When a Job Steals Time From the Marriage and Family

Job work Pixabay person-731479_1920Your situation isn’t that different from mine. If you stayed at work until everything was finished, if you took advantage of every opportunity that came your way, if you sought out every angle to maximize your abilities, improve your job skills, and advance your career, you would never go home. Your job can steal time from your marriage and family.

Likewise, if you stayed at home until every ounce of affection was poured out in all the appropriate places, if you kept giving until every emotional need was met, if you did every chore, finished the “honey do” list, and did everything necessary to ensure that everyone felt loved, you would never make it to work.

In fact, if you are a parent, you know that your kids alone could command every waking hour if you let them. Add to that your fitness goals, hobbies, and friendships. The list is endless and so are the time requirements.

Job Steals Time

So let me take some pressure off you. Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization. This problem isn’t that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is that there just isn’t enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced —or others have convinced you —needs to get done.

As a result, someone or something is not going to get what they want, need, or deserve from you —certainly not what they expect from you. There isn’t any way around it. There is just not enough time in your day to be all things to all people. You’re going to have to give in somewhere. Your job steals time away and so do many other things steal time away from your ability to do it all.

Our reaction to this dilemma is to answer the call of “the squeakiest wheel getting the oil.” Whoever creates the biggest mess ends up with the biggest share of our time and attention. We run from fire to fire, troubleshooting our way through life, rescuing the needy and rewarding those who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.


Over time, our families learn that the only way to get our attention is to create a crisis. And let’s face it—it’s amazing how much time we can take away from our job when our children are in crisis. Men and women become incredibly bold with their managers, company presidents, and boards when there is a crisis at home. What was once unthinkable becomes non-negotiable.

I know a CEO who spent 29 days with his wife at a Detox Center 600 miles from their home —29 days! Yet over the past three years he has done almost nothing in investing in what he’d tell you is his most important relationship. And if anyone had suggested he take a 29-day vacation in order to invest in his marriage, he would have laughed. But he did—only when he had to.

I know a contractor who almost had to shut down his business to attend to his daughter’s drug addiction. He took her from one rehab center to another, trying to find “the best medical treatment in the country.” This is the same man who could never find the time to complete an entire week of vacation with his family. Suddenly, he has the time. He found time to make his “job” and other things wait so he could spend time tending to family matters.


Wouldn’t you do the same for your wife, your husband and your kids? Of course you would! So why wait? Instead of allowing the most recent crisis to dictate how much time you give your family, why not find a way to let your time and priorities by governed by the greatest purpose?

You’ll find that creating a healthy family environment is difficult because of the selfishness of each family member. Creating a successful job or career is difficult because of the competition in the marketplace. The struggles related to both of these environments could take up our undivided attention. But we don’t have the luxury of devoting our undivided attention to either since most of us find ourselves with the responsibility of both. So we’re forced to wrestle with the conflicts of home and work.

Clearly we don’t have the luxury of choosing one or the other since both are a permanent part of our lives. Both demand more attention than we have to give. Both originated with our Creator. But still, there’s not enough time to tell to get it all done. We’re going to say “no” somewhere, either verbally or through neglect.


We credit ourselves with good intentions. We know we’re guilty. But since we know we’re guilty, surely the fact that we feel bad about what we’re doing counts for something! As one young husband blurted out to his wife in his own defense, “But honey, you know my heart!” And he was right. She knew his heart. But it wasn’t his heart that had left her feeling left out from his life. It was his job and his busy schedule.

Good intentions have never accomplished anything. If I run over you with my car, but it was my intention to swerve and miss you, you still have to go to the hospital. Upon hearing of my good intentions, your bones are not suddenly healed. You’re just as injured as before.


I’m going to tell you a secret about each of your family members that they’ll never tell you themselves. This is primarily because they aren’t aware of it. But it’s true and extremely important for you to know. Do you know what your family wants from you more than anything else?

