Just in case you missed this other key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law firms change the way you work. Many law firms operate on the concept of billable hours which are the hours an attorney works that can be billed directly to a client. Even firms that do not charge by billable hours, operate on this same basic principle.
Here is how it all breaks down. Not all hours spent at the firm are billable so in order to maintain an average of 2200 hours per year or 183 hours a month or 9 hours a day, most attorneys find they are at the office 3058 hours per year or 255 hours a month or 13 hours a day. This does not include commute time, sick days, training days, funerals, or client development. If you don’t believe the validity of these numbers or the expectations, here it is in detail from Yale Law School: http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/cdo-billable_hour.pdf.
Time=Anxiety. If however reviewing these numbers gave you an anxiety attack, then you are a tenth of the way to understanding the amount of pressure your attorney spouse is under on a daily basis. Time becomes a commodity of sorts because everyone is happy when billable hours are adequate and unhappy when they are not. That blank stare your spouse gave you the last time you asked for help cleaning out the garage was an attempt on your spouse’s part to mentally calculate where the most anxiety will be generated from, work or home. More anxiety at work if time is spent on the garage verses more anxiety at home if time is spent at work.
Time=Expectations. The expectation to perform consistently is high at work and if your spouse was not obsessive about their time before becoming an attorney, they will become that way now. Everything at work rises and falls on the value of your spouses’ time which is precisely why excessive time expectations at home are met with such resistance. When every minute at home has an expectation attached, when is there down time? When does your spouse get to relax and recoup? Home should be a place of rejuvenation not additional demanding nagging expectations.
Time=Money. Time spent at work equals money earned and the converse is true as well: time not spent at work equals less money earned. Suppose the lawn needs to be mowed and it takes one hour to complete the task. That translates into one less hour at work or one less hour with the family. Most likely you can hire someone to mow the lawn for less than your attorney spouse earns in the same hour. However, if you expect your spouse not to work or mow the lawn, then understand there will be additional financial consequences. The equation is simple: more money means more time at work, less money means less time at work.
Time=Pressure. It is the constant pressure to do well all the time. This pressure at first is external but after several years of being an attorney, it becomes internal. As an attorney, you cannot be off your game for even one day or there could be consequences far beyond financial. So when the pressure at home is greater than the pressure at work your spouse will remain at work because an overworked attorney can at least receive a monetary bonus for the added pressure. However when the pressure at work is greater than the pressure at home your spouse will come home because the additional money will not be worth the extra time away from home.
Once you understand how your spouse views work through the lens of being an attorney, it will become easier to anticipate and correctly interpret the blank stares over the messy garage or the sighs over mowing the yard. These are not signs that you are being ignored; rather your spouse is being very analytical and not emotional about the work that needs to be done, just like at work. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you in the process of communicating with your spouse.