We’ve all been there: get up, go to work for 8 hours (if so lucky), come home, sleep, and repeat. When you get into this cycle, it becomes easier and easier to see your life as just one ongoing film strip without any differentiation in scenes. There’s no fun montage with your friends, no upbeat music to indicate the atmosphere has switched from work to fun and no cool, sweeping or fading filter to say that part of your day is over and it’s time to move on to something different. It all looks the same.
One day, I heard it go so far as someone telling me, “Work life? There is no difference, life is life. No separation.” I was astounded. I was even more astounded that this came straight from the mouth of my significant other. I thought, of course there’s a balance! There has to be. Otherwise, when do you have fun? When do you talk about anything else other than work? When do you get your fun, upbeat, 90s movie friend montage? Evidently, he did not think this feature in life was important.
But then how do you balance those two worlds? Where do you put in all the fun music, edit the transitions and know when you’ve moved on to a difference scene? More importantly, what is the difference between work and personal communication? First of all, the notion that it all just bleeds together is ludicrous. You will drive yourself crazy that way and not to mention just be mentally exhausted all the time. Your mind needs a break from responsibility after work. In my significant other’s case, the best way he unwinds is by one of two things: Halo or lifting. So after work, once the door is shut blissfully behind you, pop a squat on your favorite seat and veg out.
Once you have properly vegged out for a much-deserved extended period of time, call up your friends and make some plans for the weekend. For me, I love having a reward to look forward to. (That, to me, is the slo-mo Cher moment from Clueless where your eyes light up in a blaze of wonderment and a smile tugs at the corners of your mouth as if they were theater curtains. Except I’m not looking at a new Louis Vuitton bag from next season.)
Once plans have been set, you’ve essentially just begun production of the most upbeat scenes of your week. Now, you’ve scheduled a reward to look forward to, putting you in a better mood for the rest of the week. Right?
But how do you know if you are crossing the line with your friends or significant other with your work? Simple: You don’t shut up about it. In the communication field, there is a reason business communication and interpersonal communication are broken into two separate subjects.The two simply need to be separate. When you’re out with your friends, you need to take a genuine interest in their lives, problems, even their brief (brief is the key word) work stories. And promptly leave your work baggage at the last scene. Please.
In business communication, you have a specific jargon you speak. You utilize strategic ambiguity with coworkers in order to maintain a professional script. In your personal relationships, you don’t. To put it in communication terms, you’re essentially de-penetrating the onion of friendship.
In Social Penetration Theory, it says that when you meet someone, you begin at the surface—like an onion—and over time you wedge your way into who they really are. Therefore, you’re socially penetrating the new onion of friendship. However, when you turn away from your friends by dedicating yourself to your work life you begin the process of depenetration where you will drift away until they are no longer cast in your life.
In the case of couples, that is especially not ideal. This is one cause for a break up.. Using this, you can see just how important it is to keep in touch, make time for your loved ones and essentially not turn into Sandra Bullock in the Proposal.
So, if you are in a relationship, how do you maintain that elusive balance between work and life? Venting to your partner is one thing, but subjecting them to your work drama and being unavailable each day is a totally different thing.
For me, when I come home from work, the rest of the night will be catching up on my favorite person’s day, spending quality time and laughing with him. That is a totally different scene than sitting in a dispatcher’s workstation for 8 to 12 hours. I don’t know if he recognizes it, but it sure does seem that he knows the difference between work and social life as well.