Should you stay single instead of giving up your ambitions?
Since the mid-20th century, however, things haven't changed as much as one would think. Though women expect egalitarian marriages, half of men still expect that their careers would be given more importance.
How many women’s dreams have been thrown away because of an unsupportive husband?
Before she married her husband Mark, Sophie was an ambitious, go-getting young woman with big plans for her career. She would climb the ranks at the advertising firm, then maybe one day start her own firm.
And when she and Mark finally tied the knot, they agreed that when they had kids, they’d split childcare duties between them. That way, she wouldn’t have to give up her dreams. But that was easier said than done.
When she did return to the workforce, Mark would drag his feet and complain when she asked him to change his work hours so he could take care of the kids. He was the bigger earner, so Sophie felt like she couldn’t expect him to make room for her career. “It did feel like my career came second,” Sophie says.
With her husband unwilling to pick up the slack at home, Sophie was given no choice but to put her career on hold. “I love my husband and my family,” she says. “I just had to make that compromise. We’re happy.”
But is that happiness built on shaky ground?
In this Harvard Business Review article, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox writes that in the 1950s and 60s, ambitious women with unsupportive husbands would usually put their careers on hold to take care of the kids. But when the kids left the nest, the wives often followed.
Around 60% of late-life divorces are initiated by women, often to pursue their careers. Men would say afterwards that they didn’t know that their wives were so unhappy, but in reality, they just didn’t listen.
"It takes two exceptional people to navigate tricky dual-career waters," Wittenberg-Cox writes. "It’s easier to opt for the path of least resistance — the historical norm of a career-focused man and a family-focused woman."
What's the solution, then?
Wittenberg-Cox recommends three strategies to achieve better balance at home:
Early on in the relationship, couples should discuss their long-term personal and professional goals. Make them as clear as possible, and give some suggestions on how you can support and help each other reach your dreams.
Women complain about not being heard; men complain that they’re not appreciated enough. The solution to both of these problems is regular active listening sessions: one partner speaks while the other stays quiet, listens, then repeats what he/she just heard.
Wittenberg-Cox recommends giving five compliments for every “constructive” one. Don’t focus on the negative, and reward the positive. Words of affirmation are powerful, and if you keep telling your partner how kind and supportive they are, those traits will flourish.
What do you think about this article on staying single instead of marrying an unsupportive husband? Let us know in the comments!
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