When Your Husband Chooses Work Over Family

Before you got married, you knew your husband liked to work. Maybe he even loved his job or started a successful business! But, you never expected him to choose his work over you. What do you do when your husband prioritizes work over marriage, family, and togetherness?

Since the beginning of time, work has been a priority for both husbands and wives. Employment means food on the table, a roof over the head, and shoes on the kids’ feet (not to mention iPhones in every family member’s hands). Working extra hard in certain seasons of life can even be healthy and good for the whole family. Sometimes we need to put in extra time in order to get the results we want.

Your husband’s job or professional goals isn’t the problem. The problem is that your husband is choosing to prioritize work over family…and it hurts.

“I’m 27 and have been with my husband for nine years, married for three,” says Angela on How to Live With a Husband You Don’t Trust. “We both work for the same organization. We earn fairly decent money and have recently bought a beautiful house on a joint loan. It’s been a great time together. But for the last six months, I don’t feel loved or understood any more. My husband prioritizes his work over me. He wants to have kids, but I fear being the sole parent even if we’re married.”

It’s not difficult to find – or even make up your own – good marriage advice. The problem is that the typical marriage advice doesn’t work. For example, you already know you could try talking to your husband about his work versus family priorities, sharing your feelings, and encouraging him to show up for your kids’ events and family gatherings. In fact I bet you’ve already done at least one of these things, if not all.

What you really need are tips on how to change your husband. You want him to prioritize you, your marriage and your family above his work. Of course you do! That’s the essence of a healthy, happy family. That’s what love is: putting family first. When you’re second or even third on the list of your husband’s priorities, you feel hurt and unloved.

5 Things to Remember When Your Husband Chooses Work Over Family

I don’t have easy relationship tips or marriage advice that will help your husband see the light and change his ways. But, I can share a few ideas to help you shift how you think about you, your husband, and your family.

Here’s the rest of Angela’s story:

Husband Prioritizes Work Over Family
When Your Husband Prioritizes Work Over Family

“Around six months back my husband got an offer to work abroad for a year in another country 6,000 miles away! I didn’t have the option to leave my job to be with him, as I had started working after my Masters degree. I didn’t want him to take up the offer as I couldn’t imagine a life apart from each other. Also, our current salaries leave us with financial surplus every month. But, he decided to take the job to meet his financial goals. It seems like my husband loves his job and making money more than he loves me.”

1. Your husband loves the challenge – and the stress – of his job

Your husband’s job is meeting his needs in some way. It’s not just financial or professional; your husband is finding identity, confidence, and success at work. Whether he started his own business or is working his way up the career ladder in a mega-corporation, he loves the feeling of overcoming obstacles and solving problems.

When your husband comes home from work, he may feel guilty or even sad. Your husband knows he’s prioritizing his work, but he can’t help it. His job is scratching that itch and feeding his ego. He may even be finding that work is easier and less emotionally stressful than being at home. Perhaps your husband likes to be alone and has found the perfect job for people with introverted personality traits.

2. This may be a season that will pass

Sometimes husbands prioritize their financial and career goals for a time, such as building a business to a certain level or finally making partner in a firm or corporation. Once those goals are achieved, they turn their attention back to marriage, family, and home.

“My husband says he just needs to take this job for a year and then we’ll be together again,” says Angela. “But I can’t understand how he could choose to leave me and go away for a whole year. He put his work first, he chose his job over our marriage. He calls regularly, he says he misses me, but I am not able to accept it at face value.”

Is it possible that your husband needs to work through this stage of his life to become stronger and healthier? I’m not defending him or rationalizing the choice to prioritize work over family. I’m just sharing ideas to think about.

3. It’s time for you to discover what you need to be happy

My neighbors have been married for 23 years; the husband just left for a two year work stint in Thailand. His wife is fine with it, and plans to visit every couple of months. She doesn’t see it as her husband choosing work over marriage or family, though she says she is lonely without him. She sees it as an opportunity for him. However, they don’t have kids or elderly parents to take care of. She works part-time and is financially secure. She is also independent and happy to be alone, and has learned how to cope with changes in her marriage.

I’m married to a geologist, and he leaves to work in different countries almost every month. This was hard at the beginning of our marriage – especially when he worked in northern Canada for nine weeks and we lived on a tiny remote island! But I learned what I need to be happy, and happily married.

4. You can pursue the changes you want and need

The minute my husband got back from nine weeks in the field, I told him I had to move to a big city. I’m a writer, I work alone all day, and I can’t live on a tiny remote rural island if my husband’s work is always taking him away. I knew my husband wasn’t choosing work over me. I knew when we got married that he was a geologist who would be away a lot, for long stints of time. But I also knew what I needed to be happy, and I made the changes I needed. We moved to Vancouver. It took nine months to sell our house and find the right home, but we did it.

