If you love someone who works too many hours, then is preoccupied with work while off the clock, they may be a workaholic. This problem has far-reaching consequences that can slowly wear down your relationship. However, you can get practical help in dealing with workaholics from a Christian counselor.

Workaholic Definition

A person may be a workaholic if he or she has a compulsion to work longer hours than what is considered normal for his or her profession. Compulsive behavior is one that a person repeats and cannot stop on his or her own power. It is a disorder that can be passed down within families. If a child observed a parent who was a workaholic, the child may not recognize that workaholism is abnormal and problematic.

Some professions require longer shifts than the traditional 9 to 5 model. For example, people who work in the medical, legal, and trucking industries can sometimes work 12 hours or more in a day. Also, seasonal work can require longer shifts for tax preparers, construction workers, landscapers, and retail workers. However, workaholism goes even beyond longer shifts, forming a destructive pattern.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners may need to invest many more hours than normal in the first few years of establishing their companies. It’s common for people in these situations to be consumed by their work because the onus is on them alone to make the company succeed. These people frequently fall into workaholic tendencies, at least for a season.

Ministry workers can also become workaholics. Those who work with a small church with few supporting staff are especially susceptible. Congregations may expect a pastor to be everything to all people. This is not a sustainable model, yet many ministers fall into this workaholic trap.

Symptoms of Workaholics

Your loved one may be a workaholic if you notice one or more of these symptoms occurring on a regular basis.

  • Has many excuses for long hours at work
  • Needs to stay busy all the time
  • Finds it difficult to relax
  • Occasionally crashes from exhaustion
  • Has perfectionistic tendencies
  • Refuses to delegate work responsibilities
  • Seems preoccupied during conversations
  • Spends excessive time on a smartphone for work-related activities
  • Forgets important dates or events
  • Exhibits irritability, impatience, or disinterest with family members

Workaholism is one of the only addictions that American society upholds. Many companies reward people who work long hours, so it may be difficult to convince your loved one that it is a problem.

Some workaholics decide to change only when they lose relationships or compromise their health. They need professional help to overcome their addiction, just like someone who is addicted to a controlled substance. Until they receive that help, they are unlikely to change.

5 Tips for Dealing with Workaholics

If you love a workaholic, life can be hard for you. You may feel lonely, angry, frustrated, and confused. You may feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with your loved one since they are financially providing for you and your family.

It’s tempting to shut your heart off from your loved one and fill it up with self-pity, bitterness, and grudges. But you can gain peace and practical help by meeting with a Christian counselor. Your counselor can help you form a plan with how to deal with the workaholic in your life, in ways like these.

1. Vent your frustrations to God.

Since workaholism is an addiction, the workaholic won’t change until the level of pain exceeds the high that he or she gets from working. You may be tempted to nag, complain, whine, and beg in front of your loved one to vent your anger and frustration. But this won’t accomplish the purpose you want. It can even strain your relationship further.

You can vent your frustrations to God, who can handle all of them perfectly. Your counselor is also a trusted person to listen to your frustrations. It’s important that you give vent to your anger, so it doesn’t turn into bitterness, depression or physical symptoms.

2. Learn about the workaholic’s past.

Because many workaholics had a model in their childhood that compelled them to act the same way, you can benefit from studying his or her past. This will help you understand that the problem didn’t come from you. It’s a problem that the workaholic must handle with a professional, who can help usher in healing.

3. Adjust your expectations.

If your expectations are too high, you’ll constantly be disappointed by the workaholic’s behavior. Adjust them downward, and you’ll feel happier. For example, if your husband works long hours during harvest season, you’ll need to get most of your emotional needs met elsewhere for a time. If your husband works long hours all year, you’ll need to learn how to meet your relational needs in other ways.

You may not ever live the exact life you want with your workaholic. Though you can’t control his or her actions, you can control your own. Adjusting your expectations is a good way to control your attitude toward your loved one and guard your heart against negative emotions.

4. Set healthy boundaries.

By communicating clear boundaries to your loved one, you can point out the ways his or her workaholism has negative impacts on your relationship. This requires practice and self-control, which your counselor can help role-play with you. Here’s an example of what a wife may say to her workaholic husband.

“I felt hurt that you were looking at your phone almost the entire time we were at the party. You must learn to relax and enjoy life outside of work. If you aren’t willing to put your phone down, I will start attending parties without you.”

The wife communicates her feelings with an “I” statement. She does not accuse or harangue her husband, but she clearly states how she feels. The wife states her healthy desire for her husband’s behavior. Finally, she sets the boundary, giving her husband the choice to honor her wishes.

You will need to set boundaries like this one, again and again, to get through to your loved one. But you might get pushback that you need to be prepared to receive with strength. If you have not set boundaries before, you can learn how to do so with your counselor’s help.

5. Grieve, then embrace a new reality.

To keep hoping that your loved one will change can wear you out. You’ll need to go through a grieving process to let go of what you hoped your relationship would look like, and trust God with the future.

Your counselor can help guide you through the grieving process. At the end of the process, you can reach acceptance. You’ll learn the importance of drawing close to God for your needs and practicing healthy self-care. It may help you to join a support group and start new activities that you can enjoy so you aren’t as focused on the disappointments as before.

Signs of Lasting Change

For your loved one to truly change, he or she will need to go through a recovery program similar to the programs that alcoholics use for recovery. Your loved one will need to accept that he or she has no power over the addiction and needs God to help them overcome. They will need to form new habits, take inventory of the hurts they have caused, and make amends.

This is a long, difficult process that will require accountability and professional guidance. You can pray that your loved one will someday be willing to take these steps to get help. But until that time comes, you need to lean on God for help, take better care of yourself, and change the way you relate to your loved one.

To receive the help you need, reach out for help from a Christian counselor. The counselors at our office are experienced in helping people deal successfully with the workaholics in their lives. Call today to set up your appointment.

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