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Married to a Workaholic

QUESTION: What can a woman do to get the attention of a tired work-aholic? My husband is always working or asleep. I have tried everything but can not get his attention. The few times we have had time together...out to dinner, he yawns through the entire meal and doesn't say more than two or three words. I know he is not having an affair because he is always at work when lots of people are there, or at home asleep. He owns his own business and says that is what it takes to stay afloat. I understand it from a business point of view, but what about me? Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Although it may be true that your husband is not having an affair with another woman, the reality is that he is having an affair with his business. All of his energy and vitality are focused on this area of his life, leaving little to nothing left over for the marriage. No wonder you are upset!

Let your husband know that you need his EMOTIONAL as well as physical presence. Ask him if there is anything you are doing to push him away or other reasons for his emotional withdrawal from the relationship. Let him know that you do love him but that the marriage is not giving you the sustenance you need from a primary relationship.

Being "married" means that you must depend on your partner for certain things that you agree to not get from anyone else. This includes sexual intimacy and a certain emotional connection that is unique. Naturally, there is much room for defining what kind of marriage you want and while it is true that it is unrealistic to depend only on your partner for all your emotional needs, it is primarily for reasons of emotional nurturance that people marry.

Perhaps your husband will appreciate your voice in the marriage as similar to the role the canary played in warning coal miners that the oxygen was getting too shallow to support life in the mine shaft. But hopefully the marriage will not have to die before he becomes proactive. Much of this may also depend on how you approach him.

It is time to confront your husband with the fact that marriage, like business, requires effort. If he does not wish to be married, that is his prerogative. But if he wants to remain married, he must come to terms with the responsibilities inherent in a marriage. A relationship needs attention in order to stay alive. Like any plant that you may have watered regularly for years, once the watering stops, it will inevitably wither. And there does come a time when the opportunity for revival is past and death is inevitable. Ask your husband to turn his nvestment energy towards his relationship before it is too late!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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