Return To Blog

Navigating Life in a 2 Career Household

Money and Real Life!

March 24, 2015

One of the main aspects of a healthy financial life is cash inflow. In my experience, if this is unsalutary it will pollute one’s entire cash flow cycle.

Today I’m addressing a contemporary challenge in maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s income: The modern standard of 2 income households and the potential that the development of one career may clash with the development of the other.

I was recently talking to a young woman, married with a newborn son. Her career of choice is one embedded in relationships, which take time to develop and need to be nurtured. Conversely, her husband’s career path is prone to transfers, often across the country. Both careers are lucrative, important to them as individuals, and each aims to support the other’s professional success. Of course, tending to their family as a whole is a top priority.

Patently, when his career is being pushed forward in the form of a transfer, her career is cut down by severing her local relationships. Where if they chose to stay put for her benefit, his career is held back. What is a couple to do?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer here. Historically families have had one primary ‘bread winner,’ and it was a clear decision to honor said ‘bread winner’s’ professional responsibilities. Now there are conflicting dynamics, and suddenly this is a messy area of life.

I have some ground rules and suggestions to offer.

Quintessentially, each individual within the couple needs to be recognized and honored, individually. If either one’s needs and wants trump the other’s without mutual consent there will be resentment and imbalance, which will either sooner or later play out in negative ways. Conversely, when the decisions made meet each person’s needs – the whole family can move forward together, with a sense of support and harmony.

I suggest sitting down together and laying the various forces at work out on the table, figuratively speaking. How can you work together to maximize each professional path, while adversely affecting the other as little as possible? How is the timing? What is best for the family as a whole? Is it possible to take turns? Consider how your lives will change via different decisions you could make. How do you see these decisions playing out over time?
This conversation will be laden with emotions. We’ve worked our entire lives toward our careers, and what we uniquely contribute to the world is an important part of the human experience. Be mindful of the emotional needs of both yourself and your partner.

Create a soothing and supportive environment to have this conversation, enabling each person to speak and listen openly. Be sure it is quiet and distraction free. The time of day should suit you. Finally, bring along a little treat – perhaps some dark chocolate, a cup of delicious tea or a glass of good wine.

Make sure to talk things through, but don’t over talk. One or both of you may need a break. Additionally, it may be best to spend some time pondering between talking and deciding. Set another time to come back to the conversation.
Most importantly, feel it out. This is your life, and as you deliberate together your true priorities will percolate up to the top. Be kind, honest and trust yourselves. mqBullet