My partner and I have been together for five years, this is her third and my second relationship. She does not earn as much as I do and has always expected that I pay for her wherever we go, including for holidays. I pay rent to her and my share of living costs. At the start she was sexy and playful and we had a good intimate relationship but, gradually over time, she has withdrawn physically. She always pushes me away now if I initiate so that I no longer bother and what was weekly is now monthly and only when she is in the mood. It is brief and predictable as she will not allow for variety.
I am feeling used financially and am now thinking of seeing other women for intimacy. I talked to her about my needs but she is feels that everything is fine. She sees us together forever, with me providing for her – including overseas travel and support when we retire.
I feeling like I’m being taken advantage of and I deserve more in our relationship. Everything in a relationship is never “fine” unless both people see it that way. Have you two discussed the financial matter? In the lust and romance of relationship beginnings, couples often don’t contract as clearly and specifically as they need to about the many issues that are involved because it seems calculating and untrusting – but actually it’s essential to do it sometime.
Being generous in your giving is an important component of love which needs to be mutual, unless one is happy in a martyr role.
While I see no future in the prospect of a money-sex trade-off, I think what you’re saying in raising these two issues is that it feels like you give a lot and get nothing in return. Lay your cards on the table about this and speak from the heart about the kind of relationship you want. She may see it very differently, of course – she has provided a home, you contribute some of the financial costs – so some good listening will be required by each of you before you work together to find a resolution that works for both. It’s your choice about outsourcing your sexual needs, but it won’t do anything to enhance this relationship unless you both agree on polyamory. If you want to be at the top of your work game, you need to learn to give yourself a break. That means no phone, no email, no revenge fantasies, says As I write this it’s Friday. It’s been a long, long week and I’m done in. Actually, it’s been a horrible week and I feel overwhelmed and ineffective. Miserable, too. Scouring some research for last week’s column on burnout brought my attention to how many of the symptoms I currently tick – not great when I’m supposed to be an authority on the psychological processes predicting wellbeing. I’ve finished the first season of Ozark, drunk all the wine, and had it with waking at 2.39am night after night, my brain churning through work tasks. Something’s gotta give.
Fortunately we’re off on holiday next week, so escape is imminent. We all need time to reset, rejuvenate and recover from work. That’s official, not something I invented as an excuse to get away, but the findings of several studies proving that time away from work is a vital ingredient of peak performance. Workers who don’t take holidays are at a greater risk of burnout, more emotionally exhausted at work and, according to the Framingham Heart Study, at increased risk of heart attack.
Researcher Sabine Sonnentag, from the University of Konstanz in Germany, has repeatedly demonstrated the importance of being able to switch off from work. “To remain healthy and energetic at work it’s essential to have some time to calm down, switch off, not think about work, and return to baseline so you feel fresh and energetic again,” she says, explaining that this applies to both holidays and non-holiday periods. In other words, if we want to work well in the office, we need to stop thinking about work when we’re not there. That means no calls, no checking emails, no daydreaming revenge on toxic colleagues...
I’m so fed up I don’t imagine that will be hard. I can’t wait to post my out of office reply and quit out of Mail. I’m deleting all social media apps, leaving my phone in my case and providing a landline number for emergency contacts only. But, what happens when I’m back? And is one week enough?
MAKE FREQUENCY YOUR FRIEND
The good news is that yes, one week is definitely enough to mitigate the negative effects of workplace overload. The bad news is that the positive impact of a holiday doesn’t last long – anywhere between three days and three weeks to be precise. This means we’re better to go little and often than save the days for one really long holiday. And if we want to survive the stresses of the modern workplace, we have to find ways to switch off during weeknights and at weekends too.
Sonnentag’s research suggests that while just relaxing can be effective, mastering a new skill is a sure fire route to psychological recovery. In fact, any activity that fully absorbs your attention takes your mind off work and acts as a buffer against stress. Gardening, cards, playing Lego with the kids, cooking, reading, or tennis – it’s not what you do, but detaching yourself completely from work thoughts.
Detachment also requires us to escape workrelated interruptions. Engaging in job-related activities in the evenings, or on holiday, is undeniably detrimental to recovery. While we may kid ourselves that checking emails or short Skype meetings to “stay on top of things” reduces the re-entry burden, in the end they prevent us from switching off and do nothing for long-term productivity.
Organisations should be made more aware of the importance of recovery, says Sonnentag. “A lot of overtime impedes recovery because you do not have sufficient time to calm down or recover… Bottom line for managers is that they should encourage employees to recover. Holidays are important.”
So go right ahead and book that diving, fishing, biking, skiing, or cooking holiday – ultimately your boss will thank you for it. *Lucy Hone is taking a break from writing for Sunday. This is her last Help Yourself column.