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By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle | April 2008

She's married to her job, I'm just dedicated

Laura is a vice president of an insurance firm who has had to work long hours lately. Jim’s job is less demanding – and pays a lot less. Laura’s work schedule is causing some friction in the couple’s marriage.

She’s married to her job

Jim says: Laura has a great career, and I’m really proud of her. But lately, she seems to be spending all of her time at work. Sometimes she doesn’t get home until 9 p.m. or later. And even then, she often spends hours on the computer at home. I feel as if she’s married to her job, not to me.

I’m just dedicated

Laura says: I don’t understand why Jim is so upset – if I were a man, nobody would think it was a problem for me to work hard. I love my job and I’m good at it – that’s why I was recently promoted. And it’s my salary that pays the bills – we can’t afford a change of job for me.

What should they do?: The first thing we noticed here is that in today’s working environment – where employees often have to do more work with fewer resources – either gender could be saying these words about his or her working spouse. Some 30-40 years ago, it would have been the wife saying these words about her husband’s job: “He seems to be married to his work and not to me!“ Now both spouses share equally in experiencing this phenomenon.

Jo Anne and I spend considerable time mentoring engaged couples through our parish marriage preparation process. When we get couples discussing this situation under the category of dual-career plans, most often they do not initially recognize the significance of this scenario or the impact this situation will have on their marriage relationship. Our Western worldview often still has the man as principal wage earner and the woman as principal support – “helpmate,” to borrow a biblical expression from Genesis. Percentage-wise, this may accurately depict the situation, but more and more couples are facing tough career-altering decisions. This is a typical situation and one that, if not properly handled, can detract from a marriage, instead of pulling couples closer together.

Having experienced a similar situation, we know how easy it is to fall into the trap where work takes over: We become slaves to the never-ending demands of the work place, and our marriage and family relationships become lower priorities. Doing more with fewer resources seems to be the rule rather than the exception in the work place today; usually at the expense of relationships. Granted, just like in family-life, work-life tasks sometimes must take priority; short-term projects, budget changes just before a deadline, learning a new job, a presentation to a client who just dropped into town – the list goes on and on. Most spouses understand and can accept these short-term diversions. But when they become the norm, changes are needed. When temporary needs require some “homework”, discuss it with your spouse, limit the work time so as not to impact family time together and stick to the limit.

This situation, if persistent, needs to be the subject of discernment. Ask the tough question: “Where is God’s hand at work in this situation?” Ask: “What does God wish for our marriage and for our family?” And ask: “How best can we navigate this situation so that both of our needs and that of our family can be met – given the circumstance we are currently experiencing?” If Jim and Laura would sit together, asking the Holy Spirit to guide their thoughts and minds to discern what the Father’s will is for them as a couple and as a family, a solution can be achieved they both can live with.