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Is workaholism abuse?


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I really need to ask this question. Is workaholism abuse?


When I met my husband several years ago, I knew that he had a very hectic work schedule. But I guess I was blind and saw this as ambition. When we were dating, of course we would only go out when he was "available". But I continued to see him when he was "available". After a year of this, he accepted another job in another state 900 miles away. We had a long distance relationship and talked to each other several times a week and saw each other about twice a year, of course, on his schedule whenever he was "available". After being in a this relationship for 3 years, we decided to get married. During this time, he was working 1 full time job and 2 part time jobs. Before we got married, we had a little talk about his working hours and schedule and he told me that he would quit the part time jobs so we could be together. That was 2 years ago and he has not stopped or changed anything.


He works an average of 62-70 hours a week. I see him about 3 hours a day on a good day. We do not have very many financial obligations. Both of our cars are paid for and our monthly expenses add up to about $800 a month. We do not have children. So, we are not in the poor house.


After 9/11, I lost my job and have been unemployed ever since and have no prospects in sight. This drives my husband nuts. I have 2 bills in my name that I had before we were married and he is having to pay these bills that don't even add up to $100 and he hates this. He is always making little nasty comments about me not working and when he gets mad, he gets really nasty about it. I don't like the situation any better than he does, but I try to make the best of it.


When I try to talk to him about trying to take a little time off or a day off for us to spend together, he gets really defensive. He tells me, " Look at those bills on the table? Those have to be paid!!" There may be 2 bills on the table. Or he'll say, " I'll tell you what... I'll just quit my jobs and we'll go on welfare or we'll get mom and dad to pay our way through life." This makes me so sick, I just want to slap him.


He is never here, he is never available. But he tells me that if I had a job, he wouldn't work so much. I think this is baloney. Because he was home for 1 day due to winter weather and he was miserable. He was in & out and up & down and couldn't sit still. He started cleaning out closets and cabinets and rearranging things that I had already done.


He even had an opportunity to take a vacation before the busy season started at his work and he never gave the boss an answer, so he lost out.


I have tried to talk to him about this situation until I am blue in the face and he just cannot comprehend. Then he tries to twist it and turn it around and put the blame back on me, that it is my fault because I don't have a job. I don't think this is true because before I lost my job, he did the same thing. He did not take time off to be with me. He just acts like having to support me is such a burden to him. He can never remember conversations that we had yesterday. I don't know if this is due to exhaustion or because he is in his own little world.


He is unwilling to change. And I don't know how much more of this I can take. I feel like a widow. Why even be married when you don't see each other? I have even asked him if there is a problem with me that he is trying to avoid? And he tells me no that he is just very "ambitious."


When I try to talk to others about this, they do not see the problem. All that say is at least he's not a bum or loser. They cannot see what this is doing to me. Yes, I am lonely and I try to go on with my life, but it's not fun doing it alone. Sometimes I just wish that I had enough nerve to walk out the door and never look back and he can be another woman's problem.

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First of all, I think it's shameful that people close to you, who you've shared your frustrations with, simply tell you patronizing things like "well at least he's not a bum." I myself am very big on having a partner who's ambitious, motivated, driven, has some goals......but it's really all about 'balance'...and I'd think that being with someone who's never "there", who's a workaholic (and not because the income is needed), who doesn't pull his weight in the relationship (your needs for affection, attention, friendship, communication, companionship)...well that's about as unsavory as someone who's a lazy bum.


I think it's shameful and rude and insensitive of him to constantly throw in your face, your 2 bills that were there before you married him. Marriage is about being in a partnership. He obviously knew about these bills before he proposed, correct? I have my share of bills, and should I marry someone, I already know I won't have them paid off by then, and I'll enter into the marriage with them....such is life.


I wonder if there might be some deeper issues here, like you've wondered, too........that maybe the reason he can't sit still, must always be working, doesn't have something more to do with him avoiding something...intimacy, being a husband, having to communicate with you, etc.


And yes, I think that workaholism is a type of abuse....to the degree that the workaholic's "unavailability" is impacting (negatively) the relationship/marriage....which it is in your case.


Do you know what your husband's childhood was like? Did he grow up in a poor family where he maybe had to help support the family? Or maybe due to same, he's got deep-rooted fears about one day being "poor"? Maybe he grew up with a "bum" for a father and he's doing all he can to be NOTHING like his father?


Next time he tries to throw in your face that he works so much because YOU don't have a job, gently yet firmly remind him that he was this way WHEN YOU DID HAVE ONE, so his comment is null and void.


I think you need to sit down and have a heart to heart talk with him. Start by telling him that you appreciate the fact that he's a driven, hard working man........but that you didn't get married to be alone. You could have stayed single for that. Explain to him that you feel lonely, neglected, unimportant, and empty. Explain to him that you're just not happy with the current state of things. Remind him that you love him, but you feel that he's putting money and his job before you....and in a marriage, one's spouse should always come first.


Maybe you could suggest some marriage counselling........perhaps that would be the start to getting to the root of why he is the way he is...........and if he refuses to go, stating he doesn't think there's "a problem", I encourage YOU to still go...........for yourself.........I think you need someone (trained professional) to get things off your chest to,.....someone who can help you "reach him" and make your needs known.....someone who can help you really evaluate what you're getting from this marriage and whether you should continue living like this.


Communication is so important, but it doesn't sound like he's capable of this with you. It sounds like he's very restless and maybe even deep down, unhappy......maybe with himself? maybe deep down he feels like a failure and feels compelled to work like he does so that he'll feel better about himself?


