Living with a Workaholic?

Many wives ask me, “Dr. Chapman, how do you live with a workaholic husband?” They will talk about a husband who spends long hours at work and short hours at home. He sees his children only when they are asleep, and his wife sees him only when he is exhausted. The workaholic doesn’t understand why his wife is not happy with his accomplishments and all the material things that he provides. She, on the other hand, is dying for a relationship. This week we will explore the possibility of bringing balance into the life of the workaholic.

1. Praise and Criticism
The workaholic is usually well respected in the community, and he often receives accolades from his employer. On the other hand, his wife is likely critical of him because he invests so little in their relationship. Her criticism is part of the problem. Oh, I understand why she is critical. But when she criticizes him, or his job, she is criticizing the one thing in life that brings him recognition. Her criticism strikes at the heart of his self esteem.
Let me suggest a better approach. Stop being critical of his work. Praise him when he receives awards at work. Then request that he do something with you and the children. When he does, and he will, then give him praise. Praise him for little and you will get more.

2. Deep Roots
Many workaholics are suffering from a deep sense of inferiority. Work is an effort to overcome these feelings of inferiority. Many workaholics also feel unloved. Understanding this should help a spouse know how to minister to the workaholic. He certainly does not need condemnation, but rather praise.

3. Return to Intimacy
If you want to pull the workaholic away from his job, let him know that you admire his success. Tell him that you realize that you have been negative toward his work, because your own needs have not been met, not because he is a bad husband. Tell him that you believe he can both meet your needs and be successful in his vocation. Now you are on his team and will likely find intimacy returning to the marriage.

Adapted from Loving Solutions: Overcoming Barriers in Your Marriage by Dr. Gary Chapman. To find out more about Dr. Chapman’s resources, visit