fight. It is important to recognize your spouse's frustration and know that it may not be directed toward you. If, for example, your spouse has been berated by his boss throughout the day, he may react negatively if you point out that the trash still needs taken out. If you feel that this is happening, ask how your spouse is feeling and if something happened during the day. Work-home balance may be also affected by the prevalence of technology. It's hard to shut work off and feel like you have a boundary between your family and your work life if your cellphone rings during family time. In a Hufffpost Healthy Living Blog, author and otolaryngology surgeon David Volpi encourages individuals to take a break from technology, citing a study that found "intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults." If your spouse is connected to the office when at home, set up agreed upon house rules that help govern the time the work laptop, cellphone or tablet are allowed to be on in the home.


Though it may be hard to completely understand what your spouse is going through, empathy will give you a greater understanding of what your spouse is experiencing. Roman Krznaric, in his blog "Six Habits of Highly Empathic People" describes the need for “radical listening.” When you're listening to your spouse about work frustration, imagine what it is like to be in that same position instead of running your own list of frustrations and reactions through your mind. Krznaric also describes becoming “vulnerable” to truly let your guard down and try to experience things from your spouse's perspective. Krznaric explains that we live in a culture that associates vulnerability with weakness, but that sharing fears and emotions allows us to feel purpose and meaning within our relationships. Create a space where you and your spouse can communicate every raw emotion.

Focus on the Positive

One of the easiest ways to help your spouse reframe a frustrating work environment is to focus on what is good in his or her life. Remind him what the job provides for the family for the other 14 to 16 hours a day, including financial security, benefits, or the ability to provide the family with enriching travel experiences. Pat Olson, writer for the Harvard Business Review, suggests in his blog post “How to Survive in an Unhappy Workplace,” that " listing what you do like about your job will help shift your perception and keep you from feeling so trapped." This process will allow your spouse to see the silver lining in what he or she feels to be an exasperating situation.

Offer a Solution

While you certainly do not want to make your spouse feel guilty or that you have all the answers, there is nothing wrong with your spouse pursuing other options. If he or she chooses this, be a support system. Help revise and edit your spouse's resume. Assist in picking out a perfect interview outfit. More than anything, believe in your spouse and make sure that he knows you are on his side.

About the Author

Based in Haw River, N.C., Sara Richmond-Walls has been writing articles since 2000. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Mary Washington and received her Middle Grades Language Arts teaching certification through the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Photo Credits

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