A recent article from the New York Times reported that marriages of equals is quickly rising. These are couples with similar education levels, career interests, shared passions, and similar goals for the kids. Multiple reasons can explain this change including people marrying later, geographic flexibility, and advanced technology. In the past, in general, men sought homemakers and women sought breadwinners, but today high achievers seek those with the same aspirations. Interestingly, couples today are focused more on companionship and tend to be with people more like themselves. Ironically, when women earn more than their husbands they tend to compensate by building up their husband’s career or minimizing their own.
In spite of these egalitarian views, conflicts still arise in relationships where couples share in financial contributions, child care, and division of housework. The conflicts may be over differences in perception, lack of appreciation or devaluing certain tasks over others. In fact, although the power couple may both be driven to achieve, one may value relationships more than the other. For example, working late on a project and missing time with the family may be more acceptable to one person than the other. We all have our priorities but sometimes they aren’t aligned with our spouse which can create conflict. Power couples may be aligned with their desire to achieve, excel, and succeed, but relationally there may be a disconnect.
In today’s hectic and rushed life we have such limited time to spend on our relationships and we need to figure out ways to maximize our time. For instance, traveling to and from activities can be an opportunity to connect either face-to-face or via phone and share experiences. Some couples prefer texting over phone calls, but recognize the limits of this and avoid deep or conflictual interactions. One of the best ways to connect occurs when you shut down all electronics and intentionally disconnect from the outside world to be solely focused on each other. Take turns planning dates and build the friendship part of your relationship by selecting activities that you know your partner will enjoy. Spontaneity and surprises can also add some excitement and fun to the relationship as long as the objective is not selfish or self-indulgent. Even individually spending time with same-sexed friends can help marriages since it takes the pressure off one person to meet all of our needs. Whether we’re similar or different matters less than how we adapt and assimilate into each other’s world. You have to be a teammate first to be a team.