Husband Works Night Shift: What Every Couple Should Know

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Nurturing a marriage or partnership when your spouse works night shifts can be challenging. Believe us, we have been there. At times it can even fell like you are in a long-distance relationship, despite living together. Shift-work relationships take work, but you and your partner can thrive and grow stronger together.

Man and women smiling

When your husband works night shift, the key is to work as a team. Accept the situation, adjust to new lifestyle demands together, learn how to combat loneliness, and find creative ways to keep your love-light burning.

You and your loved-one are not alone. There are many, many couples living the shift-work lifestyle together and we are happy to share the advice we have collected to help your love-life thrive along with you work-life.

Husband Works Night Shift: What Every Couple Should Know

We strongly believe in empowering shift workers to embrace happy, healthy lifestyles that include their shift-oriented careers. As such, we tend to avoid spending too much time ruminating on the negative aspects of shifts, nonetheless we would not be able to do this if we didn’t acknowledge some harder truths.

Our reality as spouses to night shift-workers, necessitates a different lifestyle and sometimes it can feel lonely when others don’t quite understand our circumstances, but we are not alone. You are not alone!

Not only do you and your spouse have each other, you are also a part of a community of people who know what you are going through and are generally willing to provide you with support and advice, beyond even the confines of this blog.

That said, let us first go over some of the common challenges shift-working couples may face.

Common Shift-Spouse Challenges

If your relationship is entering a new night-shift oriented phase it might be helpful to know some of the challenges that lie ahead, that way you won’t feel so surprised if they crop up. If you are a long-time shift-spouse, it might be comforting to know you aren’t alone in your struggles.

Either way, we thought it would be helpful to briefly talk about the common issues and concerns that shift-spouses have to accept and adapt to.

Keep in mind, every relationship is different. It is absolutely valid to feel challenged by these situations and realities, but you may also find it totally natural and adjust easily.

Potential Challenges (& Adaptations) for Shift-work Spouses:

·  Being home alone: There are several reasons why being home alone, especially at night, may be uncomfortable. If you are nervous by yourself it might be worthwhile to invest in a home security system that will make you feel safe.

Related: How Can I Sleep Without My Boyfriend?

·  Dealing with major emergencies: The prospect of dealing with an emergency alone is unsettling for most people, so it is good to plan ahead for any emergencies you think you might have to handle by yourself. 

·  Dealing with minor emergencies: If you relied on your spouse to address minor emergencies, you might be wondering, “who is going to fix the shower faucet the next time I break it off?” It might be time to compile a list of nearby friends who can come help if you need it.

·  Missing your spouse: Hopefully we’ll provide enough advice on this matter to significantly reduce the longing you will feel for your loved one while they are at work, but it will likely still creep up on you from time-to-time.

·  Coping with lifestyle changes: The routines you once held may be disrupted once you spouse starts working night shifts. Setting new rituals will, however, help both you and your spouse feel supported.

We’ll be discussing ways to cope with these challenges throughout our post and we are excited to share with you some of the tips, advice, and encouragement we’ve collected to help couples thrive when one, or both, happen to be shift workers.

VIDEO – Night Shift Relationships: How To Not Ruin Them

Advice for Accepting Your Situation

This first piece of advice might come across a bit like your granny’s tough-love, but unless you discovered a lamp containing a genie, you won’t be able to wish your spouse’s night shifts away, so you will just have to accept reality and move forward, together.

This is especially true if your relationship wasn’t founded on a night-shift lifestyle, because it will be tempting to romanticize the “old days” when your partner had a “normal” work schedule. Resist that temptation!

There will be challenges, but you can adapt and possibly even grow.

Related post: Night Shift Care: 10 Ways to Help Your Loved One Thrive

Consider the Things that May Change for the Better

We feel pretty confidently that adapting your relationship to suit your spouse’s shift will ultimately help to strengthen your partnership, because you will both be forced to grow as individuals, prioritize each other, and truly appreciate the time you do have together.

Here are a few of our favorite examples, taken from our experiences, and those of our friends.

• Your Priorities Might Change for the Better

By restructuring your life to prioritize spending time together or make space for your spouse’s needs, you may end up inadvertently giving up priorities that don’t serve your happiness.

