Lessons from Power Couples

This Saturday, I moderated a panel on Power Couples for Loveawake dating site online conference. I learned some valuable lessons from the three couples on the panel on how you and your man can make it work.

Where and how you meet matters.

All three couples said that the circumstances under which they met were positive influences on the development of their relationships. One couple met while they were both in the military. Since they were always neck-in-neck with similar rank, no one’s career was ever prioritized over the other person’s. Another couple met while the woman was in B-school and the man was getting his PhD, so they spent hours doing homework together and envisioning their future together. The last couple met through online dating, and they were able to put their expectations in the forefront since they both had children from prior partners and dated enough to know what they really wanted in a partner.

You need to have a shared vision.

Each couple talked about how they explicitly had visioning sessions or discussions where they spent time thinking through what they wanted their life to be like. This sounded very fun to me, but I imagine it can also be a bit scary for a guy if you launch into visioning sessions early in the relationship. (I am very guilty of this. Mr. C and I often laugh about how I outlined our marriage timeline after three months of dating!) Having a shared vision provided a strong foundation for the couples so that when times got rough, they knew that they could count on one another to maintain the vision.

Marriage is not 50/50.

It’s not always about each of you giving as much as the other person is giving. Sometimes, you have to give more than the other person is giving. When one panelist lost her job, she leaned on her husband to support them both. At this point, it was more like 70/30, but the couple still made a whole 100%. I had never thought about marriage as a fluctuating partnership, where sometimes you are giving more energy, effort, and financial support, and sometimes you are receiving more.

Two hard-charging careers cannot lead the relationship.

Both of you can have high-paying, demanding, fulfilling careers, but not really at the same time.  If you have children, your relationship with them will suffer. If it’s just the two of you, your relationship with one another will suffer. This was a hard one to hear, because I’d like to think that both my husband and I can be super-ambitious people at all times. It also makes me wonder if I’ll have to marry a Type B—or if I’ll have to tone down my own ambitions to keep my family together. I’d love to outline for all of you my current thoughts on how it could all go down, but seeing as I’m not engaged, I’ll keep my plans to myself.

Married people think about divorce!

I was surprised to hear the couples say that divorce sometimes crossed their minds but that they never considered it as a viable option. It makes sense that a married couple might get exasperated and consider divorce, but it was so strange hearing it out loud! It made me wonder how explicitly the couples had discussed their views on divorce before getting married.

Married people have marriage mentors.

Marriage is hard, and it’s really helpful to have people who can help show you the way, and keep you encouraged when you just want to give up. Just like mentors are indispensable in the job search, they are very important in fostering and maintaining a relationship with your husband. Having shared mentors that you can both turn to for guidance might be even better.

Faith matters.

All three couples had a shared understanding of how important faith and spirituality was to them. I think that this is a very important aspect that I sometimes forget. I want to be with someone who encourages me to foster my spiritual practices and is there with me on the journey.

Maintaining intimacy is important.

They weren’t just talking about having enough sex (Remember how Miranda and Steve hadn’t had sex in 6 months in the SATC movie?!). They talked about how important it is to do things as small as holding hands in public, letting your kids see you kiss, and kissing each other before you leave for work.

Marriage is really, really hard

All three couples kept emphasizing how challenging maintaining a marriage is. They said that Hollywood makes marriage look like this wonderful, sunshiney experience where everything in the world suddenly becomes right. One panelist said that she wishes her husband was still her boyfriend, because she misses having that time to just focus on the two of them and their relationship—rather than all the life obligations that take up lots of time and energy. This made me take pause with my eagerness to get married. I want to savor every stage of the relationship for what it is, and try not to rush us so much. It’s hard for us girls, but this was a great reminder to let your boyfriend be your boyfriend—while you can both enjoy it.