“I swear I’m not having an affair!” That was the last thing my husband, Chris, said to me recently before leaving to go to work for three hours on his day off.
We had to cancel plans to go out of town, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. Chris is the head chef at a popular restaurant in a busy beach town, and when the summer hits, his workload is insane. I get it…for the most part.
But this was hardly the first time he worked when he was technically off-duty. He went in to the restaurant for six hours on his previous day off and for a few hours the “off” day before that.
In fact, I can’t remember the last time Chris was off and didn’t do some form of work. It’s mostly on him: His company doesn’t pressure him to work more; Chris is just a just freakishly dedicated guy who wants to make sure things get done correctly. He loves his job and doesn’t think much of stepping in when he’s needed, which is pretty freaking often.
Chris acts the same way I’ve read men who have affairs do: He takes mysterious phone calls when we’re out to dinner and his phone regularly beeps with early morning texts. When we’re lying in bed, he’ll secretly e-mail and text co-workers when he thinks I’m not looking.
He feels guilty admitting that it’s work because he knows I want him to dial back a little. But we both know what he’s doing.
Am I the only one dealing with this?
Nope, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
She says having a work-obsessed partner is pretty common now, thanks to the economy and the fact that many senior-level jobs require you to always be on. But it can become an issue when it sucks up couple time, makes an S.O. unreliable, and causes tension in the relationship.
Of course, freaking out over it won’t help. “Keep in mind that nagging, complaining, and fighting will just drive your partner farther away,” says Tessina.
But I don’t want to be a meek partner who just looks the other way, either.
In this kind of situation, Tessina says it’s important to try to understand where your partner is coming from first. Is he just really into his work? Does his job just require more hours than most?
Since my answers are “yes” and “YES,” Tessina says that’s kind of on me: “If you're with such a person, you need to understand the realities of the job.”
I get it. Chris has a demanding job, and his long hours are part of being married to a chef. But I could do without him being constantly on his phone or pulling a disappearing act.
Luckily, Tessina says I don’t just have to accept it. She recommends talking to Chris about setting boundaries when it comes to work and encouraging him to treat our time with the same level of importance as he treats work time.
With that in mind, Chris and I had a chat about setting time aside for just us—as much as he can spare given his hectic schedule right now.
So we did—and it was amazing. We spent an hour goofing off outside, playing Wiffle ball and drinking beer. It was good, laid-back fun, and there wasn’t a single mention of work.
Chris had to answer a few work e-mails later that night, but somehow I didn’t mind as much. I got my quality time in, and that’s what really matters.
Korin Miller is a writer, SEO nerd, wife, and mom to a little 2-year-old dude named Miles. Korin has worked for The Washington Post, New York Daily News, and Cosmopolitan, where she learned more than anyone ever should about sex. She has an unhealthy addiction to gifs.