I get asked a lot about how to find a partner who supports your career aspirations. I'm not going to sugarcoat this and say it's easy and that every guy you meet will want to back your aspirations 100% because it's simply not true. I do know that if you go into relationships looking to build a partnership that it will make the inevitable ups and downs of life easier to navigate. But there's a reason this kind of relationship is rare; it's difficult and different.
In high school and college I somehow convinced myself that the only kind of guy who would want to be with me was someone without their own career goals. I dated a lot of boys who were more in awe of my career than in support of it. I didn't want to feel like I was dragging someone towards the kind of life I wanted so I ended things quickly when I realized that was what was happening. I don't judge or think ill of the men who didn't want what I want, especially because they helped push me towards a man who would work with me to build a dream life.
In my mid 20s I made a commitment to myself that it would be so much better to be alone than to be with someone who didn't love me for me. I'm driven, intense, career-focused and ambitious, but that's not all I am. I know I've turned guys off with the clarity I had for my future, but I also knew that it was that clarity that was going to lead me to the right guy. I don't feel "lucky" to have found my husband because I worked really hard to find someone who supports me as much I support them. We've both made sacrifices to support one another and I love the life we're building together.
Below I've outlined some tips to help you either in your marriage or as you are dating to build a partnership you're proud of.
1. Be willing to adapt, and find a partner who can do the same
I've had a clear picture in my mind about the life I've wanted since I was a young girl, and I think a lot of ambitious women can relate to that. Once when I was on a date in college a boy asked me what I wanted to do after college and after telling him he asked "wait, do you even want kids?" I wish that was the only time my aspirations have come across like a replacement for wanting a family but sadly that's not the case. I quickly knew this guy was not for me after he said he was adamant that he find a girl who was "100% committed to raising his children." I responded and told him it was bizarre that he was making choices for a girl he clearly hadn't met yet (and for the record, working moms are still committed to raising their kids 100%).
I know so many women who said they didn't want to have a career who now do, and many women who said they'd never be stay at home moms who now are and love it. We cannot predict the future. It's a complete waste of time to talk about absolutes when dating (and throughout marriage) but instead, spend your time finding someone who is willing to adapt to life. Figure out how they solve problems. Work through some hypotheticals with them but don't get stuck on how things HAVE to be. I knew my partner needed to be willing to work together through life and not force either of us to be so rigid that we couldn't support one another.
This week I was on a panel with a woman who never thought she'd work, and now she's the main provider for her family and her husband is the primary caregiver. As I heard the two of them speak about this arraignment I was in awe of their adaptability. If they were unwilling to work with their new circumstances they wouldn't have such an amazing partnership.
2. Center everything around your team
When my husband and I talk about decisions we are making, we try as hard as possible to keep our team (#TeamLarsen!) in mind with every choice we make. We talk through how our career twists and turns are affecting each other and constantly look at the bigger picture. As we were getting to know each other I asked a lot of questions about what he envisioned for the future and I started falling for him as he talked about having a wife who he made decisions with, and not for. We are both really independent and know how to support one another without getting in the way.
I am honored to have such an incredible teammate. My husband has endured lots of long hours and work drama he can't understand but still supports me through it. At the end of each day, he reminds me what is truly important and who I really am. We compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses. Our team is stronger because we value the work and input we each have in our marriage.
3. Make choices for you and your family and no one else
It's crazy to me that it's 2020 and this kind of love feels rare, but I know many couples who truly have partnerships because they have figured out what works for them. If you want a non traditional marriage, you have to be willing to do things differently. From the start of our marriage, I have had a much more demanding work schedule than my husband. We've worked together to tackle the "life" stuff like laundry, managing finances and our household and much of it made more sense for him to manage given his more flexible work schedule. What works for us may not work for your relationship and that's ok! It's also ebbed and flowed as his work has been busier and I will take on more around the house. We have every intention of evaluating this constantly through our marriage as we have kids and our jobs change.
You cannot compare your relationship to others and it's ok if you make choices that don't make sense to anyone else. Your mother in law, sister or friend may think what works for you and your partner is weird but who cares? Be willing to chose the life you want and love your partner through those choices you make together.
What tips do you have to build a partnership in your relationship? What difficulties have you faced as you've done this or looked for it! I'd love to hear below!