LAST_UPDATETue, 19 Jun 2018 12am

Divorce Statistics Show That Work Is Getting In The Way Of Marriage – Here’s How You Can Save Yours Before It’s Too Late

Based on the initial findings of the Fifth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted in 2014 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN, Lembaga Penduduk dan Pembangunan Keluarga Negara), divorce cases in the country are mostly caused by “incompatibility” at 35.3 per cent, which was cited as couples growing apart, lack of intimacy, and careers getting in the way of the relationship, followed by adultery (20.2 per cent), irresponsible husband (14.1 per cent), involvement from in-laws (7.3 per cent), financial problems (5 per cent), and among other reasons (18.1 per cent).

In a research last year conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, “Assessing the relationship between quality of life and marital satisfaction among Malaysian married couples”, findings showed that divorce cases and low marital quality occur due to conflict between the demands of work and family. Men and women struggled to fulfil the responsibilities of these two, often-competing roles, the study claims.

While it is a common belief that high achievement professionals are too focused on their careers, causing a strain in their marriage, in contrary, a team of researchers from the Tavistock Institute in the UK have proven that there are ways for career driven couples to overcome their marital issues despite the long hours of working.

Based on the research on 285 couples who are working professionals, there is no link between working long hours and an unhappy relationship, and in fact even the opposite might be true.

“Instead of finding that working longer hours had a negative effect on the couple's relationship satisfaction, the team found that couples actually made extra effort with each other after work to make up for time lost with their partners through working long hours, leading the researchers to suggest that longer working hours could in some cases even be beneficial for a relationship,” according to the research published by SAGE in the journal Human Relations.

Malaysian Digest sought the feedback of experts who commented on these findings and got some tips for you, our readers, on how you can balance between your career and marital life.

Having An Affair With Your Work Can Ruin Your Marriage

Charis Wong, Director, KIN & KiDS Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center and marriage and family therapistCharis Wong, Director, KIN & KiDS Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center and marriage and family therapistIn our interview with Charis Wong, Director of KIN & KiDS Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Center and marriage and family therapist, she says work getting in the way of relationship is indeed a common problem faced by couples, paving the way for an increase in divorce rates, even for young couples.

“Yes, it is a common presenting issue to balance career and love life. Often we have wives feeling neglected by their husbands who work long hours.  

“I've also had children who say that their parents are too busy with work and do not have time for them.  However, men are not the only ones who have demanding careers these days.  I've had quite a few husbands who felt that their wives prioritise their work more than their marriage or family.

“The modern new age husband today is often supportive of their wife’s career. However, in some situations, as the wife gets busier with a budding career, some husbands may start to feel like he has to compete with his wife's work for his wife's attention,” she shared.

Charis also explained those who work long hours usually spend minimal time with their families. And in most cases, her clients preferred quality time over financial stability and life’s luxuries.

“I believe that most children would prefer having more time with their parents rather than enjoying the privileges of a lifestyle that their parents are able to give them.

“I've also had clients who feel the same way about their husbands. What I also realised was that many people continue to become workaholics despite having achieved financial stability. 

“This leads me to wonder, is there pleasure and fulfilment from work which some people find difficult to give up, even if their marriage is at stake or their partners feel neglected?,” Charis questioned.

She added, “In other words, has work become such a security or a lifestyle that making a change in order to have a better work-life balance is seen as a risk of losing security, a sense of fulfilment or self-esteem for a person.”

Meanwhile, Charis’ colleague, Patrick Cheng tells us, work should definitely not affect our love lives, “According to our Employment Act,

Patrick, Licensed & Registered CounselorPatrick, Licensed & Registered Counselornormal working hours is eight hours per day, which is a third of a day. Minus eight hours of sleep time, we are then left with eight hours for our personal and social lives.

“In this context, work and life can be balanced. While we don't often dichotomise our lives according to such rigid time frames, it is still a useful guide.

“Work should not be the cause of marital issues. However, the longer hours that we put into work or other areas of life can affect a marriage.”

Things can always be worked out with a little give and take, and a lot of support. Patrick continues, “Couples generally understand and support each other when they have to work longer hours or take on additional jobs to support the family.

“Both husband and wife need to be reminded to demonstrate care and kindness and not take each other for granted.”

From a male perspective, he laments, “Wives should not give the impression that husbands are at fault most of the time, it must be said that sometimes wives do take their husbands for granted as well.

“Perhaps that is one reason why husbands are not motivated to do things around the house when all he gets is whining and criticism. So, they would rather spend more time at work where they would receive praises and get promoted by their superiors.”

“Couples need to establish an understanding beforehand and give occasional reminders to each other of their fidelity and show their affection towards each other. The bottom line is, they need to feel emotionally attached to each other despite the time or space separation. It is going back to the fundamental of relationships - do you care for me?  If yes, show me that you care!,” he stressed.

