Shift Work and Relationships

By Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP

Shift Work and RelationshipsResearch shows shift work has a negative effect on health, relationships, marriages and children, and increases rates of separation and divorce. When partners work different shifts there is often little face-to-face interaction. It becomes difficult to plan any family activities, maintain healthy communication, and sometimes even a regular sex life.

In today’s economy, more and more unemployed people are finding it increasingly difficult to find work. As a result, many people are taking whatever jobs they can find — even undesirable jobs such as shift work.

Shift work jobs can leave both partners with very different feelings. For example, the partner working the job may experience feelings of guilt regarding being away from the home. They may feel frustrated and “left out” due to being unable to participate in particular events or family time. This worker also may experience increased stress, feelings of overwhelm, and even irritability due to inconsistent sleep patterns combined with other emotions.

On the other hand, the other partner with more regular hours may experience feelings of loneliness. If there are children or others to be cared for in the home, this partner may feel a greater sense of responsibility and accountability. These feelings may lead to resentment and frustration.

Shift work may not be the ideal way of working or living, but it may be necessary to make ends meet or to keep employment. However, even with all of the negative things stated, there is hope.
If you and your partner work different shifts, there are ways to ensure you still maintain a happy and healthy relationship. Consider the following tips:

  1. Call or text during breaks.

    This simple gesture will keep communication open throughout the day. If possible, try to keep the conversations light. Avoid talking about things that require more time than you have or that could create negative feelings.

  2. Remember, quality is better than quantity.

    You and your partner may not have tons of time to spend together, but you can make the most of the time you have. Set a date or plan a fun activity during your next available time together and make the most out of whatever you do.

  3. Leave little reminders of your love.

    Little reminders can come in the form of a note or a simple gift. Leave your partner items in surprising places such as the car, the bathroom, or even the fridge. This will let your partner know that you are thinking of them and leave them thinking of you as well. If you’re not really into notes or don’t have time or money for small gifts, consider completing a chore for your partner. This will show that you are considerate of his or her feelings and willing to pitch in to help in any way you can.

  4. Set aside time for “business talk.”

    When partners have different, hectic schedules there is little time for anything. You don’t want the majority of your time spent talking about serious matters such as finances, household issues, etc. Set aside a specific time to address these issues so the remaining time can be enjoyed to the fullest.

  5. Check in emotionally.

    In the chaos of hectic days we can remember to say “hi” or ask “how are you?” in passing. We may also get to squeeze in an “I love you” and “can you pick up some milk?” We want to make sure that we are checking in with our partners on a deeper level. Take the time to know how your partner is really feeling. As mentioned earlier, each spouse can experience various emotions as a result of their roles. Talk about these feelings and discuss what can be done to help both partners fell more comfortable.

Shift work doesn’t have to be miserable for partners, nor does it have to be a death sentence to your relationship. Relationships take hard work. For partners who have very different schedules, hectic lifestyles, or minimal time to spend together, these relationships may require a little extra work. You may choose to use some or all of the tips in this article or you may choose to use none. Evaluate your relationship, look at your partner’s needs, and do whatever is necessary to keep your relationship healthy. Don’t let shift work get the best of you.

 

APA Reference
White, D. (2013). Shift Work and Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/shift-work-and-relationships/00015208
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Feb 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.