The Art of Coming Home from Work.

Due to problems in the marriage, coming home from work can be challenging for couples – – and an emotionally painful thing to do. Spouses may avoid each other, not wanting to feel the distrust, emotional distance and conflict that occurs when they are together.  Many people avoid coming home altogether, working late or finding other ways to postpone it.  Others come home to stress and tension, either with their spouse or children.  While it may seem like a distant and unattainable dream, to come home to a peaceful sanctuary, or at least a welcoming place, there are some steps you can take to make things better.

What many couples find is that one member of the couple wants to retreat to unwind, either to the garage, TV, exercise/lift weights alone, or to the computer.  The other spouse, on the other hand, wants to chat about the day and feels very neglected, abandoned or ignored.  Both of you may be stressed. This leads to an unhappy couple and sometimes unhappy kids, who want their parents attention.

You may be asking, what’s wrong with unwinding after work?  While unwinding and relaxing after work is a good thing, if it’s causing stress in the relationship, there has to be a better way to do it.

How to Get Unstuck

One way around this impasse, is for the spouse who wants to unwind alone to do a few things first, before their solitary activities.

First of all:

  1. Relax before you walk into the house (details below).
  2. Greet your spouse before going off on your own.  This may include a kiss,  hug, words of greeting.
  3. Be sure to state that you want to hear about their day, but need to take some time for yourself first.
  4. After you watch TV, lift weights, putter around in the garage, or what ever it is you like to do, return to your spouse at the stated time, and ask them about their day.  Be sure to listen to what they are saying.

Is this different from what you are doing?  The main point here is to put into spoken words that you plan to return to have a conversation, and that you have specified when you will return.   The reason this makes a difference is that the spouse who wants to have a conversation, is not so likely to feel abandoned or ignored anymore.  Instead that partner can relax, yet look forward in anticipation to talking to the other.  For many stressed out couples who are not experiencing an enjoyable homecoming at the end of a long stressful day, these few steps can make a big difference.

How to Manage your Stress

Step 1 is about relaxing.  Here’s one way to do it.  After arriving home, but before leaving your car, try these steps:

  1.  Turn the car off.  Sit upright in your car, but in a relaxed position.
  2.  Close your eyes.  Breathe slowly and deeply.  For several breaths, with each inhale, take in a little more air than the breath before it. Allow yourself to let go and relax on the exhale.  Breathe down into your belly, letting your abdomen rise with each inhale.
  3. Make sure that you are focused only on the inhale and the exhale, and not at all on work related issues.

After several breaths, you may find yourself feeling a little more relaxed.  If not, take several more deep, slow breaths before leaving your car and entering your home.

There is much more involved in the art of coming home from work, but this is a start.  Because coming home from work can be challenging for couples, practicing relaxing and improving communication with your spouse can really help in making your life more enjoyable.  And if things don’t get better, couples therapy or marriage counseling may be helpful.  You can contact me through my website.

Donald Wallach offers couples counseling and individual therapy to those living in Sonoma County and Marin County. He helps clients find solutions to marital problems in their relationship. His office is in Petaluma and serves the surrounding communities including Cotati, Rohnert Park, Novato, Santa Rosa and Penngrove. He enjoys helping others have happier relationships and more fulfilling lives.

If you have any questions about this article, you are welcome to write Don Wallach, LMFT at his website: or call at (707) 583-2305.

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