Date a Workaholic

There are those of us who cringe at the idea of working weekends, and there are those who thrive in it. When the two worlds collide, the dating can be rocky, with both parties feeling dissatisfied. It is possible to date a workaholic if you're prepared to talk through the issues, develop ground rules together that both of you are happy to keep, and find compromises that both of you can live with. If you believe it's worth trying to find a way through your date's workaholism, the following steps will give you an idea of how to approach the challenge, even if it does mean ultimately that you discover that this date's just not the one for you.


  1. Determine if your date is a workaholic. Some telltale signs include:
    • You're the only person outside of your date's family who is intimate. He or she has no other friends (unless they're also at the same workplace).
    • He or she puts aside everything in favor of work, including you.
    • Every time you contact your date, he or she is "still working", no matter what the hour. Your date seems to have a poor perception of time.
    • Even important events such as a family birthday are not enough to convince your date to drop working.
    • Your date answers the phone, checks and sends emails, or makes orders for new supplies all the way through a date.
  2. Try to be understanding before jumping to negative conclusions. It can be really frustrating when your date is never available to attend the same functions and activities as you but it is important to try to understand the drive, passion, and importance of work for your date. Learning why work is so important to your date can increase your own understanding and appreciation of the needs behind working so hard. Consider the possible reasons behind what you're seeing as workaholism:
    • The job matters a great deal to your date.
    • It is a passion, especially if it is your date's own business or something that he or she wanted to do all of his or her life.
    • There is a current heavy workload and your date is conscientious at doing his or her part to meet deadlines and workloads.
    • The job comes with long hours, including nights and weekends. If your date accepts this, it is important for you to learn to accept it too.
    • It has become a habit well before you came along, and it's tough to break it.
  3. Talk to your date about his or her work life. Find out all that you can about what inspires and drives your date at work. Perhaps understanding this better will help you to cut them some slack. Although all of these are indicators that your date may be permanently busy, they can arouse some sympathy in you.
    • It's a business start-up (always a very hard time of life).
    • Your date is seeking a promotion and the only real way to be considered for it is to be seen working hard all of the time.
    • Your date comes from a family of hard-workers and was brought up to perceive excessive working hours as the "norm". And is perfectly happy with it!
  4. Look to your own beliefs and attitude about working. Ask yourself what your own attitude to work is to see whether you're making more of the matter than it deserves, or perhaps confusing ambition with workaholism. If you don't think it's a good idea to do more than the bare minimum at work, or you're someone who has a job that doesn't bleed beyond set hours, you might have a very different mindset from your date about the level of dedication to work. On the other hand, if you're a reformed workaholic, or someone who believes deeply in a work-life balance, what you're observing may already be a good indicator of warning signs for your relationship's prospects. It can help to see some of the benefits of dating a workaholic:
    • You get a lot of time to yourself to pursue your own interests without having your date breathing down your neck all the time.
    • Your love life might be better and healthier than you expect – research undertaken by psychology professor Jonathon Schwartz showed that sexual satisfaction scored the highest for women dating or married to workaholics.[1]
    • You won't end up feeling suffocated by a date who is needy, compliant, or dull.
  5. Talk to your date about how their workaholism makes you feel. This is the point at which you might be able to reach a compromise. If so, great! Or, it might be the time when you realize that your workaholic date is taking the workaholism too far and won't ever really fit you in. Tell your date how it feels to play second fiddle to his or her job and provide some factual examples of times when your date's work has interfered with your dating life together.
    • Explain that you fully understand his or her passion for the job but that you want some balance so that the two of you also have quality time together.
    • Avoid laying blame. Just state the facts and how the merry-go-round of never being sure whether or not your date is available is affecting you personally. It is important to remember that "for workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work"[2], so criticizing their work decisions won't endear you to your date.
    • Explain how you would like things to be, and in doing so, be realistic. Asking for a little more time together is reasonable but asking for your date to get a new job is not!
  6. Agree on some ground rules. If you feel that your date has responded well to your talk, suggest that the two of you make some ground rules, or compromises, to ensure the health of your dating life. While you will probably not get the extent of agreement to more time together that you're looking for, go into this negotiation in Negotiate in Good Faith, expecting to lower some of your own expectations as well if you're prepared to make this work.
    • Ask that your date turn off his or her phone during a date unless it is an extreme emergency.
    • Ask for no texting or emailing during the date.
    • Consider having certain nights set aside for just the two of you minus work. Perhaps Saturday or Sunday night is a good night for both of you to touch base, eat together and watch a movie. Try to make this a regular date night.
    • Consider meeting up for lunch once a week. If you're prepared to compromise, make the lunch date near your date's place of work to encourage him or her to see this as an easy thing to do.
    • If your date accepts that there is probably an over-reliance of spending more time at work than putting into place more effective work practices and is willing to look at the possibilities, consider if you can help with any suggestions for improving work/life balance.
    • Avoid nagging, pleading, or whining at this point. It won't make any difference but it will make you appear petty and clingy. If your date is non-committal or refuses to discuss the issues, start thinking seriously about where this relationship is headed.
  7. If, after talking it through, you feel that continuing to date your workaholic date isn't going to work out, cut your losses now. If you feel the following experiences apply to you, it's probable that your dating relationship is doomed:
    • You haven't got it within you to keep being patient with the work excuses.
    • Your date doesn't want to reach any compromises under the previous step.
    • You feel that your date is never fully attentive to you when you are together, that there is always one ear to the phone, thoughts about work going through his or her head even as you converse.
    • You are intensely jealous of the workplace as being "the other interest" and feel that the time work takes up is way more than your relationship.
    • You feel he or she is being neglectful of you or if he or she is consistently breaking one or more of the ground rules you agreed together.
    • Nothing ever changes. It feels like a treadmill that goes around and around and that your date will never get off it, no matter what. For example, your date's business "start-up" is still "starting up" years after it began!
    • You can't help but feel that your date has a poor sense of prioritization, lacks the ability to plan properly, or is simply throwing hours at work problems instead of finding creative and sustainable solutions.
  8. Look for the warning signs when dating again. If you get out of a relationship with a workaholic because of the workaholism, always keep the signs in mind for future potential dates. It is probably a good idea not to get into a new relationship with somebody who:
    • Makes dates with you but keeps canceling them at the last minute.
    • Says that he or she will make time for you but never manages to do so.
    • Talks about work non-stop, including telling you that the business is going through rough times, or has a lot of work to get through, etc.
    • Behaves as if he or she is indispensable when you discuss work.
    • You're left waiting ages, more than once, for an arranged date together.


