What happens when our partner has a work culture different from ours?

May 25, 2020

Personal Growth, Relationships, Therapy

El trabajo y nuestro dia a dia

I’ve always found the connection between work and relationships fascinating.

I say that the way that we do work shows an aspect of who we are. That is why sometimes work can feel like a core aspect of our identity. I believe it is important to understand how our work identity becomes part of our romantic relationships and to learn how to manage it. Let me see if  I can explain myself:

In a relationship, one person needs a schedule to work. The other one does things as they come up.

One person works and has no issue using their phone while they do it. The other one does not check their phone once they step into their workspace.

One of you doesn’t like to hang out with their colleagues and the other one considers theirs as close friends

In the relationship, one person needs to feel passion for what they do as their main job. The other person feels content with being able to pay their bills and finds pleasure in their side hustle.

One individual likes to be learning consistently, the other one struggles with institutionalized education since college.

These different ways in which we relate to and evaluate our work is what I call “work culture”.

And in a world in which our jobs are becoming more and more important, this is a subject that requires attention. Aditionally, since COVID-19 is making us spend more time working on the same space. Sharing a work space for too long can make some of the tensions around work culture to increase in couples.

COVID-19 y trabajando juntos

When these situations happen, it is important to give ourselves the time and the space to understand the context. Each person grows in a family that has different values and stories, and these create a narrative that defines us. Our families create dynamics around money, boundaries, perfection, accomplishments, making mistakes, relationships, respect, genders, what we are capable of, among other things. And ALL of this comes into play in our relationship with our jobs. Also, if you are part of the generations that finds itself between 35-19 years old, you have experienced the giant pressure of being a generation that has to reach higher levels of productivity and needs to invest more time in our professional development.

cultura laboral y su impacto

This narrative doesn’t go away when we get in a relationship. On the contrary, it continues to develop and, oftentimes, intensifies in the presence of the other. Sometimes we think that changing our partner’s work culture for the sake of the “wellbeing” of our relationship will be an easy job. However, this can become quite risky since it oversimplified each person’s past and story.

So, how to we start managing our work culture in our relationships?

  • You can start by exploring, with compassion and curiosity, the reaction that your partner has when you make certain decisions. For example ” I’ve noticed that when I ask you to wait until the end of my workday to talk because otherwise, I find it difficult to concentrate, you become very uncomfortable. I would like to know, what happens for you when this situation comes up? And just sit down and listen to what your partner has to say. It doesn’t mean that you will have to change or that the other person is right and you are wrong. But it is important to create spaces for listening, to really understand the other, and to collaborate with solutions.
  • Have conversations! Some topics can feel uncomfortable at first, but if they handled properly, they can create a much bigger closeness in the relationship. Here are some topics that you can talk about:
    • How was your family around money?
    • What was your family’s reaction when you met expectations or you made mistakes?
    • How did you feel managing other’s expectations?
    • Where you raised for autonomy or loyalty? (This question belongs to  Esther Perel, and I believe that so much can come up from asking this)
    • What have been your experiences around boundaries? Where they celebrated or where you punished because of them?
    • How is your identity at work? What impact it has on you when you do a good job? How are you impacted when things don’t go the way you wanted them to
  • Create boundaries and spaces for connection. It is very easy to focus on wanting the other to change in order to make our lives easier. When this happens, we can forget to bring enjoyment, creativity, and freedom into our relationships. It is to create a balance between what we need for structure and what we crave for connection.


Why is it sometimes so hard to have these conversations?

Having these types of conversations requires a level of vulnerability that doesn’t come naturally for most of us. However, they create a space for exponential growth in our relationships and quality of life.  Nevertheless, to be able to explore these topics in-depth and to be able to be present and in a space of receptivity and not reactivity, it is important to understand our own relationship around work. You can start this adventure process of heightened awareness and strengthening your relationship through therapy, and it would be my pleasure to be able to be part of your process. You can get in contact with me through here. 

Relaciones trabajando juntas

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