Since I started working coaching I have often been struck at how many people are feeling very lonely and isolated. It leads to great unhappiness and is often the trigger which brings clients to work with me.
Surprisingly many of these clients were actually living within a relationship with a significant other. Listening to their stories has made me realise that it is common to feel very alone in a relationship which isn’t working. Sometimes the loneliest place is when we are in the midst of others.
Many of these clients arrive believing that everything would be ok if only they could change the way their partner behaved. They see themselves as a victim with no choice and no power.
For much of the time clients felt that they were expected to manage entirely on their own whilst their partners were busy with work.
They were left waiting for long periods of time simply waiting for their partner to be available to talk to or to do things with.
Having their partner physically present was no indicator of their being available as their attention was elsewhere.
Modern technology adds the final twist of the knife any workaholic partner has so many more opportunities to be in work mode. Mobile phones, Blackberrys and emails all have a voracious appetite for attention 24/7.
Those with children find themselves living the life, in all practical terms of a single parent within the marriage or partnership.
An added pressure is created because the children often idolise their missing parent.
The absent partner is rarely there to do the boring stuff like homework and nagging them to tidy up their bedroom.
When they do make themselves available the children get to do fun things it is such a rarity it gives the activity very high status.
Once the partner returns into work mode the parent left behind has the double whammy of having to deal not only with your own feelings but with disgruntled and disappointed children too. It can feel so unfair.
An added difficulty arises when your partners also wants to take time “for them” to unwind and relax. Where those activities exclude you and / or the children it acts very often like a slap in the face.
Those working significantly long hours expected their partner to be on tap when they finally had time to spare on the relationship making it very difficult for the partner to create a fulfilling hobby or spend time with friends.
When your workaholic partners want to spend time with you or needs to entertain people for work you are expected to drop everything and be available. You are faced with variations on a theme of the following logic:
“You have been nagging me to spend time with you, then when I want to do just that you are off doing something else.”
“I have so little time surely you want to spend it with me.”
“My commitments are so much more important than yours, after all it is me who supports the life style you enjoy. You could do what you have planned at any time.”
“I bring home the money which keeps you in the manner you want, surely it is not too much to ask for you to be with me when I have the time.”
“when I get home from work I’m too tired to deal with all this ….. surely you can sort out ….. the plumber… the insurance…. their homework…. the problem with the teacher….. the dentist etc.”
“I want to spend quality time with the children, so lets do something fun.”
“I buy them wonderful things… what more do they… or you want from me?
I can hear you all saying “ We know the problem, what we want to know is how to fix it!”
If you have tried all the usual ways of trying to change the workaholic habits of your partner may be it is time to change your attitude towards the problem.
There is no simple answer to what is a complex problem, but ask yourself how indispensable are you and your partner to one another?
The first principle to establish is the only person you have total control over is yourself.
The second principle is the person who is responsible for your happiness and wellbeing is YOU.
The third principle is if there is something happening in your life that you don’t like – it is up to you to do one of two things:
To change it or to change the way you react and feel about it.
You are not a victim unless you choose to be. You are the common denominator to every situation in your life. You can choose to give others the control over your emotions and your destiny or you can choose to take the power back into your own hands.
Of course it can be scary, or / challenging but the rewards are well worth it.
When you have no control over changing someone else the only thing you can do is change your attitude towards it. Very often changing your attitude impacts on the very thing you found impossible to change. The only place to start changing anyone else is by changing your approach, your emotional state and your behaviours.
Loving your partner and accepting unacceptable behaviour are two different things.
Think about your particular circumstances. Do you sit waiting for your partner to find a small space for you in their life? By sitting waiting for them to be free you begin to create a structure within the relationship which states that it is acceptable for them to treat you in this way. They are able to sustain their pattern of behaviour because you are at some level colluding with them.
This is not about paying them back – indeed that is the very last thing I am suggesting.
This is about:
• Developing a strong sense of your own self worth.
• Being honest with yourself and avoiding playing the victim.
• Learning what motivates and drives both you and your partner and understanding how to make both sets of needs work.
• Being loving to your partner whist loving yourself..
• Learning to communicate effectively with your partner. (Often we use the same words but the meanings we attach to them are completely different.)
• Using loving language which sets out your case clearly and firmly. (Without accusing, nagging or whining.)
• Setting out clear boundaries of what is acceptable and not and sticking to them.
• Creating a life which you find fulfilling, even when your partner is not available. Making sure you make the most of every moment of your life rather than sitting waiting.
There are lots of strategies to help you achieve this set out in The Relationship Bridge or if you’d like some individual help you can book a session with me through the website.