If your husband is prioritizing work over family, you can’t change him. You might not even be able to change how unloved, sad, disappointed or frustrated you feel – or how hurt you are for your kids or other family members. But you can make changes in your life that meet your needs.

5. You and your husband are talking different “love languages”

Learn about Gary Chapman’s “love languages” in marriage and family relationships. This will help you understand why your husband is choosing work over family, and how to communicate with him in more effective ways. You’ll also learn your own love language, which will help you understand your feelings.

Husbands Job Takes Priority Over Your Marriage

In The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Gary Chapman describes how different people give and receive love. For example, some women (and men) give and receive love with “Words of Affirmation.” Others are more into “Acts of Service.”

If your way of giving and receiving love involves someone’s presence, then you’ll be more hurt and affected if your husband chooses work over family. You see his choice as an indication that he doesn’t love you or your family. If you can identify how you and your husband give and receive love, you’ll better understand how you feel about him prioritizing work. Your husband may not change his routine, but at least you’ll understand yourself better.

I summarize Gary Chapman’s thoughts in Examples of the Five Love Languages – Different Ways to Love.

What have I missed? Feel free to share your thoughts below. Sometimes it helps just to talk about what’s going on and how you feel. Writing can slow us down and help us understand ourselves better.

You might even try writing your husband a letter. Practice in the comments section below! Tell your husband how you feel about him choosing work over family and marriage, why you feel this way, and what you hope changes in your life.


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16 thoughts on “When Your Husband Chooses Work Over Family”

  1. Reading this helps although I’m not really sure where my marriage really stands anymore. I have told him he never should have taken this job…. He needs to come back home and get on at a local company or go OTR again but he has said he’s not coming back home. He got on at an asphalt company in July and I haven’t seen him since. He was in PA and now they recently went to Louisiana. He has talked about having me come down there but I have a son with my ex fiancé I have to share 50/50 custody with and I just can’t be away from my son for months at a time. At least I know now I’m not the only wife that’s dealing with a husband being gone all the time. I just wish I knew where our marriage really stands these days and if he is with someone else or not….

  2. I can totally understand why your husband’s behavior hurt you, and why you’re upset that he didn’t invite you to his work party. I’d be upset and disappointed, too! I don’t think you’re being unreasonable.

    When you and your husband talk about your relationship – and whether wives should be included at the work parties – what does he say?

  3. We are married for 16 years now and working on the same company.there is a small group of employees who became close to the president of the company that group includes my husband.at first,i was invited to attend their small gatherings but my husband wont tag me along because he was not sure if im really invited.until sometime,the president did not invite me anymore.they went to different places without me.they gather without me.i told my husband to tag me along because i am his wife.however,he is too shy to ask the president.i feel bad about it.last year it was the house warming of our boss i told my husband if i can tag along.he said it is not proper.but after the party i learned that some of the invited employees tagged their friends in the event.again i wonder why my husband cant bring me.last week it was our boss’ bday party i told him if i can join him in the party..again he did not bring me along.i just want to know am i reasonable or not?why do i feel sad about it?i want to let him go but i cry inside?

    1. “at first,i was invited to attend their small gatherings but my husband wont tag me along because he was not sure if im really invited.”

      What? If you were invited, why would you show up as a ‘tag along’ of your husband in the first place?
      I think it’s pretty clear he wants to leave you out of the small circle…
      Your mistake was probably to have given him the power to decide whether you should show up to an event you were invited or not. Personally, I would have stopped asking him to tag along a LONG time ago and, if he ends up asking me to for any reason in the future, I wouldn’t attend.

  4. My husband has a good job for himself. It is not a salary paid job but it is a full time hourly position and I am grateful to be able to stay at home with our daughter. Sometimes it seems like he loves his job more than us because he works long and extra hours even around the holidays which seems to take away time from spending time together. Then when he is home he usually clean, eat, play the game, and watch movies. This has been an everyday lifestyle this year and I am starting to not grow weary at some other things that also takes the place of committing ourselves to this marriage. Sometimes he doesnt come to bed with me. Last night he said that I was smothering which makes me want to find happiness outside of our marriage. Maybe I am smothering him, maybe he feels overwhelmed. Maybe he feels stressed. So right now I am in a transition of going to church alone with our daughter alone and since his license is suspended I take him and drop him off at work which is probably the reason he feel like we are burdens to him and his desires. It seems like all the pressure is on me to change my marriage but my hope remains in the Lord. I will rely on God to change my heart and help me see my husband the way he does. Right now my prayer is to give him the distance he needs while asking God to give me the strength to not seek to serve myself in this marriage and give up but instead open up ways where I can serve him and respect him just as he is. Please keep us in prayer.

