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Chances are every time a work schedule requires any of the couples to work across the night the attitude of the partner left at home turns really sour. Shift work does affect a family and marriage. However, this is not unique to any one individual since medical caregivers, service industry workers, fire-fighters, production workers and taxi drivers, among others, are affected. In essence, it puts a lot of stress on any marriage, especially for a new couple that has no such prior experience.

It's possible for a schedule to change, so many times in the course of a marriage. The affected individual could work overnights, evenings and days for weeks on end and even switch between evenings and days. In a single day, the breadwinner (husband or wife) could work both night and day for 12 hours in a single week. At times a person can be called to work consistently on overtime on a 12-hour shift. In such scenarios, shift changes bring forth serious obstacles in any marriage.

Be proactive

You have to be as proactive as you can. Practical strategies need to be used to improve the relationship and you do not have to develop such strategies via a trial and error way; there are many ways this can be done. Of importance is to realize you are not the only couple suffering from a changing shift or the absence of a spouse at night. It's not a unique issue to anyone and since the reason for working in such a scenario might be very critical to your happiness, providence and sustenance, finding a way out that works for both of you while strengthening your union is important.

That way, you will definitely maintain a working and healthy marriage full of understanding and capable of countering the effects that follow an erratic schedule through a number of areas.

Planned time for both of you

Shift jobs as mentioned take a toll on the couple and could strain a marriage if they go unchecked. Many marriage counselors recommend a couple with such a problem to come up with consistent date nights to ensure the marriage remains warm and healthy. However, a shift job makes it hard for a regularly planned time for the man and woman. Shift work has a way of ruining dates that have been planned. Sometimes, the shift worker is so tired on that day drowsiness takes over and the date is postponed or forgotten.

As such, while planning a date, the shift the man or woman will be working in has to be considered, level of fatigue on that day and the shift he/she will be working the following day. Afternoon rides on a motorbike, lunches or breakfasts usually make a lot of sense for shift workers than an activity planned for the evening.

Refrain from certain activities

Most women or men whose spouses work on night shifts have realized that building solid marriages requires they stop engaging in activities that keep them away from their families, especially those that can be avoided. When the shift working partner is at home, it makes perfect sense for the other partner to refrain from engaging in volunteer programs, classes and committee meetings that meet on a weekly basis. Even the time used to serve in church programs can be reduced while delaying celebrations on holidays by a couple of days or hours. This allows the couple to celebrate and be together during such times.

Planned time for kids

Shift workers also miss the opportunity of being with their children as much as they would want. In most cases, they arrive just after kids have left for school or when they are asleep. Sometimes sleep and too much fatigue limit their involvement with their kids. In such circumstances, children think their parents do not want to be around them and usually feel ignored and left out in the lives of their parents; a tired parent probably wants to be alone as much as possible after arriving from work and kids feel they are the reason, yet it was the job schedule.

If shift working couples are to build a good relationship with their kids, both parents have to find time to be with the children. If the children are young, it makes perfect sense for the shift working parent to attend their concerts and plays, whether he or she has a night shift waiting up. In case the shift is at night or evening, taking kids for breakfast or lunch at least once a week will be useful in cementing the relationship between the parent and children.

Communicate day and night

Working on a shift job, whether it's both or one of you doesn't mean communication will be strained and absent. Learn to text one another while on breaks and talk about all manner of things taking place at the workplace, little, insignificant or major. Communicate and share what each one of you is going through all day long, whether you are tired, sad, joyous, hurt or happy.

Since you are not seeing one another most of the time, the little time you are together must always be a time of fun with zero stress. The bad stuff can wait for another time and doesn't have to be shared at such a time when you need to be together. You can also find a way of sharing the bad stuff or indicating how tired you really are without really blaming her or him.

Fill your partner in on the main items

Shift jobs do not remove the responsibility that comes with a marriage such as taking kids to the dentist or a meeting with the head teacher in your kids' school. Find a notebook and note all those important details from picking a gift for his dad's birthday, upcoming get together, parents-teacher meeting and virtually everything. When the shift working partner is free she/he will read everything and even leave similar information on what she/he did about the situations.

Love notes do not die after marriage and you can leave some for your number one love and let him/her know how much you miss being together and your love for him/her is eternal, particularly if both of you work on night or different shifts.

Above all, working on a shift, as much as your partner understands could take a toll on your marriage. Even as you find ways to mitigate your absence and maximize on the little time you have together perhaps you can be applying for another job that does not come with such an erratic schedule.

3 Comments

  1. Angie

    Have read your article, I am living this scenario now, not good! With respect for you and your input starting this thread, I have to say that your solutions to making things easier is just smoke and mirrors, nothing can replace a committed family that invests in being present in each others lives to be there for each other, it is the regular daily good quality times that create the glue that makes a family whole.

    What employers aren't paying the shift worker for is the time that is sadly missing to the families. You can't be present with a partner that is sleep deprived and feeling distant from his family, the errors created in communication by the partner because he doesn't have the same vested interest in his family because that takes energy he doesn't have to give.

    Shift work is draining emotionally and anyone who wants to keep their family together should not have a career that involves shift work.

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  2. Nikki

    Great article. A spouse or family member that really cares about their family will make it work. Regardless. There is hope! My husband and I both worked rotating shifts. I rotating days and he works rotating days and nights. When I got it a 12 hour shift, I went to church sometimes. He's gotten off a 12 hour hard labor shift and taken me on a breakfast​ date with our Newborn. If you're willing, it can be done. You do for the ones you love.

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  3. Krystal

    My husband and I got married early this year amongst a lot of turmoil. We were thrust into responsibility with his mother (who was one of our closest relatives, I honestly loved her like a second mom) becoming mentally incapacitated and losing her battle to cancer in our care most of the time, two brand new opposite shift jobs, and now our first pregnancy. We are stressed, and it's starting to take a toll on our relationship.

    This was his first big break for a job, midnight to 9 am, and mine was swing anywhere from 7am to 10pm. I want to like this article, but truth be told, it's a lot harder in reality. We both are full time, make the same amount, which keeps us solidly middle class, with a mortgage to pay. The trouble with this article is easier said than done.

    We both love and care for each other, and we had a very solid and stable relationship before the shift swings. I never would have dreamed I'd be up googling trying to figure out where we went wrong this year. The loneliness eats at me and 5 days a week I find myself sitting on the couch silently on my phone for 4 hours waiting for him to wake up, which eventually angers me.

    He is a very light sleeper which makes it worse. I'd normally have windows open, lights on, music, etc to keep myself occupied but his sleep schedule is erratic. He sleeps 2-3 hours at a time, gets up for 45 minutes. Sleeps some more, tosses and turns, so by the time all is said and done, I don't see him at all during the week due to him sleeping, or vainly attempting to. We don't even get 2-3 hours a day to see each other. I say hi and bye on Sunday around 3 or 4, and see him again Friday night when I get home from work, although typically he'll sleep most of Friday night into Saturday and Saturday night as well.

    We arrange plans to see our friends on Saturday night, our only night out. And that's the only day we get to run around and take care of our regular errands. I'm at a loss trying to figure out how to be happy being married one day a week. Being pregnant amplifies it because I don't sleep, and I'm constantly emotional about it wondering if we're just set up to fail. Any advice is appreciated. We attempted the Friday night date night, it fell short after two weeks due to sleep.

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