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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

SHE SAYS: Do we have to talk about work when we spend all day “in the office” together?

HE SAYS: I still want to share the details of what happened at work today

For starters, understand that there’s a big difference between sharing an experience with someone and reflecting upon that experience together later. Here’s a pertinent example.

Consider a couple who work side-by-side running a business. During the work day, they’re not only aware of what the other is doing, but they’re also trying to be supportive and encouraging. Eventually their work day closes and gives way to their evening together. What then?

Sure, they’ve stopped the work itself, and certainly their home life matters and deserves attention. But this doesn’t mean that talking about their shared work day has to be off limits. It’s just that the focus should shift from the details and the grind of the work itself to the human impact their work has had upon them.

It sounds like you not only don’t spend your dinner time talking about your work in that way but that you didn’t do so even before you were forced to work together.

Try this. If you’re going to talk about your work day in the evening, move the discussion away from questions like, “What did you do today?” and more toward, “How was your work day for you?”

And be willing to adjust to one another’s differing needs to talk, and not talk, about work. For some people, work has a huge emotional impact. For others, not so much. For still others, none at all. If these differences are great between the two of you, you may need to set clear limits for the time you will spend talking about work.

In any event, keep in mind that though work matters, our relationships – especially our marriages – matter even more. God made work for us, not us for work. (Laborem Exercens) So try to look at your evenings together at the dinner table as a kind of Sabbath rest from your labors of the day. You might spend some of that time looking back together upon the work from which you are resting. But regardless of your subject matter, what matters most – especially during these stressful times – is that you talk about it with the intent to grow in your understanding and love for one another.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.