Our last tip of the week for 2020 covers the important topic of finding balance in pursuing career goals for both women and men. This becomes even more essential in contemporary organizations with long working hours, high workload and demanding tasks.
· With dual-career couples, both partners are highly educated, work full-time in demanding professional or managerial jobs, and see themselves on an upward path in their roles. For these couples, work is a primary source of identity and a primary channel for ambition. Evidence from sociological research suggests that when both partners dedicate themselves to work and to home life, they reap benefits such as increased economic freedom, a more satisfying relationship, and lower-than average chance of divorce.
• However, as their working and personal lives are deeply intertwined, dual-career couples face unique challenges such as whose job to relocate for, when is it ok for one partner to make a risky career change, or simply who will leave early to pick up their sick child.
• Many of these challenges are well recognized in the literature. But for couples themselves, little guidance is available. Research revealed that dual-career couples overcome their challenges by directly addressing deeper psychological and social forces. Research also revealed that three transition points typically occur during dual-career couples’ working and love lives, when those forces are particularly strong.
• The aforementioned three transition points are:
Working as a couple: the first transition often comes as a response to the first major life event that dual-career couples face together. This first transition is accompanied with two common traps, concentrating exclusively on the practical and basing decisions primarily on money.
Reinventing themselves: in their middle years, many feel a pressing need for individuation, or breaking free of certain expectations in order to become the authors of their own lives, therefore reinventing themselves. Such individual reflection and exploration can lead to additional traps such as mistrust and defensiveness and asymmetric support.
Loss and opportunity: the third transition is typically triggered by shifting roles later in life, which often create a profound sense of loss, i.e. careers plateau or decline, there are physical changes and children may leave home. Although, this transition is usually triggered by loss, it can also represent potential opportunities for late-in-life reinvention, especially in today’s world where people are living longer and are healthier than ever. Nevertheless, also this transition is accompanied with challenges such as unfinished business and narrow horizons.
Do you ever think about reinventing yourself? In your opinion, which specific challenge is the most difficult one to overcome in a dual-career relationship?
Petriglieri, J. (2019). How Dual-Career Couples Make it Work. Harvard Business Review, 97(5), 44-52.
*Slovenian Research Agency, Program P5-0364 – The Impact of Corporate Governance, Organizational Learning, University of Ljubljana, School of Economics and Business, Slovenia.
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