Cash Conversation of the Month: The ‘I’m Married to My Job’ Talk

Emma Miller
Posted

Couple-TalkingIn our new “Cash Conversation of the Month” series, we’re highlighting big-picture discussions you should consider having with key people in your life to help keep your money goals on track.

Up this week: what to say to your significant other when work monopolizes your time—at the expense of your relationship.

Ever feel like you’re dating your desk? You wouldn’t be the first.

A recent Gallup report found that almost 40% of American workers log at least 10 hours a day at the office.

While spending that much time at work might be great for your career—especially if you’re gunning for a promotion—it can leave little time to nourish a healthy relationship with a significant other.

So what can you do when your career goals seem at odds with your personal life? Talk it through.

Why This Convo Is So Important With so many employees routinely putting in long hours, it’s not uncommon to feel like your job—or your partner’s—is becoming an unwelcome third party in your relationship.

But talking through the effects of a demanding work schedule can help bring couples closer—and counteract feelings of neglect.

“It gives your partner the opportunity to actively support you,” says Amanda Clayman, a New York City–based financial therapist. “After all, if they don’t know that you could use some extra TLC, how would they know to give it?”

Plus, since 8 out of 10 couples see themselves as “one financial entity,” making sure you’re in open communication with your partner about everything from your bank account to your career can not only strength your relationship—but also ensure your joint goals are on track.

“Just be reasonable about what you’re able to do—and stick to it. That means no promising to make it home for date night, then failing to follow through.”

How to Jump-start It Broaching this topic over a rushed dinner, when you’re both exhausted from a long day at work, likely won’t resolve anything—and will leave both of you feeling frustrated.

So make sure to schedule a time to chat when you can give this conversation the attention it deserves. And when you do talk, try to focus on the positives—like acknowledging that working so many hours can, on the one hand, be great for the family’s bottom line.

Another key to mastering this conversation: coming to terms with the fact that resolving the issue is a two-way street, Clayman says—especially if you’re the partner with the busier schedule.

“You wouldn’t want to say, ‘My job is tough, and I need you to be unfailingly supportive all the time and never ask me for anything,’ ” she says. “Rather, you might say, ‘My job is tough and places a lot of demands on my time. What do you need from me, so you know how much I love and value you?’ ”

Next, work with your partner to find concrete, realistic ways to spend more time together. Is there one evening a week when you’re both free by 6 P.M.? Claim it as date night, and make the extra effort to plan something special.

“Just be reasonable about what you’re able to do—and stick to it,” Clayman says. “That means no promising to make it home for date night, then failing to follow through.”

Can’t swing that? Then vet your tech options: Send quick check-in texts and e-mails throughout the day, schedule a nightly phone call during business trips, or try a five-minute Skype during your lunch break just to say hello.

Finally, try to keep in mind what Clayman says is one of the greatest benefits of a long-term relationship: It’s O.K. if one partner needs a little more support for now—because, inevitably, the pendulum will swing in the other direction.

“Really being there for another person—and being confident that your partner will be there for you when you need it—is the most durable foundation for long-term intimacy,” Clayman says.

RELATED: Love & Money: 5 Tips for Couples Tackling “The Talk”

  • Bill

    Any advice on 1) setting a budget for how much my wife gets to spend monthly on clothing, spas, gyms etc 2) how to frame the discussion.

    She spent $37k in 2014 and is demanding that she needs a minimum of $2K a month

    Thanks for your help..anyone…Bill

    • Marie

      Maybe start with a conversation about bigger goals: travel, savings, something big to save up for together. Read All Your Worth for a good 50/30/20 budget – it’s a good framework that prioritizes savings before discretionary expenditures. Good luck!