“Love?” you say. That’s part of it. But it goes deeper than that. They want to feel accepted. In practical terms, they want to feel like they are your priority. “But they are my priority,” you might argue.

They may be your priority, but that’s not my point. They want to feel like your priority. It is not enough for them to be your priority. They must feel like it.

I’ll never forget discussing this point with a very busy corporate vice president. He kept assuring me of how much he loved his wife and kids. Finally I interrupted him and said, “The problem is, you love your family in your heart. But you don’t love them in your schedule. And they can’t see your heart.”


For us, the chief indicator is time. Ours is tested by what we put on our calendars. Where you spend your time is an indication of where your loyalties lie. In effect, you pledge your allegiance to the person or thing that receives your time.

Are there bridges you need to burn? What are the bridges that making this decision will require you to burn? Are there accounts you need to hand off? Are there some out-of-town meetings that need to be handled on the phone? Is there an offer you need to refuse? A promotion you need to give back? Once you have made up your mind, it will become all too clear what stands in the way of your being able to focus on your commitment to reprioritize.

So what is your non-negotiable? What does it look like? Does it mean leaving the office everyday at 5:30, regardless? Does it mean never missing one of your children’s performances or ball games? What does the commitment look like in your world?

Again promising to do “better” won’t get it. You’ve already done that. That terminology doesn’t even register with your family. They’ve heard that before.


When we at last catch a glimpse of the hurt we’ve caused at home, there’s something in us that wants to fix things immediately. It’s not enough to make up our minds. We want to do something.

But the wrong actions for the right reason produce painful results. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason and end up in a worse situation than the one you left. The operative word throughout this book has been choosing, not reacting.

The fact that you have decided to make a change in your life does not necessarily mean the folks at work are under any obligation to change. There is no value in punishing your employer. Your attitude and approach should be seasoned with diplomacy and tact. Besides, the source of your frustration is not your employer. It is the decisions you have made in response to the demands of your employer and the marketplace in general. Nobody forced you to work there. It was your decision. You, not they, must bear the consequences.


Think and pray about reallocating your limited time assets according to your predetermined priorities. As we’ve said on several occasions, the blessings of God are never attained by violating the principles of God.

I don’t believe for a minute that God guarantees us a pay raise if we obey Him. But I do know that God honors those who place their faith in Him. Jesus summarized it this way: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

In other words, order your world around your Heavenly Father’s priorities for you. And then trust Him to fill the gaps created by your faithfulness. Instead of asking God to stand watch over family while you give to your career what belongs at home, turn the prayer around. Go home, and seek Him first. And ask Him to watch over things at work. In time, you will discover that when you prioritize correctly at work and at home, God will honor you in both arenas. Everybody wins.


Let’s face it. One day you will come home from the office for the last time. Nobody retires from his or her family to spend his or her final days in the office. Your last day may be at sixty-five when you retire. Or it could be at thirty-five when you are laid off. Either way, you are coming home. What and who you come home to will be determined by what and who you choose to cheat between now and then.

I have seen too many men and women cheat their family of giving them enough of your personal time, only to find that the companies they worked for, were not nearly as faithful to them as they were to the company.

Loyalty in the marketplace is rarely reciprocated. It is sad when a man or woman is forced out of an organization they bled for to return home to the family they have neglected.

Why give your ultimate loyalty to an organization where your value is conditioned upon your ability to perform? Why betray those whose loyalty is unconditional? And why devote so much of yourself to something you know you will leave? And why give so little time to those you will eventually come home to? It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Yet without a conscious decision to do otherwise that is exactly what most of us are prone to do.

It has been said before. It is worth saying again. Nobody gets to the end of their life and wishes that had spend more time at the office. You won’t be the first.


  • Make up your mind.
  • Develop a plan.
  • Deliver it diplomatically.
  • Be willing to walk.
  • And then watch for God.

After all, He takes full responsibility for the life that is wholly devoted to Him.

