You may think that you can keep your love life and your work separate, but nothing could be further from the truth. Who you love and the quality of that relationship impacts the way you show up in the workplace, the risks you take and your ability to get the most out of each opportunity presented.
Research suggests that the quality of your primary relationship expands your professional identity, but only if your partner is dependably supportive and encourages exploration.
Maintaining a close friendship in a marriage is key to realizing these benefits. A National Bureau of Economic Research study concluded that people who consider their spouse to be their best friend were almost twice as satisfied in their marriages as other people.
To be true partners and friends, you have to discuss all areas of your life. Yet many people find themselves unable to confide in their spouse about their career dilemmas.
Your need for support is especially compounded when your work life hits a snag, is stagnant or downright unbearable. Failure to display compassion or empathy to a partner in emotional distress can have a long-lasting impact on the relationship. Finding a way to improve your communication and get better career support should be a top priority.
But what can you do if your partner seems disinterested or simply doesn’t listen? Here are five tips to help you initiate better career conversations at home and potentially turn a tense situation around.
1. Choose timing wisely
It may be tempting to call your partner with a dilemma in the middle of the workday or charge into the house ready to discuss your boss or a difficult co-worker, but people aren’t always able to give their full emotional attention on demand.
Prep them with a text explaining what you want to discuss and ask for a good time to talk. If you truly need to speak urgently, make that clear, but don’t overuse these requests. Give your partner a chance to be ready to give you their full attention and provide the support you want and need.
2. Define what support means
Your requests for support can be misinterpreted by your partner. Perhaps you want them to listen intently and let you vent without offering solutions, as this may signal their support but also that they respect you enough to let you handle it.
Or you may want help in problem solving—you envision a loving and supportive team that takes on work issues together.
Perhaps you want a mix of both and are never really sure which one you need in any given moment. All of these are natural desires and valid requests, but expecting your partner to know what you want turns a supportive conversation into a high-stakes guessing game.
If you sense that your partner is resistant to engaging in discussions about your work life, it may be because of a fear of disappointing you with the wrong type of support. Own your responsibility to provide them with clear direction. Help them succeed.
3. Show greater interest and empathy
What you do for a living and how successful you are at it may be a central part of your identity, but that doesn’t mean your partner feels the same about their work life. If there are other things that matter to them more, such as hobbies, a side project, community outreach or family life, make sure you are showing ample interest and empathy toward the things that mean the most to them.
It is not a given that your career is worthy of more conversation at home simply because it stresses you more or helps pay the bills. Your partner may have goals and frustrations that are also in need of discussion. Make sure you are doing your part.
4. Manage emotional capacity
Work problems are draining and rarely have quick solutions, even if you immediately launch a new job search. Appreciate that you will have to manage your own emotional capacity, and also the capacity of your partner.
Are you still making time for fun and lighthearted conversation? Are you creating adequate space to also give your partner your full attention?
Seek the support you need, but make sure you are not depleting the emotional capacity of your partner. If you find that you need extensive daily conversations, it may be time to rebalance this requirement with a broader support team of family and friends.
5. Address underlying issues
Work challenges can trigger underlying emotional issues and destabilize mental wellness. The support you need may be beyond that which a partner can provide.
Monitor your physical and emotional health and seek input from your partner on when to tap into additional resources. There is no shame in getting expert advice and putting your mental health first. Know that you may find greater benefit from discussing your situation with a doctor or therapist.