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Married to the Job

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Keep in mind, it doesn't have to be quite this literal.

Leo: This is the most important thing I'll ever do, Jenny. I have to do it well.
Jenny: It's not more important than your marriage.
Leo: ...It is more important than my marriage, right now. These few years while I'm doing this, yes, it's more important than my marriage.

When a character's devotion to their career is such that it begins to seriously affect their ability to hold any kind of relationship outside of it. Perhaps they're spending too many hours at the office and not enough with the wife and kids, perhaps they've scheduled a business meeting at the same time as little Sally's birthday party or Tommy's athletics day, or perhaps their work is leading them into some very dark or dangerous situations. Either way, their spouse or partner isn't very happy with them and is quick to let them know it.

This trope is one of the key reasons why Everybody Is Single, why many characters find it difficult to make a relationship last longer than a week, and is one of the key causes of TV Divorce. As such, it's a major source of angst and relationship tension. This trope usually comes in one of two forms.

The Character is a Workaholic. In some cases, this concern is justified — the character genuinely is spending too much time at work and is neglecting their other relationships and commitments, and the complaining spouse is genuinely in the right to call them out on it. This is particularly the case if the character has a career that, whilst it may be important, is not going to result in any fatalities or the Collapse of Western Civilization if they take a break now and then. In these cases, the character might be neglecting their significant others and relationships out of a genuine desire to provide the best for their families, having completely missed the point that it'd probably be better for their families in the long run if they actually spend some time with them now and again. On the other hand, they might just be too obsessed with their career and the perks, privileges, and powers they have and have forgotten what's important in life. Or because they're simply a workaholic. If it's a happy story, then the character will gradually realize that they're focusing on the wrong things and resolve to make amends and spend more time with their loved ones. In a Downer Ending, the character will typically put in an insane amount of effort for a big promotion/raise/transfer/etc. at work, then actually get it, but lose everyone who was important to them in the process and quickly discover that whatever they wanted wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

The Character Performs a Job That is Just That Important. More often than not, the complaining spouse's position is a little less clear-cut and righteous. While they might have a good point about their loved one's spending too much time at work having a negative impact on their marriage/relationship, the fact is that their loved one does a job that is demanding and their partner really does need to put in all that time at work in order to effectively do their job. This is Truth in Television, especially if the job is a profession that involves saving human lives, like a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, doctor, heart surgeon, and more, or maintaining important infrastructure like in IT or transportation, in which case people really do need to work long hours, be on call 24-7, and/or expose themselves to dangerous situations, and lives genuinely can be lost if they aren't attentive to their work to a high degree, even if this means they have to neglect their relationships or families. In these situations (whether the writer intended it or not), the complaining spouse may come across as selfish, whiny, and unfairly demanding, especially if it should have been obvious from the start of the relationship that their loved one's job was going to demand a large portion of their time.

Truth in Television, as a common complaint these days is that the pursuit of success in climbing the career ladder is causing more people to work longer hours with less time to spend with their loved ones.

This is particularly common among military personnel, police detectives, secret agents, and doctors. Architects also seem prone to this trope (and usually fall into the first category) for some reason.

An interesting aspect whenever this is brought up in fiction is that nobody ever seems to direct the blame to the one thing largely responsible for this plight: mismanagement. If a character is spending too much time at their job, it usually means a misallocation of resources or manpower on a managerial level. Yet nobody ever approaches the supervisors and managers, even though they are the ones who might actually be able to do something for the character suffering from this.

