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Are You Married to a Highly Successful Husband (HSH)?

 

Marriage between a stay-at-home mom and a highly successful husband (HSH) provides unique challenges women.

The HSH may be in the corporate world, the military, congress; he may be a physician or attorney.  What defines him is not his job description but his ambitious drive and his position of power.

Typically, an early marriage decision is for the wife to stay home and take care of the children and the household.  And the husband to devote his energy to building his career and making a lot of money.  This decision is often made without awareness of how it skews the marriage relationship.

The different roles they’ve defined for themselves are what present the challenges.  His role has more socially acknowledged power and recognition.  Hers is seen as “women’s work.”  Women in charge of their home life doesn’t carry the same prestige as a man in charge of an army or a corporation or a surgery.

Another major difference is orientation to decision-making and authority.  HSH make decisions and expect them to be carried out.  The person in charge of running a company or a board is more invested in the bottom line – and a smooth flow of command.   While a mother has the final say, her bottom line is less concrete – she wants to teach her children negotiation and compromise.  She wants group participation.

Each in their own world is successful and in charge.  The conflicts come when they are in their joint world.  Then, his role trumps hers; his power is more powerful.

He is not used to subordinates challenging his decisions; he knows getting to a joint decision is time consuming and unnecessary if he has the answer already.  She wants them to each share their ideas and have a discussion.  This is basic gender differences made more complex by the issue of power.

So, what does the wife of a HSH need to do to rebalance the power in her marriage?

 

  1. Adopt an image of yourself as co-captain (not assistant-captain) of  your marriage.  You are an equal participant but with different job descriptions.
  2. Write your job description — so you can see your worth.  Put monetary value on each job you perform, for example chef, chauffer, social director, nanny.
  3. Assess what you need and are not getting from your HSH.  This might include his asking about and showing interest in your day; talking to you about something other than his work; coming home for dinner at least one night a week; going over the bills together.
  4. Start with just one of these needs, preferably not the most difficult one.
  5. Prepare in advance what you will say.  Present your position as if a business deal.  HSHs are used to dealing with concepts and ideas, not emotions.  Do not cry, yell, or plead.  Just the facts, with supporting explanations for your position.  For example: “I want you to have dinner with the family one night a week.  It is good for our children to have us sit down together.  John and Samantha need to be able to share their daily news with you directly, not me passing it on to you.”
  6. Keep to one point at a time.  On another day, go to a second point.  Or, present him with a list of your agenda, and go through it one step at a time.
  7. Remember, your HSH is used to seeing you as a subordinate, so you need to make this internal shift before you present to him as his co-partner.  To help him make the shift, for him to really hear you, you need to talk his language.
  8. You probably won’t like talking to your husband as if you were in business, but in fact, you are – the business of your joint partnership as parents and spouses.  Negotiation works better if you use the language of business than the language of home and children.
  9. Repeated reminder:  no tears, no shouting, or pleading.  Bring your notes to keep you on track and take notes of decisions you both make.  Have copies made of your joint decisions.

 

It may take time to get comfortable with these adjustments, but using these 9 steps will lead to better communication and a more balanced marriage.

If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis
drkgl@drkarengaillewis.com
DrKarenGailLewis.com
301-585-5814
513-542-0646

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