A Simple Compass for Thriving in Love and Work as a Dual Career Couple

A spoon is not just a spoon. It can take multiple shapes and forms by decorating it with colors and prints. Same goes for a fruit bowl. Once we mix the ingredients in it, the taste changes and becomes more delicious. This sets the tone for our existence: Change is the only constant in Life and we must fully embrace it by communicating more, using our hearts.

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It is weekend breakfast and you are treating yourself with a fruit bowl – strawberry and banana & yogurt-. For it to be tastier and more gourmand, you are mixing the yogurt with the fruit. The taste changes: It becomes something new. And better.

Photo credit: Bakerita.com

What you have just done is a redefinition of the taste of a particular dish, questioning the original taste derived by only one flavor. You voluntarily made the choice of shaking ingredients to get a new one, richer and more appetizing to your taste buds.

As in food loving, relationships are a constant fruit mixer, still and shaking, where the individual and the couple constantly reinvent and reevaluate themselves and their roles.

The only difference stands in the talking part.

Photo credit: Sciencemag.org

If monkeys could speak our human language, they would probably start debating, asking tons of questions and negotiating for a good banana split dish for dinner.

And if banana split ingredients are not available, they would probably need to go out there and look for new recipes, banana bread, banana pancakes, banana fritters…

Photo credit: Stressbaking.com

Jennifer Petriglieri, an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD, conducted a study on 113 dual-career couples. They ranged from 26 to 63, with an even distribution among age groups. Participants in the study came from 32 countries on four continents, and their ethnic and religious backgrounds reflected this diversity. She asked them loads of questions on their career paths, the development of their relationships, their interactions as a couple and their family and friends network.

In a fantastic Harvard Business Review Spotlight Series on Power Couples, Petriglieri unfolds the apparent maze of successful and fulfilled dual career couples.

Petriglieri argues that, in their life time spam, couples go through three types of transitions, spread through different stages of their lives, marked by major events in life: a big career opportunity, the arrival of a child, the merger of families from previous relationships.

Everybody has its recipe for success, but she gives us a little and simple compass to approach weather storms and come out as stronger sailors.

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The common denominator of all the three transitions is the ability to self-reflect (who we are, what we deeply desire, what we want to do in the future), re-examine life situations as they present themselves, get in the game of the couple by becoming interdependent (to explain this, I suggest reading the Poem On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran), be supportive and encouraging (by allowing both to support and be supported), explore different ideas and possibilities and get emotional.

Photo credit: MrWonderful.es

Discuss values, boundaries and fears

Petriglieri crafted a tool to support dual career couples who are facing any of the three transitions. “To shape a joint path, partners must address three areas- values, boundaries and fears- and find common ground in each” she states.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls

Extract from On Marriage – by Kahlil Gibran

Values define the direction of your path, boundaries set its borders, and fears reveal the potential cliffs to avoid on either side. Sharing a clear view in these three domains will make it easier to negotiate and overcome the challenges you encounter together. Some questions for a good compass are here:

Values: What makes you happy and proud? What gives you satisfaction? What makes for a good life?

Boundaries: Are there any places where you’d love to work and live at some point in your life? Are there places you’d prefer to avoid? How much work is too much? How would you feel about taking jobs in different cities and living apart for a period? For how long?

Fears: What are your concerns for the future? What’s your biggest fear about how our relationship and careers interact? What do you dread might happen in our lives?

So the secret recipe here are some key words: Curiosity, Keep the Wonder, Be Open to Keep Exploring, Seek New experiences and experiments, Avoid taking things for granted, Keep Questioning your current work, life and loves.

Photo Credit: Etsy.com

As one of my favorite Greek philosophers used to say, “Change is the only constant in life, therefore we must keep flowing, like the river , because we cannot step twice into the same stream” #PantaRhei- Everything Flows, nothing stands still.

Be relentlessly curious, communicative and proactive in making choices about combining lives as a couple.

#Heraclitus #Empathy #Support


Featured Image Photo Credit: Zeppy.io

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