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When is it my turn? Is your spouse holding you back?

Updated: Jun 7

The CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns, jokingly said, "Marry someone who will take care of the kids." There is lots of truth in joking. In real life, her husband retired when she became CEO (allowing her career to take precedence and for him to run the household).

They say....marry-down (as WSJ says today's ambitious women need husbands who are collaborators, not traditional breadwinners) so your career goals don't have to take a back seat and you get the support you need. Role reversal? I assume this 'new' phenomenon is quite controversial; albeit, men have done this for decades. My grandmother NEVER worked. She was a devout stay-at-home-mom. Not uncommon

More than 70 percent of Gen X and boomer men say their careers are more important than their wives'. Shocked? You shouldn't be. A woman’s career success can pose a threat to the male ego. I digress.

Marrying-down aside, women get mommy-tracked and penalized with fewer promotions and lower pay because employers assume they are less dedicated. Don’t wait until the kids are grown, your career is flat, and you are a senior citizen to make your career and goals a priority.

In your marital arrangement, it is extremely important to takes turns! I do you, you do me :-) That's equally important, too, but I'm speaking of taking turns to accomplish your career goals.

So, what exactly is taking turns?

Example: You've been married for 10 years. In those 10 years, your spouse has had the opportunity to take multiple career chances, including by not limited to: career hopping (and uprooting the family to accommodate), entrepreneurship, sabbaticals, bread-winning, bread-lost, exhausting savings, increasing savings, etc. And you sit at dinner and watch your extended family applaud your spouse for being so driven, focused, fearless and motivated to provide for the family.

Meanwhile, you're resentful of this roller coaster ride. You want to say, "I work hard too! We are a TWO income household! When can I take a ride?" That resentment can materialize. Every time your spouse invests in his ‘career’, you invest in you i.e. new car, lavish gifts, etc. Or you withhold your skills and perspective in support of your spouse. Resentment rears its head in ugly ways.

Selfishness is guaranteed to hurt marriages. Let's look at a couple of ways that the entrepreneur and the SAHM, the breadwinner and the breadloser, the fiscally irresponsible and the responsible, the Type A and The Type C, the jack-of-all trades and the stable spouse can both be great :-)

1) Set dual goals - No one should feel like the sacrificial lamb. There should be savings left for both parties to realize their goals! If you want to go back to law school and your spouse wants to launch her beauty salon, COMPROMISE and TALK! Both are going to take some time to realize true profit, so plan your investments accordingly.

2) Conflicting perspectives can destroy a union – Don’t insist that you are acting in his family's best interest, while your spouse believes you are acting in your own. How much of the family's collective life are you willing to sacrifice? You must constantly reevaluate your individual goals against your marital goals. Have reoccurring check-points to ensure each of you are still in agreement with the direction of your future.

3) Breadwinner does NOT mean precedence - No one's career should take precedence and have to be abandoned in support of the other's. I was offered a career with great growth potential, but it required I relocate to Cincinnati. At the time, my spouse had just advanced in his career. Although his mouth said he was 'willing', I knew he wasn't. I let it go. I hate that I did. In the end, I needed more support that, ultimately, wasn't present. I HAD to let it go.

3) What’s love got to do with it? – Who loves what they do? Love does not equal unlimited sacrifice. Have a cut-off. Hey, I love couponing...that does NOT mean my spouse should invest unlimited resources because it makes me happy. I love to see people doing what they love! I don't love to see people doing what they love at the cost of everyone else's goals and passion.

4) Pick the path of greatest improvement - Again, I love couponing. What if I quit my job to "step out on faith" and start a couponing blog and company. The fact remains that I can't immediately replace my income. It will take 2-3 years, potentially. That does not mean I can continue to spend at the same rate while 'unemployed.' Take the leap of faith, but don't add chaos to confusion. Live your 'dreams' but ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Every day is an improvement. Improve! Don't put your family in a position to suffer through your business faux-pas.

5) Make ALL decisions together- If you take $20k family funds to live your dreams, don't expect family support. That was NOT a family decision. If you want support, don't lean on your own understanding and become an island. Careful FAMILY input and planning should be at the forefront of career moves and financial investments.

6) Identity crisis is at the forefront of divorce - You do not want to be at the receiving end of your spouse's identity crisis i.e. who am I outside of dad, mom, sister, brother, aunt, uncle....where does my happiness lie? Granted, we pick our own paths, but sometimes we subconsciously hold our spouses hostage with guilt, blackmail and obligation. Make sure while the family is sacrificing for you that you are in touch with their goals and feelings. Support must be reciprocal!!

7) Develop empathy for one another - When you come to an impasse in your relationship, seek professional help. Therapy is GOOD! Create opportunities for each of you to really understand and appreciate where the other is coming from. The process of coming to truly understand each other’s experiences can help you to develop empathy for one another and increase the intimacy in your relationship. This process can really strengthen the relationship and make you feel like a team, which is a great position from which to tackle the kind of significant, life-changing decisions you are facing.

I recently watched a woman decide she “was done” watching her husband follow his dreams while she wasted away at a job she hated. Now at nearly 50 years of age, she registered for school to pursue a new career path. The problem was that she wanted a job that was only available 110 miles away–not the same area as his demanding career. If she chose this change, she would have to move to a place where he would have to find a job in a different field. After she graduated five years ago, she moved away in hopes he would “come to his senses if he wanted to save their marriage.” Don't end up here!

We need to step out of the position of being entitled and realize life is full of making choices, not having it all. I think many spouses are selfish in their desires. Sometimes, we need to slow down in this VERY competitive world and reevaluate what is more important in our lives. May Jehovah God grant you and your spouse wisdom!

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