A reader writes:
I’m a software developer, and I’ve been separated from my wife for eight months; we’ve been together over ten years. I brought the house into the marriage, but didn’t get a pre-nuptial agreement, so family law in my jurisdiction says she gets half the value of the house. When she gets her half of the family capital, she’s moving out — yes, we’ve been living together for the last eight months. The older step-son is attending university, and I’ve said I’ll pay for that while he stays with me. My younger step-son is moving out with my wife, and will finish high school while living with her. If I want to keep the house (I do), I’m going to have to re-mortgage the house; with interest rates rising I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get approval for that, which means selling the house I’ve been in for 20 years, paying the real estate agent a huge commission and moving.
While this has been going on, I’ve been driving my wife into work and picking her up on the way home — so I’m on her schedule. In anticipation of taking the house back, I’ve been paying all of the family-related bills, including insurance on the van she drives and her cell phone.
I tried to resolve the marital issue — when I knew things were going downhill, starting about 2.5 years ago, I tried to discuss things with my wife, without success. Eventually, I arranged sessions with a marriage counsellor, and we saw her every two weeks for 14 months; the conclusion was that we were trying to revive a marriage that had been dead for some time. I then contacted a lawyer, collected all of the family’s financials, and got the lawyer to do the calculations to suggest a buyout that I could offer my wife. My wife ridiculed my lawyer’s calculations, demanded more than twice what my lawyer suggested would be fair, but refused to get a lawyer of her own until three weeks ago.
I’ve been with my employer 2.5 years, and is my six month review is coming up. Friday I got a hint from my team lead that he was hoping my production would improve soon. The complication is that he’s a good friend of mine — we’ve known each other for close to ten years. He’s aware of the stresses I’m going through; when I’m able to focus on my work, I’m very good at what I do. Sometimes I can’t focus, and I surf the net, read the headlines, and generally goof off (no games, no porn, I’m just not doing any work).
I understand this sounds like a ridiculous and tragic soap opera; all along I’ve tried my best to resolve the situation, but right now I’m carrying a lot of stress, and on of the things it’s affecting is my job performance. I just hope I can explain that in a rational way at my performance review. Your thoughts?
Tell your boss that you know the stress is impacting your performance. It’s far better to have him think that your performance is suffering due to stress in your personal life than just that your performance is suffering. Tell him you’re aware of it, it’s a difficult time, and that you’re making a concerted effort to get past it. Ask for some flexibility in the meanwhile.
Good bosses understand that employees are human and that they have personal lives, and that sometimes really difficult things happen in their personal lives. If you were dealing with the death of a close family member, I wonder if you’d be being so hard on yourself for being impacted by it. Divorce is stressful too, and you should allow yourself that.
That said, you do need to make a point of working on strategies to minimize the impact on your work. Stop giving in to the impulse to goof off online at work. You might even consider one of the programs that block you from the Internet for specific chunks of time.
On a personal note, it might be worth considering that driving your wife to and from work everyday might really be above and beyond the call of duty, particularly since it’s impacting your ability to devote more time to your job, and particularly since your wife isn’t exactly being nice to you in return. You might also do whatever you can to speed up your wife’s exit from your home, since I have to think that continuing to live together is simply prolonging this suffering, and delaying the day when you can start moving forward.
This sucks. Talk to your boss about how it’s impacting your work, ask him to work with you while this is playing out, and good luck.
You can read an update to this post here.