wikiHow to Make Your Relationship Survive While Working Opposite Shifts

Two Methods:Making the Most of Your Time TogetherDealing with Your Time Apart

Sometimes, you and your partner may have jobs that require you to work opposite shifts. For example, one of you may be a nurse who works the overnight shift, so that you leave for work just as your partner is coming home from his/her day job in an office. Such situations can make communication and finding quality time together difficult, but there are ways to maintain a strong relationship regardless of the shifts you each work.

Method 1
Making the Most of Your Time Together

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    Don't waste the time you get. The last thing you want to do is spend the limited time you get together complaining about how little time you get together. Treat your time together as precious opportunities not to be wasted.[1]
    • That said, spending a lazy afternoon (or mid-morning, or late night) doing nothing together is not necessarily wasting time. If you're spending enjoyable time together, it is time well spent.
    • Sharing a meal together whenever possible offers one ideal way to communicate and spend quality time with one another. For example, if you work the graveyard shift and arrive home at 8 a.m., eat "dinner" with your partner as he/she eats breakfast before work.
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    Borrow from each other's time. When you work opposite shifts, each of you will end up with a lot of solo time, which can in fact have some benefits. Be fair in offering up some of this "you" time when it can be transformed into "both of you" time. As is the case in so many ways in a relationship, an equitable give-and-take is essential.[2]
    • Occasionally offer up some of your sleep time to share with your partner, and expect the same of him/her. Don't sacrifice too much sleep, however, or you will be more cranky with your partner and less productive at work.
    • Work with your partner to save up vacation days so you can spend them together. Although you may work opposite shifts, you and your partner can schedule time off work or vacation on the same days, so that you can maximize the amount of quality time you spend together.
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    Make appointments with each other if important or serious topics need to be discussed. It may seem a bit much to have to pencil in times to talk to your significant other, but important discussions require both partners to be mentally alert and emotionally available.[3]
    • For example, if you bring up important topics when your partner arrives home tired from work, he/she may lack the energy and mental clarity to fully engage in a serious discussion.
    • Instead, set aside a time that allows each of you to mentally and emotionally prepare for an important conversation, be it about money, family, or another topic.
    • Actually, setting appointments can work for less serious matters as well. It can help you "block out" specific periods of time for the both of you to spend some enjoyable time together.
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    Don't compete with each other. When you work opposite shifts, it can sometimes seem like all your partner does is sleep, because that is what he or she is doing during your brief overlap times. You'll come home, see the sink full of dishes or the living room in disarray, and feel like you're the one doing all the heavy lifting in the relationship. If home chores actually are inequitable, try to remedy that; if not, try to understand how hard your significant other is working while you sleep.[4]
    • Divide household chores equally between you and your partner. Be realistic about each of your individual skill sets and the times of day (or night) you have to complete the chores, though. You may even want to post a chore sheet so that each of you can confirm that the other is indeed working just as hard as you to keep the household functioning.
    • Consider hiring help to complete certain chores during acceptable hours if your partner lacks the skills to complete those chores. For example, if your partner has time off during the day, but lacks the skills to mow the lawn, hire a gardener or lawn care specialist to mow the lawn during daylight hours. You don't need your neighbors calling the cops on you because you're trying to mow by flashlight after midnight.

Method 2
Dealing with Your Time Apart

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    Keep in touch. Modern technology provides many convenient options for sending along a quick “hello” or planning your upcoming time together. Even small gestures like a short text message or well-timed voicemail can help sustain each of you during long stretches apart.[5]
    • Although you may not be able to spend time together physically, you can still communicate by sending emails, text messages, or by calling each other throughout the day. For example, if you work the graveyard shift, call your partner during the last break of your shift as your partner is just waking up and beginning his/her day.
    • Of course, if you do get the occasional chance to drop in while you know your loved one is on a break, take it. Even a few minutes of face-to-face time can provide a needed boost of energy and appreciation.
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    Establish rules for unilateral action. When you work opposite shifts from your partner, you will have no choice but to divide up some of the important decision-making responsibilities. The person at home during the daytime will primarily be put in the position of making quick decisions on subjects like finances, home repairs, and issues related to any children you may have.[6]
    • First and foremost, of course, you have to demonstrate trust in each other or your relationship isn’t going to survive regardless of what times you each go to work. If you need to be consulted on — or even approve — every little decision that has to be made, then you may have a relationship problem that is bigger than working opposite shifts.
    • That said, it makes sense to lay out some ground rules together for what decisions should and should not be made unilaterally by one of you while the other is unavailable for consultation at work. Perhaps, depending on your circumstances, changing your cable TV plan to get a better deal is OK, while trading in your car for a new one is not. Or, hiring a plumber to fix a leaky sink is a “yes,” while hiring a plumber to completely remodel your bathroom is a “no.”
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    Rely on your circle of friends for support. Few people can thrive when they have to spend long stretches separated from their relationship partner. While no one else can completely fill this void, you can manage some of the loneliness by turning towards other people you know and care about.[7]
    • If you have family nearby, spend more time with them when your partner is unavailable due to work. They can offer you support when you need it, or just someone to talk to comfortably. Also, think of the “bonus points” you can earn with your parents by spending more time with them!
    • Partners in a couple often find themselves drifting away from their old, individual friends in favor of “couple” friends. One of the possible advantages of opposite shift relationships is that it is much easier to keep your own circle of friends. You can watch football or go bargain-hunting with your friends without worrying if your partner will be bored or annoyed.
    • If you find yourself turning down some of your limited time with your partner in favor of more time with your friends, however, you may have some deeper relationship troubles brewing.
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    Do something for you. If you have kids, you’ll likely have no problem filling your time while your significant other is at work. Otherwise, you may find yourself with some free, alone time. Use this time to your advantage by doing something for yourself with it.[8]
    • Seize the opportunity to take up a hobby that you enjoy but that does not interest your partner. It could be knitting, stamp collecting, gourmet cooking, golf, or any one of a number of activities.
    • Don’t feel guilty about using your time this way while your partner is off at work. If it makes you happy, it will benefit your relationship. Encourage your partner to take up his/her own hobbies as well.
    • Eventually, chances are that your shifts will change, you’ll have kids, or some other factors will cause you to lose this time to yourself. So enjoy it while you can.


  • Leave notes in spots where your partner can find them throughout the day to let them know you care about them. Leaving love notes can help keep your relationship strong and exciting, even when you aren't physically available. For example, leave notes in the refrigerator with the dinner you prepared, or leave notes on the car.
  • If possible, work with your boss in regards to changing your schedule so you can spend at least one day per week off with your partner. For example, if your partner has Saturdays and Sundays off, but you have Mondays and Tuesdays off, request that your schedule be changed to have Sundays and Mondays off.

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Categories: Relationship Issues