  5. My husband and I had been in a long distance relationship for years before we got married in 2014. The original plan was I sponsor him after we get married and he moves to the country I live in. We had a 2 year engagement and every year he changes his mind. Just before we got married he said he’ll spend half of the year with me and half the year in his home country beause of work. It was hard but it was a compromise I was willing to take. One year after we got married he’s all set move to where I reside but changed his mind again and went back to his country after a month. Then visits me after 4 months, stayed for leas than 2 months and left again. His goal is to save up enough and eventually make me go home to his country! I feel trapped. I don’t want to move anywhere else. He flipped the cards and now I have to move where he is. I hate my marriage and I hate my husband. We haven’t been together in one place for a more than 2 months at a time and we’ve been married for almost 2 years. What a joke! I am miserable and depressed and he knows it. He acts concerned but still doesn’t do anything. He still sticks with his new plan of making me give up my well established life. He’s so unfair and selfish. He has no word of honor, can’t keep a promise. I regret my marriage. I have turned from a happy go lucky person to a miserable and depressed woman.

    1. Wow! That sounds very depressing. I ‘m sure you have told him how you feel. He does sound selfish. Counseling would prob help you guys. I can feel your pain. Hope things work out for you.

  6. My husband is a business man and he will be in his shop till is late and will come back late, it hurts me a lot because i have not gotten a job and he dosnt give me money I would have start business, I have been in the house alone taking care of my kids, am sad and tired of being jobless and staying at home, I have pleaded him to put our last baby in school who is one year now but he refused that i should stay how and care for him till his two. Am not happy with my marriage. I can’t discuss with him cos if i have time to discuss with him, he sleeps up. He dosnt stay at place without sleeping, am tired

  7. My sister gave me some good advice. She said that a husband will either work too much or too little. I find that saying is true. Let’s be realistic, they wouldn’t be using their extra time how we want them to either. I’ve learned that my husband shows his love for me by working hard. I try to remember that when I’m lonely. I’ve found my own ways to be happy, it doesn’t come from anyone else.

  8. My husband is not just doing things for work. He does it because he’s worried about his boss. His boss is a woman, so I feel like he’s putting this other woman’s feelings before mine. He wants to change plans about meeting with our doctor(I’m pregnant) and when I told him I didn’t want to change plans, because it’s too late, he said that because he’s Chinese, being there with me to see the doctor isn’t that important. Now I’m dealing with feeling VERY unimportant since him being with me to see the doctor means he cares about me and loves our baby. He also didn’t just decide to change plans because his boss told him to, but because he feels bad for her. He’s done this before with other things, when he would want to change plans with me( we only get to see eachother once a week, because we live in different cities and the doctors appointments only happen once every month.) The first time he made his boss more important than being with me, he was going to help her move into her new house instead of be with me. When I told him not to, he just said that helping her would be more fun and he would get free food. I’m feeling extremely hurt, but don’t know how to say it at all. Every time I try, he just says that I’m being “crazy”. That his boss isn’t more important to him than me. But my problem is that he thinks about how his boss feels about something before thinking about how I feel about it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to explain how I feel without pushing him away more. I almost feel like just giving up and letting him do whatever he wants and live like a single woman. Just forget about meeting with him and stop all contact. I don’t know what to do really. I know his culture is different, but it makes me really sad that this woman’s feelings somehow have more importance over my own. It shouldn’t be that way should it? :(

    1. That sounds a little odd… and calling you crazy for expressing how you feel is definitely not o.k. in my eyes. It really doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship. What I would do is this:
      First, tell him how you feel and have a calm conversation about it. Tell him what is on your mind and how you have been feeling, and see how he reacts. If his ears perk up, great. Maybe you can hash things out and get on the same page. Ask for the time for him to listen, and be prepared to listen to him, too!
      Now if that doesn’t work, you have to move on to plan B. Show yourself that you can really live without him (spend more time with friends and family, do those things for yourself you’ve always wanted to do, get back in touch with who you are at your core and have fun with it! Maybe try exercising, sign up for a class, use little chunks of time to volunteer, take on a job… make space in your life for things that are important to you, and you alone, get to it, and keep at it). You do have a little one on the way, and you have to be the best person you can be so that you can be there for your child! In doing that, maybe he will see what he has been missing, and treat you with more respect. If not, by that point you will be feeling a little more free and confident to conquer whatever is on the road ahead. *virtual hug* :)

  9. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for your comments! I tend to use ! way too much in my writing – I’ve always been aware of this, and do appreciate the feedback that others notice it too.

    I edited this article, so my tips on what to do when your husband’s work goals seem more important than your marriage are more clear. Hopefully the message will be easier to understand, now that my excitement has been toned down :-)

    I welcome your thoughts on dealing with husbands who put their career first.


  10. You exactly correct about writing giving insight and healing. I began to write down the things i stopped to think about why my marriage is where it is currently. putting it all out on paper really helped me see what i had been doing to my love and didnt even realize it. i have clarity on what need to do for myself to enable me to be the husband i was before. I pray that my awakening has not come to late