Keeping Your Relationship Strong When Work Schedules Conflict

Man works while his partner waitsIn a world increasingly centered on a work culture, it can be nearly impossible to fit in quality time with your significant other. An ever-increasing list of chores, stressful jobs, and demands from family, children, and friends can cause your relationship to slide to the back burner.

The challenges of juggling your schedule and your relationship can become even more daunting if you and your significant other work at different times. Freelancers might be perpetually on call, while a partner who works the night shift might struggle with chronic exhaustion. Managing conflicting schedules doesn’t mean giving up on your relationship, though. With a little ingenuity, you can have plenty of quality time together.

Creating a Family Schedule

Creating a goal list and scheduling your day can help you achieve work-related goals, but you can adopt the same system for scheduling time with your partner. Rather than hoping to get some time together when you both have a free moment, try actively scheduling time together and planning activities. Scheduling allows you to anticipate how long a particular activity will take, and encourages you to commit to time with your partner.

Taking Advantage of Flexibility

If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, work with your partner to create a schedule together. This can maximize the number of “off” hours you have at the same time. For example, if you work the night shift and your partner is a freelancer, try asking your partner to schedule meetings at the beginning of your shift so he or she has to spend less time working during your time off.

Prioritizing the Relationship

A never-ending list of tasks and work obligations can be incredibly daunting. Your relationship, however, is an important obligation and a source of emotional well-being. If you’re constantly busy, it’s tempting to refuse to do anything fun until you’ve completed all of your work-related activities. While this might make you efficient, it can also make you unhappy. Treat your relationship the way you treat work, and prioritize time with your significant other, even if it means delaying other tasks.

Taking Time Off

For couples who work different shifts, weekends, holidays, and vacations play a key role in spending time together. Take advantage of your time off, and schedule your breaks so that they coincide with one another. If your partner is a contractor whose busy season is the spring, for example, try constructing your own schedule so that you can take more time off during a less busy time of year.

Regular Communication

If you can’t spend regular time together, brief bursts of communication can help you maintain intimacy and give you a strong incentive to work together to prioritize the relationship. Send your partner text messages during the day, or take a few minutes to chat online or over the phone. A sweet note in your partner’s briefcase or a quick reminder via chat that you love your partner can help you feel close even if you have to spend long hours apart.

Establishing Clear Boundaries

Setting boundaries with your job or your clients is a must if you want to keep your relationship running smoothly. If you have control over your own schedule, ensure that your schedule is as consistent as possible, with clear “on” and “off” hours. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t take work-related phone calls or answer work emails when you’re home. It’s also important to set boundaries with your partner. This doesn’t mean shutting him or her out while you’re at work. Instead, it’s vital to ensure that your partner knows your schedule and knows when you are and aren’t working. This is particularly important for people who work from home or who are on-call. If your partner knows that you’re working or that it’s possible you might get called into work, your job won’t feel like as much of an intrusion.


  1. Cooper, S. (2012, May 22). Marriage-saving rules for couples working from home. Forbes. Retrieved from
  2. Tessina, T. (n.d.). Dr. Romance: Married, different shifts. Retrieved from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Dhruv Bhagat

    July 4th, 2013 at 6:02 AM

    We all are busy in making money so that our future is safe!

    And we often forget about our present life…

    During work, we should call our partner in a break and ask about their day.. This will make your partner feel good.. And the relationship will keep going…

    I know every single point has been mentioned by you :)

    Great post :)

  • Rose

    July 4th, 2013 at 6:04 AM

    My husband had to work through this for many years early in our marrige.

    We both worked at colleges and though my schedule involed the normal 8-5 hours with some travel, he mainly had more of a second shift kind of role since he worked with students in organizing activities after classes.

    needless to say there would be days at a time when we wouldn’t see each other except maybe in passing on campus, and although it got old pretty quickly we had to work through it because we had good jobs and wanted to move up. Eventually we both moved on but I know how this can cause conflict.

  • J.D.

    October 25th, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    We are a couple with different work schedules. She is out of the apartment from 7 a.m. to about 5:30 (she commutes) and I work evenings from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (sometimes later). I work weekends and Friday is my one day off. She has said recently, that my time is during the day while she is at work, her time is the evenings when I’m at work, and from 6 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Monday is our time (with the noted exceptions of my work). I thinks this unrealistic for starters and fundamentally on my levels. It should be noted that I am a recovering alcoholic with nearly six years sober and she has been divorced from her 24-year marriage for less than six months. I know. But don’t spare us and please advise.

  • Melody

    October 31st, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    I think this is well intended but not actually helpful. I was hoping to see something that I had not already tried. Use your paid vacations and days off to spend time together. Really?

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