In her best-selling book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg wrote about the critical importance of a woman’s partner in her career success. In fact, the role a spouse plays in professional achievement is significant for both genders. For example, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that how conscientious a husband or wife is will influence their spouse’s workplace performance.
Additionally, you can impact your partner by the types of support you offer as he or she experiences successes and setbacks. The key is to champion your spouse in ways that are most effective for the circumstances. Here are four ways to be a supportive spouse.
Understanding work schedules
Sometimes we work crazy hours in pursuit of professional goals. This is especially true if there’s an important deadline looming or if the demands of a job increase at certain times of the year. Though work-life balance is necessary for a marriage to thrive, sometimes you need to cut your spouse some slack when it comes to putting in long hours.
Representing your spouse publicly
Depending on the job your partner has, you may be asked to offer support by attending or hosting events. This might be a small ask like going to a holiday party, but if your spouse desires a high-profile career like being a politician, you’ll play a crucial role. Whatever the situation, you need to be your charming (yet professional) self at any event you’re asked to attend. Monitor your alcohol intake and steer clear of controversial topics that could lead to uncomfortable conversations.
You should also be careful of privacy settings and what you post on social media. Remember, those pictures you put on Instagram might be seen by your spouse’s boss or a prospective client.
Giving professional feedback
When your partner asks for input, it shows the value he or she places on your judgment. Take it as a compliment, but, before responding, be clear on what you’re being asked. Is it actually a request for feedback or just for confidence-boosting encouragement? Also, be aware of the circumstances. If it’s midnight before a big presentation the next morning, it’s probably not the best time to mention 10 points you think should be changed. Pick one or two that can be improved with small tweaks.
Listening to work-related stories
Probably the biggest thing you’ll do when supporting your spouse’s career is listen. Whether senior management liked a presentation or a co-worker takes credit for an idea, you will likely get a call or text. According to research by psychologist Terri Orbuch, that’s a good sign. “The happiest marriages were ones where partners felt that their spouse regularly disclosed information about his or her life, and did not keep secrets — even details from work that might be deemed ‘boring.'”
Although important, listening can be challenging when you don’t understand or aren’t particularly interested in the details of your spouse’s career. One wife describes her strategy for handling the situation this way: “When I have trouble paying attention to long stories, I focus on how my husband feels about the details he’s reporting. Is he stressed, discouraged, excited…and I respond to that.”
No matter the challenge, finding ways to effectively support your spouse’s career should be a goal of married life. Not only does your partner’s professional success increase your income as a couple, according to Orbuch, “People who are happy in their jobs often reported being happy spouses. In effect, job satisfaction can increase relationship happiness.”
Style Me Pretty Contributor – Paula Holt is the creator of the website Practically Married, a resource to help couples prepare for marriage. She’s a self-described podcast enthusiast who enjoys singing loudly in the car and going to restaurants with her family.