We internalize a lot of our “domestic-life” values from watching our parents, or taking cues from society, but these do not necessarily serve our happiness.

For example: A friend once confided in me that she hated vacuuming daily but always felt she had to do it because her mum did. When her husband started working night shifts she had to give up the habit in order to let him sleep, and she felt like she had been set free.

If your husband is having trouble, or you for that matter, we cannot recommend blue light blocking glasses enough. We’ve tried a whole bunch and finally settled on a few pairs from Swanwick Sleep. This is what they look like on us. If you want to see the other varieties and check out the price, click here.

• You Might Learn to Give Yourself a Break

There is a time and a place for overachieving, but as marriage therapist Dr. Kim Blackham, points out, it is good to give up on self-set ultimatums when you are running the show at home, without your better-half.

Stop telling yourself unhelpful things like, “I will always take the dog for a two-mile walk” or “I will never feed my kids take-away for dinner.”  

Ultimatums are especially risky in a shift-work context because inevitably you may need to go back on this conviction, to accommodate your partner’s job.

Learning to be flexible, even when it comes to your core intentions and lifestyle “ideals” will lead to less overall personal stress and make you more adaptable when your partner has to work night shifts.

• Your Friendships May Grow Stronger

We all know that our friendships can tend to get pushed to the back-burner once we’re in a committed relationship, but when you are in a shift-work relationship, you may have incentive to once again foster your close plutonic friendships, or even make new ones.

According to licensed marriage counselor, April Eldemire, having friends outside your marriage is actually crucial to happy, long-lasting marriages.

They are also a great support system to have in place in case you get lonely while your honey is at work, but we’ll discuss that in-depth a little later.

• You Might Become More Independent

Individual independence is important within a marriage, even if you do enjoy doing everything together. Being independent within a relationship allows a couple to grow together but without becoming toxically enmeshed.

If you married young, you may have never had the chance to learn individual independence, which means it will likely be uncomfortable to do things by yourself.

But the ability to do things on your own, from going to the cinema to trapping the bathroom spider, is important in the long run because it is unrealistic, and even unhealthy, to spend 100% of your time with someone else.

Armed with this positive outlook, you might find it easier to adapt to the changes, both good and bad that will take place when you partner starts working night shifts.

two people dressed in army clothing

Tips for Adjusting to the Situation

If both you and your spouse are new to night shifts, it can be difficult to adjust to the demands of this lifestyle. Here are five tips to help you adjust when your spouse works night shifts.

Hint: your spouse might benefit from: How to Best Prepare for Night Shift the Day Before.

Tip 1: Get Organized

Proactively sitting down to come up with strategies for the “administrative” aspects of married life can help make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page at all times and ensure that household tasks are divided up equitably.

It is recommended to have a digital couple’s calendar that you can both add to, so that you are always on the same page about upcoming events and appointments. It is also a great place to schedule “together time.”

One nurse practitioner even schedules the time she and her husband spend drinking wine on their front porch!

Tip 2: Create a Space for Yourself

If your spouse is working night shifts, they will probably need to sleep during the day, which means it is important of you to have somewhere to go while they’re sleeping.

We recommend setting up a daytime space of your very own either in a spare room, or a spare corner. This is good for two reasons:

·  First, all the things you need during the day can live there so you won’t have to go in and out of your bedroom and risk disturbing your sleeping spouse.

·  Second, it is not a space you would typically occupy together, so you won’t feel lonely being there on your own.

Looking to create the ultimate bedroom oasis? Sounds good huh? This post will show you how.

Also. When you’re husband/partner needs to switch from night shift back to day shift, the video below is full of tips that really helped me.

Tip 3: Adjust When You Do Your Household Chores

In order to maximize the amount of time you get to spend with your partner, it is recommended to do your chores while your spouse is at work, and encourage them to do the same. That way, when you do have shared time-off you can make the most of it and spend the time enjoying each other’s company.

Not to mention, you’ll find Walmart is usually dead by 10:30 pm, if you happen to find yourself grocery shopping after your spouse leaves for work.