This article comes from the book, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family. It is written by Andy Stanley, and is published by Thomas Nelson. As Dr John Maxwell says about this book [which we agree]: “This is a life-changing book. It is extremely relevant to our modern way of life. Author Andy Stanley confronts us with truth and transparency. Just as Andy had made a commitment in his own life to balance his family time with his work, he encourages us to make similar commitments. A godly man who makes choices in his own life to never sacrifice his family for success has written it. If he wins the world but loses his family, what has he gained?” This book presents a plan for resolving the tension between work and home.


Below are two related articles we highly recommend you read:


CAREER ISSUES: Lack of Time Together

We recognize that a spouse doesn’t always have the choice as to how many hours is required to work his or her job. (Often times the company requires it.) And we recognize that there are times when a spouse may have to travel more than it is desirable. Sometimes spouses even have to live apart in distant locations because there isn’t a job available in the same town. But we encourage you to find ways to build communication bridges.

Line your priorities up to make your marriage and family life as healthy and strong as possible. (We have additional articles on this web site that can help you with this mission. Just look around.)

If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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16 responses to “When a Job Steals Time From the Marriage and Family

  1. (USA)  It’s a lot easier to get time away from work to help a loved one in crisis than it is to spend the time needed to head off the crisis. If you’re taking quality time to spend with family and head off a crisis you’re a slacker. If you take time off to spend with a family member in rehab you’re a dedicated parent or partner. Who is going to fire someone who takes time off to support a family member in rehab?

    Something basic in our society has to change to allow people to put family first. Maybe enough people making a stand and saying enough is enough to their employers will do that. It also wouldn’t hurt if we were less materialistic and consequently needed less money (and commensurrate work) to pay for all of the junk and frills that don’t really matter.

  2. This is an eye opener for me… I pray that my husband will learn how to seek God and put his family above his work. This is the reason for our break up. I know seasons will change and he will be let down by the very place he sacrificed us at. I pray it will not be too late for him to see. It’s too painful that he has no one to challenge his priorities. Right now he thinks his job is his anchor and he can achieve on his own… sad indeed.

    1. My former husband wouldn’t work. He’d work as few hours as he could get away with, burdening me to earning the income. He would find some reason to leave work early and take unpaid time off.

  3. At 47 I found myself single. Then at 50 I met a wonderful woman whom I fell very much in love with, and she with myself. Fantastic! A second chance. Within weeks of our marriage, she had lost her job because her employer felt that being married, she could no longer devote herself to his never ending needs. She was a general manager at one of his 5 retail lications.

    Fast forward 4 months…she was offered a job by a business associate of mine and was thrilled to be working again. I should mention that I am self employed and have been very successful, so money (for myself at least) was not a motivating factor. Her new job is general manager / operations manager of one of her employers 4 businesses. She oversees a million dollar a year enterprise, along with 20 or 30 employees. Her boss has repeatedly told her “this is your company to run, do it your way”.

    Sounds great…at first. Now the problem… After a few short months of marriage, I find myself running in second place, continuously competing with her job for her time. Our evenings and some weekends are spent with me waiting for her to finish one more text conversation with an employee, or waiting for her to return home from a business meeting (which only lasted 3 hours, but seemed to be 20 minutes of business talk and 2-1/2hours of laughing & telling jokes). I have previously worked in upper management, & I still fail to see the significance of this type of meeting having any business value. More like an excuse to party a little maybe?

    Now she has asked me to contemplate traveling with her across country so she can attend more meetings and get more training. I’m reluctant to say the least. She even asked what I would think about relocating, should she be offered a higher position with the company. She received a resounding NO!
    She has already hired (stolen) one of my best employees from my business to go work for hers. She fails to see the issue with that.

    She has received much prompting from her boss to “see if you can get your husband on board with our plans.” I know that’s only due to the fact that career management moves are rarely successful without a supportive spouse. And if it came right down to it, if her job were to cause a split between her and I, her employer, I’m sure would be relieved that he now had her full attention and devotion.

