July 23, 2015

How to Stop Talking About Work All the Time

Question: “My wife and I run a small online coaching business. We started it together six years ago and we’re really proud of how much we’ve grown. Our team is now over 25 coaches and our revenues are growing year...

Question: “My wife and I run a small online coaching business. We started it together six years ago and we’re really proud of how much we’ve grown. Our team is now over 25 coaches and our revenues are growing year over year. The only problem is that it seems like our marriage revolves around the business. When we go out on a date—which is rare already—our business is all that we talk about. Is that a bad thing, and if so, what do we do about it?” –Jason, Austin, TX

Great question, Jason. This is a really common problem. While my husband and I don’t run a business together, we do find ourselves talking about only one thing every single time we are together: the baby. Being new parents with a five-month-old son, we seem to only ever talk about Carter. Anytime that you have something all-consuming in your life, whether it’s a baby or a business or something else, it’s easy for it to become the only thing you talk about.

And talking about the business isn’t a bad thing. You both love it and are heavily invested in it, so it’s natural to want to talk about it. But the business shouldn’t be what your marriage is built on or defined by. And when your work is the only thing you do or talk about, it starts to feel like that it is.

In our marriages, we need to take time to recharge and get back to us. Here are two practical things you can do to accomplish just that.

First, make quality time together a priority—and working doesn’t count! If you can, schedule a mini-vacation and take a long weekend getaway in the next month or two. Two days away will not make the business crumble, but those 48 hours will do wonders for your relationship.

If you can’t squeeze in a vacation, schedule a date night every week or two weeks on the calendar. Make it a priority that you protect and everything else has to work around it.

You can also just block off a night to have at home. Send the kids to a friends’ house or your parents’ house, rent a movie, and have a relaxing night in together. There are many ways to do it, but you must schedule quality time together on purpose and make it a priority or it will never happen.

Second, during your quality time together, resist the temptation to talk about work. When my husband and I go on a date, we have to remind ourselves in the car on the way there to resist talking about our son. We agree in the car out loud that we aren’t going to talk about him, and then that helps us both be accountable to talk about other things. A lot of our conversation ends up starting with “Remember when . . .”

“Remember when you tried to set me up with three of your best friends?” (True story. I did that.)

“Remember when we got locked out of your house the first time you ever invited me over, and we ate Chinese food on your front door steps?”

“Remember when we snuck Jackson into that Hampton Inn even though dogs weren’t allowed, and we kept trying to dodge the housekeeping staff when we had to let him out?”

Telling stories and simply remembering times you’ve had together can keep the conversation going for hours. It can also make you laugh and make you remember how much you love each other when you think about all of the amazing times you’ve had together.

It may sound silly, but you can even script out what you want to talk about ahead of time. I have a coworker that brainstorms in the car ride on the way home a list of things to talk to his wife about other than work. That way, when he walks in the door, he is immediately engaged with her and ready to connect with her on other things.

One leader I coached said that he sets reminders on his calendar to send his wife notes or flowers. He said some people think that’s cheating. I think that’s smart! It’s showing that caring for her is a priority and he’s even put systems in place to hold himself accountable to it.

It just comes down to being intentional. Connect with your spouse on something other than your business. Talk about your hopes, your dreams, your goals. Talk about your fears, your regrets, your worries. Talk about things you’ve been through together or things you’re looking forward to together.

The bottom line is this: If you want your marriage to be about more than work, than you have to treat it like it is. Regardless of how you do it, make quality time together a priority—and when you’re together, talk about something other than work.

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  • Excellent post, Christy! My husband and I have just recently started a wedding officiant business and its a subsidiary of my coaching business, so I think this is an easy trap to fall into and the reminder to “we need to take time to recharge and get back to us” is very timely! Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability!