6 tips on how to handle mismatched work-life balance in relationships
They say opposites attract. But when you’ve got vastly different work-life priorities to your partner, how can you find a happy balance that works for both of you?
Achieving a healthy work-life balance is tricky. Research shows that more than half (52%) of UK employees admit that work regularly eats into their personal life. And, worldwide, the UK ranks 11th for work-life balance, with the average worker putting in 22 days of unpaid overtime each year. That’s pretty staggering, when you sit back and think about it.
But what happens when our work-life balance isn’t just affecting us? And what should you do when you and your partner have very different priorities?
My partner and I are very much in opposite camps regarding what feels like a healthy work-life balance. While I’m happy to jot down a few ideas outside of working hours, I’m pretty strict about switching off. My partner, on the other hand, would have continued taking work calls on our wedding day, if someone hadn’t confiscated his phone.
If you’re worried that your relationship may be affected by your different attitudes to work and life, there are plenty of small changes you can make to help take the pressure off.
1. Talk it out
Sitting down to have an open, honest, and frank conversation should be one of your first steps. This can help to make sure that you’re on the same page. What may feel like completely reasonable behaviour to one of you (“It’s only a couple of emails.” “What’s the harm in one more work call before dinner?”) may be causing unnecessary stress, anxiety, or resentment for the other. No matter how close you are, you both need to remember that your partner is not a mind reader. They may not know something is wrong if you don’t tell them.
2. Negotiate boundaries
Once you’ve established which areas are causing issues, try and work out boundaries. An outright ban on out-of-hours emails may cause a build-up of stress that wasn’t there before, while ignoring boundaries could cause frustration. By creating boundaries together through discussions, you can establish what works for you both. Keep returning to these boundaries regularly to help judge if they are working as intended, or if there could be a better way to try things moving forward.
3. Discuss your shared goals
We each have very different driving motivations. Some people are career-driven, while others find fulfilment outside of their work. It’s OK if your core values are different from your partners; there’s no right or wrong way to be, but gaining a clear awareness of what drives each of you can help you develop a better understanding of one another in the long-term.
4. Let go of resentment
Staying angry or upset about your different work priorities can lead to resentment, further hurt feelings, frustration, and misunderstandings. If you feel negative feelings continuing to linger or build, it could be a sign that you and your partner need to communicate better about your needs, boundaries, and expectations. Holding onto negativity can only hurt you in the long run – but that doesn’t mean it should be brushed aside. Ensure that your partner understands how you are feeling, and work together to create a more positive, open space where you can talk.
5. Schedule us-time
Set time aside in your calendar for uninterrupted time with your partner. Maybe that’s something daily, like having a phone-free breakfast together. Or perhaps that’s deciding on a set number of evenings where you both agree to be present in the moment, without outside distractions. Switching off for agreed-upon times can help you both to feel appreciated without allowing unnecessary anxiety or frustration to build.
6. Focus on quality, not quantity
Think about the time you are spending together. Do you feel relaxed, closer, refreshed? Or have you fallen into a slump? Ensuring the time that you do spend together is always used to its full potential can help you to better appreciate it, as well inspiring you both to feel excited at the prospect of more time together.
If you need help finding your work-life balance, visit the Life-coach Directory or speak to a qualified coach.