“Couples that Work: How to thrive in love and at work” - Jennifer Petriglieri

AMELI is about striving women. Independent women, who are willing to take on the world, improving it, going for their dreams.

But we must agree with Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of facebook and author of Lean In, who said:

“The Most Important Career Choice You'll Make Is Who You Marry“ - Sheryl Sandberg

So today, on Valentine’s day, we want to share with you some of our thoughts and some insights of the book “Couples that work – How to thrive in love and at work” from Jennifer Petriglieri. (Thank you to my mentor Stefanie Schröder who got me this present for my marriage).

Let’s start with some facts that convinced me why this topic is so important and worth writing about:

  • In 65% of the couples in Europe and Norther America, both partners work.
  • Women who take more than three years of face up to a 37% pay cut when they return
  • On average, the time women spend performing unpaid labor (e.g., household work, childcare) amounts to seven more years than men
  • Couples, in which partners earn roughly the same and equally share the household work have a 48 % lower chance of divorce than the average couple

There are so many empowering books for women and how to be successful in your career and independent and why we should support women to benefit economy (read our blogpost that gives you some book recommendations).

But my (unproven) believe is that we are striving equally for independence and love which makes this book and the findings so important. Petriglieri discovered from research with over 100 dual-career couples that every couple goes through three different transitions from the moment they become a couple until retirement.

First Transition: How can we make this work?

In the first transition, couples need to change from having independent, parallel careers and lives to having interdependent ones. It often goes along with the first major life event that is shared, e.g., having a child or a big career opportunity. The major questions to face are how to prioritize their careers and how to divide family commitments in a way that lets both thrive with only minimal compromises.

Second Transition: What do we really want?

Couples must shift their focus from conforming to others’ demands and expectations and figure out what they each really want out of their careers, lives and relationships. Usually feelings of restlessness and oppression that lead to existential questions of direction and purpose.  – Renegotiation of roles they play in each other’s lives.

Third Transition: Who are we now?

In the third transition, couples work on reinventing themselves triggered by role shifts and resulting identity voids (e.g., being the most experienced workers, empty-nester parent). These voids can result in feelings of loss, but they can also use it as chance to exploration and reinvention. 

For each of those transitions, Petriglieri explains the nature of the transition as well as triggers, defining questions and traps. Based on this understanding, a resolution, tools and reflection methods are offered in the book, helping couples to face their individual struggles.

As in most cases, there is no individual solution for each dual-career couple how to balance work and live and “having it all” is a thought that we must probably say good-bye to as every partnership requires some forms of compromises.

Kindness and Attention

But, what we can practice now and in the future, to our partner and in general, is to be kind and pay attention. 

Kindness can be expressed by small acts of generosity and consideration and by being generous about your partner’s intentions. Best thing, being kind is contagious – When you are kind to your partner, they are likely to mirror you, creating a vicious cycle of kindness.

Undivided attention is a second relationship booster. In our busy, hyperconnected world, it is even more important to give our partner our full intention, blocking out all electronic and other distraction.

So today, on the day of love, be kind to your partner, but also to yourself and your friends and pay your full attention to them. Happy Valentine!


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