See also Salaryman, The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life, Workaholic, The Chains of Commanding, Career Versus Man, Family Versus Career, When You Coming Home, Dad?, and Eternal Employee. Contrast the Crusading Widow, who loses their family through more violent means. Such a character may sing a Job Song.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The title character of Captain Tsubasa he's so married to football that boy-and-girl relationships are the rarest element to be found around him; considering this a Shounen genre, it's not very strange. Subverted slightly when he confesses his love to Sanae. Then he goes to Brazil and marries the job again, so that his girlfriend has to follow him there, love-struck and almost in tears before they finally get married for real.
  • Lloyd Asplund from Code Geass is a Bunny-Ears Lawyer who is wholly dedicated to the construction, maintenance, and development of the Z-01 Lancelot to the point where he doesn't even acknowledge his fiancée-via-Arranged Marriage as a romantic interest. He certainly doesn't seem to be interested in love, and his carefree attitude suggests that it isn't by lack of time. He probably simply doesn't care.
  • L from Death Note. Because of his line of work, he is perpetually in danger and so doesn't get out very much. He also lacks charisma. Both of these factors mean that not only does L have no canon romantic relationships, but also no real friendships, either.
    • Soichiro in the TV drama is frequently away from home to his job. This puts a strain on his relationship with his son Light, who must act as a parental figure to Sayu, which is amplified by Soichiro's absence during Sachiko's death ten years prior.
  • Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic! is completely and totally socially inept because of living his whole life as a soldier. One time, Kaname and Tessa hold a little bingo and concert party for soldiers to unwind, and Sousuke is shown very uncomfortable, showing disapproval of them relaxing on the job. It's only in The Second Raid that he even begins to consider the possibility of a life and a future with Kaname outside of the job — and that's only after Mao asks him about his plans for his future and then criticizes him sharply when his only answer is "follow orders."
    • His mentor Kalinin is implied to be as well. By reading between the lines of his nostalgia, it is apparent his wife was rather unhappy about his sense of priorities.
  • Godannar: Both Goh Saruwatari and his "wife" Anna Aoi. His mother-in-law, Dr. Kiriko Aoi (Anna's mother), also happens to be his boss.
  • Hataraki Man: Hiroko dedicates almost all of her time to work, which causes the breakup between her and her boyfriend, who is also a workaholic.
  • Kotetsu Jeeg: Hiroshi Shiba did not know why his father was always working and barely talked to his family, and after several years, he decided he did not care about it or his father. When he learnt his reasons, he kind of forgave Prof. Shiba, but his mother still called her husband on it.
  • In the Living Game manga, Tokiko's husband spends all of his time at the office or away on business trips, leaving her to complain to the main characters. In fact, his devoted (male) assistant Komada is referred to at one point as a second 'wife'.
  • Fate of Lyrical Nanoha, whose job as an Enforcer requires her to travel around space most of the time. In the Megami Sound Stages, she laments the fact that she can't spend as much time as she wants with her adopted children Erio and Caro, and in ViVid, she was away so often that she was the last person to hear about her other adopted daughter Vivio's Adult Form (Nanoha kinda forgot to mention that little detail to her).
    • The problem persists in the 2nd Mother's Day one-shot, when Vivio teases Fate about how often she is absent from her life (prompting Fate to angst that Vivio will no longer consider her one of her mothers), such as when she canceled a parental visit day for school due to her Enforcer duties but still notes that she's her mother and dear to her.
    • Subaru, in the Movie Sound stage, laments not being able to see her family very often due to her job in the rescue team almost constantly having her on duty, but Teana reassures her that they're still her family, noting Fate as being close to her family in spite of where her job takes her.
    • Fate's adoptive brother, Chrono, being an Admiral who commands a ship like his mother once did, is noted in the Sound Stages as being away from his children fairly often.
    • Mostly averted however with Lindy. With her only son stationed on her ship, Work and Home are pretty much one and the same for her. Even so, she always tries to make time for Chrono (and later Fate after adopting her) as a mother as well as commander.
  • Mazinger Z: The Professor Gennosuke Yumi spends most part of the time working in the Photonic Energy Research Laboratory or traveling to meet with other scientists. He is a widower, and his daughter Sayaka practically has to twist his arm to force him to go home and have supper. Although she never called him out on it, many times she felt neglected and regretted not only that she was motherless, but her father was too busy to be there for her when she needed him. It may be sort of justified since Prof. Yumi was trying to save the world. Juzo Kabuto is another example: he hired a maid to take care of their grandsons because he was barely at home (due to be building Mazinger-Z).
    • Great Mazinger: Kenzo Kabuto was even worse in that sense. He devoted several years of his life to building Humongous Mecha to save the world, and training kids to pilot them. The result was his two biological children not even knowing he was alive -long story- and his adoptive son's huge issues never were addressed.
  • Monster (1994): Both Doctor Tenma and Detective Lunge are so devoted to their careers that they have no social life outside their jobs. In Tenma's case it's less noticeable because he has a great social life on the job — he cares for his patients so much that he uses his spare time on them as well. Lunge's obsessiveness drives his wife and daughter away, and it only gets worse when he decides to put himself into the mind of the man he's chasing (Tenma), who was The Un-Favourite and willfully isolated himself from his family.
    • Lunge really brings it to the point of being horrific as he not only does lose his family but nearly gets fired from the very job he's married to due to his obsession.
    • Criminal psychologist Dr. Gillen is another example, as his introductory scene has him explain that his wife left him because he listened more to his 20,000 tapes of observations on and quotes from criminals than he did to her.
    • This is probably meant as an ironic contrast to Johann who manages to balance his job (spreading chaos and convincing Tenma the world deserves it) and forming relationships.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: When Ms. Hudson says her heart goes out to Sherlock's future wife because of the state of his room, he replies not to worry, because his job is like his wife.
  • Shogun Yoshimune in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers may enjoy sex and have children, but make no mistake, she's too busy ruling a nation to bother with emotional attachments. When she's thinking about the country even during relaxing baths, hunting, and childbirth, it's clear she's this trope.
  • Implied, in Sailor Moon, with pretty much all the Sailor Senshi aside for Usagi, with some making it clear:
    • Haruka and Michiru are clearly in love with each other since the start, but refused to act on it until they completed their mission against the Death Busters and they had (apparently) no reason to be Sailor Senshi anymore (when they do find out their mission had not ended, they graduate to Battle Couple);
    • The manga version of Rei had already sworn off men for unrelated reasons, but when tempted with the prospect of abandoning her duty and finding love, she did not exitate into burning down temptation and temptor. She later appeared to have found love, but as it was Minako it didn't get in the way of her duty in the slightest;
    • The manga version of Rei's father also appears to be married to his job, only taking the time to actually be a father one night a year (on her birthday). She openly resents the fact that he couldn't take time to be with her mother as she was dying;
    • The Sailor Star Lights make clear they value their mission to find their princess above everything else, with the anime having Yaten berating Minako (this series' poster child for the trope) when it appeared she was about to put her dream of being an idol over her duty;
    • As said above, Minako is the clearest example, as in all continuities she puts it well above her dream to be an idol and her love life: in the anime, where the element is at its lightest, an episode showing her choosing her duty over her love life and another having her placing her duty over the dream of being an idol (the above incident where Yaten berated her. Turns out, Minako not only just wanted to see if she had the ability to pull it off after all dangers had passed, but she asked Usagi for permission before trying); in the live action (the one continuity where she is an idol) at one point she came close to reject her identity as Minako Aino to better accomplish her duty (and it's hinted that her dedication literally killed her, both by putting off the surgery for her terminal illness until her body couldn't take the surgery and by causing it in first place by working too much; and in the manga, her first kill was the boy she was crushing on (turned out it was a youma), and later killed her true love upon learning he was from the Dark Kingdom, and even stated she had not need for men and that they were in the way of her duty (in a scene filled with Ship Tease between her and Rei, the one possible love who would never get in the way of her duty).
  • Sensual Trigger has this in chapter 2, where Akira considers his work more important than his girlfriend, Rariko. This makes her upset, but by the end of the chapter, they start working together.
  • In Snow White with the Red Hair Kiki is concerned that the man she intends to propose to might turn her down due to his dedication to his job. She's right. Mitsuhide even says he had never considered marriage until her position as a noble made it necessary for her to find a spouse and after thinking about it decided that he'll probably never get married as he wants no distractions from his job as Zen's knight and protector. Kiki herself isn't very excited at the prospect of marriage and would probably prefer to remain a knight and aide but as the future head of an important noble house, she can't.
  • In To Love Ru is the reason because Rito and Mikan parents rarely make apparitions in the series. Their dad lives in his own apartment/studio where he does his work as a mangaka while their mom normally working overseas (once in a while she returns home to check up on the family).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Both Kaiser and Asuka use the "in love with dueling" line to let down attempted suitors.
  • Sosuke's dad Koichi in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is a fisherman who spends most of the time away at sea and gets his wife Lisa plenty mad at him when he has to stay out a few more days. The family is intentionally analogous to the family of director Hayao Miyazaki, who suffered from the same problem; the Reality Subtext of the film is an apology to his son Goro.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Not even the prospect of a lesbian threesome can distract the Major from Laughing Man research.
  • One of the more controversial changes in Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 was changing Togusa, originally a committed family man, into this. At some point during the time-skip between Solid State Society and the start of this show, he'd divorced his wife to devote more time to crime-fighting.
  • Played with in Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head Kidou Kyuukyuu Keisatsu. Kurumada loves his wife very much but eventually realizes that he puts so much priority on his work that Kumiko might be justified in leaving him. Of course, his fears are wrong.
  • In Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream, the main characters work their way towards the Prism Queen Cup, the most prestigious Prism Show tournament, in order to be crowned the Prism Queen. In order to enter, they must create a wedding outfit with rare wedding-related clothing earned from other tournaments and then put on a Prism Show that shows how much they love Prism Shows — basically, literally getting married to the job. A lot of this imagery is representative of Asian Idol Singer culture in general, where idols in real life are expected to forego any romantic relationship and be devoted to their job.
    • In King of Prism, the marriage imagery happens again in the finale of Shiny Seven Stars, where the main characters' Prism Show is basically a wedding where the audience (yes, even you) gets married to them.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • Samaritan is so devoted to helping others that he barely has time to sleep or maintain a civilian identity. His idea of a good day is one where he manages to get nearly a minute of flight time. In a later comic, the entire superhero community teams up to pick up the slack so that Samaritan and Winged Victory can have an evening free to go on a date, without feeling duty-bound to interrupt it to save civilians or fight villains.
    • Winged Victory prefers to stay in her transformed superpowered form all the time, possibly because it's a refuge from her original frail form. She can't even recall the last time she visited her mother, noting only that it's been years.
    • Quarrel effectively has this, as part of her deconstruction of a Badass Normal. She constantly realizes that she's outranked in a world of super-powered beings, armored villains, aliens, and gods, and compensates for it with lots of training — to the point where she cannot sustain any sort of normal relationship because of the commitments required.
    • As the most powerful magician in Astro City, the Silver Adept combines this with Hard-Drinking Party Girl, having more than enough supernatural responsibilities for the role. She works hard and parties hard, to the consternation of her staff.
  • Batman uses this as an excuse at times. His other go-to excuse is It's Not You, It's My Enemies
    • In the 1966 episode "Scat! Darn Catwoman", he explains to her that "A wife, no matter how beauteous, or affectionate would severely impair my crimefighting."
    • Made explicit in an episode of The Batman. When Alfred talks to Bruce's latest stood-up date, she asks if Bruce is actually married. "Only to his work..."
    • Harvey Dent in The Long Halloween struggles with his marriage because of the many demands of his job as District Attorney, in addition to his own mental problems. At the end, it's revealed that his wife Gilda may have been the serial killer who has been killing off members of the mob in order to help Harvey so that he "wouldn't have to work so much" and they could be together.
  • Captain America: Steve himself, though not to his actual, paid jobs (when he has them), but rather to being Captain America. At times, Steve's got no real life outside of being a superhero. Once, Diamondback asked him what he did to relax, and actually relax, rather than just working out or studying superhero stuff. Then she had to ask when the last time he took some actual "Me Time" was, and he couldn't remember.
  • Ex Machina: Mayor Mitchell Hundred avoids long-term relationships and dismisses questions about his sexuality as irrelevant to his job. This leads to a lot of in-universe speculation, but he still avoids giving a definite answer.
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd has no life whatsoever outside of his responsibilities and duties as a Judge. Even when other Judges may recognize a perp or victim as a celebrity personality from a vidshow, Dredd will not, nor would he care if he did. Dredd is celibate and doesn't even celebrate his own birthday — not even when the Chief Judge and his closest associates at Justice Dept. get him a cake and gifts. The closest thing Dredd has to engaging in a leisure activity is reading the Book of Law. However, he does try to make time for his niece Vienna when she needs it.
  • The title character of Plutona is dedicated to her superhero job for ethical reasons and to her day job for financial ones. She spends almost no time with her own teenage daughter, forcing her mother to care for the grandchild instead.
  • Sensation Comics: Dr. Pat very consciously placed her career above any romantic frivolities after leaving her fiancé, who wanted her to quit and become a housewife upon marrying him. Her happiness with her work and steadfast refusal to get entangled in romance comes up fairly often:
    I am in love! In love with someone who is very jealous and demands my attention twenty hours a day! I'm in love with my work!
  • Superman:
    • There was a period when Lois broke off the engagement because she couldn't handle being married to Superman, and wasn't sure Superman should be married when he had a world to protect. She said she tried thinking of it as like being married to a firefighter or a policeman... but even they can take days off. She came to terms with the situation eventually.
    • In Supergirl storyline Death & the Family , after solving the case which caused the death of Captain Tanner, Inspector Henderson ponders that his friend sadly became so obsessed with finding the real culprit which he let his job destroy his and his family's lives.
      Inspector Henderson: I can't change what happened to Captain Tanner. Am I sad my friend is gone? Absolutely. But he let the job overtake him. He let it destroy himself and his family, and then left us to pick up the pieces. We have to watch ourselves, Supergirl. As keepers of the peace, we shouldn't let what we do distract us from our own families.
    • In Starfire's Revenge, Supergirl turns down a Casanova when he tries to seduce her and talk her into quitting her hero identity, arguing that she cannot put romance before her hero job.
  • In Watchmen, this leads to conflict between Rorschach's psychologist and the psychologist's wife, when the more Squicky aspects of Rorschach's backstory began to influence the shrink too.
  • It was quite a staple in Silver Age superhero comics, used as an excuse to delay an otherwise inevitable progression of a romance where secret-identity issues did not apply, such as within a team of superheroes. Take this example from X-Men #9 (1965): Marvel Girl telekinetically holds ice-cubes to Cyclops' bruised head and thinks:
    Oh Scott! My heart just breaks when I see you so pale, so shaken! If only I could comfort you with my arms... my lips... but I know I mustn't! As our acting leader, you've no time for thoughts of... romance!
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992): Link grows distant after Ganon's defeat, dedicating his life to guarding the Triforce.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dykes to Watch Out For, Sydney, whilst researching polyamory, has the epiphany that she is in a polyamorous relationship already — her work is her primary relationship, while Mo is 'the other woman'. This also happens with Clarice and Toni, with Clarice's job as a lawyer almost immediately put a strain on the relationship.

    Fan Works 
  • A Hollow in Equestria: Lieutenant Thunder Strike's dedication to serving the Royal Guard is so strong he literally doesn't know how to relax when he's off-duty, with any time he doesn't spend working is usually being devoted to staying fit for duty.
  • AWE Arcadia Bay (Rogue_Demon): As big of a crush Emily has on Jesse, she had long since accepted that "[t]he Bureau would always be her first and final love[,]" convinced that no one would actually want her.
  • Better Bones AU: Blackstar feels he doesn't have time for romance with his devotion to his leadership role. It turns out that he actually is aromantic anyway but he has never really had the opportunity to realize that.
  • Doing It Right This Time: Ritsuko was so engrossed in her work and her scientific research, and so driven to differentiate herself from her mother, that all her relationships prior Gendo had failed after a few months.
  • Evangelion 303: After his mother's death, Ritsuko became Shinji's caretaker and kind of stepmother. However, she was too busy with her job to raise him properly. As a result, Shinji barely saw his father's girlfriend and he does not really like her.
  • House uses this exact phrase when talking to Wilson about Catherine Willows in the House/CSI crossover fic "I Want To Ride It All Night Long."
  • The Legend of Genji: In the comic's backstory, Mako became the chief of Republic City's police force after Lin retired. When Korra tragically died, Mako tried to cope with his grief by becoming such a workaholic that he wound up destroying his marriage and estranging his daughter. He eventually got better thanks to an intervention by Asami and Bolin, and has begun taking steps to try mending his broken relationship with his daughter.
  • Limpet AU: Admiral Piett's career as a naval officer prevents him from settling down and having a family, and his decision to join the navy caused his mother a lot of grief for precisely this reason. Piett himself declares that "the Lady", as he refers to the Executor, is the only woman for him and he's content to be single the rest of his life. Despite this, he does have a good relationship with his sister's family.
  • The MLP Loops: Literally in 108.19 — Cadance, who was both Unawake and Best Mare, has photos of Shining Armor in a tuxedo and his guard armor in a wedding dress (and is quite upset once she's Awake and discovers this, since they're married in baseline). And he still didn't tell Twilight he was getting married.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Ritsuko was and still remains devoted to her job, especially when the story begins since all of her cats died of starvation while she was in custody for her sabotage of the Dummy Plug and she therefore really does not have much of a reason to go home to her apartment on a regular basis anymore. It drove a wedge between her and Misato before and regularly threatens to do so again.
  • The Palaververse: Wedding March: First chapter: One character talking about a "proposition" is jokingly interpreted by their conversation partner as a marriage proposal, which they turn into a Rejected Marriage Proposal with this reason:
    Why, I’m charmed. But this is quite sudden, and I’m rather married to my job.
  • Missy is this in Some Dreams Just Can't Come True, despite being only thirteen. Because of her broken home and her Chronic Hero Syndrome, she uses every opportunity to stay at the PRT headquarters, regularly volunteers for extra patrols and basically considers Vista to be her true self.
  • White Devil of the Moon calls Nanoha out on this, stating that she was "married to the job, only to realize that the relationship had gotten abusive."

