Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


What You Bring Home From Work

What do you do every day at work?  Sell merchandise or ideas?  Analyze data?  Design things? Organize people, events or information?  Lead projects?  Teach new concepts to others?  Where is your head, for a majority of the day?

Now think about how you bring that mindset home with you.  Those professional instincts, skills, and tendencies show up in your marriage, your parenting, or in your personal life? 

When I meet clients for the first time, I’m interested in what they do for a living.  It gives me a pretty good clue as to how they are accustomed to problem-solving.

The way you manage your work skills and mindset can either make or break your relationship at home.

I had a client, whom I’ll call Kevin, who was an X-ray technician at a local hospital.  He was one of only two technicians in his department, so his days were always fast-paced.  To add to this stress, his supervisor never praised him.  In fact, she would actually ask him to work harder and longer — often missing lunch.  By the end of the day, Kevin was wiped out.  He came home in scrubs and he remained in that tunnel-visioned mindset of getting as much done as possible, full-speed ahead, which was creating distance and tension in his marriage.  So we worked on developing ways he could grab 5-10 minute “refreshers’ during his workday — bringing healthy snacks and Vitamin water, learning deep breathing exercises, doing some basic body stretches — so that it wasn’t as draining as it usually was.  And we also came up with the idea that he’d bring a change of clothes to work so that he could get out of his scrubs before he even got in his car to drive home.  Finally, since he had a 45 minute commute, I had him create a calming playlist on his iPod to play in his car, so he could transition from “work mode” to “home mode.”

Another client of mine — let’s call her April — was an interior decorator.  All day long she looked at various rooms in homes and found what could be improved.  Her job was to identify problems and make them prettier and more functional for her clients.  Her husband was a nurse at a Hospice center.  He spent his days comforting patients who were dying, as well as family members who would come to visit.  His job was to take a sad situation and help people get through it with a hopeful and peaceful attitude.  At home, April and her husband tended to deal with various areas of their lives from their work mindset.  April looked for the flaws in situations first, and then tried to “fix” or “redecorate” them so they were easier and more pleasant for her to deal with.  She had difficulty dealing with situations that were confrontational, honest, or upsetting.  Her husband tended to have more confidence in dealing with tough situations and wasn’t as uncomfortable getting his hands dirty with unpleasant emotions.  On the negative side, however, he was susceptible to becoming sad, quiet and withdrawn around April, if he absorbed too much grief at work and couldn’t let it go.

What skills you use and what attitudes you have at work are a big part of who you are.  Many times, they are also the things you bring to the table, when it comes to relationships.  You can choose, for example, to use your strength in organization to plan a weekend getaway, keep your kitchen pantry neat and clean, and/or stay on top of everyone’s extracurricular activities.  If you spend the day taking care of people, it could translate positively into comforting and caring for your loved ones better than anyone else could.  But those same skills could also become the root of your tendency to control things, or become resentful and stressed if things don’t go a certain way.  Or you might be so drained from taking care of others that attending to your spouse or children’s needs causes unfair resentment towards them.

Being aware of what you bring home from work helps each of you better understand the others’ reasons for their thoughts, feelings, and reactions.  

It starts there.  With empathy and understanding.  

When I treat couples, I help them tease out which of those need to stay at work, which of them need to be modified to fit their home life more effectively, and which need to not come home at all.

Below is a general guide to how certain key career traits can either make or break your personal life:

Make:  listen well, good at “reading” people, figure out how to make people happy
Break:  can be manipulative, have superficial interactions with others, have a competitive nature

Make:  gather information before reacting, identify patterns, intelligent, good problem-solvers
Break:  can over-analyze situations, have poor social skills, avoid impulsive/fun activities

Make:  help people understand, are patient, know how to manage potential chaos
Break:  can come across as condescending, too rigid with plans/goals, prone to stress/fatigue

Make:  creative in their approach to things, open to new ideas, easily inspired and forward-thinking
Break:  can be moody, self-absorbed, critical of others, disorganized

Make:  compassionate, patient, good in crisis situations, peacemakers, good instincts
Break:  put others before themselves, keep things inside, prone to low self-esteem

Make:  organized, leaders, good at communication skills, goal-oriented, encouraging of others
Break:  bossy, can be too practical, impatient, self-centered, condescending, easily distracted

Make:  task-oriented, dependable, hard-working, strong team members, proud of finished products
Break:  have difficulty with change, prone to anger and resentment, fatigue, physical ailments 

Take some time to discuss this with your partner and check out what they think.  Share your thoughts and identify what professional skills and thought processes are great and helpful in the relationship, and which ones are probably better off staying at work. 

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