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Marsha Temlock Headshot

Did Your Boss Cause Your Divorce?

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Is your boss the reason you got divorced? I don't mean to imply a ménage a trios, but rather your workload got so heavy it out-weighed your marriage vows?

It's hard enough to make marriage work in the best of times, and even more challenging when the average American worker is spending more time on the job than tending the home fires. You don't have to be physically present; technology makes work all-consuming. I overheard one dad talking to his client while sitting next to his kids on Space Mountain.

Here's a joke that puts this work-family balance issue in perspective. This guy dies and goes to heaven. When he gets to the pearly gates, he's met by St. Peter who asks, "So tell me, what do you regret most having left the earth?" And the guy says, "Gee, I wish I spent more time at the office."

Of course, there will always be those work-alcoholics who put work ahead of family, but I think if you talk to most couples they would tell you they work to live and not live to work. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe before he died Steve Jobs said his greatest accomplishment was his family, not the i-Phone.

Stress in the workplace creates stress in marriage which leads to divorce. When employees put in a lot of overtime, travel frequently and have nonstandard work schedules, the divorce rate goes up. In fact, a February 2000 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that married couples with children who work night and rotating shifts are at higher risk of separation and divorce than those who keep regular hours. And I doubt the data has gotten any better since then.

The strain on couples in any income level is enormous. Heather, married to a hedge fund manager, tells the story of calling her husband who, for a change, was tied up with work. "It was eight o'clock and I wanted to know when he was coming come. Tom had to take another call so he put me on hold. Needless to say, I waited and waited, but he never got back to me. I was so furious I picked up a baseball and threw it through the kitchen window. When Tom came home, around midnight, he saw the damage and asked what happened. I said, 'I've had it with being put on hold.' A month later we split."

Are there answers to a problem that has such a strong foothold in marital discord? With job uncertainty, employers having to do more with less, it is difficult to make a case for workplace policies that are more family friendly. Yet that is the crying need for married, divorced and single parents who are sacrificing family for financial (in)stability.

It seems to me that it is probably more cost-effective to prevent marital distress that incur the costs of lost productivity in the workplace when marriages go down the tube than providing, let us say, daycare, vacation time, maternity/paternity leave and "soft" assistance programs for over-burdened workers.

Here's a simple idea I'd like to see on the Democratic platform -- require an Obama-Michelle Regular Date-Night for married workers, and, on occasion, have the boss picks up the check.