I'm sure there are some good books (self help) out there, too, on living with a 'workaholic'......


Whatever you do, do NOT let him put you down for the fact that you don't work, or that you have 2 measly little bills that you're still paying off. I imagine you do a helluva lot for him, you take care of him, you make a nice home for him, you are loyal to him......he needs to get a grip.

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  • 3 months later...

I went through the same thing -- nearly word for word -- even though it was hard to leave, i am much happier away from him and you will be too.

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It sounds like your husband has a compulsive disorder, and compulsive disorders are rooted in fear and anxiety. This was evident when he wasn't able to relax the day he was home and he was miserable, and the way he's carry one with you're two bills. Your husband's problem has nothing to do with you. You are not the result of them, because he was behaving this way when both of you met and started dating. So don't sit around feeling guilty or thinking you're the cause of it somehow. The Webster's dictionary defines abuse as "improper or excessive use of treatment". It also defines disorder as " to disturb the regular or normal functions of". So while workaholism can be a form of abuse, it's more so a disorder. Not only is your life affected by it, his is also if he's spending 60-70 hours at work, and it's causing him to neglect things in his household.


As an earlier posting brought out, you might want to ask him or his relatives about his childhood and his upbringing. Maybe he grew up poor, or maybe something traumatic happened to him, and keeping himself busy helps him push it out of his mind. Both of you need counseling, but I'm sure that will be there hard to do if he's hardly around. Neglect is definitely legitimate grounds for seperation. You may need to get away for awhile and clear your head and heal a bit, and that could be just the thing that will make him realize that he has a serious problem.

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My former ex-husband was the EXACT same way. EXACT!

His mom and his aunt and uncle were too. They were all

wealthy and there was no financial problems--but there

were a lot of other problems--obesity, alcoholism, and

lots of unspoken stress and tension that made it impossible

to relax or enjoy life.


It was SOOOOO sad, because these people were all

talented, they had great taste and they built amazing

businesses and beautiful homes. After 10 years with them

I never felt any connection with them at all!


I kept thinking--SO WHAT?! Who cares, none of it matters

if they're all unhappy and their personal lives and relationships

are in tatters. What's the point of all this beauty and abundance

if you're not sharing it with a loving circle of friends and family?


And--like you, I WAITED and WAITED and WAITED. I kept

thinking, after x or y, we can be different. And like you, ex-hubby

always put it back on me if I brought it up, saying I had all

these 'Expectations'. Weird--because I come from a lower

middle class family and was quite accustomed to much less

and often said I'd be happier with less if we could just spend

QUALITY time together.


In an bittersweet turn of events, hubby left me to shack up with

the neighbor next door (with an almost identical family history and current worldview) AND NOW--I'm with a beautiful, ambitious, loving man who LOVES to hang out with me, gives me lots of attention and love, and we are JUST as financially established and motivated as my former lifestyle---I'm just 80 MILLION times more at peace and in love and in happiness than I ever would have been--even if ex-hubby wanted to change his ways.


Moral of the story: YES, neglecting you for any reason is a BIG problem. It creates lots of emotional and physical problems for both of you--you will start to feel crazy and out of control because you aren't getting what you need, and when you try to talk about it you keep getting a brick wall.


And YES, workaholism is JUST as bad as any addiction. Despite the professional rewards it brings, it creates just as many problems as the partial benefit it brings. You can only have partial success in one or two areas of life, and you can never have a whole, balanced life. And having experienced both ways, I can definately say--the whole, balanced life brings solitude and allows love. The partial success way is ALWAYS uncomfortable and you always feel pangs of guilt or fear that some crisis is around the corner. IT IS. You have partial success AT THE EXPENSE of all these other important things, and you cannot make up extra success over here, for total neglect over there. It just doesn't add up. We're talking car accidents, heart attacks and cancer and suicide. This way of doing things is NOT an actual, legitimate workable choice.


My theory about people who are addicted (workaholics) and the people around them who support them (enablers) is that both are avoiding some MAJOR fear or aspect of their life, and over compensating for it with the addiction and drama that is created as a result. Often, it's easy to see what the OTHER person is avoiding. The trick is WHAT ARE YOU AVOIDING?


If you can answer that, work toward feeling like you deserve to have a good life and have all your needs met and to have an environment and lifestyle where you thrive, then you can begin to work on that thing you're avoiding. Then you no longer need the hubby and the situation. So that means he then has an opportunity to grow out of his role into something healthier, or you get to move on toward what you need.


It can be a TERRIFYING process, but take heart---you do not lose any ground by giving up unhealthy things--YOU GRADUATE into the new healthier more loving reality. Just let go and breathe and enjoy watching it unfold...


Don't waste time WAITING...take action on your own behalf NOW. Even if it's just changing your idea of what you feel you deserve and what you WANT to experience. You CAN and SHOULD have it. Your life depends on it.



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Before we got married, we had a little talk about his working hours and schedule and he told me that he would quit the part time jobs so we could be together. That was 2 years ago and he has not stopped or changed anything.



After 9/11, I lost my job and have been unemployed ever since and have no prospects in sight.


So you've been unemployed since he made his commitment to stop working the part time jobs. Small wonder he has not quit.


This drives my husband nuts.


Well, quite honestly, this would drive me nuts, too. Why exactly aren't you working? You have no children and while it's true that the economy is soft, surely there is something you could be doing to both occupy yourself and bring in some income. If you had a job, too, and were out of the house for 40-45 hours each week, his working might not seem so extreme to you and he might feel that you are at least trying to pull your weight.

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