    Films — Animation 
  • In Storks, Nate's parents are both in the realty business and constantly on the phone with their employees and/or clients, even promising to be on-call during Christmas at one point. Once Nate has mailed the storks a letter asking for a baby brother, they start to grow out of this and genuinely bond with their son.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree implies Twilight Sparkle lost interest in Flash Sentry because she's too busy with her responsibilities in Friendship Is Magic to have time for romance, substantiated by that she never gets romantic inclinations or Ship Tease in either series since (never getting any in the latter series unlike the rest of the Mane Six).
  • Roger in 101 Dalmatians is described as such in the opening scene (ironically, as Pongo points out, the job in question mainly involves writing love songs, despite being single-and-not-looking himself). Pongo's successful attempt to break him out of it are what sets up the rest of the film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 40 Carats: In addition to his immaturity and irresponsibility, actor Billy Boylan is more interested in his work than in his wife or daughter, resulting in the failure of his marriage and an almost nonexistent relationship with his daughter.
  • In Addams Family Values, Debbie "Black Widow" Jellinsky says she killed her first husband, a heart surgeon, because he was so often late home due to emergency operations. But then, she was insane.
  • Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well is all about the moral implications of this trope. Given the choice between family and business, the film's Corrupt Corporate Executives choose the business every single time.
  • The titular character of The Batman (2022) is single-mindedly devoted to his crusade to end crime in Gotham. While he obviously returns Selina Kyle's feelings, even she realizes trying to pursue him romantically isn't going to work out, since he's essentially already taken. Sure enough, at the end of the film, she decides to skip town and asks him to come with her, but he can't leave Gotham, which she sadly accepts.
  • City Hall: Kevin Calhoun, the deputy mayor of New York City, is all about his job. Mayor Pappas, his boss, even calls him out on it:
    Mayor John Pappas: Get a life.
    Kevin Calhoun: I've got yours; it's quite enough.
  • The movie Click is about this; upon receiving the universal remote that allows him to 'fast forward' through his life, the character is initially delighted to be able to skip through the unnecessary things in his life to get his work done. Unfortunately, he quickly realizes that he's fast-forwarding the wrong things and the rewind button doesn't work... Well, it does, but it doesn't involve Time Travel, merely allowing him to play back the stuff he missed with no option to change it.
  • The Cobweb: Stewart is the head doctor at a mental health clinic. His focus on his work to the exclusion of all other things starts to seriously damage his relationship with his wife Karen, who rightly feels neglected.
  • Die Hard curiously inverts the stereotype of the 'workaholic cop and frustrated wife', as at the beginning of the first movie, police officer John McClane's complaint is that the devotion his wife has to her job is killing their marriage.
  • Matron from Doctor in Clover does love Sir Lancelot yet knows things won't work between them as she is unable to give up her work in the hospital.
  • In Eyes of Laura Mars, the photographer Laura's ex-husband Michael blames this trope for their divorce. He says, "Where were you when I needed something, when I needed comfort? Where were you? In your darkroom." Laura retorts, "Where else could I find any peace? You were in that bedroom dead drunk!"
  • The Family Man: In Jack's original life, he didn't really have anything outside of his job as a high-level Wall Street executive. He even spends Christmas night alone because he doesn't have anywhere to go. His boss plays this straight too, though he proudly claims that it's because he's simply a heartless bastard.
  • In Freedom Writers, Ms. Gruwell is accused of this by her husband, until he asks for a divorce. By the end, she is still committed to teaching and happy as a result.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The supplementary materials explicitly say some of the Monarch operatives' commitments to their job have taken a lot of precedent over their personal lives. Stanton has divorced three wives, and the official website comments that his bio-acoustics work at Monarch is his one true love, almost quoting the trope ad verbatim. In the novelization, Dr. Graham has had several relationships which didn't last due to her being too committed to her work (a trait she also shares with Serizawa).
  • In Heat, though on opposite sides of the law, among the things Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley have in common is that they are completely focused on their careers on their respective sides of the law to the almost complete exclusion of anything else. For Hanna, this means in the span of his entire police career, he's burned through two marriages and is currently on the downward slope of a third; for Neil, this means that he has absolutely nothing even resembling a personal life.
  • Walter and Hildy are both married to their newspaper jobs in His Girl Friday, though Hildy is trying to get out of it. Walter sets her up with one last story in an attempt to get her to come back to the paper.
  • Nicholas Angel of Hot Fuzz has this as his defining trait. It's why his ex-girlfriend Janine broke up with him.
    Nicholas: Wasn't too long ago we talked about getting married.
    Janine: You're already married to the force.
  • Despite James Bond's womanizing ways, his loyalties to MI6 always take higher precedent. The deaths of Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Vesper in Casino Royale reinforce that he can't have a stable love life.
  • Kon-Tiki: Thor Heyerdahl's devotion to exploration and adventure at the expense of his wife and children leads his wife Viv to divorce him. His triumphant arrival in Polynesia after a 5,000-mile journey on a raft is accompanied by a Dear John letter from Viv announcing that she's leaving.
  • In Kramer vs. Kramer, Ted is so married to his job that he barely notices when his wife tells him she's leaving him, and when Ted has to take his kid to school the next day, he doesn't know what grade the boy is in.
  • The main character of Life Stinks, a businessman named Goddard Bolt, once mentioned he was married to a woman who complained he was too obsessed with money.
  • In Magic in the Water, psychiatrist Jack takes his kids on vacation but largely ignores them to spend time on the phone or doing research for his book, even though, as his ex-wife points out, he hasn't spent any quality time with them since last summer. He starts spending more time with them after he is briefly possessed by Orky.
  • In the film The Marrying Kind, Chet works the night shift a lot and Florence complains about this, but he explains that he worked for the benefit of her and the kids.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Tony Stark and Pepper Potts became the Official Couple in Iron Man 2 and Tony promised to her that he would retire from his job as Iron Man and destroyed all his suits at the end of the third movie. The events of Avengers: Age of Ultron says otherwise and as expected, Captain America: Civil War confirmed that Pepper left him. However, by Spiderman: Homecoming, not only are they back together, but Tony proposes to Pepper. In Infinity War, he actually shares with her a dream he had of them having children, something which is realized by Endgame, with their daughter Morgan and the surprise of Pepper in the Rescue armor. Unfortunately, Tony sacrifices himself to save the universe from Thanos and thus leaves Pepper a widow.
    • Thor: Love and Thunder reveals this was the major factor in Thor and Jane breaking up. Thor was constantly on call for the Avengers, often having to miss or leave in the middle of dates and generally keeping odd hours. Jane meanwhile was a rising star in the physics world and was regularly at work late into the night completing projects. The two grew apart over time until Jane left Thor a letter.
  • In The Menu, Chef Slowik hates himself, his job, and his clientele (but not his staff) but is so committed to his work that he works every day for months on end.
  • In One-Trick Pony, this is why musician Jonah's marriage to Marion fell apart. When he was at home, he was never really present - he kept making phone calls and writing songs. Marion could handle his going on tour, but she couldn't handle the job infiltrating their personal life.
  • In The Movie Grand Finale of Our Miss Brooks, Lawrence Nolan is so focussed on running his newspaper that he neglects his son Gary, most nights leaving him to eat with the servants. Gary becomes moody and resentful, deliberately failing English and becoming disliked by his peers. Connie does a good job diagnoising the problem, and helping set father and son to right. Lawrence is so taken with Connie he proposes marriage; Connie likes but does not love him, so she declines. Ultimately Connie marries longtime Love Interest, shy biology teacher Phillip Boynton at film's end.
  • In The Prestige both main characters suffer from this. Robert Angier even says out loud that he doesn't care about his deceased wife, but it pales in comparison to Alfred Borden's dedication, a lifelong trick in which two identical twins literally switch places from time to time; always being either Borden or Fallon, all so a certain magic trick's mystery is never figured out by anyone. This also results in a failed marriage for Borden, leading the wife to commit suicide.
  • In The Silence of Adultery, Paul is so busy with his job as a building contractor that he never has time to help with the kids or emotionally support Rachel, leading her to have an affair with the father of one of her students.
  • In Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Ricardo Sr. spends almost all his time working upstate. Even after Ricky goes missing, Ricardo doesn't come home for days.
  • Star Wars: This is what happened to the Skywalker twins in the Disney canon, as Leia's marriage to Han suffered because she was more committed to the New Republic, and Luke rebuilding the Jedi Order precluded ever having a family of his own.
  • In Superdome, football player Dave Walecki's wife Nancy feels that he's so wrapped up in football and his drug addiction that they live in different worlds. They've had a Sexless Marriage for months.
  • It was implied in Taken that this was a contributing factor to Bryan's divorce, although he did retire early to spend more time with his daughter.
  • A Wedding (1978): Jeff, the security chief, drunkenly admits that he has a self-imposed vow of celibacy to avoid distracting himself from his job.
  • In Woman of the Year, Tess and Sam's marriage suffers largely because Tess doesn't cut back on her extremely demanding work schedule after they are married, or even after Tess agrees to care for a War Refugee child.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse has Moira Mac Taggert turning out to have a son from a failed marriage because she couldn't maintain a stable family life while juggling a profession as a CIA agent.

