About this time of year students at the university where I teach pull all-nighters. Some boast of 36-hour sprees writing papers, finishing projects, and cramming for exams. Thankfully this dash to the end is soon over.
In more routine life about seventeen percent of adults, or nearly 25 million people in North America, work between fifty and seventy hours per week. I know administrators who work 12-hour days before heading home.
Fortunately sheer number of hours does not define a workaholic, but workaholics do work longer than most. What sets them apart is feeling out of control and valuing busyness over relationships. Bryan Robinson, Ph.D, a leading researcher on work and relationships, defines workaholism as “a compulsive and progressive, potentially fatal disorder characterized by self-imposed demands, compulsive overworking, inability to regulate work habits, and overindulgence in work to the exclusion and detriment of intimate relationships and major life activities.”
What about you? Do you tend to:
But some may be wondering if hard work hurts relationships. The answer depends on what you’re working hard at. If you’re grinding away at career, but sloughing off in your relationships, then yes, you’re headed for trouble, because relating requires effort too. What does it look like to be engrossed with your job, but coasting relationally? Here are some signs I garnered from Robinson’s WART--Work Addiction Risk Test.
The cancer at the root of these symptoms may be that we think careers require effort, but marriage and family come easily. The other day I encountered a post by a writer who held this belief:
Relationships shouldn't involve work. Well not good, happy relationships anyway. So I think it's bogus when someone offers up the advice of needing to "work on" a relationship or "work on" a marriage. If you need to work on it then it's most likely not the right relationship and you're just trying to force it.
Of course this begs the question, “How does one come to have a ‘good, happy relationship’”? Does it just spring to life due to compatibility? Or does it get knit together one stitch at a time through effort?
I’ll consider Part 2 of this topic next post.
Bill Strom, Author
I am a believer by faith, a professor by vocation, a husband by choice, a father by blessing, and a friend by hanging out. Along the way I have learned about close relating through my experiences, biblical models, and social science research. Hopefully my ideas and encouragement show up here in ways meaningful to you.