Linda Pounds, M.A., LMFT is a Denver marriage counselor, career coach, and executive coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in emotional intelligence coaching, and is skilled and experienced in working with individuals and couples dealing with the challenges of managing work and family life. She sees clients in our Denver and Broomfield Colorado office locations, as well as online.
Don't Let Job Stress Ruin Your Relationship
“My Husband's Job is Ruining Our Relationship!”
Having a tyrant for a boss is a nightmare for anyone and bad news for a spouse as well. Every night when my career coaching client “Matthew” came home from work his wife “Jennie” dreaded their exchanges. What used to be a fun and light-hearted time became non-stop complaints, threats of quitting the job or worse yet, an excuse to drink as a way of coping with the stress.
For months Jennie listened. Then she began to offer advice including, “Why don’t you just quit if you’re so miserable?” Or, “You should schedule a meeting with your boss and tell him what you think.” This advice wasn't helpful, and often Matthew became annoyed or defensive in response. They started fighting about it. Both Jennie and Matthew started to believe that Matthew's job was ruining their relationship, but they didn't know how to stop his job stress from negatively impacting their life.
Over time more arguments happened, Matthew’s drinking increased and the mood at home shifted from being negative and irritable for Matthew to negative and irritable for Jennie and the entire family. This is called emotional contagion and it sneaks up on you.
Job Stress = Emotional Contagion
Did you know that emotions are contagious? Yes, both good emotions and not such good ones affect those around you. So when your spouse comes home every night with a load of complaints and negativity, this will affect you along with everyone else in the household. If you're looking for one culprit to keep a job from ruining your relationship, this is the one to focus on.
5 Tips to Keep Your Job From Ruining Your Relationship
- Be aware of emotional contagion and make it a priority to shift your mood when you're off duty
- Consider ways to create more effective boundaries around work and personal life.
- Take time to decompress from work–changing from work issues to home is often a deliberate process.
- If your partner frequently brings home work frustrations and stress, try detaching your emotions from your partners. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about your partner’s challenges but instead are keeping the emotional contagion out of your relationship.
- Suggest putting time limits on “work” talk at home.
The good news: Positive emotions are contagious as well! Think back on the feelings that you may have shared at the end of a run or walk you’ve done for charity or a football game where you’ve been on your feet with hundreds of other fans cheering that winning touchdown. The positive shared experience is truly contagious. Your brain would like more of this, thank you.
Thankfully, things turned around for Matthew and Jennie. Matthew and I engaged in career coaching as he seriously considered his career options, and whether he should quit his job. He decided not to. Instead, our work shifted to executive coaching (particularly around emotional intelligence coaching) and Matthew learned how to manage his mood. He made some important changes to his job, specifically around setting boundaries, learning how to delegate, incorporating some new personal productivity strategies, and learning how to say no.
Furthermore, he began deliberately focusing on how to be a more positive partner for his wife. Relationships that feel good, are a place for fun, adventure, support and trust are more likely to stay strong during times of stress and tough challenges. He learned that by intentionally boosting the positive interactions you have between you and your partner, you can protect your relationship from the times you're feeling off. So even though not every day was perfect, Jennie was much more patient and compassionate with Matthew during his stressful times.
I hope that my sharing this story helps you incorporate some positive changes to your work / life balance as well. If negative moods follow you home from work and you would like help sorting out a better approach before they become harmful to your relationship or family, it may be helpful to talk with an experienced career coach / life coach or therapist — particularly one who is well versed in emotional intelligence coaching. You can learn how to make positive changes at your job, manage stress more effectively, and even set some boundaries around your time and mental energy.