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When Marriage and Careers Collide

This is a comment I wrote in reply to a post by Pam Slim today, in Escape from Cubicle Nation, asking how to handle a situation in which one spouse's new business launch conflicts with another spouse's planned job change. Don't miss the other great comments there if this is an issue for you and your spouse.

Pam, Dave, thanks so much for this opportunity to comment. Marriage and work are both topics I get passionate about.

Dave wants us to pick between the two options he and his wife have laid out, to support his view or convince him of her view. In any dispute, there is only one marriage-supporting choice, and that is the one that lets you give your spouse the moon and the stars without giving away whatever you need for yourself.

As soon as one of you objects to the other's proposed solution or proposes another, it's a dead giveaway neither is the one you are looking for. You need a third alternative.

A third alternative is one that satisfies each of you as much as your preferred option, without causing the problems for you of the other one.

Dave and his wife need a solution that (1) gives his wife the financial cushion she needs to take her career risk without feeling constant fear or embarrassment and (2) lets Dave avoid getting locked into a position with his uncle that would prevent him from enjoying the fruits of his success with his new business.

So, Dave, can you turn down the next phase with your uncle and stay in his employ? If not, do you have the skills to quickly move to another full-time job, perhaps a sales job, where you could gradually reduce your hours and pay as your new business succeeds, or where you could leave without harming a family member? You need to stay employed only until your wife has made her move or your business has taken off.

Alternatively, could you leave your uncle's employ and invest 75% of every workday for now in helping your wife secure her new position? You two would need to decide in advance how many weeks to invest before you switch to spending that 75% looking for your own next job if she hasn't found what she's looking for and your new business isn't yet bringing in an income she's comfortable with.

If it's too early for her to start looking for new teaching jobs, can she help you line up and serve coaching clients, so you can add more clients before you make the leap to self-employment? Or can she help you cut expenses enough that the year of savings becomes 18 months worth?

Two heads brainstorming together on a single problem is a much better use of your minds than dreaming up ways to convince each other your own goal or strategy is the right one.


"Two heads brainstorming together on a single problem is a much better use of your minds than dreaming up ways to convince each other your own goal or strategy is the right one." This is so true to marriage life. Marriage is a constructive collaboration.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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