Professor's House

Supporting a Spouse in a New Career

Have you ever been jealous of your spouse? What happens if your spouse comes home one day, with the great news that they got an awesome promotion – making thousands of dollars more per year? To them, this is the dream of a lifetime. But their dream, means that you – as the stay at home parent must take on even more responsibility than before. Or maybe you have to move? Are you able to continue supporting your spouse in their success or do you feel resentful, or even a tad jealous? Especially if your own success does not seem to be taking flight quite as quickly?

An interesting study about relationships published in the American Psychology Association advises spouses to always be supportive of their spouse’s success. In fact, they argue the fact that the support of a spouse actually plays a role in how successful a spouse will be. In a marriage, experts agree that spouses should be willing and able to act as one another’s wingman so to speak, with the knowledge that when the reverse roles are necessary the other spouse is willing to do the same. Being a wingman, means that you not only show ‘interest and knowledge” in the successes of your spouse, but that you offer them a chance to shine without feeling resentful.

A good spouse should also be able to encourage their spouse in a positive direction. If your husband or wife is diving into uncharted territories and opening a new business (or any other new endeavor), it is important that you don’t try and stymie their momentum with negativity or doubt. Perhaps you have some issues about how the success will affect your marriage in the long run, or worry that the success will have perceived effects on your marriage. These feelings are normal, but should not be used to squash your spouse’s dreams. Instead, it is important to use them as speaking points to move a conversation forward. By looking for solutions to your doubts or insecurities ahead of time, you can find reassurance early on before feelings of resent set it.

It is rather important to see your spouse’s success as yours as well. Even if they are the ones that have done the ‘legwork’ so to speak, you are likely the one that has encouraged them to better themselves. Perhaps you have asked the right questions along the way, given them insight or ideas. You may have taken charge of the children so they could work longer hours, or helped save money so that they could afford to return to school. In so many ways, the success belongs to you as well. Even if you are not the one being personally recognized, you should feel secure in sharing in the success. If your spouse is truly attentive, they too will see just how much impact you have had in helping them make their dreams a reality.

For some people, who do not have a supportive spouse – they may feel as though their spouse is holding them back from personal success. At some degree, these feelings of resentment can cause a rift in a marriage that is too big to repair. Marriage should not impede dreams. Certainly, it is fair for couples to come up with a balance in the marriage that allows the focus to be shifted from one individual to the other. For instance, if your husband is taking night classes in order to get his degree, you will likely need to take on more responsibility inside the home. However, if you make an agreement that when the school is finished and the dream is realized it will be your time to focus on your own dreams, knowing your spouse will pick up the ‘slack’ for you (as you did for them) it feels easier to herald on their successes.

Successes in life are not always financial either. Supporting your spouse’s success can be as simple as supporting a resolution they have made to quit smoking or drinking. It can be to get behind your spouse when they are trying to lose weight or make a positive change in their life without undermining or belittling them. If your wife goes on a diet, is it really necessary to eat that cheeseburger right in front of them? Sure, you want it and you aren’t the one on the diet – but the truth is this action is not considered a very supportive step.

Supporting others is often difficult, especially if you feel that their success is coming at your expense. The following tips will help you support your spouse and help them realize success so that you can further improve and increase the intimacy in your relationship. And remember, supporting your spouse and cheering them on or being proud of them doesn’t mean that YOU have to agree with ALL of their decisions. It simply means that you should remain open to them.

  1. Ask lots of questions. Often, when a spouse feels threatened by a spouses success it is because there is lots of grey area involved. Not only will your asking questions show that you care and that you are supportive, but it will also help you work through any potential problems together.
  2. Allow things to balance out in time. If you are a married couple raising a family, chances are that both of you cannot take risks at the same time. Instead, see his or her success as a temporary imbalance to the powers that be.
  3. Get involved. You might not know anything about advertising or researching blue whales, but offer your assistance. There is a good chance that you have some skills that will enable you to help your spouse. This gives you some ownership and shows that you are invested in your spouse’s dreams and goals.
  4. Don’t hold your negative feelings in. Instead, found constructive ways to talk about the things that you are feeling. If you feel left out or ignored because your spouse has spending an exuberant amount of time working, say so. But do so in a loving way that does not immediately put your spouse on the defensive. Remember, your spouse is likely trying to succeed for the BOTH of you.

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