Demanding Careers &
Many couples tell us
that their careers and the related stress are a significant challenge
for their relationship and they’re not really sure what to do about
it. It’s hard to do something about this chronic issue without knowing
what will improve the situation. So what are some of the insights
that marriage success research reveals for the work-challenged relationship?
your career skills in your marriage
You can apply many of
the same planning, time management, goal-setting and communication
skills that make you successful in your career to your marriage.
Scheduling and structure can help make communication more constructive
and satisfying for both partners.
your marriage 'brand identification' positive
As you consider how to
do this, be guided by the need to maintain what the researchers
call 'positive emotional override' in your relationship, so that
little problems don't become big ones. Once you understand that
a happy relationship requires a minimum of five positive exchanges
for every (inevitable) negative interaction, you can focus on managing
your exchanges with your partner to limit negativity and enhance
positivity to keep your 5 to 1 ratio in the healthy, constructive
range. Couples who dip below the 5 to 1 tipping point, begin to
experience ‘negative emotional override’ where neutral interactions
take on a negative feeling and start to snowball.
tactics that produce poor results
communication skills and strategies will help you avoid the most
destructive marriage dynamic, the pursue-withdraw pattern, where
one partner (often, but not always, the woman) keeps approaching
the other about an important need or problem, while the other becomes
overloaded and withdraws or superficially complies. The pursuing
partner becomes more and more frustrated leading her to increase
the pressure, while the withdrawer becomes more and more overwhelmed
by it, resorting to flight or fight to escape. Both partners feel
caught in a terrible script that just keeps replaying.
and plan important 'meetings' for constructive outcomes
discussions at a mutually agreeable time is one approach that helps
with pursue-withdraw problems. Confine these conflict discussions
to times when you are both rested, more resilient and not preoccupied.
Being careful to raise issues in a soft way, rather than with a
criticism or attack, can also help to produce a more constructive
outcome. Experts call this the soft start-up. If one partner becomes
overloaded, call a time-out. The overloaded partner must take responsibility
for resuming discussion after a reasonable recovery period, so their
partner doesn’t feel avoided.
resources to achieve your goals
Probably one of the most
important related research insights is the fact that happy relationships
require a minimum of 12 hours of non-sleep, non-TV face-time per
week on average (so if you’re behind one week, you can make it up
the next, but don’t get behind indefinitely). Meals together, working
out together, talking, sex -- these all count. If you want to keep
your marriage bond strong, you need to understand and plan for the
required time commitment. Many couples are surprised to learn that
this much time is required. You can make do with less, but your
bond will be at risk.
Build up positivity and
stay connected by setting aside a specific time each day for non-conflict
communicating—even if it’s only a few minutes in the morning or
evening or a mid-day phone call. Talk about things that are happening
for either of you and things that you both find interesting. The
idea is to keep in touch and deepen your familiarity with each other’s
day to day lives. Don’t mix this bonding time with discussing problems
Stay connected & reconnect
Busy careers often involve
periods of separation. Manage your separations--business travel
for example, or just long days. Developing rituals for staying in
touch during and renewing your bond after can be important to minimizing
the impact of necessary separations. Don’t take your reunion for
granted, even just at the end of the day. Take a few minutes (or
more) to explicitly reconnect. How you handle separation can be
just as important as how much you are separated.
pressure & sex
How can you make sure
that time pressure doesn't disrupt your sex life (which is critical
to keeping your marriage strong—it renews your bonding brain chemistry
among other benefits)?
Again scheduling and
time management are a key skill to apply if sex has become infrequent.
Dating is a more romantic name for scheduling sex. One of the biggest
errors that many couples make is to stop ‘dating’ when they start
living together and/or get married. Dating can include other activities
that you both enjoy—just like when you first got together. One great
advantage of dating is that it lets you anticipate being with your
partner. And anticipation is a terrific sexual stimulant. If necessary,
consider making some of your 'dates' brief -- even very brief. Even
a 20 minute encounter that both partners have been anticipating
for a couple of days can work for many couples.
Make your fights productive
rather than destructive. Work-related and other stress can lead
to more disagreements and fights. The most important part of fights
is what the experts call 'repair' -- keeping in bounds (not getting
too negative) during a fight and then getting back on track afterward
without letting feelings fester too long after a fight.
Don’t beat your heads
against the wall by repeating the same fight about an issue that’s
giving you trouble. Set it aside for a while, if you can. Otherwise,
you’re just building up negativity without resolving anything.
when to stop being in charge
As much as professionals
can apply the time management, communication, scheduling and organizing
skills that make them successful at work to their marriage, there
are also some areas that don't translate well to marriage. Probably
the number one thing that executives and other professionals have
difficulty getting beyond is their control-orientation.
Realize that you are
not the CEO (or CFO, unless mutually agreed) of your marriage. Avoid
being in charge in your marriage. Avoid evaluating, supervising
or critiquing the 'performance' of your partner--even in (or maybe
especially) in areas that you have both agreed will be your partner’s
responsibility. Your teamwork skills are much more valuable than
executive behavior when it comes to marriage success.
For more thoughts on
the potential pitfalls of problem control issues (especially, control-control,
control-compliance patterns) see our article on control
here for related reading and references list.
helps couples learn more about practical relationship success strategies
that fit their relationship style and are comfortable for both genders.
Click here to learn about the benefits of MST.
2003-2007, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this
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and this copyright notice, author credit and stayhitched.com source
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