  • Ben Safford Mysteries: Ben has few interests or hobbies outside of work, reelection, and spending time with his sister and her family. One of the antagonists in The Attending Physician briefly suggests using this to accuse him of being gay, while expressing confidence this would sink Ben's political career.
  • Discworld: Sam Vimes a textbook example. He's constantly running off on his wife, Lady Sybil, often in the middle of meals, to pursue justice and the people who evade it. In The Fifth Elephant, he's so preoccupied with the central mystery that it takes the entire book before he realizes that Sybil is pregnant.
    • Also inverted in the same book, when Sybil accidentally discovers the location of a secret room in the embassy while measuring the floors for carpets:
      Sam: I don't want to sound impatient, dear, but is this a carpet moment?
      Sybil: Just stop thinking like a husband and start listening like a copper, will you?
    • Vimes does his best to defy this trope in Thud! where he makes it his duty to return home in time to read Where's My Cow? to his son, no matter what else job-related might occupy his attention at the time.
    • Averted by Sergeant Colon. The fact that he works at night, and his wife works during the day, saved his marriage.
  • Kurt Wallander: Kurt is divorced and has only an on-off relationship with his Latvian girlfriend.
  • Temeraire:
    • Most Dragon Riders are married to the job if only because the bond they share with their dragons means that any spouse would play second fiddle (to say nothing of having to live near a dragon covert and seeing them less than possibly even a Navy man). There's no prohibition against it, but wise aviators won't subject anyone to it.
    • The young ambassador Mr. Hammond is single-mindedly devoted to his work and appears on the verge of panic on the few occasions that people needle him to marry. Naturally, he finds himself informally adopted by a dragon who values large families and wants him to start cranking out progeny.
  • A Christmas Carol: Scrooge's fiancée Belle leaves him when she realizes he cares more about making money than he cares about her. They were once "both poor and content to be so," but now, she says, if he were single he would never choose a penniless girl like her — and though he tries to deny it, his expression shows that he knows it's true.
  • In the Flora Segunda novels of Ysabeau Wilce, Buck isn't so much married to her job as Commanding General of the Califan Army as she is its whipping girl.
  • Isaac Asimov's Forward the Foundation: Yugo Amaryl is only interested in developing psychohistory. He never marries, doesn't know any people aside from his colleagues, and dies early from overwork. Several times (mostly offscreen), Seldon tries to encourage Amaryl to take a break and find someone to spend time with, but he's never successful.
  • The Fall of Númenor: "Aldarion and Erendis" features Aldarion, who is the Crown Prince of Númenor and is always sailing to Middle-Earth for long periods of time. This eventually breaks down his marriage with Erendis who influences their daughter Ancalimë to dislike men.
  • Septimus Heap: Marcia Overstrand has virtually no life outside of her work as the ExtraOrdinary Wizard.
  • Jack McDevitt's Priscilla Hutchins: In the early novels, Hutch finds being an Academy pilot a serious obstacle to long-term relationships. It's not that she doesn't want a relationship, but things just don't ever seem to work out. She's even contemplated quitting, or moving to a desk job, but somehow, that never seems to happen.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Lydia's life begins and ends with the military; she's estranged from her only family, rarely sees her only friend, and the possibility that her soldiers will reject her leadership sends her into a breakdown.
  • Patrick Robinson: One recurring character is an Admiral whose secretary/girlfriend refuses to marry him because she understands that he's married to his work. She finally accepts his proposal after he announces his retirement.
  • This is part of the reason that Stacey's parents, Ed and Maureen, divorce in The Baby-Sitters Club. Maureen accuses Ed of being married to the job; Ed counters that he has to be in order to support Maureen's shopping habits.
  • A recurring theme in the Heralds of Valdemar series is that all Heralds are so devoted to Duty (and to their Companions) that it's very hard for them to have an exclusive romantic bond with another person. In the earliest books this is actually codified into the claim that if a Herald doesn't experience Love at First Sight with a divinely mandated soulmate they can't feel anything but friendship for anyone else. Later books disregard this; Heralds can fall more naturally in love and have happy marriages but these have to be with people who understand that Duty comes first, so usually their spouses are other Heralds or Healers. The fact that common Heraldic assignments involve being on the road for eighteen months at a time, making most relationships long-distance, doesn't help.
    • In a flashback in Winds of Fate, Sister Lashan, who would make and become the sword Need, worked as a mage-smith at a religious enclave which enforced chastity and celibacy for those living in it. This, she reflects with some amusement, wasn't hard for her because one, she'd never found a man who was so attractive that it outshone her love of her work, and two she was horse-faced and muscular and few men had ever been interested.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock repeatedly states that he can't possibly become emotionally involved with a woman because love would compromise his ability to be an ideal reasoning machine. Of course, he does end up developing at least one emotional attachment in his friendship with Watson, probably against his own intentions. He is also shown to have a close relationship with his older brother.
  • One Nation, Under Jupiter: Diagoras considers his work "better than any woman."
  • The Winds of War/War and Remembrance: Victor Henry is married to his naval career, which ruins his marriage. Sympathy is still with him — saving the world from Nazis would be a wee bit distracting.
  • Atlas Shrugged: Hank Rearden regularly puts in eighteen-hour days at his company and barely interacts with his family. This being Ayn Rand, this is unambiguously a sign of virtue in Readern, and his family are at fault for not acknowledging his greatness. The fact his wife is a wet blanket who hates sex doesn't help.
    • This is true of most of the good characters in Rand's novel, as they can't conceive of any kind of life other than making money for its own sake.
  • Captain John Rumford in Victoria invokes this to himself when considering a closer relationship with his love interest, the Spanish noblewoman Maria. He convinces himself that he cannot marry with a new war on the horizon; not only does his work need all his attention, it will also be very dangerous work if/when war does come.
  • Nim's Island: Jack's love of science leads him to leave his daughter Nim alone on a deserted island during typhoon season while he goes on a research trip.
  • The Lost Fleet: Implied to be the case for protagonist John Geary, who never had a relationship go much beyond the "casual dating" stage prior to the series. Being an officer in a Space Navy and spending most of your time deployed off-world tends to have that effect. Although his Socially Awkward Hero tendencies might have something to do with it as well.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Barty Crouch Sr, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, is invested in his career prosecuting Death Eaters and potentially becoming the next Minister of Magic to the point that he neglects his own son. This has disastrous consequences as Barty Crouch Jr. joins the Death Eaters and eventually is thrown in Azkaban for helping the Lestranges torture Neville Longbottom's parents. Crouch Sr. is so married to his work that Fudge knows something's off when he abruptly takes ill due to his son placing him under the Imperius Curse.
    • Word of God says that Charlie Weasley, who works at a dragon reservation, never marries or has children. When asked if he was gay, Rowling replied that she doesn't think so, just that he's "more interested in dragons than women." (Fanon tends to prefer asexual over this trope, though.)
  • If I Fall, If I Die: During Arthur and Diane's relationship, Arthur was always either at his drafting table or attending an architectural conference. He was so absent from her and Will's lives that when they split up, she found it hard to care.
  • Pilgrennon's Children: Pilgrennon used to have a wife named Adrienne. She left him because he was too engrossed in his work as a child psychologist to notice that their marriage was falling apart, and because she wanted kids and he was more interested in the autistic kids he worked with than in having biological ones.
  • Distress: The investigative reporter Andrew Worth has been in six serious relationships, and they all ended because he seemed to care more about his work than about his lovers. After Gina leaves him, he decides to stay permanently single.
  • Skylar from The Speed of Sound keeps her boyfriend Jacob at a distance. Her first priority is her career as a psychologist, meaning Jacob can never be more than a mistress.
  • This Alien Shore: Guildmistress Alya Cairo's third lover once accused her of making it clear that all things came second to her work, including the people who cared about her. Most of her relationships have been short-lived, but she's managed a ten-year relationship with Devlin Gaza, who has power of his own and understands the importance of their work.
  • Counting to D: Sam's mom, an architect, has been unemployed for the last eighteen months, and spent as much of that time with Sam as possible. Now that she's employed again, she throws herself into her work so much that she and Sam hardly see each other.
  • The State of Grace: Grace's dad is a wildlife cameraman who's gone on shoots for months at a time. Even when he's at home, he spends most of his time editing footage in his study.
  • In Almost Perfect (2014), dog breeder Bess admits that she's Maternally Challenged. While her son David was growing up, she spent more time with her dogs than she spent with him. He was so desperate for attention from her that he entered junior showmanship, despite having no interest in dog shows and hating every minute of it. He and Bess have a better relationship now that he's an adult.
  • Earnest Gould from Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World spent so much time working that he barely got to know his wife, sons, or grandchildren. After he retired at age 63, he decided to spend his free time with his family, only to quickly discover that he couldn't stand any of them. His sons told him that the reason they were both so unpleasant was because they had been traumatized by his absence, and his wife told him she'd been having an affair for a decade that he'd never cared to find out about. Gould left his family, and came out of retirement not long after.
  • He Is Your Brother: Mike, Jane, and Orry's father is a celebrated cellist who spends weeks or months on tour. When he is at home, he's more interested in rehearsing than in paying attention to his kids.
  • Old Kingdom: Clariel's mother Jaciel is the greatest goldsmith of her age but puts her work first and expects her family to fall in line without fuss — she doesn't even take time off to check in when Clariel is badly injured. Not only does her singlemindedness completely alienate Clariel, it causes Jaciel to overlook the severity of the city's political upheaval until it gets her killed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season of 24 it was mentioned that Jack and Terri Bauer's marriage was strained because Jack Bauer spent too much time at work and would often spend months at a time away from home.
    • And in season 7, President Taylor put her duty to her country over her family and sent her daughter to prison for ordering a hit on Jonas Hodges, which was a direct cause of her subsequent divorce from her husband.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Liz Lemon has some problems maintaining any kind of social life.
    • Jack; although he eventually settles down, this is repeatedly brought up as an obstacle to his relationships, and Kenneth once inadvertently makes him question his priorities by complimenting him on his large number of birthday presents from colleagues and the "big empty house" he has in which to keep them. When he has a Near-Death Experience, he reflects on his life and takes away the message that he should have worked more, since it's clearly the only thing he does well.
  • On Arrested Development, Michael has this problem. His wife is dead, but he's always worried about neglecting his son because he spends so much time trying to save the family business.
    • And the ironic thing is, most of the family (save for Buster, Tobias, and Mabel) are a bunch of selfish jerks who don't even realize the trouble he goes through to help them.
  • A number of Babylon 5 characters may qualify, but Dr. Franklin is the most obvious. In a variation, part of the reason why Mollari is so devoted to his work is that it requires him to be on a space station seventy-five light years away from his wives, who he can't stand (and the feeling is mutual — each match was an Arranged Marriage that neither party was involved in setting up).
  • Captain Blackadder from Blackadder Goes Forth. He's married to the army. The book of King's regulations is his Mistress. Possibly with the Harrods lingerie catalogue discreetly tucked between the pages.
  • In Blue Bloods, the Reagan family are this to different levels:
    • Jamie Reagan's first fiancée Sydney Davenport breaks up with him because he is too dedicated to being a cop and he is unwilling/unable to talk to her about what he does.
    • Danny seems to be happily married even though he tends to get obsessive about some of his cases. On a few occasions, Danny also schedules himself for a lot of extra tours when he and Linda are going through financial difficulties.
    • Frank is a justified case since he's the police commissioner and has to play both the legal and political aspects of the NYPD.
  • Walter White in Breaking Bad is married to his crystal meth empire, which gradually drives his family apart as Skyler is drawn into it, and even more when Hank, Marie, and eventually Walt Jr. find out. For instance, Walt ends up missing the birth of his daughter Holly because he has to honor a timed delivery of 38 pounds of meth to Gus Fring.
  • DI Hardy implies this about himself in Broadchurch. When his partner asks him about the reason for the divorce, he says it was "the job" and talks about how difficult it is to stay married as a cop. The reason for the divorce was in fact the job, but not in the way Hardy implies. His wife was also a cop, and Hardy found out that she was having an affair when she went to celebrate with her lover after finding critical evidence in a murder case and allowed the evidence to be compromised.
  • Michael Westen in Burn Notice. Specifically, he's married to being a spy and the personal belief he was doing good work as one, and his conflict throughout the show is trying to get back in after being unjustly burned. However, it's pointed out many times by his friends and members of the organization that burned him that for all Michael loved the job, the job never really loved him back, and it was only after he was burned that his frankly shitty personal life finally started to get better and he confronted those issues head-on amidst trying to get back in. Ultimately, he gets burned again, but he's fine with that.
  • Detective Beckett on Castle gets obsessive about her job, although she does find time for a life outside of it. This becomes a form of Character Development thanks to the fact that earlier seasons see her frequently depicted as intensely focused on her job (although less-than-pleased about it) and later seasons see her come out of her shell a bit more. It's hinted that it's a result of hanging around with Castle.
  • In Cheers, the final episode has Sam Malone come to the realisation that for all the women he's been involved with over the years, his true love and the one he'll always come back to is Cheers herself.
  • The Closer: Fairly common amongst Major Crimes officers. Provenza and Pope both have had multiple divorces. Brenda has had one, and her devotion to the job strains her relationship with her boyfriend/fiancé/husband over the course of the series.
    Provenza: I have a civil service job, and the only way that I am going to leave the Los Angeles police department is if I get shot, have a heart attack, and then you run me over. After which I will consider a disability position.
    Pope: But you really still haven't told me why.
    Provenza: When why my first wife and I divorced, I agreed to split my pension with her from the day I retire. I'll be damned if she gets a nickel.
    Pope: That... I understand.
  • In Cold Case, this leads to Vera and Stillman's divorces. This is also another reason why several of Lily's relationships fail.
  • In Criminal Minds, SSA Aaron Hotchner eventually loses his wife, Haley, and young son, Jack, to this when Haley divorces him in s3. (A Harsher in Hindsight moment occurs in the Season 1 episode 'Unfinished Business', as Hotch notes that "divorce is not uncommon in the BAU.") Fortunately for Jack's sake, he's able to strike a better balance between work and fatherhood after Haley's death in s5, although his obsessive commitment to his job persists.
    • All the team fit this trope, probably because the BAU seems to be woefully understaffed.
    • SSA David Rossi has three ex-wives, though only the first two were because of the job (the third was a drunken Vegas wedding which was quickly corrected once they sobered up). His first wife, Caroline, left him because he was gone constantly. He left his second wife, Hayden, because they were both married to the job; he wanted to pursue his FBI career, whereas she was a diplomat in France and unwilling to sacrifice her work for his.
  • CSI:
    • Catherine Willows, though she divorced her husband for several reasons, of which this was likely one, it's still a recurring source of drama between her and daughter Lindsey.
    • Grissom was also this until he married Sara - who was the trope to a point as well. Catherine once told Grissom to "take his head out of his microscope" once in a while, and Grissom told Sara to get a life outside the lab in the first couple of seasons. Now they've married each other.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Mac Taylor became this after his wife died on 9/11. It's often extremely difficult for his colleagues to drag him away for some actual sleep. It lessens, however, as he meets and courts Christine in seasons 8 and 9, and one presumes he'll get even better with marrying her.
    • Stella, too, sometimes. In the series pilot, she reveals to Danny that she listens to the police scanner even while showering.
      Danny: Why does that not surprise me?
  • Doctor Who: In "Arachnids in the UK", police officer Yasmin Khan's younger sister Sonya accuses her of being this. Yaz shoots back that at least she has a job.
  • Dr. Claire Saunders in Dollhouse sometimes sleeps in her office, all so she could properly monitor and take care of the "Dolls". Although this is actually because she herself is a Doll, Whiskey.
  • Elementary: Captain Gregson's first marriage fell apart because his ex-wife couldn't handle his missing family obligations due to work. Gregson points out to her that he'd always been clear about his priorities, Cheryl counters that she never promised that she'd always be able to accept that fact. Rather tellingly his second wife is a former police officer who, presumably, can better understand why Gregson needs to make work a priority.
  • Kate from Fairly Legal, whose devotion to her work partially caused the break-up of her marriage.
  • The Flash (2014): As soon as Barry Allen gets a girlfriend, it's complicated by the constant phone calls he gets from the people at S.T.A.R. Labs asking him to save someone. On his first date, he's able to take care of things in a heartbeat and be back before she notices. But the second date... she's upset. Then when he tries to apologize...
  • For All Mankind. The Establishing Character Moment of Margo Madison has her waking up and going through her Morning Routine in what turns out to be her own office.
  • On Grey's Anatomy, Bailey's husband Tucker divorced her because she's spending too much time at the hospital, you know, saving lives. Jerkass. Technically, though, she divorced him, after he gave her an ultimatum: him or the job. In her mind, once a marriage has reached a point of ultimatums, it's time to end it.
  • On Heroes, it's revealed that Bennet, when he first started working for the Company, had been so ruthless on his missions that the Company all but ordered him to get married and build a family life to temper down his ruthlessness. This may also be the reason that he was given custody of baby Claire when the Company saved her from a fire.
  • Carrie and Saul in Homeland are almost religiously devoted to their CIA work. The closest thing to a relationship Carrie has is with the man she suspected of being a double agent, while Saul's actual marriage is severely strained by his job. "It's my Achilles' Heel. Every time they call me, I go."
  • In the first season, House's "marriage" is pointed out by a patient, who is himself "married" to his job as a musician.
    John Henry Giles: I know that look. I know that empty ring finger. You don't save someone who doesn't want to be saved unless you have something... anything. One thing. The reason other people have wives and families is that they don't have that one thing that hits them that hard and that true. I've got my music; you've got... this.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Robin is a career-focused, workaholic reporter and had no intention of settling down. This explains why she doesn’t want to be in a committed relationship. However, her meeting with Ted changed it and she started dating him except they broke up due to wanting different things and for Robin, it’s her career. History Repeats when she dated and married Barney and in the series finale, they got divorced due to her work. It also prevented her from seeing her friends.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "Do You Know What It Means to Be Loved by Death", Armand and Louis de Pointe du Lac discover from psychically glimpsing at Daniel Molloy's memories that in 1985, the latter cared more about working on his novel than his girlfriend — he was indifferent when Alice announced to him that she was pregnant.
    Armand: It's Alice, Louis, not Claudia.
    Daniel: Excuse me?
    Louis: Oh, I see. I've triggered a memory. It's 1985, you and Alice are at a brasserie talking past each other, and she tells you she's pregnant.
    Daniel: The fishing rod in the head again?
    Louis: And you say, "Yah, let's talk about it later tonight."
    Daniel: I gotta knock out another chapter, one a week. I leave before the bill is paid, I never finish the novel. I think it was the "Yah" that pissed her off most. Yah?
    Louis: (nods head) Yah.
  • Katla: Darri, a vulcanologist, was married, but he and his wife Rakel have split up before the story begins; she says that he spent all his time at work, sometimes traveling the world to study volcanoes, leaving her to look after their home and bring up their … troubled … son Mikael.
  • Law & Order: An occupational hazard for the detectives (and some of the lawyers) on all of the series.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, episode "P.C.":
    • When Olivia Benson was asked if she was a lesbian (her answer, "No", made plenty of Alex/Olivia shippers pissed), Elliot teases her that it would explain why she has had such rotten luck with men. Her reply is this trope, word for word.
    • Also, in her first episode with Casey Novak, she explains that being married to the job, particularly their job, screws with everyone's love lives, and then proceeds to list them.
    • Stabler loses his family for a while because of this trope. He manages to get them back and maintain a pretty healthy relationship, mostly because his wife Kathy accepts his 'second marriage'. She even jokingly refers to Olivia as his "work wife".
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Many of the agents were like this from the start, most notably Coulson and May. This is pretty standard for secret agents. After the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, however, anyone who wasn't married to the job left. Some became mercenaries, some joined HYDRA (or revealed they were HYDRA all along), some joined the private sector, and others just surrendered to the local government. Everyone who stayed became dedicated one hundred percent to S.H.I.E.L.D. and its ideals, since remaining with the organization was technically an act of terrorism. Those few agents who still had family had to cut off all ties.
    • Daredevil (2015): Matt Murdock views his nighttime crimefighting as Daredevil as Type 2 of this. Foggy doesn't see it that way and views it as Matt having a suicidal death wish.
    • Iron Fist (2017): Ward and Joy Meachum are essentially married to their jobs at Rand Enterprises because Harold Meachum tied their inheritance to working at the company after his death and resurrection by the Hand.
  • On M*A*S*H Hawkeye's complete devotion to his career as a doctor is the reason given for his inability to make relationships last. He finds it easier to remain single and sleep with a different Girl of the Week each ep (there are hints that this was the case even before he was drafted into the army).
  • Heavily implied in Monk with Captain Stottlemeyer.
    • His second marriage, to Karennote  is on the rocks throughout the first three seasons, culminating in his divorce in season 4. It's implied that Leland sometimes sleeps at his office.
    • At the start of season five, Stottlemeyer does pick up a girlfriend in the form of suave realtor Linda Fusco, but it doesn't last. The first reason is that Stottlemeyer's police duties mean that their dates are frequently interrupted, postponed, or cancelled completely, to the point in "Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan," Linda has to "buy" Stottlemeyer at a Bachelor Auction to secure a date with him, which of course gets interrupted by him making a "Eureka!" Moment in a murder case, forcing him to ditch her to save Monk and Marci Maven from a killer. And then Monk and Natalie expose her as a murderer.
    • His third marriage, to Trudy "T.K." Jensen, doesn't seem to suffer from this trope.
    • Natalie also observes this about Stottlemeyer in "Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu." When she and Monk happen to notice Stottlemeyer sitting in his car outside Monk's apartment, Natalie notes that he's in his SFPD issue-Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor:
      Here's something odd I've noticed about cops: They drive around all day in black-and-white and unmarked Crown Victorias, the standard vehicle used by law enforcement agencies nationwidenote . So you'd think that when they bought their own cars, they'd want something entirely different, something less big, boxy, and official. But no. They don't feel comfortable in "civilian" cars. They want to be cops at home, too. Which may be why divorce rates among cops are so high. Perhaps if they ditched their Crown Vics, they would less likely be ditched themselves.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month", when Joe Christie is giving Monk the background on all the Mega-Mart employees, he describes the shift manager as the "by-the-book, married-to-the-job" type employee.
  • The obscure 1985 TV Movie/whodunit cash contest Murder In Space has Captain Neal Braddock (Michael Ironside), commanding officer of the spaceship USS Conestoga. A promo where he's interviewed by space program director Dr. Andrew McCallister (Wilford Brimley) reveals that Braddock's demanding career in the US Navy, including his overarching ambition to be a leader, resulted in two divorces and alienation from his family. Braddock takes it as incentive to go forward with the Conestoga mission no matter what.
  • Nash Bridges: Mentions from here and there, conveniently recounted in "Live Shot", put Nash family-matters-wise to have left really poor impression on his ex-wives. Lisa has 'A' for "anniversaries missed due to all the work" in the "laundry list", Kelly remembers there being a week when she's seen him for mere 5 minutes between his days-long working marathons. In "Aloha, Nash", he barely cleans up one final case in time before his flight for the Hawaii trip, the first vacation in twenty years of service. In "Downtime", Betina tries to remove Nash for the time being by using the right as a superior officer to force Nash to go on paid vacation for all the accumulated period of time (it would total over 10 months).
  • Jay, according to Mary, in Mystery Road. He neglected and walked out on his family to pursue his career.
  • Gibbs ,from NCIS, has been married and divorced three times not including his deceased first wife.
    • A suspect who happened to be a psychology expert identified Abby as married to her job as well.
    • As well as, you know, everyone. Do they even have homes? And beds that they actually sleep in, other than their desks?
      • Gibbs doesn't sleep in a bed in his own house. He sleeps on the couch.
  • The usual gender roles of this trope are switched in No Ordinary Family, in which it's the mother who is a job-fixated workaholic who is never around and the father who's a bit pissed about it. However, during one argument, the mother does rather bitterly point out that working eighty hours a week to support her family wasn't exactly how she imagined living her life either.
  • In NUMB3RS, this seems to be the case for a good deal of the cast. David Sinclair and Colby Granger seem to consider this a badge of honor, or at least an excuse why they aren't in relationships. Nikki meanwhile, while devoted, does try and date. Granted, said relationships don't work out for circumstances (a date bailed because of an unexpected connection and her romance with the sniper was put on hold when he had to serve time.)
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • Mr. Conklin is devoted to his job at Madison High School. Although he doesn't really need the money, he acts as principal during the summer school months. In the radio episode "Carelessness Code", Mr. Conklin gives his reasons:
    Mr. Conklin: It doesn't matter what time of year it is, Madison High is my baby!
  • A more comical example can be found in The Red Green Show with Winston Rothchild III. Unlike most examples of this trope, he doesn't want this to be the entire case, and he has attempted to have a dating life multiple times, and in one episode ("Something in the Heir") tried to adopt a child to carry on his family business. The main problem is that his family business job, which he loves talking about and spends a great deal of time doing, is sucking sewage out of septic tanks.
    • One recurring segment of the show is a parody of the game show, Password, in which Red tries to get another member of Possum Lodge to say a certain word to win a prize. In one episode, Red tries to get Mike Hamar to say "father", and Mike brings up this trope in response to one of Red's clues:
      Red: Your mother is married to...
      Mike: Uh, her job. Exotic dancing is her life.
  • Discussed in a July 2016 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, right down to the trope name. Bill argues that, thanks to the advancements in technology that allow work to be done anytime/anywhere, the boundaries between one's work life and one's personal life are eliminated, thereby making both unhealthy.
  • On Selfie, Henry Higgs is this, being a Workaholic who doesn't seem that interested in women. When meeting an ex-girlfriend, she says she moved on once she realized he'd never care about her the way he cared about work.
  • The title character in Sherlock explains to John Watson that that's what he is (having misinterpreted John's line of questioning somewhat).
  • In Smallville, Chloe's relationship with Jimmy is seriously strained by her work with Clark and the Justice League — crosses with Keeping Secrets Sucks.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In Stargate SG-1, this led to O'Neill's divorce, Landry's divorce and estrangement from his daughter, indirectly led to the death of Jacob Carter's wife and directly led to the estrangement from his son. In the case of O'Neill, it's indirectly responsible, as the marriage also fell apart because of the tragic death of their son, who accidentally shot himself with Jack's gun. Jack was also retired at the time it fell apart, though it's possible that his wife recognised that Jack was likely pretending he didn't want to go back to military life for her sake when it was what he really desired.
    • Stargate Atlantis, coming in with the military variety from "Outcast". In the day off episode "Sunday", it's established that Sheppard is divorced. In "Outcast", we learn that the frequent phone calls in the middle of the night, the inability to tell her where he was or what he was doing, and the constant worry that she'd get the 'We regret to inform you' knock on the door drove the marriage apart.
    • In Stargate Universe, his devotion to his career (and his affair with T.J.) led to the breakdown of Colonel Young's marriage. "Human" reveals that Dr. Rush regrets letting his workaholic tendencies keep him from spending time with his terminally ill wife during her final days, yet copes with his loss by throwing himself even deeper into it. Later, his obsession with Destiny leads him to be the person onboard most dedicated to completing its mission, even if he has to do it alone.
  • Captain Kirk in Star Trek is often said to be "married" to the Enterprise.
    • In "Elaan of Troyius", Kirk is dosed with a kind of love potion and falls head-over-heels for the titular Elaan. He is grief-stricken when she leaves for her Arranged Marriage. Dr. McCoy comes up with an antidote for the love potion, but Kirk doesn't need it, because the Enterprise is his real true love.
    • Hilariously parodied in Futurama where Shatner is forced to read from a bad fan script:
      Shatner: Alas, my ship, whom I love like a woman, is damaged.
  • Dr. Jacqueline Wade on St. Elsewhere has her eleven-year marriage to husband Robert end because of this trope.
  • John Winchester in Supernatural was too busy hunting as a result of his wife's death at the hands of a demon. Hunters in general tend to avoid long-term relationships due to the inherent danger in the job, the constant travel, and the tendency for their loved ones to get killed off. In particular, Dean's inability to maintain a stable family life with Lisa and Ben was a small subplot in season 6.
  • Hugh Abbot on The Thick of It doesn't see his family much. Considering what his only distraction is, one supposes he really doesn't do much beside work. He's not happy about it.
    • Malcolm Tucker shucked off anything approximating a life in order to be good at his job, but it's never mentioned or dwelled on until the final episode when he gives a Tear Jerker of a monologue while handing it off to Olly.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Passage on the Lady Anne", Alan Ransome has paid considerably more attention to his job as a financier than his marriage to Eileen over the course of the last six years. As it had gotten to the point that they barely saw or spoke to each other, Eileen arranged the voyage on the Lady Anne and the trip to London in order to save their troubled marriage.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Wall", Major Alex McAndrews' wife Sarah left him as he was so committed to the Air Force and the principles of honor, duty, and integrity that he completely ignored her. She told him that she did not believe in bigamy.
  • Cmdr. Ed Straker from UFO (1970) destroyed his marriage over building and maintaining SHADO.
  • Leo McGarry's divorce in The West Wing was a direct result of this trope, as demonstrated in the page quote, and it's implied that Toby Ziegler's marriage ended because of his duties in the White House as well. It's also suggested, however, the devotion required and long hours spent working at the White House took their toll on all the characters and their relationships to some degree, as almost all of them barring the President and the First Lady were either single or divorced.
    • Something of a Truth in Television, with one possibly significant note; many observers have noted that in Real Life few of the people who hold the positions in the White House that the characters hold remain in them for as long as the characters hold them, with one of the reasons being this trope; working at the White House for so long tends to result in burn-out.
  • Will & Grace: Grace's marriage to Leo is severely strained by his commitment to Doctors Without Borders. She hates being separated from him, but when she tries to go with him she has nothing to do while he works all day. Leo briefly quits the organisation but has no idea what to do with himself and is distracted thinking about the work he could be doing.
  • The Wire: Jimmy McNulty is very much married to his work as a Baltimore City poh-leece. The very empty state of his apartment is symbolic of how little a life he has outside his police work. In season 3, Lester even deconstructs McNulty with a premonitory "Get a life speech" that even McNulty finds amusing.
    Lester: How do you think it all ends? A parade? A gold watch? A shining Jimmy McNulty Day moment, when you bring in a case sooooo sweet everybody gets together and says, "Aw, shit! He was right all along. Should've listened to the man."? The job will not save you, Jimmy. It won't make you whole, it won't fill your ass up.
    • In season 4, McNulty makes some effort to break this trope, demoting himself down to patrol work in the Western District (away from the rigorously demanding work of the Major Crimes Unit), cutting back on his drinking and getting into a relationship with Beadie Russell, the Port Authority cop from the Sobotka detail of season 2.
  • In Without a Trace, this is one of the two reasons why Jack Malone ended up divorced in Season 3 (the other is sleeping with his co-worker Samantha) and lost custody of his two daughters.
  • The X-Files is this trope. Mulder was already like this pre-series, and is happy with it. Scully starts out okay with it, but later yearns for other things, which Mulder can't fathom. This trope is somewhat justified, since their work isn't something that can be left in the office at the end of the work day, and they wind up part of the conspiracy they're trying to uncover when their son becomes the first gestated human-alien hybrid
    • Inverted in the revival, when it's revealed that Mulder and Scully have broken up. Not because Mulder is obsessed with his work, but because he isn't anymore, and in the intervening years fell into a deep depression. He was unwilling to treat it, and Scully left. When he regains his belief in the supernatural and his passion for solving X-Files, Mulder and Scully also rekindle their relationship. Summed up perfectly in one episode when Mulder holds a classic Mulder/Scully argument about something supernatural he's seen...entirely by himself. When he stops to take a breath, Scully nods and says "This is how I like my Mulder." And then tells him he's crazy.


