#Talk Nerdy To Me™ Staff Writer
Perhaps you just passed the bar exam, and your partner is stressing about the third step of their medical licensing exam. Maybe you’ve been working in sales for years and finally got a big promotion, while your partner just got a great job offer in a distant city. Or maybe you’re just coming out of work-from-home pandemic isolation, and you suddenly realize all your career priorities have changed.
When you’re committed to each other but also to advancing or finding a new career, how do you keep your relationship strong? These ways dual-career couples make their relationships work have been tried and tested by couples who’ve lived through the challenges of love and career.
Focus on Emotions and Values Rather Than Logistics
Dual-career couples are usually composed of smart, ambitious partners who work hard and demonstrate endurance and commitment in their careers, expecting advancement as a result. Regardless of their job title, industry, or profession, they can tend to approach conflicts as merely another problem to solve or obstacle to overcome on a path toward success.
But relationships aren’t fundamentally founded on how much money you make, your job title, or how you juggle your schedule to manage who will pick up the kids and who will make dinner. Dual-career couples make it work by having deeper conversations about what truly matters to them. Many who run into difficulty find that the underlying reason is that they’ve been devoted to an unfulfilling career. Often, these are solely based on satisfying some outside expectation or idea about what smart, talented people are supposed to do. Instead, they should do something that they find truly satisfying in their work lives.
Take the time to discuss how you feel about your relationship, your career, and what you value most in life. Then, you’ll have a better chance of facing the inevitable logistical challenges of being in a dual-career couple.
Take the time to set boundaries that respect your time, your relationship, your family, and your money. Couples run into trouble when they impose unspoken expectations on each other or when one party feels they are carrying a heavier load in supporting the other.
Make an agreement about things that you both will consider to be nonnegotiable. This could include what time you’ll get home from work, how much business-related travel you’ll accept, and what you expect of your partner when it comes to spending money.
Accept Compromise and Sacrifice
Life can turn on a dime. When you enter a committed relationship with a member of the military who’s on active duty, there’s a steep and swift learning curve where the first step is understanding that deployments can disrupt life and career at any moment.
Similarly, when you enter a relationship with a person who is just as committed to their career as you are to yours, you should make a “couple contract” that establishes boundaries, values, and what you’ll do when either of your career circumstances change. A promotion, relocation, or a midlife crisis can upend the fine-tuned machine you’ve made of your relationship and force you to engage in uncomfortable re-examination about what’s important to you. You don’t want to do that in the middle of a crisis. If you have a plan, you’ll be able to implement it with less uncertainty and resentment. For more on how dual-career couples make it work, refer to Dr. Jennifer Petriglieri’s book, Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive In Love and Work, which she discussed with the Harvard Business Review back in 2019.