He finishes work at 10pm, and still can’t put the iPad down on Saturday. There are work pressures on all of us, but some men – driven by competition and a poor economy – are ditching the “balance” bit of the “work-life balance”, causing stress on their relationships. While women also work hard, experts say we’re just better at the juggle.
“Women want success too, but they tend to work smarter, not harder, and prioritise differently,” says Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health.
“The work-life balance tends to be more important to women. While men are coming round to the idea that they’re no longer the sole breadwinner in a relationship, many of them do have a different way of seeing work.”
If you struggle to get his attention between emails, and sex is punctuated by the pinging of his inbox, it can be the kiss of death for dating.
“I met Stuart through a dating site and we clicked right from the first email,” says Jade, 26, an office manager. “We had a lot in common. We were also the same age, worked for similar companies and lived close to each other. He seemed like my perfect guy.”
Unfortunately, Stuart worked in another city all week. “Despite having great chemistry, our dates were strictly rationed. Work was his priority, so he was constantly involved in projects abroad to propel his career to the next level. I was always left wondering when our next date might be.”
So it came as little surprise when, after six months, they broke up.
“I don’t expect to be the only focus of a guy’s life, and I’m committed to my career too,” Jade says. “But it’s important to strike a balance, and I do expect a man to make some effort to see me. I’ve been in relationships with ambitious men before, and they have always ended in heartbreak. I really think I’m better off being single than dating work-obsessed guys.”
Professor Cooper believes the tough economic times, combined with ambition, means a rise in the number of twentysomething men putting their career ahead of their partner.
“Evidence shows that working long hours damages your productivity, but that doesn’t stop men working late into the night to boost their chances of promotion,” he says. “Some work even if they’re unwell and reply to emails at midnight because it makes them look committed. They see a healthy work-life balance as being secondary.”
Shane, 30, a marketing manager, was taken by surprise when his drive to succeed led to an ultimatum from his frustrated girlfriend.
“I was straight out of university and working two jobs,” he says. “I was staying late and meeting new people I wanted to socialise with, and I got my priorities wrong. Then my girlfriend said that if I didn’t spend more time with her, she’d end it. I had to work out what was more important, so I decided one of the jobs had to go.”
Needless to say that relationship didn’t last, but Shane now understands that regular “we time” is important to any relationship’s success.
“I’m married now, and every week we have a date night,” he says. “We also spend every Monday evening together – there’s no going to the gym or doing any admin. It works for us.”
We all have busy periods in our jobs, but if your man persistently prefers to spend time with his workmates or get into the office early – and there are no obvious problems in your relationship – ask yourself why this might be.
“It’s possible he’s using you as a buffer,” says confidence coach Annie Ashdown, author of Doormat Nor Diva Be: How to Win Back Control of Your Life and Relationships. “If men are focused on work, they sometimes simply want someone to [have dinner] or snuggle up with. It’s painful, but true.
“When you know he could spend time with you, but won’t, then you’re not a priority. If he repeatedly chooses nights out with his friends over dinner with you, he could be taking you for granted.”
Words by Natalie Blenford