Are You With Me or Not? Women Breadwinners, Inner Circles, & Spouses Who Aren’t On Board (Read Time: 3 min.)

couple 2Ambitious… Overachiever… Focused… Type A… Super organized… Take charge… Soaring to success…

Most women breadwinners can relate to at least one of the above descriptions.  It’s the world of women who take on the role of breadwinner.  They are responsible for a lot of the major decisions, carry the weight of financially providing for the family, and, oftentimes, still come home to cook dinner and do the dishes.  Given the increasing numbers of women who outearn men, it’s a common dilemma to see a woman breadwinner say to her spouse (as she considers a new promotion, a relocation, or a total career shift): “Are you with me or not?”

That’s a loaded question.  It’s filled with accusation, rife with blame, and an easy argument starter… and, yet, it represents a deep wound for women breadwinners who feel like the one person who’s supposed to have their back is actually (in some unconscious or subconscious way) trying to hold them down.  Whether the accusation is well founded or not, the issue is clear: her ambitions clash with his expectations.

So what does a woman breadwinner do when she finds that the partner she has isn’t on board with the achiever she is?

How do women breadwinners balance the need for success with the desire to please?

Can there be harmony among the different parts of a woman breadwinner’s life when each part is fighting voraciously for her time and attention?

Here’s the answer:

It’s complicated…

For all the recommendations I could give you about having open lines of communication, discussing partner expectations, and agreeing upon family structure, professional pursuits, and the balance between the two, the truth is this: oftentimes, people go into a relationship wanting one thing but saying another.  Oftentimes, people begin a relationship thinking they want one thing but really needing something completely different.  And the fallout happens when the truth of what people really want and need clash with the reality of what the other partner is willing to give.  People grow and change… and not always together.

So… what do you do when your dreams clash with your partner’s needs (or vice versa)?

Here are 5 things you can do:

1) Identify the size of the gap.  How wide is the gap between what you want and what your partner needs?  What collaborative solutions can the two of you generate that can result in somewhat of a WIN-WIN?  If there aren’t any, how long have you known this and how have you communicated your needs to your partner?  How was this received?

2) Assess the options.  There are AT LEAST 1,000 ways to get any one thing done.  Because this is true, mind map AT LEAST 25 solutions to this issue.  Write out 25 ways you can get your needs met while also helping your partner get his needs met.  Before you can find a solution, you need to know your options.

3) Get your support elsewhere.  Your partner may not always be your biggest fan.  If your dream is something you NEED to pursue, find a way to do so with or without your spouse’s support.  Your spouse may co-sign on the dream but may not be the best person to nurture it.  Create an inner circle of 3-5 people who can help nurture your dream.  Remember: don’t share your vision with people who can’t see (oftentimes, it’s the people closest to us who can’t SEE our dreams.  Don’t hate them for it; understand them and find other people who can SEE.).

4) Don’t take your spouse’s fear personally.  Your spouse’s reservations, at the end of the day, come from your spouse’s fear.  Do not take his/her fears personally.  It is not your job to own your spouse’s fear.  It is your job to listen to your inner knowing, follow your path, and feel your own fear and do it anyway.  Let your spouse work through his/her fears and inadequacies.  You have enough trying to work through your own.  Acknowledge your spouse’s concerns, feel empathy for them, but do not get sucked in by them.  Your spouse’s fear is not your issue and there is nothing you can do that will fix their fear unless they are willing and ready to.

5) Selectively communicate your actions constantly.  There’s a tendency to alienate a partner who isn’t supportive.  Don’t do it.  Not only will it increase his/her fear, it’ll put you in a power struggle that will pull energy away from your dream.  Rather than isolating your spouse as you pursue your dreams, communicate your movement towards your dreams constantly.  Communicate the wins.  Communicate the steps.  Communicate the progress.  DO NOT, however, communicate the losses or the setbacks.  If your spouse isn’t supportive, give no fuel to his fire by talking about all the things that are going wrong.  Focus on the positive, give him/her the updates consistently, and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by added layers of support as time goes on.  Remember: proximity brings with it familiarity.  Keep your spouse in the loop.

At the end of the day, your destiny is based on your decisions.  Do not turn over your power to ANYONE else.  Your spouse deserves a say but he/she does not get to dictate what you do or do not pursue.  Follow your path and keep in mind that you don’t choose your calling; your calling chooses you…

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