My husband is very successful and has been a great provider for our large family. But he is consumed with work and we get very little of his interests and time. He says I nag him too much when I tell him to cut back and spend more time with us. I am discouraged and resentful.
Your husband sounds like he is in that rarefied air of the 5% who could rattle off his plans without breaking stride. He knows where he is going and exactly how to get there. He is often consumed or obsessed, but never distracted from his goals. Things don’t always work out, but not because of a lack of attention or focus.
Big shots are intense — they believe in themselves and their mission. They pay attention to details and map out practical steps. They are strong-willed, confident, persistent, determined and impressive. The sense you have is the same as when Willie Mays hit a liner in the gap and wanted second base: He might be physically stopped, but would not be mentally deterred.
These guys — it can sometimes be gals, but I’m going to focus on fathers — feel misunderstood at home. More accurately, they misunderstand what’s expected at home. When family goals are on the radar screen you don’t get the same intensity as you sense from his work goals. He admits that the domestic duties and drills are important, but he doesn’t talk about them or act the way he does talking about revenue streams and customer needs. Okay, okay — I’ll try to get to Billy’s basketball game.
With domestic duties he’s hesitant, distracted and wimpy. She gets a lot of Gosh, I’ll see what I can do, dears. His apologies are half-hearted and insincere, and he can’t understand why she can’t accept them.
Why should she and why should he? Were his client about to walk to a competitor, he would be vigorously strategizing. If there’s a work problem 10 states away, he’s booking airline tickets pronto. But his kid’s ball game in the late afternoon — or a teacher conference, a recital, a dinner/movie engagement with her — and he’s hemming and hawing. She starts to resent him and his work; then he feels unappreciated. Both get more isolated and he ends up working despite her instead of for her. She nags and lectures him to work less but he works more because at least he is appreciated there.
The typical attempted solution is to tell him to cut back on work. These guys, however, don’t need to work less — but more. They need to continue to excel at work if that’s the talent God gave them. But they also need to excel at home because God gave them the grace to do that through the sacrament of marriage.
I told her when we married that I wanted to be radically successful. Okay. But step up and be a radically successful father and husband, too. Think bigger and work harder. Prioritize more and set clearer goals at home and not just at work. You are critical and home isn’t just a rest stop on the way to other goals.
Art Bennett is director
of Alpha Omega Clinic
and Consultation Services in
and Bethesda, Maryland.