    I have thought about telling her to “make a choice” but my gut instincts tell me her choice would not favorable to our marriage. She would choose her job as she had already informed me that she can “make it on my own without you.”

    Aside from being livid about this entire situation, I find one huge factor that I feel she isn’t considering. She is 58 years old, with possibly 10 years of work & career left. That’s assuming her health maintains, a lot of “ifs”. Yet she seems willing to choose an unknown possibility over the certainty of the man who has promised to spend the rest of his life with her.

    When I approached her with that, she informed me that she has no intentions of retiring, instead she wants to purchase the business from her boss when he chooses to retire himself. Thus forcing me into spending the rest of our days together just as I have the last few months… waiting on her to finish that “one last text”, that “one last phone call”… to come home from just “one more meeting”. I am fearful that she fails to prioritize. Or possibly I prioritize my marriage above all else and she doesn’t?

    1. Hi J, Wow… a difficult place to be in- you describe your position very well. It very much looks like your wife is caught by the lure of “career” and “achievement” and “success…” What you realize, but perhaps your wife does not realize, that “career” and “success” are so short-lived, and so temporary! That’s a terrible remark to make, “I can make it without you.” Very hurtful. Maybe she can make it monetarily, but to lose the man who loves her in the process is a “poor business decision!”

      Giving her an ultimatum probably would not work as you say. Yes- you are prioritizing your marriage above all else, and she is not. Sure looks that way. Perhaps you can find a middle ground by agreeing on perhaps one night per week and one day out of the weekend just for the two of you? Where these two days are “sacred!” and not to be used for business purposes? In this way you can tell her perhaps that you would be far more open to her proposals if you could count on such an arrangement?

      She has been without work for a while and is now all enthusiastic. As time passes, the strain will become harder as she gets older, travel will take it’s toll, and she will need longer to recover after each stressful situation. Perhaps hold on, and emphasize that an agreed arrangement would be good for her success! (and yes, also for your marriage!)

      I was just let go after 27 years of working in the same company as a technical service consultant- called a “department “reorganization.” My boss is one of these career types. Yes, I am glad I was never married to my work! At least my ladder was not leaning on the wall of success and career. :))) Hope these ideas help, WP (Work in Progress)

  4. Thank you for sharing this article. I has helped me understand my husband. At this time he owns a beer brewery. When I met him he already had this business and it was in the beginning process. I knew eventually it would take off, but never really thought about how less of time I would spend with him. He works all weekends, and now Thursdays. He also still has his day time job. We really don’t spend a lot of time together, and I have learned to deal with it. I only wonder if he truly understands, and comprehends, how important it is to nourish a marriage.

    1. Hi Annie, I take my hat off to you for your willingness and ability to adjust to a very poor situation. Clearly he does not understand the importance of nourishing a marriage. Please see my comment above to J. WP (Work in Progress)

  5. Thank you for this article. As I read it, I can identify with several points. I have been married for 32 years. My husband pastored for 28 years and I was the breadwinner and we agreed on that early on. Over time, I began to resent him always working weekends and he felt guilty taking time off. He retired early from pastoring (largely due to the demands of people) and bought another business that he owns and operates. The business is doing well and it requires that he needs to continue to work weekends. He has a hard time delegating and as a result vacations don’t exist. As a matter of fact, we never took our 30th anniversary trip to New Zealand that we had always talked about. The reason was that he felt he could not be that far away from his job. We took one 5 day vacation in the last year and a half…but it was at my prompting and it took 8 months of convincing.

