I’d like to comment on Aviva Wittenberg-Cox’s great article “Your future partner is not ready to support your career? Stay single”
We’ve talked about relationships within companies and how to handle it. Today, I’d like to take a step back and discuss the step right before: how to pick your partner?
Don’t worry, my intention is not to change this blog into a love column. This article aims to talk about the impact of the marital relationship on the career, especially that of women.
My last expatriate experience was in China, in 2015. I met a few women sent by their companies, and whose husbands had followed. But there were only a few*. The vast majority of expat families consist of a husband who left to pursue his career and a wife who followed him, often at the price of hers’.
A question remains: why this imbalance?
Companies are often reluctant to offer these jobs to women. A majority of them refuses these opportunities because they’ll know that their husbands won’t follow, or because they don’t want to ask them to make such a sacrifice. This image is so anchored that some say no without even consulting their partner. Yet, the majority of the spouses would not even think about it twice in the opposite case.
Even now, men’s career often outweigh women’s.
As a result, successful women often had to make personal sacrifices to get to where they are. Few are those who successfully combine partner, children and career.
Yet, there are men that are willing to support their wives’ career. Those who accept the idea of « may the best one win ». In other words, those who believe that the distribution of roles is done according to the capabilities of the individual, regardless of sex. While writing these words, I keep telling myself that it should be so obvious that we shouldn’t even need to talk about it anymore.
Despite everything, often, men are proud of their wives’ career…as long as it doesn’t affect theirs (moving abroad, even distribution of household chores) and they don’t earn less.
Here it is, the infamous taboo… although the number of men who accept that their wives may have a better job or earn more is increasing, they still remain a minority. A lot of women will consciously or unconsciously refuse opportunities, only so that they don’t have to face this issue.
So ladies, if you’re passionate about your career and if you don’t want to face the dilemma of having to choose between your personal life and your professional life, then make sure the life partner you choose is your biggest supporter!
And how do you make sure of that?
My typical answer would be “follow your instinct”. Yes, except that the messages of the infamous instinct are often very coded and that when the heart speaks very loudly, so when the instinct is needed, it tends to be silent. That said, it’s only half a joke, and with the years, I’ve learned to listen to my instinct, and I regretted every time I ignored it.
A more academic way of doing this is to simply put the subject on the table. Enjoy a candlelight dinner where we talk about “love always”, to see if your partner also considers that “love always” rhymes with “career always”. Do not hesitate to ask the question: “Can my career possibly take precedence over yours if the situation lends itself to it?” It is important to explain that this is not a golden rule, but if your career turned out to be more promising than his, would he be opposed to it? If he is openly against it or disturbed by the idea, the question that arises is whether this can lead to a viable relationship, a source of happiness. Otherwise, do we want to take the risk of ending up twenty years later, bitter to have missed out on a promising career so as not to hurt your significant other’s ego?
The early stages of a relationship are always a cheerful time where both individuals are ready to sacrifice everything. However, it’s only a few years down the line, when the routine has settled in and that we’re in our little cocoon, and when the passion of the started has turned into gentle caring, that the feeling of having missed out becomes more and more present. It’s at this exact moment that we start blaming our partner for the sacrifices we’ve made, and that, in a lot of cases, can end up in a separation.
Let’s save some time – get rid of that future obstacle right at the beginning to live happily ever after with this partner that is our main source of professional support.
“Today still, the typical expatriate is a man; only 14% of professionals sent abroad are women, with one third of them leaving solo. Consequently, in 91% of cases, the partner of the expatiate is a woman, who often puts her careers on hold, which can be a real sacrifice” (link to the article here …) https://www.capital.fr/votre-carriere/femmes-d-expatries-rebellez-vous-1164554)