The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families

The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families

Boys whose fathers are addicted are more likely to display aggressive behavior than fathers who are not addicted. There is a hidden addiction in many of our families that come with too-familiar symptoms:

Conversation tends toward one topic.

Inability to give up control.

Never sick.

Broken sleep.

Spouse is like a roommate.

“Why’d we have to have so many kids?”

What on earth could any of this be related to? Seems grim to think that fathers of seemingly healthy homes could face addiction that leads to their boys displaying more aggressive behavior than fathers who are not…





Yep. I said it. Typically framed in positive light, workaholism usually refers to a good energy that someone brings to their job. But too much of a good thing can still have negative consequences.

If you or your spouse have faced ongoing long days, a focus that eats up weekends (i.e., family time in our house), and you struggle to put up firm boundaries–particularly if you work out of the home–maybe you are who I am writing about.

This is not intended to be about working parents vs. stay-at-home parents. Do not, I repeat DO NOT read that into this. What I am calling attention to are patterns of behavior that disrupt and damage the family. And even stay-at-home parents can fall prey to this behavior. Often it’s under the guise of doing something equally good, like volunteering or following personal goals and pursuits (raising hand ?). Work, which is a good that existed in the Garden even before the fall, can in our broken world become another idol, as we root our identity in it and not in Christ. 

I want to create an awareness of this issue and then convert it to something more utilitarian, such as a positive change in self or family dynamic.

So what’s the difference between a hard-working father and a workaholic, especially if workaholism is often seen in a positive light? For many, the difference can be found in the inability to create boundaries between work and home. This can be especially challenging if the father works from home, but boundaries are an effective and healthy-minded way to respect yourself and keep work at, well, work. When work spills into family time – be it mindlessly checking emails after business hours or separating yourself from the family to perform work that can be done another time, especially when it compromises family time – it can be problematic and create a dysfunction within the family that promotes work over the culture and beauty of the domestic Church.

You can even fall prey to this when you are disconnected from your family because your thoughts are bombarded or disordered toward work, even if your mobile devices are safely tucked away. So what can you do? Let’s first run through a simple checklist that will help you discover if you are, indeed, headed toward workaholism or are already there.

Remember, work can wait.


  1. When you first wake up in the morning, does your mind turn to prayer or do you immediately grab your phone to check your email?
  2. Do you feel like you get a decent night’s rest or do you often wake you up in the middle of the night filled with anxiety about work related things?
  3. Do you feel like your identity is first wrapped up in your job/career/title?
  4. Do you work too much? Could you work just as effectively with 10 fewer hours? 15 fewer hours?
  5. Can you see the negative effects of placing work ahead of your spiritual life, marriage, or family? How is your relationship with God? Your spouse? Your children?
  6. Have you missed important family obligations due to work that could have been done at another time?
  7. Do you have trouble setting personal boundaries with work after business hours? Do you feel tempted to check email or other work-related programs after business hours?
  8. Does your mind tend towards work-related things, causing a disconnect between you and your loved ones?
  9. Do you feel like you work to avoid being a husband and father?
  10. Do you struggle with being emotionally available to your spouse or children?
  11. Do you feel like being a husband and father is thankless work?

If you struggle with any of these questions, you may be facing a serious temptation towards working too much or as an escape from your vocation as husband and father. The questions, though hard to read and even harder to answer honestly, are designed to get you thinking. Before we can make a true change, we have to face the reality of our shortcomings. It is only through this that we can go on to answer the next set of questions with spiritual resolve to not allow work to dominate our lives to the exclusion of the most important relationships in our lives: our spouse and children.


Now we’ve started to uncover the problems and potential pitfalls of working too much and its impact on self and family. Now, what primary steps can be taken to move toward healthier-minded behaviors?

  1. Do you want to improve the state of your vocation as husband and father by prioritizing what’s most important?
  2. Hug and kiss your spouse first thing in the morning.
  3. Using an app like Laudate, consider starting your day with prayer. There’s no better way to order your day than to listen to His word and hear what He wants you to do. God first, family second, self last.
  4. How does working more efficiently sound vs. working long hours just to work long hours?
  5. Do you want to work to create a strong family culture?
  6. Look at your work hours. Can any of those hours can be cut back?
  7. Spend some time each day with your spouse asking how her day went. Create an open line of communication.
  8. Name one or two activities you can do with your children on a daily basis for 30 minutes (read a book, take them to the park, play cards, homework, hug them, tell them you love them, etc.). Put your phone AWAY.
  9. Make sure to spend some time doing something healthy (working out, eating well, reading an edifying book, etc.).
  10. Try, try, try not to carry your work home. If you work from home, leave it in your work space. Avoid talking shop with your spouse in the home unless it is in your designated spot. This will be tough to do in the beginning, but boundaries will keep you from feeling like a slave to work.
  11. Remove all tempting phone apps that take you away from your family – especially seemingly harmless game apps. Do this for two weeks or longer and see the positive impact it has.
  12. End your day in prayer. Thank God for all the good He has done for you. Struggle with that? Consider a prayer of gratitude. The more you do this, the more you’ll start to cultivate gratitude in your days. Consider including your spouse in your evening prayer. 
  13. Hug and kiss your spouse goodnight.


National Center for Fathering

WZB Berlin Social Science Research Center


Find us on the Gram, Pinterest, & Facebook!