    The disappointing thing is that we both loved traveling when we were younger – and that has not changed for me. As a matter of fact, I continuously reach my max on vacation at work and have to take a few days so that I can continue to keep accruing vacation. I spend a vacation day here and there with my grandchildren…and I have gotten so frustrated about this I have told him that I was going to start traveling without him (taking my kids/grandkids on trips). We are good business partners related to work in general as we have both been consultants (outside of our day jobs)…and that has provided some bonding. However, as I get older, I feel more like I can relate to what an arranged marriage feels like. We don’t share any hobbies and vacations/trips were one way we could bond. The sad thing is that I am tired of the situation and have basically gotten apathetic about it.

  6. Wow! This hit every single sore spot I have been feeling. Now to get the hubby to take the time and read this we might be in a better place. Thank you; at least I’m not alone or over reacting. This is a sad issue for many I am learning.

    1. I’m with you in getting my spouse to read it. Just stumbled on this article today and am at a loss on rehashing this same issue for umpteenth time! My husband and I have had opposite schedules since the beginning as he’s in the entertainment biz working nights and I’ve always had a day job. On top of that, he’s full fledged into trying to make it in the real estate sector to have something else to fall back on. I admire his perseverance but he’s so immersed in it all at this point, we literally spend maybe a few hours together a week and it’s no longer enjoyable. I hope you are able to get through to you spouse. All the best.

  7. I was in a marriage where my husband said he wouldn’t work overtime so he could be with me. He came home early because he knew I had laundry to do and he wanted to help me with it. He often came home early because he said he wanted to help me. The problem was that it was difficult for me to figure out how to pay the bills. I made about 70% of the income and did about 90% of the housework. He was finding reasons to punch out early. One time I got home and he was already home from work. I blew up at him. He told me he fixed dinner. That amounted to taking leftovers from the fridge and putting them on plates and putting them in the microwave. I would love to have a husband who was willing to work a lot of hours to support the family and not burden me with the responsibility of earning a big portion of the income and not having to work so much overtime.

  8. My husband has always done work with unhealthy boundaries. The past 4 years he’s worked 7 days a week 16+ hours. Now he’s taken on more and the past 6 weeks, is home 4 hours (12-4am) just to sleep, sometimes even less. We don’t even see him. He literally could be living somewhere else and things wouldn’t look different. He’s working his body into the ground and I’m worried about him. I’m angry. He says he does it for us… That lays on the guilt pretty bad.

    1. Yes, yes, I know how this is. Please try and let go of the guilt, don’t accept it. The ‘I’m working because I have to support my family’ is swell, but the reality is that he would have done the same to support himself had he not been married. IMHO, it’s not just that they are willing to work (um, they should be if they’re a responsible person in general). It’s more about meeting one another’s needs by doing more than the very least and mirroring the effort the other spouse is putting into the relationship.

  9. This is my husband, especially the ‘loving family in the heart but not in one’s schedule’. I cannot tell you how much it harmed our marriage and his relationship with our daughters. My husband always took care of the taxes but now my husband is struggling with memory issues and I’ve taken over most of the finances and tax paperwork. I have discovered so many more savings accounts and IRAs that he had, which he never told me about.

    Yes, I am grateful that he wasn’t a spender but… SO many missed opportunities to have had precious time together as a couple (and as a family), virtually no vacations together, no building that treehouse the girls always wanted or couple’s get away time. Even a swimming pool, which was the ONLY thing I ever wanted to have…it’s was too expensive he said. No time to make beautiful memories.

    Instead, its been a marriage (and lifetime) of loneliness, as he worked 80+ hour weeks (mostly his choice), even letting his accrued vacation time expire. I’m not sure how I will ever get over the intense grief that he chose to work and save, and nothing else. I talk to him about it, I express my sadness and anger over all the lost opportunities and he just stares at me, as if to say, “Ya…so what’s the problem?”

    1. So sorry Cat. My heart goes out to you that you have lived this way for so many years and that even now, your husband doesn’t get it and won’t at least try to give you some good later year memories. I pray that somehow you are able to find smiles in other healthy ways. It’s not the same, but it’s definitely better than being swallowed up in bitterness and sadness. “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:2)