“I’m just so busy at work”
I’ve worked with many clients and a work/life balance that’s out of kilter can have an incredibly negative impact on the relationships we have with not only our partners but also with our families, friends and colleagues.
We can become so consumed by our work that everyday life becomes an unwanted distraction, even relationships with our partners and children can seem like a burden when we’re overly focused on work.
Creating a healthy work/ life balance is a problem in todays society as the pressure to succeed and increase our personal wealth can become incredibly overwhelming but how do we manage this elephant that's taking up so much room in our lives ? Often we don’t and it just tramples over everything we’ve spent years creating, ironically the desire to achieve more in order to become what we perceive to be a better partner, parent, friend or relative can actually result in us destroying whatever it is we’re working so hard to improve.
I dated a man for several years who was completely obsessed with work, he literally would spent 20 hours a day working and I always felt that our relationship was an inconvenience that took him away from this precious work, I felt I had to compete with his laptop for his attention and what happened was the laptop won as I got bored fighting for my place in his life.
We were not living together but what if we were and what if we'd had have created a family together, how would I have managed the situation then ? Well I probably wouldn’t have ever married him in the first place as the red flags were out from the start but I did the classic thing of thinking he would somehow change as a result of being with me, one thing I’ve learn’t is that people rarely change, well not unless they actually want to- its not enough for you to want them to change, be realistic and brave and have that conversation because you deserve to be more than an extra in someone else's screen play...
I think that we all live such busy lives that sad as it is, we actually need to sit down and literally schedule time for the relationships in our lives just like we schedule in our work and hobbies as otherwise we risk creating a situation where our relationships have to try and survive on the crumbs from our table that is our working and social lives.
I personally sit with my diary and try very hard to maintain a healthy balance in how I carve up my time (think slice of pie) if I’ve been especially busy with work and feel like I haven’t been as present as I’d like to be with my children I actively block off time in my diary to ensure that we have time together to compensate for my lack of not being fully present due to work commitments.
The reality is we can’t always please everyone all of the time but we can do our best to honour the relationships in our lives and give them the time and commitment that they deserve, our relationships shouldn’t be getting crumbs from the table, they should be valued, nurtured and enjoyed so whilst it may seem a little American to schedule people into the timetable which becomes our lives, I think its a positive move forwards.
I have designed my life so that I have family nights, date nights, friends nights, me nights because if I didn’t actively spend time creating balance in my life, I would quickly find myself existing for the benefit of those around me and that would be equally as destructive as it would then result in me being the person that was getting crumbs from the table and I certainly deserve more from my life than that.
Its my life and as famously quoted in one of my all time favourite chick flicks “The Holiday” “If you can’t be the leading lady or gentleman in your own life then what the hell are you doing all this for” Live your life, do what fills you with light.
So when it comes to nurturing romantic relationships how do you ensure that you make your partner a priority without it feeling like your unnaturally trying too hard to “make your relationship work” because energetically you don’t want to feel as if you’re constantly having to slog as this, its a relationship not a game of twister.
I would say that it is essential to be aware that relationships are much like gardens and require regular nurture and maintenance therefore it is positive to encourage habits and behaviours that nurture and encourage connection in the relationships in your life, it could be as simple as trying to eat your meals together and using that time to catch up on what's going on for you both or going for a Sunday morning walk or even just having a much needed lay in with tea and toast. It needs to feel natural and "like something you'd do" otherwise it could result in feeling like you're putting far too much pressure on eachother to constantly be operating as “your best self” which would lead to potentially disingenuous and inauthentic behaviour patterns being established so keep it simple and just look for windows of time and space to create connection. No one wants to spend their time with some intense relationship guru on their back.
Many couple have date nights and I think they can be a great success, you don’t have to do anything particularly exciting on a date night, you just need to set aside time together where you can spend time with each other without distractions , that’s not sitting in the same room watching the same programme or going out for a drink and spending your time on social media seeing what everyone else is doing, its about actually talking, sharing thoughts and simply enjoying being with each other without distraction, some couples find this very hard because their relationships are so saturated with the demands of everyday life that they have lost the ability to connect on a one to one basis as they have become living breathing family facilitating machines. Just see and hear your partner and I mean that literally, stop and really listen to what it is they're saying, be active in your listening and engage- we're all so manically busy we skim read our way through our lives and the relationships in them and that is a huge disservice to not only our partners but to ourselves.
So if you feel that your relationship is living under a cloud of commitments and responsibilities then you need to look at how you’re actually spending your time together and then start to play with that a little, this doesn’t mean you need to start booking big romantic weekends away in some bid to show commitment to your relationship or start cooking seven course tasting menu’s on a Monday night, you just need to start creating windows of time for each other that allow you to fully connect and on a regular sustainable basis, enjoy each other's company and be fully present.
We don’t need hours of deep connection to be in a healthy relationship we just need little windows of time when we allow the relationship to take priority, often taking time away from work and daily commitments and spending time with those you love and care about actually ignites and encourages your productivity and creativity so its positive and beneficial on many levels.
Communication is the key, if work’s got in the way then you’ve both allowed that to happen, we all have a right to have our needs met and if your relationship has suffered due to work commitments then one or both of you has compromised those individual needs and therefore you must take responsibility for that.
A very helpful exercise is that of ''A slice of pie or indeed pizza if you prefer'' to try and work out why you have so little time and what could be nicer than completing an exercise that has some connection to eating something delicious, I personally am imagining a beautiful crafted lemon meringue pie capped with lots of that whipped golden meringue.
