Earlier today I posted a small contest on Facebook asking people to give me suggestions for blog topics. My friend Ellison suggested that I write to the topic of “How to maintain a successful marriage while balancing a career?” I wasn’t entirely sure if this was the most appropriate topic for me to write about, but since I get asked this question on a regular basis, I thought I should venture a guess.
First, it is interesting that people assume that my husband Alex and I have a successful marriage. I believe we do, but it is at best difficult at times. We have had some really tough times and we aren’t always on the same page. If I were to be honest, I visualize successful marriages as those I see with the cute couples on YouTube or in nice family television shows. I’m not sure how realistic those relationships are and I can only speak to my experience. Marriage is tough. Balancing marriage with a career is even more difficult. Balancing a marriage, a career and running a business together, as we do, is probably the toughest combination I can imagine. Thank God I’m not one of those sister wives because I can’t imagine throwing someone else into the mix, another reason why we have chosen to have dogs instead of children. After much thought, I decided to make a list of 10 things that work to make our marriage successful, even though we don’t always practice them. They may seem simple, but let me tell you at best, they are the most trying requests for happiness. That being said, to have someone next to you through the good times and the bad times is well worth the work.
1. Forgiveness. There have been many times in our marriage where one of us will make some huge, catastrophic poor decision which affects both of us. I can tell you from personal experience it is extremely difficult to let go and move past those things, but forgiveness is the act of allowing yourself to grow as well. This is something I work on daily and it doesn’t come easily, but why would either of us want to stay in a relationship filled with resentment. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, it means letting go of the pain of the action. It is essential to growth.
2. Date Night. At least once or twice a week we have date night. This typically includes us going out to dinner or watching movies. Nothing special but it allows us to bond and talk about our day. Although we are not great at this, we try to put our cell phones away since we are completely tied to social media. Being focused and listening is important. It validates the other person.
3. Girls Night Out. That being said, it is also important that you and your partner have time away from each other. We used to always go out together at least three nights a week. I didn’t enjoy this over time and preferred driving around with my best friend or going to the casino or staying at home and reading. It was vital that I stopped going out all of the time just to be by his side. Now when I go out I’m there because I want to be there, not out of obligation.
4. Similar Long Term Plans. I think one of the most important things is that both partners have similar long term plans. If you don’t share these plans, there will be resentment. Alex made it clear early in our relationship that he wanted to move to Florida. I was not in love with this idea but not opposed to it either. The closer we get to that move, the better idea I have of what I want that to look like and he is supportive. Neither of us wants children and we both have clear visions of our careers. I think some of these things, like children, are deal breakers in relationships.
5. Set Boundaries with your Career. A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this one but I think it is vital to set boundaries with your career. If you are constantly traveling or always putting your job first, then the marriage will suffer. If your hours don’t allow for quality time together, the marriage will suffer. Working 90 hours a week does not mean that you are an excellent worker or that you are dedicated to your career. If you are in a marriage it means you have misguided priorities. I want to be someone’s priority. I don’t want their career to always come first and neither should you.
6. Sex. I was once told by a very wise man that when the marriage is off, sex is the problem but when the marriage is going well sex is never a problem. I agree. Sex is not just about sex, it’s about intimacy. Most of the couples I know who have marriages I respect have regularly active sex lives. This does not mean three times a day every day because I think that’s crap when people make those claims, unless they’re in early relationships. But, several times a week or weekly is definitely doable and vital to a good marriage.
7. Be Part of Your Partner’s Career. The act of balancing a successful marriage with a career is having both partners being active in both careers. This does not mean telling them what to do in business ventures or offering unwarranted advice, which I often do.(Big mistake!) This means knowing their co-workers names, asking about their day, offering support during stressful situations, understanding when their boundaries have to be broken occasionally and attending work related events.
8. The Golden Rule. In any situation, treat your partner the way you would want to be treated. It is a true gift to stand back and treat your partner exactly how you would want to be treated in any given situation. This is extremely difficult as we typically want to point the finger and look at the other person’s behavior. Take a breath, ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in there shoes and act accordingly.
9. Take Care of Yourself. A few years ago I had fallen off track of taking care of myself. Everyone has different ways of doing this but for me it was daily mediation, attending AA meetings, focusing on my own dreams and being the best man of character I can possibly be. It was amazing that as I started taking care of myself and became a more positive person how that positivity affected our marriage in a good way. The only person you have control of is yourself. And this does not mean to be selfish…
10. When All Else Fails, Suck it Up. I don’t know why but I think, for me, this is the most important rule out of all 10. We disagree…alot! We argue about the stupidest things and after awhile we’re no longer having a fight, the fight is having us. If you been in one of those arguments you know what I mean. We’ve literally had a fight over something small and it’s ended with us discussing if we should break up. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened in a long time, but at the end of the day, I want to be happy, I want to be with my husband and I want us to make it through the rough patches. I want to grow old with my husband. I want him to accomplish his dreams and I want to accomplish mine. To do that, sometimes I must keep my eye on the prize and suck it up. Some things are just not that important.
Like I said, these are rules that I wish we lived by on a regular basis. Marriage is tough. Like a friend of mine said, “Everyone can have a wedding, but not everyone can have a marriage.” So true. But the reward…awwww, that is the sweet juice of the fruit!