Whether you are working with your partner, your teen age children or a work colleague the principle is the same. What you say and the way in which it is said, the tone of voice, the words you use and the timing of when things are said all have the capacity to widen the gap between you and the other person to let them off the hook as they can rationalize your nagging as unreasonable, or to make them think.
Most partners of workaholics feel neglected; they see themselves taking second place to their partners work. Clients often describe how their partner will take the time and trouble to listen to a member of their staff far more readily than they do them or their children. “If they loved me enough they would want to spend time with me” They make the assumption that it is lack of love which causes their partner to spend long hours away from them. Their frustrations and sense of loneliness take over and as soon as their partner gets home the frustrations spill over and they share how they are feeling and the recriminations begin.
Like so many of the strategies we use when we are feeling un-resourced it is incredibly unproductive. Despite the fact that the strategy rarely works, many partners (and parents) find they go into nag mode knowing it is destined to fail and make them feel bad into the bargain. Einstein’s definition of madness is to carry on doing the same thing even though we know it doesn’t work. Yet millions of us continue to behave in a set way long after we know it is failing. This is not about blaming. We do the best we can given the personal resources at our disposal. What we want to do is to help you feel you have a wider range of resources at your disposal and the choice when to use them.
To understand why it fails so often you need to take a step back and take a long hard look at what is really going on. Understanding what is actually happening can also give you the opportunity to behave differently.
Most workaholics are workaholics because of some deep seated need within themselves. Many are driven to succeed on terms which only they can define as they push themselves long after most people would feel highly successful. For some it is the dread of failure rather than the pull of success which drives them. A poor sense of self worth developed in childhood, the need to feel significant by doing things for others, or having external verification of worth are all common reasons for people feeling more secure in their working life than in their personal life.
You know your partner well. Consider what is driving them? Think about the relationship they had with their parents, siblings or at school.
Partners will often respond disproportionately to a particular tone of voice or to being told that they have failed. It often hits a deep seated raw nerve which has been created during their formative years. The nagging becomes synonymous with a parent telling them how useless they are or a teacher or class bully belittling them.