Marriage is one of the most interesting relationships known to man. Two different souls with different desires and ambitions meet and choose to espouse each other. They blend their dreams and hopes to make one family. They plan, they celebrate milestones together and grow old together. They act like penguins or doves - together forever. That is the calling of two people who love each other- to love, to cherish and to hold. Having a competitive spouse can be a big blessing because the spouse can be the engine behind the family’s business or career prosperity. There are other times in the relationship when the dreams become incongruent. One spouse wishes to pursue his or her own career dreams and the other spouse thinks the same. This definitely causes conflict and disagreements ensue. I will share one of the many stories that I experienced with my husband.
I once wished to pursue my academic career at the same time as my husband. out of respect, I let him start and finish his studies. I supported him both financially and emotionally. I knew he needed support to complete the course as it was very demanding. When he graduated with a Masters’ Degree, we celebrated. Then it was my turn to go back to school. Well contrary to what I expected, I got no support whatsoever. He asked me to wait for another opportune time. I knew deep in my heart that if I waited, the opportunity would pass me by. So without his consent, I went ahead and took a loan to help me get started. This did not go well with him and it caused some tension.
What I am trying to say is, if you know that your spouse is ambitious and a big dreamer, count yourself lucky and support him/her. Why? Because it is for the benefit of the family when you both grow. The relationship should be reciprocal for it to thrive. I surely felt hurt when I realised that I could get a reciprocal on my support but that did not stop me. There are ways in which to help your ambitious and career-focused spouse realize their dreams without sacrificing your relationship. Some are as subtle as asking hard questions about the career progression why others involve serious budgeting and planning. I will list out some informed ways of supporting your competitive spouse:
Lay down a five-year career progression plan together: Every decade of your relationship should be marked by new career and business plans. These plans should be reviewed annually. Discuss in detail which path to follow, who is responsible for each activity and how long each activity should take.
Make room for career/business changes: Economic downturns can occur and this will definitely affect your progression. At this juncture, it would be wise to review your path to see how you are affected. It may need you to put your progression on hold or postpone or take a totally different pathway. Either way, you will need the decisions together.
Budget: Nothing can be achieved without budgeting. Balance income and expenditure which includes career expenses. What is not budgeted should not be spent. The biggest source of conflict in marriage is often related to finances. This is a very avoidable challenge if you practise budgeting and stick to the budget. If you have a competitive spouse, he/she is likely to be inconsiderate when they feel they need to grow. Always remind your spouse that deviation from the budget that you both set up together would adversely affect your family.
Seek counselling or marital therapy if in conflict: Sometimes the competitive spouse can be stubborn and adamantly seek to pursue their goal at the expense of the family. When such cases arise, seek support or clarification from immediate family or marital therapy. it is okay to seek external help when competition becomes an impediment to your progress as a couple or as a family.
While it is okay to have a competitive spouse, it is crucial to balance ambition with family matters. Being a competitive spouse who is also sometimes insensitive, I am learning to be reasonable while at the same balance my desires with those of the entire family. I also need to learn how to seek the support of my spouse diplomatically to help me pursue my desires.