So lets look at your life as a glorious pie/pizza that on a daily, weekly or monthly basis you carve up into portions, some larger than others but over the course of your day, your week , month you give these portions away to the people in your life, your partner, your work, your children or pets if you have them, your hobbies, housekeeping, your family, friends… the list of receivers goes on and on and you only have one pie-
Try and think about how you portion up your time and really look at how much time you spend on each of the commitments you have in your life. (be honest) I know I spend far too much time browsing the internet for new travel destinations, new shoes, new face creams- I'm a born shopaholic and I know its not the most productive use of my time and is certainly taking up too much of my pie so that's something I know I need to rebalance.
Do you feel you have a balanced life ? Are you spending disproportionate amounts of time on certain activities and maybe not so much on others ? Are you spending more time each evening on social media/watching Netflix than you are talking or interacting with your partner/family ?
Whilst this is predominately about relationships it is also about life and in order to exist in a healthy relationship you need to to have a healthy balanced life.
When you are living a healthy balanced life you are able to give your relationships the best of you and therefore you stand a much better chance of forfilling both your needs and your partners needs within your relationship.
Try and make some notes on how you think you could achieve the balance you’d like to achieve in your life, it could be as simple as establishing some new habits by switching how you spend your time, for me less time shopping more time connecting with friends and family would be a positive switch, less Netflix bingeing more painting and writing ... when we really look at our time we can identify areas where we're out of balance and look to make changes.
This is about creating positive intentions and encouraging positive action.
But stuff happens in life that distracts us or takes us off course- let's look at just a few:-
I’m worried about money...
I’m not feeling well...
There are times when relationships come under huge amounts of external pressure and disconnection is all too easy, our energies seem to be sucked into into dealing with our tornado of circumstances and we simply lose our ability to function as we once did.
For example when we lose someone in our lives , Grief is an all consuming emotion that literally engulfs all of our energies, relationships can become incredibly disconnected through grief as the focus on those grieving is quite understandably on their feelings of loss and the change in circumstances.
If the disconnection has come about as a result of you or your partner experiencing the grief process then communication is paramount to establishing reconnection, if you can communicate your feelings by talking to your partner it will help you both to stay connected through this incredibly traumatic and painful period of your lives.
You may not feel like sharing your emotions about your loss with your partner and that’s ok along as long as your partner knows and understands that your withdrawal is not a reflection on them or your relationship but simply a coping mechanism to allow you to manage your ever changing emotions.
I think its important to be honest and respectful of your partner’s position in your life, they are your partner and they deserve to be in possession of your truth even if that means there’s nothing they can do to help you.
If it is a loss that your'e both as a couple experiencing then again I would advise the very same, that you give each other space and support in equal measure, sometimes the most valuable form of support is giving your partner the ability to withdraw if that what they feel they need and will gain most benefit from. I think shared grief is best served with honesty, mutual compassion and respect.
Extreme financial worries, a partners loss of a job or on the onslaught of debt can have a profound affect on a persons ability to function emotionally in a relationship, I know myself when I was facing financial difficulty it seemed like an enormous black cloud was floating right above my head and its all I could think about 24/7, this level of pressure has the capacity to isolate us completely as we become so consumed with finding a solution we can barely notice if its day or night let alone make time to ensure our partner feels valued and wanted.
Again, its all about communication, if you, your partner or you both as a partnership are struggling financially its very important to give each other space to process the circumstances but also let them know that you are there to support them rather than judge them. In times of financial distress the best thing you can do as a partner is offer support through just being there and trying to withhold any negative judgement , you can stay connected through the most stressful of circumstances if you keep communicating and keep showing your support, its about compassion, empathy and humility.
Don’t be afraid to ask your partner how best you should support them, what is it they need from you ? and even if that’s not the support you feel you want to give try to understand why they may need it and if you can do your best to meet that need.
Mental or physical Illness can prevent us from fully connecting with our partner and when unwell its hard to use our energies for anything other than getting through the day, obviously the more the serious the illness the more debilitating it can be and these circumstances can be a huge test for a relationship.
If we show compassion and kindness to our partners when ill then you’re probably doing about as much as you can do, in reality that can be easier said than done especially when our own individual needs are being compromised as a result of our partner’s illness but I think that is a test of our true commitment to the relationship, if you love someone then you will accept that your needs may need to be compromised whether that be temporarily or for the foreseeable future and that compromise can be graciously accepted as part of the changing dynamic of a relationship.
When we communicate our thoughts and feelings to our partner they can understand why the disconnection is occurring thus avoiding a scenario where by the other partner starts to mirror the disconnection out of fear of rejection or resentment. We can't ever really know what's going on in another's persons head so don't expect your partner to be a mind reader- talk to them.
When I’m not feeling great whether that be physically ill or just stressed and anxious I always try and shrink my life to allow myself to focus as much of my energy of healing myself, I go to bed early and try and get as much sleep as I possibly can , I stay home where I feel safe and secure and I simply allow myself to focus on my healing which simply can’t occur when you allow life to push you to your limits which it so often does.
If in a relationship my slightly reclusive behaviour could be misconstrued as intentional disconnection from my partner but that would not be true, this is when communication is paramount, my disconnection would be out of desire to make healing my priority but without communication of my reasons to disconnect I could potentially cause harm to the relationship as my partner may feel there are more deep rooted reasons for my disconnection.
If we don’t communicate our fears, worries and how we’re feeling mentally, physically or emotionally to our partners disconnection is likely to occur and this can spiral into prolonged disconnection which is as we’ve explored can be very destructive so KEEP COMMUNICATING !!!!
Life throws curve balls at us and we will all have periods in our lives when we can’t give to those close to us but the thing we can most benefit from and in fact the thing that makes being in a relationship so rewarding is that if we allow our partner in we can receive the invaluable gift of support and encouragement. We must allow ourselves to receive as well as give, that is what being in a relationship is all about, supporting, inspiring and encouraging each other.