  • "Good Company" by Queen is about a man whose wife and friends leave him once he becomes obsessed with his profession.
    I hardly noticed Sally
    As we parted company
    All through the years
    In the end it appears
    There was never really anyone but me.
  • Eminem, in later career, often writes love songs dedicated to his toxic relationship with rapping. In the 2020s he began wearing a wedding ring, which caused some consternation among fans but was eventually confirmed to commemorate both his sobriety and his "marriage" to hip-hop.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Davenport's identity is so closely attached to his position of Captain of the Starblaster that when Lucretia wiped his memory of the 100-year mission, he forgot everything but his name.
  • Head Archivist, Jonathan Simms, of The Magnus Archives. It's hard to tell how much this applied prior to his life before being recruited to become an avatar of "The Beholding" and having his humanity stripped from him, but even early on in the series, it doesn't seem like he has much of a life outside of work.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Low Ki never stops looking for others places to work and has admitted that five hours a day spent training don't leave much time for "relationships". He also routinely criticized peers he thought didn't make enough sacrifice for the business.
  • Straight Edge pro wrestler CM Punk claims his only addiction is competition, an addiction that turned him into an insomniac through his one track dedication to pro wrestling... and that was before he started working for a company that demanded 300 days a year on the road from him and he became obsessed with getting the main event spot of WrestleMania. Unlike most examples, Punk doesn't have much trouble getting girlfriends. Keeping them is his problem. He finally did find the one he was ready and willing to marry in A.J. Lee, and even then that was after he flat-out left wrestling for what turned out to be seven years.
  • Kenny Omega is so dedicated to accomplishing his wrestling goals that he doesn't have time to "search for a wife or a boyfriend," but starting a family is something he'd want to do after fulfilling his wrestling goals.
  • Jake Roberts put it heartbreakingly in his speech during his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame, lamenting that he was no longer able to do the job he loved while expounding on how the job had cost him so much.
    Jake: Y'see because... when I fell in love with that woman I call "The Ring"... I couldn't cheat on her, man. I'm ashamed to say that's the only woman I never cheated on, but it's the truth. It is, and I'm ashamed of that. Because I was a rotten son-of-a-bitch. <some audience members chuckle> No, it's not funny.

