The vacation you’ve been planning for over a year is finally underway—and you haven’t stopped checking email in spite of multiple promises to your partner that this is the “last one.”
Or, you’re out to brunch with your significant other, and two minutes after you’ve placed your order, you’re glued to the phone, muttering something about your boss harassing you for some documentation you’re positive you sent earlier in the week. Sweat beads down your face as you search frantically through your sent messages in an attempt to retrieve the information while he gives you the evil eye and chugs his Bloody Mary.
It sucks to be that person who seems unable to fully enjoy life outside the office. Because it’s not as if you don’t want to obtain that elusive work-life balance everyone’s always talking about. It’s just that you’ve always been a hard worker, and it’s never been easy for you to shut down the computer and put away the phone—even when you ought to be maximizing QT with your person.
Because you truly care about your partner, it’s up to you to figure out how to find that balance:
1. Establish Rules
Hear this first: If you have the kind of job in which ignoring an email from the boss could lead to termination, setting up hard and fast rules probably isn’t wise. But, assuming you can tear yourself away for an hour here or there without getting fired or even just yelled at, figure out a system that’ll help you live in harmony.
If the problem is your reluctance to take breaks and not the demands of the job itself, then you’ll need to reflect on this. Why do you struggle with removing yourself from work when there’s nothing urgent going on? Maybe you agree to start out small: Abide by a no phone rule during dinner. Plan a weekly date night where all technology is forbidden.
Before you book a flight for a long weekend away, discuss what kind of trip it’s going to be—including how frequently work check-ins will be tolerated (barring urgent matters). Let your partner know that you’ll update him on major work projects that may require additional attention so he doesn’t lose it every time you turn to work.
2. Consider the Reverse
What if it was your spouse who was constantly plugged in? What if his job required weekend work every weekend? How would you handle it? Would you want to have a conversation about how his workaholic behavior was impacting your relationship? Probably, right?
You’d want to hear that of course he’d rather be totally relaxed with you and not anxious about checking email all the time. Considering how simple (and thoughtful) it is to relay this very message, if you haven’t done so yet, do it now.
Be patient and respect his rightful frustrations, and do what you can to create harmony by making it clear that your career isn’t the only thing you care about. You know you’d want the same from him, so it’s the logical move.
While having an honest conversation might alleviate relationship stress in the short-term, it’s important to look at the long-term, too. If you’re worried that using vacation time, or enjoying your weekends, will prevent you from being successful, from rising to the next level, then you need to ask yourself who’s applying this pressure: you or your boss?
If it’s you, then that’s an easier fix (albeit one that may need you to work through a few issues). But if it’s your boss or your company, then it might be worth it to ask yourself if all this stress is worth it.
Photo of person working at dinner table courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author