While I was writing this post, I had the Olympics on (of course) and I saw a story about USA skeleton silver medalist, Noelle Pikus-Pace. The story told how she had taken time away from her sport to have children and then returned to the sport only when she and her husband agreed that her family could travel with her on the circuit. I realized the partnership Noelle has with her husband is exactly the type of partnership to illustrate my intent with this post: how to make love work…when you work.
Sheryl Sandberg talked about her marriage in Lean In and how instrumental her partnership with her husband is to her success. I believe the partnership with your spouse is key to any couple where both members work, but I think it can play an especially important role in a military family where at least one of the members can’t always control their own schedule. Here are a few things that have worked for my hubby and I:
4 Rules for Making Love Work In A Dual Income Family
1. You must view all aspects of your relationship as an equal partnership.
I know what you’re thinking: “But my spouse deploys and I do everything when they’re gone.” I get that, I’m not saying that every day, or even every week will look equal, but the partnership must be equal. The career aspirations of both members of the partnership must be viewed as equally important. If you have children, you also have to allow both people to be equal parents. It will require give and take. There will obviously be times when the military controls more of what a day looks like than you do, but don’t let those times take over in the long-term. Regroup and refocus priorities at the first opportunity. I could honestly write an entire post on this item alone. Equality is truly key.
2. Institute Weekly Check-ins
This doesn’t have to be super formal, but a weekly discussion about the goals and events of the week helps divide responsibilities. At some point every weekend, my husband and I go over the upcoming week. He tends to have more morning commitments (at this duty station) and I have more evening events. We discuss who is taking and picking our son up from daycare along with any other special considerations (travel, etc.). I also do a lot of make-ahead lunches so we cover special events at work that mean he won’t need lunch etc.
3. Accept The Fact That Neither Of You Are Mind Readers – Say What You Need
The romantic in me wants to believe that after 10 years of being together, my husband and I should just read each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. He should KNOW what I need, right?! I don’t know about you, but in our case, after work and kids and everything else, we don’t have the brain power left for games. Just say what you need and mean it. Example: I am exhausted, I have had a long day—can you entertain the kiddos so I can cook for a few minutes in peace? Don’t expect that the other person should be able to SEE you’re exhausted and KNOW that means you don’t want the kids in the kitchen. Just. Don’t.
4. Find Balance.
We hear the work/life balance thing all the time, but there’s a reason for that: balance is healthy. I LOVE my job, and although I work full-time I work from home. That often means it’s hard for me to step away. I have to work very hard to make sure my husband and my son both get some time with me away from the computer/phone/tablet. The thing I’ve noticed if I do, however: they are less grumpy and so am I. Start with small steps: my son is very young and goes to bed by 7:30, I try very hard not to answer emails, phone calls etc. between the time he comes home and his bedtime. That doesn’t work every day, but it’s a goal I strive toward.
I hope these tips help you make love work when you both work. What works in your household?