Many urban dual career couples graduating from prestigious colleges and universities look forward to being employed in high powered demanding jobs requiring grueling work hours and devotion to the corporation which rewards them with prosperous salaries, compensation and benefits. Continuing on a strategized trajectory, these couples often have histories of being engaged in a life long zeal for superior academic and overall achievement and remarkable levels of motivation, thereby predicting a similar devotion to and efficacy for the employer. Through internal pressure and fear of job loss due to the suffering economy, these couples may be at risk for becoming a rather elite type of workaholic team.
The corporate priority often evolves into privileging the employer as organizer of the marriage itself dictating narrow windows of opportunity for intimacy and overall sources to compatibility. Frequently requiring global travel, sometimes imposing long periods of time apart, which can potentially exceed the time together, these couples can begin to experience emotional distance and a palpable sense of loneliness. The resulting hunger for connection, often in foreign countries, may develop into extra-marital affairs sometimes with colleagues or clients. This can trigger a crisis in the couple, but as painful as it is, can provide a wake up call or incentive to critique and construct their marital values. An attempt to work on the balance that may be needed in order to preserve the marriage can be attended to with care and sensitivity to each others’ needs.
The corporate couple life style may continue into the mid-late thirties, when it becomes apparent that “something has to give” in order to begin a family. A fear that the major caregiver, usually the wife, will be thought of as less than, for example, in regards to promotional opportunities if she cuts down her hours, has to be explored and assessed as well as the probability of constant re-location and perhaps more flexible gender roles. This examination is sometimes the first such effort the couple has made in regard to the dominance of the corporation pervading their life and determining vital choices. It can provide them with the opportunity to make the family the new priority as they attempt to negotiate in a more assertive manner with the corporation, or perhaps transfer their corporate experience into an entrepreneurial endeavor allowing them more freedom as far as time and travel.
An exceedingly ambitious and successful son of a friend of mine, a corporate director, married for ten years, who was celebrating his thirty sixth birthday candidly shared with me. ‘I was so immersed in being a 1 percenter, being the utmost employee, that I looked over my shoulder today and saw the rest of the world. It was spontaneous, imperfect, and so colorful. And so was my wife. We both have changed.’
Ellyn Friedman PsyD, LCSW
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