Tip 4: Ask for Help

Having a trustworthy support system in place is helpful for all shift-families. It can give you and your spouse someone to turn for help in a pinch.

Shift workers are prone to unexpected delays. Nurses often get slated for mandatory overtime, pilots can get stranded elsewhere due to sever weather, law enforcement officers can get tied up with complicated calls. No matter what the case may be, it’s good to have someone to call when you need the backup.

You will also need to become comfortable asking for help, whether it’s asking your in-laws to grab the kids from school or asking your neighbor to let the dog out to go to the potty.

You may also like: Shift Work and Family. A Practical Guide for Busy Parents.

Tip 5: Go to Couple’s Therapy

It’s a common misconception that something has to be wrong to warrant going to couple’s therapy. In actuality, therapists and marriage counselors do the most good when they are consulted proactively.

These days, most counselors offer virtual visits, so you seek their wisdom from the comfort of your own couch. A single 30-minute session each week can do wonders to help you process the stress of shift-work with your partner, constructively.

couple smiling sitting on couch

Tips for Combating Loneliness

Even the most realistic and well-adjusted shift-spouses may feel lonely from time-to-time. Loneliness is a natural byproduct of being a shift-spouse, particularly when your spouse works the night shift.

We put together five ideas that we think could help you stay busy and stave off loneliness.

Tip 1: Find a Hobby Job

Heck, even finding a hobby on its own can help to reduce your chances of loneliness because it serves as a distraction that you can find joy in. If you happen to be able to turn it into a money-making side hustle, even better!

Some of us write blogs when we’re home alone, others make adorable polymer clay earrings, you might even be able to work as a physical trainer. Whatever your passion is, pursue it!

We all have an amazing skill / talent buried within us, foster it and let it grow, you never know what opportunities await!

Maybe you’ll even have the chance to rediscover things you used to enjoy doing before marriage consumed too much of your time.

For the shift work wives looking for inspiration, this article is for you.

Tip 2: Participate in Group Activities

If you find yourself staring longingly at the door of your bedroom while you partner is day-sleeping between shifts, it might be time to go out and do a group activity! Getting out of the house will help occupy you and give your spouse space to rest after their shift. can help connect you to group activities in your area and will even allow you to filter activities based on your, unique interests. Do you love indoor bouldering? There’s probably a group for that. Perhaps you are looking for a mid-day book club, if Meetup doesn’t already have one scheduled you can make your own and attract group members.

Note: this can also be great if your job takes you far away. We got this idea from a flight-attendant friend of ours who used the app to find things to do during long layovers abroad.

Meetup logo

Tip 3: Adopt a Pet

Having a house pet can not only keep you company when you’re home alone, if you happen to get a dog, it could also help you feel safer.

According to the American Psychological Association, having an “emotional support animal” can benefit everyone, and not just those suffering from mental health challenges. A study, conducted by Dr. Allen R. McConnell (PhD) found that, “pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

Of course, we recommend adopting over shopping because rescue animals need homes too.

Here are 9 Benefits of Owning a Dog for Busy Shift Workers and this one will help you manage once you bring your new furry friend home.

Tip 4: Take Yourself on a Date

Is there a film you are just dying to see in the cinema, but it doesn’t really tickle your spouse’s fancy? Going to see it while they’re at work is the perfect what to stave off your loneliness and see the film.

Taking yourself on a date is a way to ensure that learn how to be happy alone and the time your partner spends at work can become built-in periods for you to practice your individual independence and keep your own interests alive.

Tip 5: Create Your Own Ritual

According to Antonia Di Leo, a licensed marriage counselor, the object of these rituals is to feel whole on your own as well as with your partner. That means, creating a ritual that allows you to care for you.

This could take any shape you want, but it should be built around healthy habits.

Maybe you do a round of yoga or jump rope as soon as your partner leaves for work or brew a cup of tea and read poetry. Whatever you chose to do, Di Leo emphasizes this ritual should foster inner peace, allowing you to ground yourself as they head out to work.   

Note: this is even more important if your spouse is a traveling shift-worker, like a pilot, flight attendant, or military reserve, who may be gone for days at a time.

person lying in hammock

Tips for Staying Connected

We have spent most of this article so far focusing on how shift-spouses can take care of themselves and adjust to the reality that their partners may be gone when couples are “normally” together.

