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How to Restore Balance in Work & Marriage

by Lauren Mills, studioD

Do you ever feel pulled between the demands of your job and your duties as a spouse? You are not alone. In a recent article published in “The Atlantic,” author Derek Thompson reports that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Better Life Index indicates that the United States ranks 28th among industrialized nations in the category of work-life balance. Balancing work and marriage takes effort and planning, but is possible for working couples to achieve.

Identifying Barriers

In order to restore balance in work and marriage, it’s important to first identify what barriers are in the way and causing imbalance. Obstacles may be work schedules, stress generated by managers, fear of getting laid off, fatigue or other stressful life events. When individuals feel they are spending too much time at work and neglecting their spouse, feelings of guilt can arise, causing additional stress. Once the barriers have been identified, couples can address them by setting boundaries and prioritizing. According to the Mayo Clinic, strategies for striking a balance may include asking an employer about flexible hours, telecommuting and learning to say “no” to tasks that are not a necessity. Some companies have programs focused on increasing work-family balance for employees.

Planning Your Time

A healthy marriage requires communication and team work. If professional and marital responsibilities feel out of balance, couples can communicate about each others' tasks and schedules in order to plan effectively. Create a schedule a week in advance and schedule in time for social activities, relaxation and time as a couple. Even if there is only one hour available in a week, it can be spent with your spouse making dinner, talking, planning a vacation or going for a walk. Although it is difficult to find time for exercise in a busy schedule, another way spend time together can be through being active and engaging in an activity like hiking, biking or going to the gym. Exercise can actually provide an energy boost that makes it easier to feel alert at work and at home with family.

Resiliency and Empathy

Robert Brooks, PhD, co-author of “The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strengths in Your Life,” recommends focusing time and energy on things that are within your control. You may not have a lot of control over the amount of hours spent at work. However, in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, focus on the time you do have control over and how to make that time more efficient and enjoyable. Try to leave work at work and not allow it to interfere with the time you spend at home with your spouse. In addition, try to empathize with what your partner is going through. If your spouse is having a particularly difficult time at work, listening and being supportive can help restore balance in the marriage because it increases communication and understanding.

Positive Impact of Work on Couples

While it is often assumed that spending more hours at work will have a negative impact on marriage, some recent studies find a positive reciprocal effect of career on relationships. A study published in the “Journal of Occupational Health Psychology” in 2012 found that job resources positively impacted individuals’ self satisfaction and energy, and created a “spillover” effect that positively impacted the spouse as well. This research suggests that striving to be successful in career and marriage is possible and may even be advantageous. Individuals who enjoy their work may feel more energized and fulfilled when spending time at home with their partner. Restoring a balance between work and marriage may take time and planning, but the long term benefits are worth it.

About the Author

Lauren Mills, L.C.S.W. is a licensed psychotherapist and mental health writer with a private practice based in New York City. She has extensive experience providing psychotherapy to children, adolescents, adults and families. She holds a Masters of Science in clinical social work from Columbia University.

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