27 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: my husband won’t switch off from work

Your husband is unable to switch off because he’s become habituated to being switched on all the time

Russell Hemmings.
29 Jul 2016 | 12:00 am

My husband is very hard-working and we have a good life here. The problem is when we are on vacation. He’s either answering official emails, or attending calls from his associates. He feels his job pays for such holidays, so I shouldn’t be complaining. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I’ve begun to feel that going on a holiday with him is pointless.

You’ve raised a very modern concern. In the past, we’d leave work and go on vacation – a clear and defining line was drawn. In fact, there was little or no chance to get or stay in touch and things simply had to wait. But these days we’re no longer accustomed to waiting for anything; everything in an instant is the expectation.

It sounds like your husband feels like he’s missing out in some way. It’s likely he feels his input is necessary and without it, the entire operation will grind to a halt or a major catastrophe will play out. Of course, this is not going to happen, but us humans do have a knack of imagining the worst in any situation we can’t see or control.

Your husband is unable to switch off because he’s become habituated to being switched on all the time. When there are no boundaries in terms of who contacts whom, it can be very hard to re-establish them intermittently when holiday time comes around.

The need to constantly check in has become part of our lives. The inevitable consequence is that the more we check in, the more we feel we’ll know. We’re actually in uncharted waters to an extent; however, the evidence I collect on a daily basis, meeting burnt out, stressed out executives, tells its own story.

I suggest you speak with your husband about the situation. Gently voice your concerns and convey how his behaviour makes you feel. Compromise needs to be at the heart of the solution and working this out will also make your relationship stronger, because these are the skills that oil the wheels of successful relationships.

Encourage him not to make a secret of his impending vacation. By being vocal and excited about it, you’re both sending a subliminal message that he’s unavailable and this way, any contact he may get is more likely to be concise and of greater importance.

Persuading him it’s for his own benefit is also a good idea. Research has shown that taking a break from any challenge speeds up the solution upon returning to it.

It’s the same with work. He’ll likely perform better upon his return if he’s actually switched off from it for a while. In addition, constant stress and pressure tends to eat away at our general health and finding balance will help counteract this.

Also, it sounds like your husband enjoys challenges, so why not suggest a holiday based around experiences rather than simply sitting by the pool? Sometimes a change is better than rest! When someone is used to a busy working life, total relaxation can seem dull by comparison, but booking a vacation that focuses on being active in a different way might be more appealing and could help him to engage with the family in a more positive way. He may also find it tough to get a network signal or the time to attend to work matters while white water rafting through a canyon!

Family connections and relationships are the foundations of life, they are what support you and allow you to be successful, whether you’re an adult or a child. 
So, getting these right is fundamental to providing the stability your husband needs to do his job effectively.

Got a problem?

Email your queries to

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.