Now we’d like to shift focus and provide you with some advice for keeping your love alive. Here are five tips to help you stay connected during your time together and apart.

Tip 1: Create Routines that Emphasizes Togetherness and Teamwork

These routines can be something you do before and / or after your spouse’s shift. They should be something you do together that helps your spouse prepare for their shift and gets you ready to be alone.

This could be as simple as having a meal together before your spouse heads to work, or spending a few moments talking about what you are both going to be doing while apart. Being intentional about creating a pre / post shift routine that involves the whole family will help you feel less like you are in this alone.

Tip 2: Find Ways to Be Present Even if You Cannot Be There Physically

You might be wondering; how can I be there if I cannot be there? Well, have you ever seen the movie the movie The Lake House starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves? If not, the premise of the movie is about two people who fall in love by writing love-letters.

You too, can create a cinema worthy romance between you and your shift-spouse by revitalizing the art of the love letter. Simply slip a letter into their work-bag and boom, like the magic time travel used by Sandra and Keanu, you too can be present without actually being present.

It doesn’t have to be grand though, a simple posted note with a flirty or affectionate quip on it can go a long way.

Tip 3: Technology is your Friend

In addition to sending cute notes or letters to work with you spouse (and hopefully receiving them in return) you can connect to your partner at work by finding creative ways to incorporate technology into your relationship.

The easiest way to stay in touch is to call, text, or FaceTime each other during your spouse’s breaks.

On the more abstract end, you could invest in a pair of these touch bracelets that set off a sensory notification when either you, or your partner, touch the bracelet to let them know you’re thinking of them. Unfortunately, for the aviation couples in our audience, this device does need to be switched onto airplane mode when you take off.

The key is to use technology to be creative and have a little fun. You can honestly coopt a number of fun gadgets designed with long-distance lovers in mind.

Tip 4: Talk About Decision Making

When you and your partner are split up you are bound to be faced with situations that force you into making decisions unilaterally. This can alter the power structure of your relationship, which is not necessarily a negative thing, but it is something that should be accounted for.

Dr. Tina Tessina stresses the importance of discussion on what decisions your partner is comfortable with you making alone, and how they would like to be informed of decisions you made while they were working.

In general, it is good to have a conversation about all that took place while they were working or sleeping before their next shift begins, so your partner won’t feel left out of the domestic matters going on at home.

Tip 5: Take Vacations Together

Vacations are the best opportunities to spend time together, because you can leave the worries and the stresses of work and home obligations behind. Shared adventures and experiences are known to bring people closer together.

Even if it’s just a quick weekend getaway, or even a staycation, the concentrated time together will be even sweeter after having spent so much time separated by shifts.

Tip 6: Try Night In Boxes

When you have limited time together, the thought of getting dressed up and going out may seem all too hard. Instead, why not try “Night in Boxes”? This unique and clever company will send you out a box filled with everything you need for the perfect date. From food to music to activities, your night is set! Take a look at Night In Boxes

Final Thoughts

We won’t sugar coat it, it is not easy to be a shift-work spouse, but it is worth it. Plus, we’re confident that with the right attitude and a willingness to work together, you and your partner will come out closer and stronger than you were before. 

Emma signature |

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.


  • Friedlander, Jamie. “Does Your Partner Work Nights? Check Out these 6 Life-Changing Tips.” Doorsteps. Web.
  • Nguyen, Julie. “How to Make it Work When Your Partner Travels for Work a Lot.” Mind Body Green. Feb 19, 2020. Web.
  • Jones, Tyrone. “Shift Jobs and Marriage: How You Will be Affected.” Marriage Name Change. Web.
  • Eldemire, April (LMFT). “Why Friendships Are Vital to the Health of Your Relationship.” Psychology Today. May 30, 2019. Web.
  • Smith, Sylvia. “Why Is It Important to Be Independent in a Relationship?” Marriage. Jul 23, 2019. Web.
  • Mills, Kim I. “The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Pets Are Good for Mental Health of ‘Everyday People’.” American Psychological Association. 2011. Web.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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