Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Going Home From A Stressful Job

March 10, 1997

In today's time pressured world of two income families, how do families manage to find time and energy for their relationships? How do you shift gears from an aggressive, high powered work environment to the nurturing world of relationships and home?

This goes to the heart of our modern day dilemma - having quality relationships and family life while meeting the ever increasingly complex demands of the workplace. Here are nine tips to help you keep the fire of your personal relationship burning as brightly as the work you do.

1. Make your greetings special. Say with your body language, facial expressions, with the gleam in your eyes and your warm embrace that you are glad to be back in your loved ones presence. Listen with your eyes.

Take a few minutes to fill each other in on your day. Show interest and concern for one another. Coordinate your plans. Make your greetings special and you will establish a warm emotional tone for the rest of the evening. Take a few extra moments to unwind, set your attitude and be at your best when you hit the door.

2. Use the language of intimacy instead of the language of power. Shift your style of expression from the direct, competitive, action language of the workplace to the more indirect, conciliatory and tentative language of relationships. Your partner needs courtesy, appreciation, patience and acceptance. Take time to listen and to attend to each other's emotional concerns.

3. Show your love. Make a conscious effort to enter the nurturing role. Meet needs. Be kind, considerate and easygoing. Show by your actions and your words that you care for your partner and children.

Find ways of making life less difficult for one another. Find ways to please your partner. Be gracious. Be generous. Provide support for your partner when he or she is facing a crunch time at work.

Express your love and appreciation. Give affection through touches and hugs. Keep your sexual love vital and rewarding.

4. Share responsibility respectfully and fairly in the home. Do your partner helping to make the home and family run smoothly. Men especially need to be aware of doing their part with child care and housework. Roles and responsibilities need to be negotiated and divided so one partner isn't bearing an unfair burden.

These changes fly in the face of traditional gender roles and are not easy to make. Once new habits are formed, they will become increasingly easy and natural.

5. Simplify your life and lifestyle so that you aren't trying to do too much. Be clear about your values and what is reasonable in view of the many demands each of you face.

This world will have you do more and more. It is a world without limits, except our own. Much of the stress we bring into our lives is self-induced. Nobody can have it all, men or women. Temper your ambitions, desires to allow for the other part of life that brings much joy and meaning - the bonds of love, family and companionship.

6. When you are home, really be at home. Concentrate on the person or activity you are engaged in. Shift attention to the new situation wholly and completely. Don't try to do too many things at once. If you are preoccupied with something, schedule a time and address it rather than have it creep into your other activities.

Try not to bring work home. Manage your work life so that you address as many things as you can there instead of at home. If you do bring work home, coordinate with your spouse on what you need and when you plan to work on it. Outside of that time, really "be there" for your relationship. Discourage work related phone calls coming into your home.

7. Learn to enjoy leisure. Do exciting and new things together. If you can afford it, take breaks - three and four day weekends, mini-vacations, real vacations. Schedule and protect your vacation time from work demands. Learn to play and invite the child in your partner to come to play. Make memories. Have fun.

8. Keep communications alive. Give your relationship a chance. Structure time together so that meaningful communication can take place. Schedule walks together, breakfasts, lunches and a regular evening out. Plan a regular getaway weekend every three months.

Update understanding of each other. Learn something new about each other. Be curious about your partner's emotions, thoughts and dilemmas.

Track the changes they are going through and the challenges they are dealing with. Share feelings, hopes, dream and struggles. Know when things are really right or wrong in your partner's life.

9. Find a work environment and a career niche that support family values. Choose your work well. Take control of your schedule. Assert yourself appropnately. Find role models, mentors and supervisors who care and support family life as well as the work. Where you can, influence business attitudes and policies to be pro-family.

Special thanks goes to psychologist Wayne Sotile from Wake Forest University for his ideas and for his book, "The Medical Marriage: A Couple's Survival Guide."