What can I do about my husband's tendency to put business ahead of family life and everything else? I don't usually care for labels, but I think it would be fair to call him a "workaholic." He works constantly and spends very little time with me and our sons. When I approach him about it, he simply says, "Things will be better soon." Do you have any suggestions?
Your concerns are legitimate, but comments that may be perceived as "complaining" are not an effective way of dealing with them. Before doing anything else, you need to make an effort to get inside your husband's mind. If you can grasp his motivation and understand what makes him tick, you'll be in a much better position to help him see things from your point of view. Then you can work together to find a solution to your problem.
God has wired men to provide for their wives and children. That's a good thing, but because we're imperfect human beings living in a fallen world, that natural, God-given desire can sometimes become distorted. One result is that some men are led to define their identity and personal worth in terms of what they do for a living rather than in terms of who they are and how they are related to God, their families, and other people. They become so focused on their role as provider that they end up neglecting the emotional and relational needs of their wives and kids. Far too many dads in our society fit this description: they are workaholics who are disconnected from the needs and feelings of the people they love.
Your husband seems to fall into this category. If what you say about him is true, he needs to re-examine his priorities. The Bible tells us clearly how believers are supposed to order their lives: God first, spouse second, children third, and then our work, education, hobbies, etc. At some point your husband is going to have to wake up to reality and make some serious changes. If he's working sixty hours a week or spending a majority of his time out of town on business trips, your kids are going to suffer. Young children desperately need both quality and quantity time with their fathers.
You can play a key role in helping him make the necessary changes to his value system. You can provide him with the love, support, and encouragement he needs in order to feel good about himself not only as a provider but as a husband, a father, and a person. But you won't be able to do it by nagging and complaining. None of us responds well to demands. If your husband feels criticized or attacked, he may simply withdraw and spend even more time at work.
Here's an approach you might want to try. Plan a dinner out with your husband on a weekend. Get a babysitter and go out to a nice restaurant. Put aside your resentment and frustration and tell him how much you love him and appreciate his diligence, his work ethic, and his dedication to his role as family provider. At the same time, be honest with him and let him know that his job seems to be taking precedence over his family. Tell him you value his input and involvement as a father, and ask him if he'd be willing to examine his schedule and make some changes.
If you can deliver this message in a spirit of love and concern rather than bitterness and anger, you may be surprised at how positively your husband responds. If, on the other hand, he reacts defensively and denies there's a problem, it may be time to seek professional help.
Call us. Our staff counselors would be happy to discuss this situation with you and provide you with referrals to qualified Christian family counselors in your region. If your husband isn't willing to see a counselor with you, you should seriously consider the option of beginning the process by yourself.
If your husband does express an openness to your concerns, then you've won an important battle and taken a huge step in the right direction. But we would advise you to be patient and understanding with him. If he's a driven individual who is prone to workaholism, he's not going to change overnight. If he's serious about making the changes you're requesting, he'll want to be held accountable by a mentor or a group of Christian men who can help him keep his priorities straight. Many churches sponsor support groups that can supply this need for him.
Workaholic Husband: Barb Rosberg talks to the woman whose husband is a workaholic, and she offers counsel on how to respond.
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Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Revised
National Fatherhood Initiative