Long gone are the days when a husband had a “career,” and a doting wife took care of the home. These days, couples have competing careers, and the support they receive from each other can impact individual work success. Partners can be a support or a hindrance in helping their loved ones achieve career goals. Ultimately, however, it is up to the individual to choose his or her priorities.
How Relationships Affect Careers
When a working couple has children, they become dependent on each other’s support to make the family run smoothly. If one of them is busy at the office, the other should be stepping in naturally. Both physical and emotional support should be the norm.
Men used to be the “breadwinners” while the women perhaps “helped out.” Such relationships had clear boundaries, and everyone knew where he or she stood. Now, more and more husbands are choosing to be the primary caretaker while the wife brings in the bacon. Such a relationship probably won’t work if both parties were not supportive of each other.
Goals Can Change
Ideally, both parties in the marriage have achieved their goals. But goals and aspirations can change. Perhaps the wife wants more time with the children, or the husband who stayed at home becomes open to new career possibilities. For these reasons, couples should have regular discussions about their priorities and goals. Life decisions are never carved in stone, and people have the right to change their vision. Both parties must be open to discussion, listening, and compromise. Equality in marriage rarely remains at fifty-fifty. The boundaries frequently shift when the need arises, and that is perfectly fine.
Discuss What Matters
How does a couple decide whose career is more important? Is it money? Does the one with the larger earning potential get the most career support? Is it time spent at work? Should the one who is more capable at home be the one to stay at home?
These values are virtually impossible to calculate. That is why regular discussions are critical. There are no rules. Each couple has to decide for themselves what is more important to them.
Each partner can have a critical impact on his or her spouse’s career. Without such a clear understanding, resentment and anger can built and rock a marriage.
Questions To Continuous Consider
Discussion between partners should include real-life details. Who stays home with the kids when they are sick? Whose primary responsibility is it to be at school functions? Who prepares lunches?
The discussions should also go further. What is each partner looking for in the next five years? Ten years? Long-range plans and dreams shouldn’t get lost in the debate about who will prepare tomorrow’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Support is both short-term and long-term.
If a couple can remain flexible, there is no reason both cannot achieve their end goals. If you and your partner are at odds over an issue, don’t give up your dream. Find a more creative way of achieving it.
One question to be asked regularly is, “How can both of us get what we want?”
How Much Work Do You Discuss?
Discussing and listening to what happens at work is a critical part of supporting a partner’s career. But how much does your partner need or want to know? Many times, a workplace discussion can include the latest anecdote (“Can you believe Frank forgot the slides AGAIN?”). This can keep the partner involved and amused at the same time. But serious things need to be discussed, as well (“I am upset that I was excluded from the meeting today.”)
These discussions can combine work life and home life into a nice mix.
If Partners Are Mismatched
Some people prefer to keep work and home absolutely separate. Frank and his slides will not make it through the front door. If both partners agree, that is fine. However, if one partner asks questions about the office and receives a dismissive wave in return, “Just a day like any other,” he or she will feel shut out of a large part of the partner’s life. This needs to be brought up and discussed.
When a couple is that mismatched in their attitude about work, it can be a problem if not addressed. If one partner feels what he or she says about work doesn’t matter, a lot of frustration can build up. A non-accusatory nudge to the partner may help. Instead of stating resentfully, “You never talk about work,” say, “I would really like to hear more about your day.”
This can be interpreted as sharing your feelings rather than nagging and complaining.
Be Sure You Are Not Complaining
Some work environments can be trying. If your work situation feels out-of-control, it can be easy to come home every night and angrily vent about your terrible boss or coworker. It’s the same complaint day after day. This is not sharing. This is officially dumping. Your partner needs to be supportive, but he or she is not a therapist. Limits need to be set.
Our home life and our work life constitute the major part of our existence. Usually, we want to share our day with our partner. We want to feel supported and appreciated.
However, no two situations are the same. How much to share and how to share it can be a very individual need. What is important is to open communications, even if only to admit you don’t know how to bring up office situations. Once you begin to talk, you can set boundaries regarding both of your needs to be seen and understood.
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