The ongoing Covid-19 quarantine has brought many new challenges to marriages.
Before the pandemic, communication was tricky enough, balancing out differences in opinions, approaches and styles of getting through to each other. Since then, there has been a massive increase in time together confined to extremely close quarters.
Couples have had to navigate managing the household on a frequent basis, talking through tough subjects with no space from one another, and trying to stay connected and intimate despite little separation from life in pajamas.
On top of that stress, career demands have not stopped or slowed, and in many cases, accelerated.
All of these stressors have led to more tension for couples. And, as you may have experienced, the finger pointing may have gone straight to your job, including the way it’s occupying your time and your life. After years of helping high-powered couples, I have heard everything under the sun about how work interferes with connection, but I truly believe (and have seen countless times) that love and career can go hand-in-hand.
If you feel your partner isn’t cheering on your current or future success, here are my three favorite action steps:
1. Get clear about your intentions
If you are passionate about your work, no matter how many times you’ve talked about it, there’s a high likelihood that your partner is unaware of your current goals and ambitions. In fact, your partner may just notice that you are busier than usual and less attentive. This tension can launch a couple into unnecessary fights and disagreements, adding stress to home life during quarantine and decreasing focus at work.
So it’s never been more important to get crystal clear with your partner on your purpose and professional path. The more they are tuned into your plan and expectations, the more they can support you.
In many cases, I’ve seen one partner experience career “failures” (aka lessons) and then keep their professional aspirations to themselves. Meanwhile, the other partner braces for how their significant other may feel (like previous anxiety attacks or crying spells) or what may happen based on the past. As a result, both people avoid speaking about the elephant in the room: the new work project. Instead, subtle comments and feelings are “leaked” and the undiscussed topic still enters the space. When couples crystallize career aspirations with each other, they can understand the roadmap and ask clarifying questions.
If you are lost on how to start this talk, map out your career goals and current steps on a piece of paper, and find a time to connect with your partner. Say something like, “I know there have been some concerning moments with my career before; when you have been supportive in those moments, it has meant the world. I am confident about what is next, but I want you to know where I am coming from, so you know what to expect. I’d love to read you what I have mapped out … (state this gently) not for your opinion, which I very much respect, but so we can be on the same page.”
2. Prove you mean commitment in your actions
If you haven't followed through on previous aspirations, your partner may be skeptical of your ability to commit to your plan. If you have been very committed before, your partner may be worried that you will overcommit to work.
Your job is difficult and simple with this one. It is essential to gain your partner’s support by being consistent to that commitment in your actions professionally, as well as in your life together.
Communicate that you want to feel supported and that you will show up for your partner. Then reflect on the ways that your partner needs your presence. Clarify whether or not you are meeting your partners needs and commit to making the most important of those needs a priority, in conjunction with your passion.
3. Express yourself
There’s nothing worse than when one person in a relationship becomes emotionally disconnected.
Women often believe that sharing emotions or speaking up leads to more conflict. I’m a firm believer that this is the opposite of the truth. The key is learning how to deliver your message, not what you say.
If your partner interprets what you’re saying as critical, they’ll go on the defensive and too often miss your initial message. Letting your partner know you feel unsupported allows them to begin solving or speaking to it, especially if the behavior was unintended.
I’ve worked with couples where one partner gets swept up in work and the other becomes infuriated that the home and the relationship are neglected. This is where contempt for the work and the lack of support tends to roll in.
Here’s one way to address this: “I’m not feeling great about some things in our life right now. I know we need to talk about it, but right now, my work gives me purpose. I want to feel that connected with you, but sometimes I don’t. I want us to work on that, and I also hope while we do, you can leave space for the important role work is playing in helping me feel more like me.”
This can be tricky, and I always try to remind couples that this is where getting external help can really be beneficial, so you can deliver what you mean in the way that you intended it.
Work can serve as a complex, sometimes essential, often meaningful role in who we are and our identity. If you want to feel like your partner also fuels your ambitions and understands your goals, these tools provide a solid start. Remember that you are not alone, and neither is your relationship. Take this process one step at a time.