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Burnout -Dangerous Situation

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I am a 45-year-old man who is considering moving out. We've been married 22 years and have two teenagers. My job requires me to be gone from our home two weeks a month. My blood pressure is getting pretty high. My wife continuously comes up with new ways to spend money and I'm already working overtime to support our very nice lifestyle. However, when I say "no, I don't want to pay for that right now," or "I don't think we need that with all these other things going on," I get the ice treatment until I leave for work again. We've done counseling in the past, but now it has settled back to its current state. I'm at the point where I want to live by myself, have some peace, if nothing else...I don't think I love my wife anymore. I'm beginning to see her as someone who's (consciously or not) using me with no real regard (love) for what's happening to me....What is your perspective?


Mr. Burnout

Dear Mr. Burnout,

You have identified your problem - burnout. Because it is an overused term, people don't take it seriously. However, burnout is a very dangerous situation and needs to be remedied immediately. Burnout is insidious, it starts slowly and creeps up on you, and you don't realize that it's happening until it's too late. It affects how you feel about everything around you.

To remedy burnout, you need to immediately stop working so much. No more overtime, and cut back on your current work load. This is vital. Overworking is the main contributor to burnout. But, often people with burnout can't seem to stop working so much and come up with a myriad of excuses to keep working, and thus keep burning out in this vicious cycle. Your family isn't aware of your burnout as evidenced by their reaction to you. They keep spending, you keep working, they keep spending, and this cycle will continue until you put a stop to it. Sit down with your family, tell them you will not be working as much, therefore, the budget will have to be adjusted to the new lifestyle.

It is also very important for you and your wife to get counseling, and see a psychiatrist (an M.D.) to help you through this. It CAN be done, but you have to make the commitment. You've already made the first most important step, which is to realize you have a problem. People with burnout want to "get away" from that which they think is the cause of their frustration. But leaving one's wife and children would be the worst thing to do. Your family is very precious, and your love for them will return when you get out of this burnout phase. It's vital that you seek counseling and stop putting in so many hours. Sounds simplistic, but it's the only road to recovery. Good luck.