  • The Orfeo ed Euridice version filmed at Český Krumlov Castle has a flashback vision show that Orpheus neglected Eurydice in favor of his music, which finally led to a quarrel in which she tried to wrest his lyre out of his hands.
  • In RENT Roger claims that Mark has deliberately married his job, and Mark...doesn't really deny it. He does offer a defense, though: Survivor Guilt, stemming from being one of the few of his circle of friends without HIV/AIDS. From the song "Goodbye, Love":
    Roger: "Mark has got his work." They say Mark lives for his work, and Mark's in love with his work. Mark hides in his work.
    Mark: From what?
    Roger: From facing your failure, facing your loneliness, facing the fact you live a lie. Yes, you live a lie, tell you why: you're always preaching not to be numb, when that's how you thrive. You pretend to create and observe when you really detach from feeling alive.
    Mark: Perhaps it's because I'm the one of us to survive!
  • In Lady in the Dark, Charley accuses Liza of being married to her desk.
  • In The Adding Machine, Zero is so attached to the menial job he's held for twenty-five years that he still wants to go on adding figures even after he dies.
  • In The Ladies in the Corridor by Dorothy Parker and Armand d'Usseau, Lulu Ames tells her daughter-in-law about how her late husband was so in love with his business that he "slept with it three or four times a week": he had a bed in his office. He was so "unfaithful" to her that she had made up her mind to divorce him before he fell ill. "Oh, no, Betsy," she adds with a little laugh, "there wasn't anybody else. There just wasn't any Elliott."
  • In the short play Post-Its: Notes On A Marriage, one of the conflicts that emerges between the couple is the husband spending too many hours at work while his wife is at home with their infant daughter. She leaves him briefly over it, but this finally drives home to him how serious the issue is, and they ultimately work it out.

