Dating a Workaholic: What You Need to Know


Signs of a workaholic

Maybe you spotted some signs of it on the first date: he had to step outside to take a work call, dinner was put on pause to respond to an urgent email, he left his phone out face-up on the table and was constantly checking it. And then, as your relationship progressed, more red flags popped up: he canceled that movie date because he had to work late, after your evening of sushi and sake and subsequent bedroom romp he got out of bed and opened his laptop, he was late for your birthday because his meeting with a client ran over.

What is a workaholic?


Somewhere along the way, you began to resent his dedication to his work life and his inability to separate himself from it. It became apparent: you weren’t just dating this handsome man, you were dating his work too. You were dating a workaholic.

Merriam-Webster defines a workaholic as “a compulsive worker,” and as our society is driven by achievement and success, chances are you know one. A workaholic could be driven by perfectionism, an obsession with making money, or an avoidance of uncomfortable truths and emotions. But there is one common theme that unites all workaholics: in their life, work comes first.

Loving a workaholic


Before you take any action, consider why work is such a strong presence in his life. Does he definitively fall under the category of a workaholic, or is there something else at play? Constantly working could indicate that he would rather work than deal with emotions, or it could simply be the fact that he is working for a start-up (or is trying to get the business off of the ground itself)? Start-ups require a huge amount of dedication and support in the beginning stages and could ease up later. Other possibilities are that his job is very demanding, and that is what he signed on for, and he is okay with that. Or maybe he isn’t aware that he has poor boundaries around a healthy work/life balance and he doesn’t have the faintest clue that it is affecting you negatively.

Dealing with a workaholic boyfriend


To navigate a relationship with a presumed workaholic requires what any good relationship requires: communication, examining your beliefs and expectations, and setting personal boundaries.

Bring up your frustrations in a non-threatening manner: “I feel (fill in the blank) when you are (constantly on your phone, late for/cancel date for work).” He may get defensive and unwilling to discuss it, or the conversation may flow naturally. Depending on how he responds, consider his response and feedback, and use it to construct what you would like to change in the relationship. Would you like him to leave his phone in his pocket while you are on a date and turn off notifications? Can you agree on a time for him to consult it if he feels that it is of utmost importance? Would you like him to keep technology out of the bedroom, period?

If he is unable to honor these requests or unwilling to talk about them at all, it may be time to kiss your workaholic lover goodbye. If he is willing to work with you, then you may have the opportunity to reap some of the benefits workaholics can bring to the table: success, dedication and loyalty, and ambition. And those traits can make for an excellent boyfriend.