What happens when you find the man of your dreams, and his dreams of success eat up most of the relationship real estate?
Editor’s Note: This article is my point of view as the partner of a male workaholic.The feminist in me feels obliged to acknowledge that no doubt women are workaholics too! But, I’m not talking about them in this piece. Wanted to clear that up ahead of time. xo
By Darrah Belle
The most commonly accepted word to describe men who spend the majority of their time working, even to the detriment of other areas in their life, is workaholic. This word tends to describe a man who works long hours, ignoring the concept of balance, in favor of meeting his professional goals and dreams. There is a level of obsession and compulsion that differentiates him from somebody who works long hours to make ends meet or somebody who is simply ambitious.
When you’re in a romantic relationship with a workaholic, you have to figure out for yourself whether your desire for a successful man trumps your level of need for physical and emotional attention, time and affection, or if it’s possible to help him find the right balance to satisfy you both.
My partner Richard is a successful talent agent. He has co-owned his agency for over 25 years. Those around him are equally driven. His passion for what he does and what he creates with his clients is incomparable. Let’s just say his calling found him in his early-twenties and they’ve danced together seamlessly for decades.
I’ve been more whimsical career-wise, and while at times very ambitious, I’ve had probably a hundred jobs and some of them I downright hated. I’ve always been a good writer. But before committing to it as a career, I first tried my hand at acting, modeling, singing, voice-overs, and a slew of jobs like retail sales, babysitting, public relations, massage therapy, radio co-hosting, waitressing, and even being a dominatrix for two days, before realizing that I wanted to switch gears and work in hospitality. Whew! I’m breathy just writing that.
I’ve finally enrolled in school and completed my first class in a two-year college-level certification program. I am SO excited! Especially because career clarity was harder for me to reach. (Or perhaps I needed to have faith that it would come in its own divine time?) It feels so right. I’m super grateful.
Before finding that clarity, motherhood found me. And, it’s my ultimate. My daughter is my everything! I prioritize her without question. Being a mother is the most important role I’ll ever play. Being Daisy’s mom is my calling on the most deep and profound level. I am built to take care of her and she is designed to need it from me. It’s a match made in heaven! For some time, trying to pinpoint a career while being 100% devoted to motherhood seemed like a fork in the road already littered with utensils.
Luckily, after much prayer and after doing some sweat-laden, ninja-type feng shui, I cast off enough old energy to find the truth coiled within me.
Back to Richard and me. In April, we planned a weekend getaway to Las Vegas in the form of a family-friendly jaunt to Sin City. There is an annual rockabilly weekend called Viva Las Vegas that has become a family tradition. They have a rockin’ vintage car show and ballrooms toppling over with vintage clothes, accessories and even baby clothes with a retro bent.
Richard had been working a ton lately and we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to spend some real, dedicated time together doing something we both love: shopping!
Unfortunately, workaholics don’t come with an off switch. And much to many men’s chagrin, neither do women’s needs. My need to connect, cuddle, talk, and spend uninterrupted time together wasn’t met. Sure, there were times when we had a meal and his phone wasn’t on the table, in it’s usual slot to the right of his fork. Sure, we had an afternoon where he didn’t post on Facebook for an hour. But, for the most part, we used our downtime to engage in separate activities: I napped while he gambled; I watched baby while he made work calls; we both updated our social media at the end of the night while laying side-by-side in silence in a giant hotel bed.
When you’re in a long-term relationship it’s difficult to undo certain habits, even with the best of intentions. I am working on being a more direct communicator and I’m practicing it by asking him for more one-on-one time without our cellular devices attached to our hip. I take responsibility for using my phone in bed too. It’s such a mood-kill!
