Confessions of a Corporate Bigamist

Published December 11, 1986. A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about Corporate Bigamists – men who literally love their work. And wives of corporate bigamists have to compete with the “other love” of the husbands.

I received a letter from a man who identified himself as a reformed corporate bigamist. The letter was articulate and extremely well written. Here are a few excerpts.

Dear Dr. Barlow:

As a junior executive at a multinational company, I can relate with the dilemma that faces the upwardly mobile family man. The desire to succeed at a highly visible, demanding, stress-filled, well compensated job is founded on sound principles. More can seemingly be done for the family as discretionary income increases. And the fate of many employees is affected by decisions that are made. Therefore, the more time and effort one puts into his or her career, the better the world will seemingly be.

Making wise decision in any job setting, i.e. forecasting, introducing a new product or service, pricing, packaging, media, mix, budgeting, etc. etc. takes great effort. Not necessarily more time. But unfortunately, not all the best ideas come between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If the good of the family, employees, and stockholders can be accepted as good reasons for wanting to succeed, then the trick is balancing the responsibilities of a husband or wife, church, and civic duties with the demands of the job. It sounds simple enough. Love the job during the normal working hours and love the spouse and family all the other time.

But here is the problem. Because I love my job I wanted to talk about it to my wife – all the time. I also wanted to work through breaks and lunch, travel on weekends when the opportunity arose, or at least sneak some time in on Saturdays. I looked forward to Mondays and dreaded Fridays and the holidays. Why? Because getting better at my job helped me beat out my competition, thus helping me achieve the best for my family as well as my fellowman.

Did I want to be distracted by a loving wife who called to share something with me? Heavens no! Couldn’t it wait until I got home, lest my performance suffer?

After struggling to get through college and then spending several years to get my ‘break’, I wasn’t wise enough to keep the necessary balance with career, marriage, and family. So I didn’t notice how far apart my wife and I had drifted. She came down to my office late one night to protest my involvement. I vented my frustration by telling her I could get another wife and family that would be more understanding. Only then did I realize how ‘far gone’ I was.

I understand well Corporate Bigamy. The drive to succeed can be addicting because there is euphoria in significant achievement. The adulation, the acknowledgment that you did something better than anyone else, is intoxicating.

Fortunately for me, I have been given a second chance. After several years of superior achievement as a junior executive, I was fired. Now I am much wiser, so the balancing act should become easier. And I still have a loving wife and family (the same one, I might add) to support me in my efforts.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

We thank this husband and father for sharing his thoughts. Are there any other insights or confessions about corporate bigamy?

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