Employers Need To Be More Flexible

Our jobs may cause stress sometimes, and Malaysian Employers Federation chief Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan doesn’t deny that it has an impact on marital life seeing as we spend quite a fair bit of time at our workplace.

“Marital life does get in the way of a career, especially when it has a lot to do with the need to spend more time with the family, especially taking care of the children.

“Spending quality time with the children is one of the major issues faced by married couples” he said.

He shared that work can have a negative impact if an employee gets carried away with work, however, employers should be more flexible with the working hours.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin BardanMalaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan“Employers do understand the fact employees work long hours and therefore solutions must be given to overcome this.

“If an employee is required to work long hours, perhaps their working hours can also be more flexible to suit their needs.

“Many organisations now, especially the bigger ones, are concerned about work-life balance. There is an effort made by organisations and employers to balance the work requirements, to give a better quality of life to their employees.

“Having flexi hours is one of it. Some companies even allow their employees to work from home, especially when physical presence is not required in performing their task,” he added.

For employers, he left this advice: “Take up the philosophy that a happy employee will be more productive and positive towards their work because many employees who have problems at home tend to bring it to their workplace.”


It’s All About Balancing Between Career And Marital Life

We definitely wish we could forgo a day of work in exchange for quality time with our significant other. But advancing in your career doesn’t mean neglecting your spouse in the process. So how can you ensure your career will not wreak havoc on your marriage?

Know Your Priorities

Datuk Shamsuddin stresses how professionals must “lay out their priorities”.

“At the end of the day, it is important to meet both the requirements for work and marital life. Make sure that both your significant other and your co-workers know that they’re a significant part of your life.

“When both understand that they are mutually valuable, staying late at the office doesn’t mean that you’d rather be at work, nor does taking a personal day mean you don’t care about your job.

“Communicate that both are of high priority and sometimes, as need be, one might take precedence,” he explained.

Stop Talking About Work

Tharma, a psychology lecturer advised, “While it's important to keep your partner updated about your work, make sure that you don't let it become all you have to share.

“Yes, it's natural to want to relay positive developments or complain about discouraging setbacks, but make sure you chat about things other than work.

“Stop talking about your next big proposal, and halt all conversations about your gossipy co-worker. Instead, discuss topics you as a couple both enjoy.

“It's important your significant other knows that they are still more important to you than your work life.

“On the plus side, you’ll find that occasionally disconnecting from work will make you more productive when you return to the office.”

Always Set Boundaries

For the workaholics out there, Charis reminds, “You should set boundaries in your work life.  If work appears never ending, it will probably not get completed no matter how many extra hours you put in.

“Ask yourself whether the family really needs the income that you are currently earning.  Perhaps, the family can consider a lifestyle change so that a reduction in income will not become a significant financial stressor.”

Put Away Your Gadgets

Alice, a PhD student majoring in marriage counselling opines, “Our mobile phones have become the tool of choice for most business people. I get it, there's always something to do or catch up on, but the bedroom is for intimacy.

“That's why it’s best to keep the television out of the bedroom, as well as mobile phones, computers, tablets, and any other electronic devices. There will be time for those in the day.”

Patrick echoes the same, “Coming back home early from work will not help if your spouse ends up facing the computer screen, be it for work or social networking.”

Spend Quality Time

While one can be committed to their career, they must make sure to spend quality time with their loved ones, explains Nurul, a human resources lecturer.

“If your career demands that you work long hours at the end of the month, plan a weekend getaway with your spouse the week before so you can share time before your required separation.

“Equally, after a vacation or break from work, come back to the office energised and eager to get back to your job. Show your boss that even though you value your relationship and personal life, you are similarly devoted to your professional success.”

Give Assurance To Show You Care

Patrick emphasises for a balance between work and marriage, both need assurance that the other person cares about the relationship.

“Knocking off work on time to invest quality time in the marriage definitely helps. Spending time with the wife in the kitchen in preparing meals or washing the dishes does not just alleviate her mood and make her feel less tired, but it also communicates a powerful message ‘I care about you’,” he said as an example.

Spice Up Your Marriage

For Abdul Hadi, manager at Ernst and Young, work can be taxing in his field, however, he believes there are always ways to spice up the marriage.

“My wife understands the challenges in my field, as I am honest and open with her, with everything I’m going through at work, and we communicate a lot even if it’s just via text message during my long working hours.

“When I get home, despite being tired, I always find that there are always ways to please her, regardless if it involves intimacy, or even doing something simple that she finds really sweet, like getting her favourite cupcakes, for instance.”

Understand Your Spouse’s Needs

“I would strongly recommend for couples to first ask themselves what does work represent in their lives and what do they get from their work,” Charis asserted.

“Then, I would also urge each person to assess their work needs together with their marital needs. 

“In a marriage, your spouse's marital needs are just as important as yours, so you need to really understand your spouse's needs as well and whether you are able to meet those needs,” she concluded.

-Malaysian Digest