    Video Games 
  • Keldorn from Baldur's Gate 2 is utterly dedicated to his duties as a Paladin of the Order of the Radiant Heart. So much so that he spends months at a time away from his family, to the point that his wife seeks comfort in the arms of another man. Even his own daughters are distant with him and prefer their mother's new paramour who at least spends time with them. His Personal Quest determines how he deals with this unhappy situation.
    • Cernd from the same game is just as bad — no, he's worse. His wife left him rather than tell him she was pregnant because she didn't want him to try and fail raising a child, the evil wizard who murdered Cernd's wife and who is about to sacrifice Cernd's son calls him out as a lousy dad, and, according to his epilogue at the end of "Throne of Bhaal", Cernd continues neglecting his son in favor of his job and winds up turning him into an anti-nature crusader who sacrifices his own life to kill Cernd.
  • A secret recording of Henry, made two weeks into Joey Drew Studios' existence, in Bendy and the Ink Machine reveals that he hasn't seen someone called Linda in days, having been to busy with keeping the studio running. Unusual for fiction in that he actually complains about Joey's mismanagement. Though in his case, it may not have been solely the long hours he was complaining about, but also that Joey wasn't pulling his weight.
  • Carl Schiff, a psychopath and boss fight in Dead Rising 2, is absolutely devoted to finishing his routes. Not even a mall full of zombies and serial killers will stop him, though they do manage to make him a few minutes late. This makes him extremely upset, and when he finds out the man who he thinks is behind the outbreak (you), he pulls out a shotgun and starts throwing bombs. It doesn't help that the hero accidentally throws a bomb into his mail cart, rendering finishing the route impossible.
    • Before him, Steven in the first game refuses to leave his store as the zombies swarm on it, determined to protect it and its goods from looters and vandals.
      Steven: I... do not allow vandalism... IN MY STOOOOOOOOOOOOORE! NOT ON MY WATCH!
  • Dante of Devil May Cry is a Celibate Hero who despite being constantly surrounded by beautiful women prioritizes his Demon Slaying job over forming relationships (despite expressing an interest in having kids someday in the first game). In Devil May Cry 2 Lucia directly propositions him for sex and he turns her down saying it'd get in the way of his work. It is also highly likely that due to the death of his parents, Dante simply believes that entering a romantic relationship with someone will only end with more loss.
  • Aveline from Dragon Age II — at first, anyway. After her husband Wesley dies, she throws herself into her job as guardswoman (and later Guard Captain) so fully that, when she does end up developing feelings for another man (Guardsman Donnic), she has no clue what to do. Her personal sidequest involves attempting to get them together despite Aveline's lack of romantic skills. To say that Hawke has his/her job cut out for him/her is an understatement.
    • Cullen describes himself this way in Dragon Age: Inquisition. He's mobbed by admirers at the Winter Palace ball, and among other questions, they ask if he's married. Unless he's in a romance with the Inquisitor, he deflects the question by saying that "I'm married to my work." (It doesn't deter them.)
  • Alisa from Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, and eventually Sunshine Islands, is basically a nun. She has an Ensemble Dark Horse status, and Marvelous just teases you in the latter by giving you heart events. She turns you down though. Subverted in The Tale of Two Towns: Alisa initially rejects your proposal because of her being a priestess, but the Harvest Goddess appears and convinces her that it's okay to get married. You can't have kids, however.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Samara in Mass Effect 2. She was married with children once, but when she became a Justicar (her people's equivalent of a Knight Errant) in order to hunt down a serial killer (who is one of her three daughters), she gave up all ties to her old life. If you play a Paragon Shepard (of either gender) and try to romance her, she will eventually ask you not to make her choose between the code and you. Renegade Shepard is too Trigger-Happy for her to even consider it.
    • Shepard cements this over the course of the second and third games. In the third game, Jacob, a former squadmate, even states his belief that he can't picture Shepard being anywhere but in command of the Normandy, since it's clear it will always be their first love.
      Shepard: Doesn't mean I don't want to say "to hell with it" sometimes.
      Jacob: But you won't. You can't.
    • A borderline case, when asked if she has family, Dr. Karin Chakwas says she's married to the Alliance and that all its members are her children.
  • This is part of the reason why Johnny and Sonya's relationship is heavily strained in Mortal Kombat X. Johnny accuses Sonya of caring about her job more than her own family and how she never spends any time with him or their daughter, Cassie. Sonya retorts that she had responsibilities to uphold (both of them are in the Special Forces tasked with protecting the Earth from Outworld and Netherealm invaders) while Johnny counters that Sonya used to care about her family in the past and he leaves it at that as he walks out.
  • Persona 4 deconstructs this with Yu's uncle, Ryotaro Dojima. After the death of his wife, he has thrown himself into his work and thus leaving his daughter Nanako to look after the house. It's painfully evident that his absence has hurt Nanako and Yu along with the rest of the team looks out for her well-being. The Character Development has Dojima realize that his delving into the work and not being there with his daughter is cowardice after Nanako runs away when he lets her down. As such, he resolves to be a better father and be there for his daughter. Ironically, it's only after this does he begin making meaningful progress on finding out who killed his wife since part of his reason for being at home was him trying to find out that in the first place.
  • Some characters attempt to flirt with Pallegina from Pillars of Eternity, and she dismisses them by saying her love and loyalty are only for her country, the Vailian Republics, and her oaths as a paladin of the Frermàs mes Canc Suolias. This is even the reason she's Ambiguously Gay in a work unafraid of showing openly gay and bisexual characters: she seems to reject propositions from men more easily than she does from women, but ultimately avoids relationships entirely.
  • Pokémon: It's mentioned during the Celebi time travel event of Heart Gold and Soul Silver that Giovanni of Team Rocket barely has time to see his son, Silver, and even after returning to Virdian City and losing to Blue and Red, while handing them the Earth Badge, he leaves once again, but Silver calls him out on it and tries to explain to his son that gathering a large group of people would create a great source of strength, which is the power of organizations such as Team Rocket, though he feels he has failed to utilize the Grunts and their Pokemon to their fullest potential, but vows to revive Team Rocket one day, much to Silver's disappointment, causing him to run away, despite Giovanni's assuring his son that he'll one day understand. By the time of Pokémon Masters, released 2 years after he revived Team Rocket in the Alola Region as Team Rainbow Rocket, he even admits as such in one of his quotes.
  • Cave Johnson in Portal 2 mentions that his aide Caroline is "married to science." It's this workaholic tendency that allows GLaDOS to withstand the euphoric reaction to successful testing becoming less effective, noted otherwise to be "unbearable".
  • In Potion Permit, Osman is dedicated to his job as the Chief of Police, but beneath his Tough Leader Façade, he carries a heavy burden to the community and his family, especially his wife Cassandra. He also used to drink to try escaping his problems, while Cassandra doesn't let him know how difficult working without him is because she thinks that might distract him from his duties. This is because Cassandra has anxiety issues and is afraid of telling Osman about it, but with the Chemist's help, Osman promises to spend more time with her to ease off her worries.
  • One of the excuses Max uses in Sam & Max to turn down Mama Bosco.
    Max: I'm married to my career.
    Sam: They had the ceremony in Canada because it's legal there.
  • In Claire's scenario in Resident Evil 2 (Remake), Annette Birkin admits that by the time Raccoon City went to hell, she and her husband William were more married to their work than each other.
  • Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog has complained about his boring and lone life guarding the Master Emerald, but he takes his duty extremely seriously.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth in the Ace Attorney series has yet to even notice girls. When pressed on it (in a marriage-themed murder trial), he somewhat defensively insists that he's not interested and doesn't see what the big deal is. But he's something of a loner by temperament and has an all-consuming job as Chief Prosecutor, so it's in character. (Naturally, fans who like to ship him with Phoenix Wright have their own interpretation).
  • C14 Dating: Many have described Hendrik as married to his job, according to Hendrik himself. This is zig-zagged in practice. One one hand, he's passionate about his job, he needs to put a lot of work to make up for the excavation site being open only eight weeks a year and his uncle thinks he could use socializing more. On the other hand, he's able to maintain a Like Brother and Sister friendship with Rosemarie and whichever type of relationship Melissa chooses to have with him.
  • In Cafe Enchante, Kotone and Rindo are this, having their lives revolve around the café and the GPM respectively and having little contact with anyone outside their work circles. Souen used to nag Rindo about living a life outside of work and Rindo notes there is some irony that he is now nagging Souen's granddaughter about the same thing.
  • Hiro is always working in ef - a fairy tale of the two.. His eventual girlfriend, Miyako, gets upset when he can't take a short break to go on a trip with her like he promised earlier. Of course, he outright states that his relationship is more important than his job so it's downplayed.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, art teacher Nomiya's old friend (the curator Sae's husband) had the exact same talent and drive as Rin, often shutting off all relations to the outside world to focus on his art, but ended up committing suicide, a foreshadowing of what could very well happen to Rin.

