Practically Married: Part 2 – Careers
According to a recent Gallup survey:
- 25% of salaried employees work 50 – 59 hours/week
- 25% of salaried employees work 60+ hours/week
Tack on an average daily commute of just under an hour, and it may feel more like you’re married to your job than to your spouse. While it can’t love you like a spouse, your job plays a central role in your life. In addition to providing income and benefits, it will likely determine where you live. People who enjoy their jobs also derive significant personal fulfillment from work. Therefore, the choice of your career and the steps you take in pursuing it will have a huge impact on your relationship.
If you marry in your 20s, you are at the beginning of your career. The upside is that you have a partner to support you in getting established. The downside is that career advancement may require long hours, travel and relocation. These can all put strain on a new marriage. You are also taking on the financial responsibility of a spouse, which can make you less willing to take risks that could ultimately benefit your career.
Marrying in your 30s and beyond may mean you are both established in your careers, and have more control over your schedules. However, it can be more difficult to change long held work habits as well as your planned career path to accommodate the needs of your partner.
When career planning as a couple, it helps to discuss various scenarios before being faced with tough choices. For instance:
- Do either of you anticipate furthering your education after marriage? One or both of you returning to school will have a huge impact on your finances.
- If you are planning to have children, will one of you leave your job to provide full-time childcare? Making this choice could have long-term career implications for the spouse who stops working, particularly depending on the amount of time out of the workforce.
While there may be big career decisions you’ll have to confront as a couple, your jobs will likely affect your relationship in smaller ways on a daily basis. In some cases that will mean giving feedback on an idea or presentation. Often your partner will simply want you to listen to stories regarding work successes and setbacks. This can be challenging when you either don’t understand or are not particularly interested in the details of your spouse’s career. As one wife put it,
Sometimes I have trouble paying attention to long stories, but I know talking to me about work is important to him, so when it’s hard to listen I focus on how he feels about the details he’s reporting. Is he stressed, discouraged, excited…and I respond to that.
Another potential challenge in managing your career in the context of married life is maintaining appropriate relationships with co-workers and clients. A University of Washington study found:
- Among spouses who commit infidelity, 46% of women and 62% of men did so with someone they met through work.
Key strategies to avoid this scenario include maintaining a strong marriage that is less vulnerable to workplace temptations, setting agreed upon boundaries for your work relationships, and periodically including each other in work-related social events.
Throughout your marriage, you’ll need to discuss career choices and demands. Issues such as work/life balance and the need for support will continually have a substantial impact on your marriage. The good news is that if you pursue work that fulfills you, it is likely that your career will have a positive impact on your relationship. As author and therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch has observed,
People who are happy in their jobs often report being happy spouses.