Today is my 23 wedding anniversary. I have to admit that making time for my husband is the trickiest part of the work life balance equation. Deadlines I can't blow off. My kids, they need me to take them to school or check their homework. But my husband, sometimes he's the easiest one to push to the back burner. Yet, over the years, he speaks up and lets me know loud and clear when he needs attention, too. I think the big key to fitting marriage in with careers and kids for us has been date night. It doesn't always involve spending money. Sometimes, it's just walking on South Beach or roaming the bookstore, but we are together and kid free.
In honor of my anniversary, I thought I would post one of my favorite columns from a few years ago with great advice from author/marriage counselor Joel Block on making relationships work when you work a lot.
The Miami Herald Balancing Act Column.
After a 10-hour day at the office in Miami, Anne-Marie Estevez returns home to her family just in time to gobble down dinner and catch up on the day's events. As her husband tucks the girls in bed, Estevez often disappears into her home office and re-emerges around midnight.
Joaquin Luaces says he is "super proud" of his wife, who has become one of the top labor lawyers in the country. But he also pines for more alone time with her. It is a sentiment increasingly echoed by spouses in dual-income homes.
Take the pulse of the work force and you will find that in the work/life juggle, marriage often gets sacrificed. As work hours lengthen and home life is invaded by technology, many in relationships find they must try harder to connect as a couple.
Attitude is everything
Nationally, the odds that any marriage will last still are only 50-50, a figure that hasn't budged in decades.
But what has changed is attitudes toward marriage, as more women contribute equally to family income and bring home job-related stress.
Too often, people successful in their careers count on their marriages being low maintenance, says Joel Block, a clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy. But to achieve success in relationships too, Block says, you need a plan to balance love and work.
"Many people are busy doing big deals all day and night and don't think about the value of their marriage," says Block, author of Making It Work When You Work a Lot. "But when you think about it, what deal is worth 50 percent of their assets and emotional wreckage?"
Shifting from worker or boss to spouse or lover can prove a painful transition. Block says it starts with the right attitude. You may come home from work overwhelmed and overtired but show basic politeness.
If you only have 10 minutes together before going to bed, "say something that will nurture your relationship, not tear it down."
Some couples are breaking new ground, negotiating arrangements and boundaries for time together.
Laura Kaplan, 35, a team leader for Citigroup's Private Banking group, says she and her husband, Jeffrey, a Miami securities lawyer, struggle to find time for each other. They are the parents of two toddlers, and she admits to a nighttime routine that includes reading documents in bed.
"It's a constant effort to talk and find out what's going on," Laura says.
But the Kaplans figured out another way to connect - lunch dates.
Connecting as a couple, particularly for those who travel or work odd shifts, may mean engaging in love on the run.
"There are all kinds of ways to touch each other," says Jaine Carter, author of He Works She Works - Successful Strategies For Working Couples. "Sometimes it is just the warmth of conversations on the telephone, e-mail or voice message."
Marcy Orth, 47, owner of a small film-production company, works odd hours and grabs quality time with her husband, an attorney, whenever she can get it.
"Sometimes that means riding with him to his office or going to Starbucks together for 10 minutes to get coffee," she says.
"But the truth is, a lot of our intimate conversations take place on the phone."
Learn to negotiate
Experts say you should speak up about your needs - whether it's more help with housework or quality time. Rather than criticizing his or her work habits, negotiate for change, Block suggests.
Luaces and Estevez, both 37, high-school sweethearts and parents of three young daughters, have agreed that one night a week after the girls fall asleep, they will sit by the pool, sip wine and eat cheese.
Being relieved of pressure from her spouse to detach from work at night has helped her marriage, Estevez says.
"As our careers have grown, we have hit bumps in the road," admits Luaces, who owns a real estate company.
"But I realize you don't get to where my wife is out without support from your husband."
Block says you should make your spouse a priority.
Include the spouse in your work or outside activities whenever possible.
Buster Castiglia, 62, president and chief executive of Continental National Bank of Miami, and his wife, Esther Castiglia, 59, a consultant at Lewis B. Freeman & Partners, have been married 38 years.
The two spend time together volunteering for social organizations, attending each other's business dinners, even traveling to blues bars to hear their son's music.
"We try to do things together anytime there's an opportunity," Buster says.
"But we read each other's signals and respect when someone's had a bad day and wants some time alone."
Intimate relationships, Block insists, are not incompatible with dynamic careers.
"Stress is inevitable," he says. "Struggling is optional."