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: Subverted with Mrs. Zales; she hates taking days off her workweek, but she also enjoys vigorous sex with her husband Jack.
  • In the Homestar Runner short "Strong Bad Classics - The Ocelot and the Porridge Maiden", the Porridge Maiden is cursed by an ocelot to die unless she is married by sunrise the next day. Unfortunately, all of the men are married to their job. Strong Bad vandalizes the book, which happens to, among other changes, remove all instances of this trope from the story (unless you pause the video to read the pages before the vandalism appears). At the end, the Porridge Maiden marries Death itself.

  • In Kevin & Kell, a feline friend of Kell's, Aby, is highly dedicated to her auto repair shop. At one point, it became a Literal Metaphor when she actually got married to her career. They had a wedding and everything. The 'marriage' is complete with an anniversary gift (a new sign for her shop) and concern that she might be cheating on it (by making supplemental income on Ninth Life). (And apparently franchises are their equivalent of children.) Later downplayed when she becomes romantically linked with Mark Meadowvole, a MOUSCAR driver. And the literal part ended after Aby proposed to and married Mark so he could adopt his orphaned nephew, Tyler.
    Mark: But Aby! You're married to your career!
    Aby: My career... would understand.
  • Todo in City of Reality, as AV discovered during an attempted date.
  • Mordecai Heller from Lackadaisy.
  • My Impossible Soulmate: Nara has 3 jobs at the Grand Arcane Library, which often gets in the way of her dating life.
  • Redcloak, from The Order of the Stick. When his little brother sets him up on a blind date, Redcloak, despite being pretty obviously interested, bails at the last second to go recruit for The Plan.
  • Invoked but subverted in Narbonic. When Zeta realises Artie is attracted to ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST! (before Artie himself has even realised he's gay) she tells him "It'll never work, honey, he's married to grammar" before adding as an afterthought "And actually married."

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • In Bojack Horseman, Princess Carolyn is absolutely dedicated to her job as a Hollywood talent agent. So dedicated, in fact, that a shot in Season 2 shows her smartphone wishing her a happy 40th birthday while she's pulling an all-nighter at work. This also extends to her personal life; in a flashback to 2007, Princess Carolyn said she wanted to get married, have kids, and settle down. Later in life, she's done none of these things. Even the one seemingly good relationship she has in Season 4 gets ruined when she has a miscarriage. Her fifth one, as she reveals to her boyfriend. All of this takes a heavy toll on her emotional state.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Word of God says this is why they resisted Executive Meddling to give Perry a girlfriend.
  • Sofia the First: In "Baileywick's Day Off", Baileywick's so focused on making Sofia's royal playdate perfect that he's unable to find time to spend his birthday day-off with Nigel, to the latter's frustration. However, the children realize that they weren't being thoughtful of Baileywick, so Sofia organizes as "day-off do-over" for him and Nigel to make up for their lost time.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The title character is very devoted to his job at the Krusty Krab. He's always ecstatic when Mr. Krabs announces that he'll be working unpaid overtime. When he's legally required to take a break in "Bummer Vacation," he goes nuts.
    • In the episode "Tutor Sauce", Mr. Krabs gets stopped by a traffic cop while teaching SpongeBob how to drive. While Mr. Krabs tries to sweet talk his way out of a ticket, the officer claims himself to be this.
      Mr. Krabs: Do you have any kiddies of your own at home, officer?
      Police officer: No, I'm married to my job.
      Mr. Krabs: Oh. Well, um... you two seem very happy together.
      Police officer: Well, we've had our ups and downs, but after some couples counseling, we think we've worked out our issues.
  • The Simpsons:
  • Buzz Lightyear's first and greatest love will always be to Star Command and the fight against evil.
  • On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ice expresses a crush on Aquaman, only for Fire to point out that he's married. For some reason, Ice interprets her to mean this trope. (To be fair, his A Day in the Limelight episode implies that that's sort of true too.)
  • In The Batman, Alfred has said this about Bruce on two occasions. In one episode, where Bruce has to cancel a blind date and sends Alfred to apologize, the date asks if Bruce is married. Alfred replies, "Yes... To his work." In another episode, Selina Kyle sighs and asks Alfred if Bruce Wayne is married. Alfred replies, "Only to his job, Miss Kyle."
  • One episode of Rocket Power has Sam's father paying him a visit and offering to spend quality time with Sam and his friends. Unfortunately, everywhere the group goes, Sam's father is always on his cellphone conducting business calls instead of having fun with the kids, much to Sam's dismay. Eventually, Sam and his dad reconcile and decide to dedicate a day to just bonding as father and son; the next time Sam's father gets a call, he simply tosses the ringing phone in the trunk of the car and they laugh it off.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: This trope is why despite being the Comically Serious and a Drill Sergeant Nasty BeachHead is still admired by his fellow Joes. They might not appreciate his desire to have stricter military discipline, but they know it's out of concern for their lives and for the benefit of the team. It also helps that he tries to be the first one in and last one out of a fight to provide covering fire for his comrades. The closest he has to an actual friend is Snake-Eyes, who shares his hobby of collecting trench knives.

    Real Life 
  • Three Kingdoms – Shu, Wei, Wu: The general Xu Huang (later known as one of the 5 great generals of Wei) was notable for his complete lack of close friendships among his fellows. He was well respected and well admired, but unlike fellow generals like Zhang He or Zhang Liao he was noted to have a very narrow social network.
  • As shown by this list of projects, Brandon Sanderson definitely counts.
  • In an unusually literal form of this trope, Queen Elizabeth I declared herself 'married to the kingdom' and never married, laying claim to the moniker 'the Virgin Queen'.
  • The widow of Meiji revolutionary Katsura Kogoro supposedly lamented: "I may be his wife, but Japan is his mistress."
  • In Jung Chang's autobiographical novel Wild Swans, it's described that in China, in the early times of the Communist regime, it was explicitly required for Party officers (like her father) to put their jobs before their families.
  • Drill sergeants have markedly higher divorce rates, especially in Combat Arms OSUTs, which are much longer, more intensive and stressful than Basic Training. Due to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act of 1982, the wife will get half of all pay, pension and benefits in the case of divorce unless found guilty of adultery, so some D.I.s who fear they'll be unable to hold onto their marriage will attempt to catch their spouse cheating, putting additional strain on the relationship.
  • Renaissance-era Venice had a symbolic form of this. When a new Doge was installed, he would take part in a ritual where he would throw a wedding band into the bay. The ritual symbolized Venice's eternal link with commerce: the Doge, as representative of Venice, was wedded to the sea, which brought trade to Venice.
  • One of the "Ten Commandments" of The Mafia is "Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty — even if your wife is about to give birth."
  • At least milder variants of this are widely expected in Japanese business culture, especially for the Salaryman. This was one of the reasons why the Japan Takes Over the World trope was so prevalent in The '80s. It is also often pointed to as one of the main reasons for the later negative population growth in Japan and deaths from karoshi.
  • This also appears to be the case in American business culture, mainly due to the smaller social safety net compared to other industrialized countries making it necessary for many people to work longer to make ends meet, as well as a deeply ingrained Protestant work ethic. The U.S. has no mandatory paid days off, and American workers take fewer days off compared with people in the rest of the world when vacation time is available in order to be seen as good workers. Profiles of executives in the business world stress the dedication they have to the company. Many employees, especially those higher-up, are expected to be available by phone or email outside of official business hours.
  • As the West Wing entry above noted, many White House positions see high turnover rates because the stress tends to lead to job burnout. The trope even applies to the President:
    • Lyndon Johnson hardly ever even saw his young daughters during his days as Senate Majority Leader, and only after he suffered a heart attack in 1955 did he begin to recognize that his life “was so lopsided as to be ridiculous … [and that] there was something else besides my job.”
    • While Jimmy Carter occasionally carved out time to play with his youngest child, Amy, he was an absentee dad to his three sons, Jack, Chip, and Jeff.
    • Heavily averted with Barack Obama.
  • J. D. Salinger's children report he that was much more invested in his fictional families than his actual one.
  • Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and the free software movement, has elected to never marry or have children since it would distract him from his work to promote software freedom.
  • Though it's not quite a job per se, college students in project-driven coursework (especially ones with an unhealthy fear of The B Grade) have been known to become so obsessed over their projects as to neglect other aspects of their life. In an added bit of Irony, this can sometimes include calling in sick at their actual jobs, if they have them, to devote even more time to said projects.
  • Many religious orders require their members to be single. In the case of Christian nuns, this is even expressed in terms of them being married to Christ.
  • The film industry's combination of very long hours and unpredictable scheduling is devastating for marriages. The working week often leaves only enough off time for sleeping, and it's not uncommon to finish the workweek at 5am on Saturday morning (called "Fraturday") with the expectation you'll be ready to work at 7am Monday, leaving only 50 hours of free time. The contract nature of film makes it hard to turn down work, as you don't know when you'll get your next job, preventing you from taking longer holidays. Relationships fare much better if both are in the industry.
  • Idol Singer cultures in Asia reinforce the idea that singers remain celibate as long as they are still idols. While part of it is due to Contractual Purity, it mostly has to do with potential backlash from their fans, whose financial loyalty influences their popularity and the longevity of their career. Because idols are now marketed as a way for fans to project their ideal Love Interest onto, fans claim that idols being in relationships will mean that they are not devoted to their job and their fans, which is also enforced by Asian work culture mentality. Newbie and rookie idol singers are less likely to reveal their relationships publicly if they are even dating at all to begin with. Some talent companies have rules on not having any romantic relationships written on their contracts.
  • In a 2022 interview, football legend Tom Brady mentioned that one thing not often thought about with pro athletes is that the training, travel and playing schedule means that they routinely miss most if not all birthdays, holidays, and other social obligations that happen to fall from the pre-season through the end of the regular season (or post-season, if you make the playoffs, which for Brady was pretty much every year). For the football season, that includes Thanksgiving and Christmas. This can strain relationships, as seen when Brady divorced his longtime wife Gisele Bündchen after he didn't retire in 2022.
  • In times gone by, flight attendants were actually required to be unpartnered.
  • Kirk Gibson, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, sparked controversy when he skipped his son’s high school commencement to be on the field with the team during the game. Surprisingly, the boy himself was fine with it.
  • Former secretary of defense James Mattis remained unpartnered for his entire professional career, marrying Christine Lomasney in 2022, well after he was retired.
  • Averted with a fellow named Bernard Chippie, who made news in the tail end of the ‘90s by risking losing his job to tend to his dying wife.
  • Everything about professional athletes applies to touring musicians, which is why so many of them have been married and divorced multiple times.


Video Example(s):


The Workaholic Dad

Some Jerk, Horror Guru and Jackula spend a good two minutes ranting about this trope, how annoying it is and how overplayed it got. Especially during the 90s.

How well does it match the trope?

4.2 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhenYouComingHomeDad

Media sources: