How to Be a Shift-Worker and Happily Married
Anyone who works unconventional hours will tell you that they also have unconventional relationships. Professional givers are no exception to this as many work hours that interfere with “normal” family meal times, events, and holidays. In many instances, there are standard role reversals such as a husband stepping into cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing roles to ease those burdens from an exhausted or absent female care provider.
It comes as little surprise to find that these same people who give of themselves professionally often have little left to give when they return home. In turn, relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners can suffer. Friends and spouses may wonder where they fall on your priority list…. Or if they are even there at all while you meet your basic needs to function. Without attention, these rifts can enlarge and turn into feelings of rejection, neglecting of needs, and divorce.
Divorce rates soar among professional givers due to working long / odd hours, being absent from important events, and limited opportunities for rejuvenation. The burdens that we bear from these issues, we try to hide and not address at work, but that isn’t always possible. Ultimately, whatever is inside will show through to our co-workers, patients, and everyone we interact with. Sometimes we need to vent, and other times we will respond in an unfriendly way to a situation that reminds us of our own.
Since opportunities for relationship growth don’t usually come to us, we need to go out and find or create them in our lives. There is no such thing as the perfect person or relationship, but if we go out with intention and strive for it, we can create what is best for us… with a supporting, loving person at our side.
What is best for one couple does not mean that it is best for another. Every person and relationship is unique including every professional giver and their spouse. Below is a list of important areas and common threads that shift-workers have utilized to create successful, lasting marriages.
The realization that you and your spouse are an awesome team and can create something together that works better than either could do on their own. Recognize the skills and abilities of each part and merge them to build each other up and make life flow.
Tell them about your day (confidentially of course) and the emotional traumas that you experienced. Communicate your needs. Communicate that you want them in your life. Don’t leave them guessing if you are working extra today or if you remembered to pull something out for their dinner. Leave notes.
When you fall on rough seas, don’t be an island. Find a mentor, counselor, pastor, or trusted friend that you can talk to and work out issues/ gather advice from someone else who has been there and been through it. A neutral party that you can trust can be priceless.
Know your role. I once heard that the greatest cause of divorce is not sex or money issues, but rather unmet expectations. Your spouse has expectations of you (verbalized or not), find out what they are, make sure that they are realistic, and work out a way to make them happen so that everyone can be happy and have their needs met.
Confidence in Each Other
Live in a way that your spouse has no reason to not trust you to be out and on your own in the world. Don’t give them a reason to lose confidence in you. Stay faithful.
Don’t create too much space between you and your spouse. Make them feel like you and your love are right next to them even if you are miles apart. Talk to each other, spend time together, leave notes, and have intimate time and conversations.
Choose Your Battles
Does it really matter if your house isn’t clean? Does it really matter if the kids eat pizza when you work? In ten years will any of that matter? Prioritize and choose your battles well, and make sure that they are something worth fighting for…. Things that bring you closer rather than tear apart.
Be committed to for better or worse. Be committed to finding a way to make it work out. Prioritize your relationship and don’t let others get in the way (even the kids).
Have the vision of better times when things get rough. Do not give up or take the easy way out. Know that this hard time is a phase that you can pull through to the other side together… And emerge stronger if you choose to love.
Rejuvenation is the key to taking care of yourself so that you have what you need to take care of everyone and everything else. Taking the time to recover allows you to be more present in every other are of your life. This includes “me” time to recover on your own and in your physical body and emotional mind. This also includes “we” time as your relationship needs rejuvenation as well.
Speak well of your spouse both to their face and when they are miles away. The words that come out of your mouth mold how you see your spouse. Choose to see the good and speak well of it.
Why it is important to take care of yourself:
Some days being a nurse is hitting the bottom of the pass with a fully loaded truck, in the wrong gear, with no head of steam.
A few weeks ago, the hospital unit that I was assigned to that day faced an unusual situation. A man came onto our floor to pick-up a discharging patient. There is nothing too unusual about that until you know that this man has a legal restraint against him due to stalking charges placed nearly twenty years ago. Because of that previous event, he served many years in jail. The person who he is not allowed to be around is one of our nurses. As far as we know, he did not see nor recognize her, and does not know that she works here. She was not yet a nurse when they last encountered each other.
This created an awkward situation for several reasons. This nurse freaked out when she saw him, and immediately had concerns for her safety. We hid this nurse in a back room, unable to do any work due to her emotional state and safety. This pulled one nurse off of the floor and at least one other nurse checking in on her often to make sure that she was ok.
In this situation, we alerted security to the situation, but they were not able to help much. They could ask him to leave, but would have to tell him why. The nurse in question panicked at the thought of him knowing that she was there and potentially waiting for her. She decided that the best plan of action was him not knowing that she works here, and she was hidden away.
I can only imagine that this case is not unheard of. There are a lot of people out there with restraining orders; some of them have to be nurses, EMTs, police officers, etc. What is one supposed to do when that person strolls through the doors to visit a patient or perhaps they are the patient?
Your work is a place in which you should feel safe to be. There are always hazards, but not many that are untrained for (contagious diseases, transferring patients, natural disasters, crazy people) and we take precautions against them. When it comes to the public, anyone and everyone may venture onto a unit or become part of an emergency wherever that may be. Does there come a point where we are expected to ignore legal restraints and help them, their friend, or their family regardless of their presence and our safety? Or, do we maintain distance, stay safe, and increase the workload of those around us? I do not know which is the correct answer, do you?
A Hard Lesson
By Shannon Carpani BSN, RN
Over the years, there have been a few patients that have stayed with me. One in particular that sticks out to me, and a name that I will never forget, was a woman in her mid-40’s. She was a direct admit from her physician, meaning that she did not go through the Emergency Department for basic screening and IV placement. She had arrived on the previous shift two hours before I came into work. She was a very beautiful, charismatic, popular person who liked to party a little too much. She had been a heavy drinker since high school and it had caught up with her....