Earlier this summer, Richard made his directorial debut as the creative director and co-producer of The Little Mermaid In Concert Live to Film at The Hollywood Bowl. What a thrilling three nights celebrating him and his latest accomplishment! It was also fabulous to meet the likes of John Stamos (sweetheart!), Rebel Wilson (quieter than I expected!), and to engage in authentic conversation with Tony-award nominee Sara Bareilles, who starred as Ariel. I got to meet the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson. Everybody was in awesome spirits and having the time of their lives. Some stars even wrote Richard afterward and declared the project to be among the best in their memorable careers.
But, what really struck me was how much I truly enjoyed dressing up each night. The first night, I was retro-Ariel. Donning a vintage dress and crazy seashell hat from the 1950s, I rushed into the Bowl on opening night glowing like a lit cigarette. The second night, I was a goddess-y mermaid, wearing a flowy blue dress with spaghetti straps and a complicated feathery contraption on my head that I later learned was called a “fascinator.” The third and final night was my favorite, as I discovered my alter ego, “Bubbles,” a space mermaid. Bubbles wore a cropped pink bob with blunt bangs paired with a long flowing yellow dress. I had major contouring and stunning eye makeup courtesy of Joseph Adivari and Chantel Sewell.
However, before the show’s debut, I had morphed into somebody very distant from the mysterious and decadent, if shallow, “Bubbles.” Who I’d metamorphosed into was a nagging, irritable and unhappy wife figure. I was lonely and dissatisfied with how much time Richard wasn’t spending with me. In fact, watching the Tony’s recently made me wonder: How does Hamilton star Lin Manuel Miranda’s wife Vanessa Nadal do it?
Let me clarify: Richard is always busy. His mind is always going. His foot is always tapping. His phone is always on. Always. My last words most nights is: “Please turn the ringer off.” But, this was different somehow. TLM was an all-consuming project. And, instead of sharing in his excitement and even stress, I found myself leaning into resentment.
He did his best to carve out a couple evenings a week to spend with baby and me. He tried to isolate at least one weekend day for a family outing to an amusement park or the mall or even a date night. Mostly though, he wanted to talk about the show and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t.
I know that a man’s identity is closely tied into his work. Those two things are often braided, so if his work life is going well, he feels happy and content. If not, then his confidence takes a hit. I want Richard to feel good and to meet his calling. I want to honor his purpose and also be considerate of the place in him where the braid of self and work is woven. I also want to honor my own needs, and I need him to as well. That intersection in our partnership is where we are still finding our way.
The three nights of The Little Mermaid at the Bowl were blissful and satisfying to me: a woman who wanted for so long to be an actress and eventually surrendered my will to God’s will. I grieved a while back for not succeeding in acting to the superstardom level I had dreamed of as a child. I unburdened myself from the mountains of failure that I had carried since I was a teen.
Having the opportunity to support Richard without feeling like I was an outsider, or a wannabe or a struggling actor felt really good. (Because I had felt like one for many years.) Instead, I felt whole and real and that I was exactly where I belonged. I was able to express myself in costume, and as a support system for the man I love. I was able to cultivate relationships with strangers in the cast who I can now call friends and who genuinely want to know me more. That felt really good!
I was also able to mingle with some of my readers, who complimented me on recent blog posts, and told me how important they were, while describing the personal ways in which my words inspire, encourage and comfort them. That felt really good!
There’s no fancy bow to wrap the unique gift of being with a workaholic, and the heartbreak and understanding and ongoing process it takes to make our relationship last. But it is a gift. No relationship is perfect. Everybody has something! Or else, there’d be no friction!
After the last curtain call, Richard planned a 9-day family voyage to Shanghai, China. We went for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland and stayed at the Four Seasons and Disneyland Hotel. It was a special and unique trip. I’d never been to China, and incidentally, because of something called a HeHe doll, China was obsessed with my daughter!
Despite what social media and television may have you believe, every relationship has its struggles. Sometimes you just have to don Mickey Mouse ears, count your blessings and send more love into the world. That’s what we did, and we’re happier for it!
…Follow Your Bliss xoxo
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Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Fix and nudie blog SuicideGirls.