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Checking Work Email After Hours Hurts Relationships, Says Study — and My Marriage Is Proof

Couples issues with technology addiction affects marriage
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It’s not uncommon for working people to check their email after working hours. I mean, what even are “working hours” anymore? It’s honestly hard to remember, now that the days of your typical 9-to-5 are long gone. Most jobs now require us to be constantly tethered to our laptops, iPads, or iPhones and available at a moment’s notice, regardless of where we are, or how long ago we clocked out.

Sure, there are upsides to this for businesses (imagine all the extra work we can get done if we never disconnect!); but what about our personal lives? Unsurprisingly, studies are already showing the toll it’s taking on our relationships.

Virginia Tech researchers recently surveyed 108 employees working at least 30 hours per week, as well as 138 significant others and 105 managers, and found that the amount of time spent monitoring work email led to increased anxiety. Not just in the working individuals, but in their partners, too.

“Some employees admitted to monitoring their work email from every hour to every few minutes, which resulted in higher levels of anxiety and conflict between spouses,” said study co-author William Becker, an associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, when speaking with ABC News.

Anxiety wasn’t the only issue, though. Significant others reported decreased relationship satisfaction, too.

When I saw the report, I can’t say I was all that surprised. In fact, as I was scrolling through the findings, I may have rolled my eyes and muttered “well, DUH” about a half dozen times.

For years, I felt the strain of a partner who was always working “after hours.” In fact, my marriage eroded in part because my husband was always expected to be plugged in and connected to his job. Let me tell you, it was hard — not just because I wanted attention from him when he arrived home for the day, but also because I’d be with the kids all day, and barely get a break once he arrived.

I’d feel relieved that help was there the minute he walked in the door; but my relief was always short-lived.

After greeting me and our two children, my husband was soon back to standing in the kitchen staring at his phone, flipping open his laptop at the dining room table, or fiddling on the iPad. I knew it was work that he had to be doing, but it didn’t stop me from being angry with him for doing it. I wanted a present partner, for at least a few hours of the day, and I never consistently got that.

Eventually, I stopped expecting him to be in touch with our family during the work week at all. That’s when I knew, I had mostly given up.

Before our separation, I used to get so angry I’d yell things like, “It’s not like you’re a brain surgeon or something!” I couldn’t understand why he just couldn’t disconnect.

I got so tired of demanding my husband’s attention that eventually, I stopped asking for it.
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The truth was, he didn’t have that option. His boss was always calling and texting him after work, asking him to do a thousand small tasks. He couldn’t just ignore it. And if certain communication didn’t occur, the daily goals wouldn’t be met. I didn’t want him to get in trouble with his boss, or worse, be fired. It’s not like he got overtime pay for all the extra emailing, texting, and communicating he did until late into the evening, either. It’s just what was expected — and it’s what’s expected of most of us in 2018.

So I relented. I picked up the extra slack with the kids. I told them to leave Dad alone, and give him space to work. Meanwhile, I’d make dinner, serve it, and clean it all up by myself. All with an angry glare. I got so tired of demanding my husband’s attention that eventually, I stopped asking for it.

Of course, I’m not alone here. Almost all of my married friends have the same complaints: my partner isn’t present, my partner is distracted, my partner is always working and putting work before family life.

I don’t know many families that aren’t plagued by this on-going battle, or at least by the conversation of it, which never seems to have a solution.

The problem doesn’t seem to have as much to do with a distracted spouse as it does with how much is expected of working individuals. For better or for worse, we live in an overly connected society where everyone is expected to not miss a beat, no matter the hour. But when it comes to our relationships with the ones we love, surely something has to give.

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