Is your partner propelling you forward (or pushing you backward?)
There’s romance in the air at this time of the year. Spring just began, wedding season is nigh, and everyone is ditching their Netflix accounts for happy hours sunset drinks and endless tacos.
While everyone seems to be coupling up—posting lovey pictures all over Instagram, you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. What is being portrayed on social media usually resembles nothing true. What’s really happening with some of the more performative couples out there? Does he empower his partner in her career? Does she encourage her partner to go for that Director position?
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With high-profile divorces and recouplings in the news, I have also thought about this—how does my own relationship serve me? How does it fit in with my family? How does it fit in with my goals, my career, and my life’s trajectory?
The psychology of love
What prompted me to write this piece was seeing this statistic: “Having a conscientious spouse can boost your salary by $4,000 per year and increase your chances of getting promoted.”
This really spoke to me. In my mid-twenties, I was in a very serious relationship with a person. As our relationship progressed, so did my career—right up to the point where it surpassed his career. All of a sudden, things were out of whack. I was working too much (trust me, I wasn’t), my boss had a crush on me (trust me, he didn’t) and the very few work parties I had to attend were breeding grounds for ugly flights.
My burgeoning career was suddenly a third person in our relationship—and there wasn’t enough room. With that, I had a decision to make. Would I descend back down this ladder to preserve one man’s bruised ego or would I let the relationship crumble?
In this instance, I chose my career. But, the thing is—I should not have had to choose at all. No partner worth having would put you in the position. If your partner challenges your success, downgrades your achievements, or offers any sort of “career or me” ultimatum, it’s likely time to grab your coat and head out.
According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, people with supportive spouses are “more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed.” What does this mean? Out of the 163 married couples studied, the ones with the more supportive spouses were more likely to take on rewarding challenges. Those who accepted challenges experienced more personal growth, happiness, and psychological wellness.
Can a “good” partner help your gains?
Many successful men and women have attributed their professional gains to the support and sacrifice of their spouse.
An Example? Beyoncé says that Jay-Z has been supportive on every level, saying “I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man. He gives me such a foundation.”
Billionaire Warren Buffett says that the main turning point in his life was not a business acquisition or a multi-billion dollar merger, but meeting his wife, Susie. Buffett describes marriage as the “ultimate partnership.” Without Susan “Susie” Buffett, Warren would not have experienced success on the scale that he has.
“Marry the right person. I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.”
Since celebrities are really just like us, here are some of our favorite power couples—and how they champion each other every single day.
Beyoncé + Jay-Z
Ok, Lemonade was a rough patch. A marriage under the public eye faces a ton of scrutiny. When you’re Beyoncé—literally Beyoncé—that scrutiny is magnified.
Since we all watched this play out in real-time, I won’t bore you with details. What I will say is that they both leaned into their very-public marital issues and worked (undoubtedly really hard) to fix them.
Ellen DeGeneres + Portia de Rossi
In 1992, Ellen Degeneres made the controversial decision to come out as openly gay. Years later, after getting together in 2004, de Rossi found the strength in her partner, to come out as openly gay in 2005. deRossi explains, “My feelings for her overrode all of my fear about being out as a lesbian. I had to be with her, and I just figured I’d deal with the other stuff later.”
Since then, Degeneres and de Rossi have maintained a place as one of Hollywood’s most supportive power couples.
Amal + George Clooney
Amal Clooney is a Lebanese-British lawyer who specializes in international law and human rights. George Clooney is her husband, an actor you may have heard of.
One of the things that make Amal and George a power couple is their stark differences. Amal, having never been a part of “show biz,” exemplified real meaning in her own work. This is not lost on her husband, George, who admires her success, saying, ‘
I’m a much happier person and we have a very happy life. We enjoy many of the same things and I very much enjoy the projects that she takes on because they have real consequence.’
Jada + Will Pinkett-Smith
Jada and Will Smith make no bones about crediting each other for their successes. Jada largely credits Will for saving her from addiction issues she had faced in the past.
