The notion of workaholism or of being a workaholic has no true technical foundation in the study of psychology. These terms usually carry negative connotations in that they are seen as bringing suffering to one’s family and/or personal life. The terms are a play on the word alcoholic and did not enter the vernacular until the 1990s.
Unlike other compulsive behaviors such as alcohol, drug, gambling or spending additions, workaholism bears no social stigma. It is ego syntonic, a psychiatric term referring to behaviors, values or feelings which are in harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego, or consistent with one’s ideal self-image. It is also a highly prized cultural trait and, some argue, an economic necessity in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive marketplace.
Workaholism is characterized by a preoccupation with work to the exclusion of most familial and social activities. In addition to putting in heavy hours at the office, the situation has been exacerbated with the advent of hand-held personal computers, cell phones and other devices which enable individuals to perform work-related functions wherever and whenever they choose. As technological “progress” continues, it will redefine and blur the line between work and leisure as never before. The irony here, of course, is that these devices were initially projected to save time and create more leisure opportunities. Oops!
Personal traits closely identified with workaholism include difficulty in delegating tasks to others, a tendency toward perfectionism, mixing work with recreational activities, failure to maintain familial or social commitments and sneaking work home on weekends or during vacations.
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Living with a workaholic can be a very frustrating and unrewarding experience. Unlike with drug or alcohol addiction, one is likely to find little or no support for coping with the issue in the larger community. The very fact that hard work is regarded so highly creates an atmosphere where it may be a formidable challenge to even get the individual concerned to acknowledge there is a problem.
As with any compulsion, the behaviors involved mask complex unresolved psychological issues. Add to this the reinforcement received at the workplace, economic gain and the increased status and prestige in the community, and you have a set of behaviors very difficult to challenge or disrupt. Only those closest to the individual involved know at what a high cost these benefits accrue.
One of the reasons the task of confronting these behaviors is so difficult is that they lend in great measure to the individual’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Any frontal assault on this position is going to be met with a spirited defense, common when people feel they are in the right. The best approach requires a delicate blend of confrontation and compassion. On the one hand, the individual needs to be made to see and feel the negative impact this fascination with work is having on their spouse, family and personal health. On the other hand, this approach, if taken in the heat of the moment or out of frustration, will most likely be perceived as an attack and dealt with accordingly. Points about quality-of-life issues are best made and received when things are relatively calm and happy and people are in control of their emotions. This approach requires strategic thought, inner strength and patience.
Compassion is facilitated when you begin to look beyond the harm this defensive behavior (workaholism) is creating and appreciate the role and function it serves for your spouse. This type of behavior is a large source of an individual’s sense of self-esteem, purpose and legitimacy. Work, in this case, helps define the individual in a positive light, stabilizing what may be an otherwise shaky sense of self-confidence, in addition to being the source of all the social and financial reinforcement mentioned earlier. The individual involved is only going to consider relinquishing all this if a viable option is offered in its stead.
Rather than attacking the workaholism, the task is to acknowledge all your spouse has done, accomplished and given, thereby addressing the ego’s needs, while at the same time reframing personal, familial and social functions as additional untapped sources of gratification and accomplishment. The hardest part of all this will be staying clear within yourself about what you are attempting, and why, and keeping your personal frustration levels down to manageable limits.
Once you have succeeded in gaining your spouse’s support, you can agree to incorporate certain specific behavioral goals into the program to serve as benchmarks. If your spouse works sixty hours per week, the goal can be to cut it down to fifty; if he brings laptops everywhere he goes, there might need to be laptop-free weekends, afternoons or hours, depending on how bad the situation is. Cell phone-free nights is another option – one that can extend to the entire family.
Characterizing the task as a challenge to balance work with a healthy and rewarding personal life will help your spouse view the change as one more thing he can successfully accomplish and feel proud of.
For as little as $9.95 you can purchase an easy to read self-guided workbook designed to provide the tools and skills you need to understand and cope with your spouse’s workaholism.
Workaholism in your spouse can be the cause of a great deal of friction and stress in the marriage. Most people posses only limited skills in dealing with workaholism in their spouse and you have come to the end of yours. What is needed is not the number of a good divorce lawyer but an infusion of new skills and approaches to successfully manage the problem. If you are concerned about the stress of workaholism in your marriage and have ever wished there were a fresh, sure-fire approach available to cope with them, So I Married A Workaholic is for you.
Not a quick fix, secret remedy or a magic bullet, So I Married A Workaholic offers practical hands-on advice, insights and techniques that improve the health of your marriage. Unaddressed marital stress can lead to serious emotional and physical health problems such as depression, loss of appetite, backaches, ulcers, drug and alcohol abuse and more. Affecting both your personal and professional life, it is sure to have a negative impact on you.
In So I Married A Workaholic you will learn how to:
Break the vicious cycle repetitive arguments
Understand the root cause of your spouse’s workaholism
Address the irrational aspects of their workaholism
Develop a more effective approach to their workaholism
Harness the healing power of love
Become a positive force in your marriage
This booklet is written by William R. Colagrande, MS a NY State licensed psychotherapist with over thirty years experience. So I Married A Workaholic features an easy to follow fictional narrative to illustrate and personalize the course material, insightful questions to reflect upon and supplemental readings geared to help you improve the love, warmth and closeness you feel in your marriage.
Why continue to struggle with the harmful effects of your spouse’s workaholism when the tools and support you need are only a click away?
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This workbook is available in two versions, Electronic or Hard Copy.
In the Electronic version, you receive a PDF file of the workbook for $9.95.
In the Hard Copy version, you receive your copy of the workbook in the mail: $12.95 plus $2.99 postage and handling.
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