One of the most important conversations couples need to have is around work and personal career ambitions. Life throws different seasons and challenges at us – Covid-19 lockdown being perhaps one of the more extreme examples! Challenging times like these however, offer a golden opportunity to develop the strong bonds that only come from surviving difficulty together – if we do them well.
Being able to talk about the things that matter to us – like work – is crucial.
Financial concerns usually drive the conversation. In the midst of a turmoil of emotions around the implications of the particular challenge – like lost jobs / income, needing to home-school children, increased household chores – we need to be able to have heart-to-heart conversations and agree priorities around careers and workloads in a way that meets the need of the family, while honouring individual ambitions. The point is to have the conversation. It’s very easy to take each other for granted, lose the emotional connection, build resentment and /or drift apart.
We’ve personally had to get better at having these conversations through a number of challenging seasons – as dual-income professionals working long hours with lots of travel, having to ride the waves of organisational re-shuffles and having to relocate continents, working shoulder-to-shoulder as entrepreneurs including working from home together and having to pivot our skills / focus / careers through various financial challenges – like Covid-19.
For us though, one of our biggest challenges came when our long-awaited children arrived on the scene. We chose the traditional mother-at-home, father out-to-work scenario but this transition from being equally high-powered and career-focused came with unique challenges. We had to work hard at having better conversations, particularly around three emotionally charged issues.
The first was around ego. It’s embarrassing to admit the inane arguments we had over who worked harder, who was more tired, whose role was more important and who was more deserving of a rest. Sometimes the overwhelm of work and routine clouds the bigger picture of purpose.
The second was around maintaining mutual respect in the way we spoke with each other so that neither of us felt “less than”. This was especially important when talking about money and how resources would be allocated, so that we both felt supported, cared for and treated with dignity.
The third was around household chores and expectations around whose job it was to do what. According to a 2012 research study done by cleaning company Vileda, one third of all arguments between couples is around household chores. We certainly played our part in that statistic!
Sometimes these conversations can touch a nerve around underlying assumptions about what makes a good wife / husband / partner / parent. Learning and practising The 4 habits of ALL successful relationships will help you have better conversations around deep-seated issues, build strong emotional connections and create the career / lifestyle balance you each desire through every season of life.