In addition to the longevity of their relationship. both Pinkett-Smiths are dedicated to their marriage—their “life partnership.” As such. they have been brutally honest about the ups and the downs they have experienced. On their lifelong partnership, Will explains, “There’s no deal breakers. There’s nothing she could do—ever—nothing that would break our relationship. She has my support till death, and it feels so good to get to that space.”
Chrissy Teigen + John Legend
Besides being your favorite Twitter user and your favorite crooner. respectively, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are a powerful and mutually-supportive couple.
One of the more refreshing aspects of this couple is their authenticity—and we don’t use that word lightly. While Teigen is famous for unapologetically sharing the good, the bad, and her post-modeling stretchmarks, Legend is equally forthcoming. On their relationship, Legend says. “I don’t want to present myself as the ‘perfect spouse’ and I don’t want to present our relationship as the ‘perfect relationship’ because I don’t think anybody meets that definition. I think it’s too much pressure to put on anyone. However, I don’t mind being known as somebody who’s devoted to their wife. I am devoted to Chrissy.”
Michelle + Barack Obama
We love Michelle and Barack. And, no matter what side of the aisle you stand on, you cannot deny that these two people are sincerely devoted to one another.
During Obama’s Presidency, he took every opportunity to place praise on his beloved wife, Michelle. Post-Presidency, he has taken to introducing himself as “Michelle’s husband.”
Instead of writing for days on this particular couple, I will let two quotes speak for themselves.
Barack on Michelle: “Having said all those things, the quality I love most about her is, she’s honest and genuine. I think that comes across to people. They get a sense that they can trust her. You know, the word “authenticity” is overused these days. But I do think it captures what folks are looking for—not just in leaders, but also in friends and in coworkers–and that is, folks who are on the level. People like that tell you what they think and don’t have a bunch of hidden motives. That’s who Michelle is.”
Michelle on Barack: “Barack woke up on our wedding day in October 1992 with a nasty head cold. Somehow, by the time I met him at the altar, it had miraculously disappeared and we ended up dancing almost all night. Twenty-five years later, we’re still having fun, while also doing the hard work to build our partnership and support each other as individuals. I can’t imagine going on this wild ride with anybody else.”
Rita Wilson + Tom Hanks
A funny aspect of finding a partner is timing. This is something Tom Hanks recognizes in his meeting (and falling in love with) his wife, Rita Wilson, saying,
“The success of our relationship was a matter of timing, maturity, and our willingness to have an intimate connection.”
When Hanks and Wilson married in 1988, neither were the superstars they are today. When Hanks shot to celebrity after starring in Philadelphia in 1994, Wilson stood by his side.
Their marriage has forged on for what seems like centuries, by Hollywood standards. When Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, it further cemented their bond. Wilson explains, “You never know how your spouse is going to react in a situation like this. I was so amazed, so blown away by the care my husband gave me. It was such a normal, intimate time.”
Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard
When Bell and Shepard met and began to date in 2007, it was a classic good girl meets bad by scenario. Bell explains that “He was a drug addict and he was wild, and I was very much a good girl who went to Catholic school.”
While they had a bumpy road at the beginning, Bell and Shepard married in 2013. What many people may not have known is that Shepard struggled with drugs and alcohol. On the 14th anniversary of his sobriety, Bell posted a touching tribute to Shepard, saying, “I know how much you loved using. I know how much it got in your way. And I know because I saw how hard you worked to live without it. I will forever be in awe of your dedication, and the level of fierce moral inventory you perform on yourself, like an emotional surgery, every single night.”
You + You
Do you know who else is a great partner? Your own damn self.
We live in a society that is constantly banging the drum on coupling up to experience “real” happiness. Some of us are great all on our own. Date yourself. Take yourself to experience new things. Learn brand new skills. Conquer fears you have always experienced and learn from yourself. Chances are that you will fall in love with you.
Create a life in which you constantly work on your own strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between. You will never be more fulfilled than when you truly learn to love and champion yourself.
This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.
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