  • When your date is busy, take time for yourself. Go out with friends, take a long bath, treat yourself.
  • Don't distract your date while they work. It's very frustrating when you've got to focus but someone is distracting you – being the cause of holding up your date with calls, texts, and emails isn't a smart move!
  • Understand that your date might want you just as much as you want him or her. He or she is not being neglectful; rather, try to see it as just being attentive of his or her work.
  • Don't demand every second of your date's attention. That's going from one extreme to the other.
  • Maybe you need to take a leaf out of his or her book and attend a little more to your own work?
  • Are you able to help your date out perhaps? If she or he is spending a lot of time at work because of disorganization, poor time management, or not understanding things well, are you able to offer help in these areas (without being pushy, of course)? On the other hand, you're not your date's secretary, so don't overdo it.


  • Avoid trying to change your date. You can't stop him or her from working and you certainly don't want to be the reason your date loses his or her job.
  • Don't be clingy and needy and whiney. You're not a toddler.
  • Workaholism is probably the most socially condoned addiction.[3] Many people will fight tooth and nail to defend the utility of being a workaholic. If that doesn't gel with you, don't change your own notions. Workaholism is not healthy long-term and is often a sign that the workaholic has poor priorities and will not be able to sustain that pace. It isn't your place to judge or preach, but neither is it your place to hang about lonely and unhappy waiting for the inevitable fallout.

Things You'll Need

  • Excellent ideas for dates that captivate your workaholic's interest

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Sources and Citations

  1. John Harlow, Workaholics are a hit in the bedroom,
  2. Quote from Judith M Barwick
  3. Psychology Facts, Workaholism,