Supportive Spouses Signal Career Success


One way to insure career success is to marry well. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis spent five years studying thousands of married two career couples. The verdict: your partner is key to your job success.

If he or she is hardworking and dependable, it is like an insurance policy for you to make more money, get more promotions and enjoy greater job satisfaction. Look, look, look before you leap. Love does not conquer all.

Recently, Sandra called Stan in a panic. “Our most important client is in a twit and threatening to go to another company, I have to meet with him immediately.” On the other side of the phone, Stan punched his right arm in the air with annoyance. Tonight is his monthly card night with his guy friends. He can feel the frustration filling his head and chest.

Stan takes a breath, shakes his head but says nothing. He simply listens as Sandra cries out about how upset she is and how concerned her boss is around the outcome of the meeting. Stan scans the office until his eyes rest on the glistening river of the skyline in the large window across from his desk. He feels the tension in his body slowing down and takes a breath.

“Stan, I am sorry to dump this on you at the last minute. I know how much you enjoy playing cards with the guys but the sitter is away and someone has to be home with the kids tonight. This is exam week and Sally freaks out especially around those standardized tests. She needs one of us to be there tonight, to keep her from revving up, not getting enough sleep and having a meltdown.”

Stan is a good guy. Sure he is human and feels annoyed that he has to give up his card game tonight. The little kid inside him wants to yell out, “No, I won’t. It is not fair. I don’t care about your stupid job.” But his healthy caring and reasonable adult self says, “No problem, Sandra, I’ll call the guys and let them know.”

Sandra almost cries in relief and says, “Stan, you are a great guy. I aced it with you, promise to make it up. How about dinner at that romantic restaurant on Saturday night? I’ll get a sitter.”

When she hangs up the phone, Sandra sighs a deep sound of relief until that critical parent in her head screams, “Your mother would never make your father give up a card game with his friends. What kind of a wife are you?” Sandra feels the energy drain from her body.

Halfheartedly, she walks to the ladies room and slaps on some lipstick before the meeting with the client. “I feel so guilty. Maybe I should be home with the kids. Stan makes a good salary but I worked so hard to get to this place in my career.” She mutters under her breath, “ you can have it all, it says so right here in fine print.”

Sandra starts walking towards the meeting when her iphone rings. She picks it up to hear, “Sandra, I’m glad I married you even if you can’t come home tonight. Good luck with the meeting.”

“Stan, I am one lucky woman, you are one in a million. I needed to know it was OK. Even if you said it was earlier, I wasn’t sure and I was feeling guilty because I know how much you look forward to the game.”

Sandra and Stan married well. If Stan was a guy who lets his angry kid take over, Sandra may have still gone to the meeting but Stan’s anger would have increased young Sally’s pre-test upset and led to a fight with Sandra.

Clearly Sandra still has work to do healing and perhaps expelling that critical inner parent who makes her feel guilty for having a career and a family. But Stan is perceptive and knows how challenging Sandra’s mother can be when she shames Sandra about not being at home with the kids.

Stan and Sandra are not only conscientious and caring partners, they are excellent role models as parents. Stuff happens, work calls, problems arise. The secret of success is the way in which you respond to them.

Love does not conquer all! The research with several thousand couples, at Washington University, demonstrates that partners showing self-discipline, preparation, carefulness, and helpfulness around the house, model the kind of responsible, organized behavior that leads to a happy family environment. This kind of partnership leads to success at home and at work and provides a resilient environment in which children thrive, relationships deepen and careers flourish.

Effective career planning to balance work and family demands a supportive spouse. Wise working families avoid family conflict and save marriages by getting that love is never enough. A supportive partner is essential for the successful two career family.

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