Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Health / Safety

Ask Dr. Jenn: CSU therapist gives advice for work/life balance

August 2, 2013
Jenn Matheson

Sometimes it is tricky for me to balance work, school and my relationship.

Dr. Jenn MathesonWhat are some suggestions for maintaining a healthy relationship when both partners have busy schedules and limited free time?

Often when a person feels off balance among their relationship, their family, their friends, and their work or school obligations, they also feel stressed. A lack of life balance and stress go hand in hand.

Busy partners find themselves crossing paths once a day if they are lucky. If you are not living in the same household, a phone call might be all the contact you have with your partner in a given day. When the person you depend on for support and stress reduction is also busy or not available when you are available, feelings can get hurt, people can start to blame the other, and conflict can increase. People often report feeling out of touch with their partner or even may try to protect their own feelings by withdrawing from their partner. This can make the time you do spend together uncomfortable and unfulfilling.

When we work with couples for whom this is the case, we encourage them to remember what it was that drew them to their partner in the first place. What things did they used to do when life was less chaotic that made them feel good and want to spend time together? Once each partner has shared their memories with each other, we encourage couples to be purposeful and deliberate in terms of planning time together during the next week.

Some tips that we recommend for couples trying to reconnect are to:

  • Try to plan only one week at a time.
  • Plan for as little as one hour together doing something you both enjoy. Time together does not have to be expensive or flashy. It can be sharing time on the couch watching a favorite TV program.
  • The quality of the time spent together is critical. Try to put other needs and obligations aside for that time you are with your partner. Pre-planning for quality time together once a week is as important as making it to an exam or an important meeting at work. Doing this regularly can help each of you prioritize your relationship when work, school, or other obligations seem to be overwhelming, providing the support you both need from the other.
  • Remember that balance is a person’s own responsibility, and it takes practicing good habits to achieve balance. If you have little ones who are in your home, this is also an excellent model for them for how to try to strike a better work/school/relationship balance for their own lives.

If you or someone you know needs more help balancing their work and personal life, have them contact us at the Center for Family & Couple Therapy on campus at 970-491-5991.

Jenn Matheson is an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies and the director of the Center for Family and Couple Therapy. She will respond to questions from the CSU community focused on relationships on a regular basis in Today@ColoState. If you have an idea for a topic for Dr. Jenn to respond to in Today@ColoState, email her at


Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
Phone: (970) 491-6009