I'm looking for some answers about work/life balance. My job isn't exactly that stressful, but I'm not being a very good employee because of the worry about my home life and I don't know what quite to do.

My partner is bipolar and drinks when in a hyper state, this has a knock on effect of causing bucket loads of stress, ranging from threats of self harm, to embroiling us as a family into difficult situations, to spending sprees, to large amounts of debt. It is immensely frustrating to deal with as I find that I have to run around sorting out the kids particularly after school got social services involved.

For the last year I've found this increasing hard to handle, not knowing what will be going on when I get home from work.

My work has suffered, if you were a co-worker looking at me you would think I'm flakey, lazy and not engaged, because of the stressors around my family, such as having to drop everything because I've had "that" call from the school.

I'm fed up of all of this and I'm seriously contemplating quitting work. This is mostly due to me not fully engaged and my feelings about that, because I'm not engaged, I'm performing sub-optimally, things aren't getting done, I'm behind in my work, I'm letting the business and the teams down.

I have difficulties coping with balancing the stress of home with work, i don't particularly want to as I like the money that pays for the roof over our heads. Equally, I don't want to loose my job for being a under-performing employee, well, for the previous reason.

I've come up with a little game plan to improve my engagement at work, which is based around CPD but it's not for the area I work in. I also have a plan to put forward to my director to develop something that our division has budgeted for. But my major concern is, is that when I get around to doing this, my partner has a significant episode that throws my plans out of kilter and I'm back to square one of sorting out mess.

So any thoughts on what I should do? I don't want to give up on my partner as they are ill and needs support, I don't want to give up on my job as it would mean isolating myself further and missing the opportunity that I could turn things around and make it a fulfilling, challenging and engaging.

So, with all that in mind are there any answers can any of you give me, so that I can turn things around?

Some context, I'm a 51yo man, working in PMI in the UK, a software architect in IT delivery.

  • Have you considered getting your partner hospitalized? They sound like they could be a danger to themselves and others... – Erik Oct 27 '17 at 14:17
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    Can you trim this down? As long and detailed as it is, it will likely get closed. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 27 '17 at 14:19
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    Also, sounds to me like any significant improvment should happen on the private side, so kind of off-topic for the workplace. – Daniel Oct 27 '17 at 14:28
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    @Daniel many workplaces offer assistance to their employees in just such cases. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 27 '17 at 14:50
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    @Daniel it's under the whole "HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND". Those programs are good if, AND ONLY IF, the employer is already aware. I.E., they catch you drunk, so you sign up for their employee assistance program for alcoholism. USE SPARINGLY. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 27 '17 at 16:38

First off, the phrase "work-life balance" is a myth. Each affect the other and unless you have a sociopathic ability to compartmentalize, it cannot be achieved.

So, let's break down your problem to it's most basic components.

What you have is a life issue that is affecting your work. Start there.

From that point, break everything down to "what can be handled at home" and what can be handled at work.

If the difficulties are already known at work, you need to express to someone in power the fact that you are taking care of the home issues that have been affecting you. Then do it.

Again, if work is already aware of the issue, you may want to inquire if there are any programs in which your employer participates that may be of help. This both clearly demonstrates that you are addressing the issue, as well as gets the help you need.

Privately, find any and all mental health agencies, groups for relatives with mental health issues, and any other help you can get.

Finally, you need to schedule personal time to decompress from all the stress. The help groups may have some ideas, but remember, if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot help anyone else.

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  • To me, the phrase means exactly that: If you work to much, your private life will suffer - and if you private life is too exhausting, your work will suffer. You have to keep these too in balance. So I don´t really know what you mean by calling it a myth? – Daniel Oct 27 '17 at 14:50
  • @The Snark Knight Thank you, more good points there – Bert Oren Oct 27 '17 at 14:52
  • And try to get some more official help for your partner as well. There's no need for you to cope with this all by yourself if there's help available to you. – user44108 Oct 27 '17 at 15:08
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    @Daniel the concept of balance is like there is a scale, you put four apples on one side, and you need to put four apples on the other side. Life doesn't work that way. Every aspect of your life affects every other aspect unless you can compartmentalize every last facet of your life to the point of sociopathic levels. – Old_Lamplighter Oct 27 '17 at 15:18
  • @BertOren Good luck, I wish you all the best – Old_Lamplighter Oct 27 '17 at 15:19

You might want to discuss this with a therapist. But what you need to do is learn to compartmentalize. When you are at work, then leave your home life behind until the times you get a call and have to deal with something. Consider work to be your oasis from your stressful homelife. A therapist can help you with strategies for how to do this.

It's good the place you work at now is not bleeding edge because you don't need the added stress of bleeding edge problems. You don't need to be super hero here and wildly efficient, you need to be do what is expected. So reduce your own expectations a bit and that should help. Aim to be a satisfactory employee not an outstanding one. As you gain control back of your work life, you can aim higher, but for now, don't put unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Organize your work so it is easy for someone else to handle things if you get called away from some sort of emergency. For instance, when you get a call, make sure everything you work on is saved and write your boss an email telling him or her the status and where things are while you are gone. This take five minutes and is five minutes well spent. Your arrival at the emergency five minutes later is not likely to actually affect the situation.

Start your work day with a checklist of what you need to accomplish and then do something little on that list. It helps to know you have accomplished something and makes tackling the bigger jobs easier. Break the bigger things down to individual steps on the list, so you have more to cross off.

You also need to investigate with a therapist ways you can reduce the emergencies. For instance, taking your partner off the shared bank account and giving them a spending allowance only accessible through another account can reduce the overspending part. And honestly, you need to decide if this is the right thing for you and your kids. They might be relived if you left this person. Yes he or she is ill, but he or she is also not doing what it takes to get better either.

And sometimes you have to give up on people who are ill when they are also destroying your own ability to earn a living. I had a friend who had to deal with a husband who had brain surgery for cancer and in the process it removed the part of his brain that let him be nice to people. He turned into an abuser but she didn't want to leave because it wasn't his fault. Eventually though, she had to leave to protect herself. You sound as if you may be getting to this point as well. Discuss with a therapist.

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  • thank you for that, there are some significant items I can implement there. I am seeing a therapist, so yes I will bring this up at my next session. I'm not discounting separation and I have already taken legal advice. Finally, a big thank you for the work based ideas – Bert Oren Oct 27 '17 at 14:39

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