Married to the Job: How a Long-Hours Working Culture Keeps People Single and Lonely by S. Jaffee
The following was true even prior to the advent of smart phones and Covid. I had one full time job in the early 2000s where my commute was a 45 minute drive either way – by the time I got home from my job, I was exhausted.
I had no energy to put on a fresh coat of make-up and meet men to date them at local restaurants. I just wanted to get into my PJs, scrub off the make-up, watch two hours of TV, then go to sleep.
(Link): Married to the Job: how a Long-
Demanding bosses, impossible workloads, 24/7 email – no wonder many employees feel they have no time outside work to find love
….But recently she [a never married woman named Laura Hancock] had a moment of realisation. “I can’t afford my rent, I have no savings, I have no partner, I have no family. I’m 38 and most of my friends have families; they’re buying houses,” she says. “There is a lot of grief around that. I feel like I’ve just landed on Earth, like a hard crash on to the ground, and am looking around and feeling quite lonely.”
Hancock is one of the many people in recent years to recognise that they have devoted themselves to their work and neglected everything else that might give their life meaning.
For workers across many sectors, long, irregular hours, emotional demands and sometimes low rates of pay mean it is increasingly hard to have a life outside of work – and particularly hard to sustain relationships.
Long before Covid locked us all in our homes, alone or otherwise, the evidence was pointing out repeatedly that loneliness and singledom are endemic in this phase of capitalism.
A 2018 study found that 2.4 million adults in Britain “suffer from chronic loneliness”. Another projection found that nearly one in seven people in the UK could be living alone by 2039 and that those living alone are less financially secure.
…It is not that she is hanging everything on the hope of a romantic relationship – and she does not want children – but nevertheless Smith longs for time and energy to devote to the people she cares about, rather than her job.
….If work is getting in the way of our relationships, it is not an equally distributed problem. The decline in marriage rates “is a class-based affair”, (Link): say the law professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, the authors of the book (Link): Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family. The well-off are more likely to marry and have more stable families – and the advantages of this family structure are conferred on their offspring. For those in a more precarious financial situation, it can often be easier to stay single.
….In an increasingly atomised world, being in a couple is how most people have access to care and love. The status of being partnerless, or, as the writer Caleb Luna has put it ((Link): “Romantic Love Is Killing Us”), being “singled” – an active process that means single people are denied affection or care because they are reserved for people in couples – can leave many people without life-sustaining care. As Luna writes, the culture of “self-love”, in which we are encouraged to love, support and sustain ourselves, leaves out those for whom this is not a choice.
Care is overwhelmingly still provided by partners in a romantic couple or other family members: in the UK, 6.5 million people – one in eight adults – provide care for a sick or disabled family member or partner. The charity Carers UK estimates that, during the pandemic in 2020, 13.6 million people were carers. What happens to those, however, without partners or family members to provide care? It becomes someone’s job – a job that can end up placing enormous stress on the personal life of whoever is doing it.
…It is not just care work that is blending the boundaries between people’s work lives and personal lives. In many sectors, (Link): offices have been designed to look, feel and act like a home, to keep employees there for longer – with free food available 24/7, areas to rest and play with Lego, office pets, informal dress codes and even showers to create a feeling that work is a “family”.
…A chronic illness means that, recently, she has been out of the workplace, stuck at home. She has realised the way in which our obsession with work is entangled with our romantic relationships. On dating apps and sites, “most people identify strongly with their jobs”, she says. Where does this leave someone who is unable to work long-term? “At a minimum, I am supposed to feel guilty for being unproductive, useless – and live a frugal, monk-like life,” she says.
She does not mind that she might not be able physically to do the same things as a potential partner, but she often finds that they do, especially as the apps are designed to pass judgment on people immediately. All of this means it feels impossible to find someone with whom to connect. “I feel like I’m not looking for a unicorn, I’m looking for a gold Pegasus.”
The apps often feel like another job to take on, says Smith. She will click on the dating site, flick through some profiles, maybe match with someone and exchange a couple of messages. Then a week of teaching goes by in a blur and, she says: “You have a look and you’ve missed the boat.”