Couples with Professional, Demanding, or Executive Level Careers
From Aaron Engel:
Whether one or both of you have a demanding, professional, or executive-level job, you may have unique problems. I have spent a large part of my career in corporate America, working for C-Suite executives and others. I have worked in high-visibility and high-profile careers. While many benefits are associated with having a successful career, those with successful careers often struggle with romantic relationships. Marriages can be particularly difficult for entrepreneurs. Many professional couples who are engaged may benefit by talking about how their careers will intersect with their marriages through premarital therapy.
Our society may attack you for having unearned privilege and may not appreciate all you do. Perhaps you have had advantages that others haven’t, but that does not mean your relationship is thriving or that your job is easy. Higher-level careers may come with higher salaries that you grow used to but often with higher pressure, stress, anxiety, responsibility, and accountability. Keeping this stress separate from your relationship or marriage is not easy.
You may be used to having people listen to you at work, but when you dig deep, you find that you expect your partner to do the same at home. If both of you are type-A, you may get into arguments over little things, where the fight shifts from solving a problem to winning. You may expect your workers to come to you with solutions rather than problems, but your partner may want to connect with you and share their day. Having healthy talks about issues can sometimes come across as whining if you want solutions. You may revert to work mode and fix every problem instead of just being there and listening empathically.
You may enter counseling and expect a quick bulleted PowerPoint like you see at work and want to move quickly and efficiently. Couples counseling does not always move that way and may require a degree of patience and an inability to delegate the crucial work. No matter your status at work, you are just a person in a counseling office. Your position in marriage counseling is no higher or no lower than that of any other client. You are the expert on your own life and your marriage, but you may have to adapt to taking some direction as well. Being busy at work may mean that your need to maximize the value of the couples communication you have at home. You may feel unable to show any weakness or vulnerability at work, but being open and honest is required in counseling. You may need a couples therapist who will occasionally stand up to you and challenge you.
It’s Normal for Working Couples to Have Trouble Finding Time for Relationships
Whether one or both partners have a demanding job can make it difficult to find quality time. The intentions of a challenging career are good; paying the bills, making money for vacations, supporting the high economic demands of having kids, etc. The joy a job can bring is also a good reason to pursue a demanding career. A downside is that it can make it challenging to find the time and energy to spend meaningful time together, to have a healthy sex life, and not take too much work home. Whether one or both people work outside of the home, you have high-pressure executive or professional positions, or you are trying to find balance, you are not alone. It is also normal for working couples to innocently develop work relationships that accidentally turn into an emotional affair.
There is Hope
Having a marriage or couples therapist who can relate to you is essential. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a therapist who has worked extensively in corporate America and in high-level positions. However, techniques like the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can complement talk therapy related to your situation.
But You May Still Have Questions
Time management may be something that needs to be discussed. Counseling appointments are 50 minutes and can be conducted via telehealth for convenience. While meeting once a week at first may be recommended, it is not required. If you and your partner have created a life where 50 minutes every week or every other week is unavailable for the most important part of your life, we may need to re-evaluate your priorities. If you are an executive couple with high work demands, it may be necessary to try and find some balance (as difficult as that may be).
Your job may not allow you to work less. You may not want to work less. Having a counselor with professional experience who “gets it” can help you find ways to build your relationship without sacrificing your career goals.
I am a stickler for starting and ending on time. Your time is precious, and so is mine. I try to be efficient, but some counseling activities take time. If you are not getting what you need, feedback is welcome. Some counseling activities take time and patience, though. Patience is required that may be greater than what you experience in business meetings or work tasks.
People have evolved a need for connection. People need at least one person with whom to be vulnerable. The idea of self-reliance may lead to career success but hurt our most important relationships, especially for professional couples. Learning to open up, show our flaws, and be vulnerable with at least one other is a core human need.
For more general Columbus OH couples therapy questions or concerns, please visit the main frequently asked questions page.
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