Why I Succeeded at Work But Not At Home

For the first ten years of our marriage, I had a reoccurring feeling. Sometimes the feeling was prompted by an argument between Trish and myself. Sometimes it was simply a comment that she made. Sometimes, if I’m honest, this feeling come from deep inside my heart, because I knew there was truth in it.

The feeling: I was a success at work- but not at home. 

At work, I had no problem hitting objectives. I had no problem leading. I felt capable and qualified. I not only knew what was expected of me, I often exceeded what was expected of me.

At home, I felt what I did wasn’t enough. I wasn’t capable. I wasn’t qualified. I wasn’t successful. No matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough. This feeling was Trisha’s fault. She made me feel this way. She caused me to feel guilty. She had unrealistic expectations. That is how I felt.

Things shifted for me in November 2005.

I was working at P.F. Chang’s as a server. One night as I was closing my section, a table of several high school students had come in for dinner after their school dance. They were loud, rude, made a huge mess and hung out so long that I was one of the last servers to leave. After they left, I was on my hands and knees under their table sweeping up rice and crushed up fortune cookies with my hands into a dust pan. I stood up and looked on the table, and they had left me a $5 tip! I thought, “I am busting my butt cleaning up after these kids who could care less about me…when is the last time I have done this at home?”

In that moment it hit me: I am successful at work and not at home because I give to my work what I am not willing to give at home.

Most guys I know struggle with this. Here are few things we do at work that we don’t do at home.

1. We set goals.

We have no problem setting sales goals; we set performance objectives; we dream about where our career will be a year from now. Yet when it comes to our marriage we often fail to set goals. We have no objectives. We stop dreaming. Setting goals at home is essential to success at home.

2. We give over and above what is required. 

We work overtime. We stay late. We go in early. We return email from our phone. We take calls to close the deal at dinner. We cut vacations short. We miss our kids’ games. We do this not always to make more money; but often to simply feel a sense of accomplishment. At home we are okay to give the minimum requirement. We do our share. We pull our weight. We check off our list. But no more. Success at home is found in going over and above what is required…not out of obligation but out of love.

3. We are willing to collaborate. 

When Trish and I were separated, I became aware of how willing I was to listen to any other person’s idea, and yet so quick to shoot her ideas down. I collaborated with others easily, but often demanded my ideas with my wife. Teamwork is as much a part of a successful marriage as it is a successful career.

Often the marriage we desire isn’t a matter of a major overhaul but a change in perspective. It isn’t about changing a ton of big things, it is making minor adjustments.

Maybe what makes you successul at work are the same things that will also help you be successful at home.


5 Responses to Why I Succeeded at Work But Not At Home

  1. Susan

    In agreement with Pamela, this is not just a guy problem like it was in the 50’s.

  2. pamelahunter

    I guess i’ll state the obvious…I’m not a guy… AND you hit me right between the eyes with this. I think if we are all honest, most people who have a career and are married, regardless of gender, struggle with this issue.

    Thank you for putting things in perspective for me. Its been on of those days in a series of those days, that have become those weeks and months. Sometimes I am amazed how God uses people and innocent blog posts for His good!

    Choosing Joy,