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:
“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.
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.