Books and blog posts from thought leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Inc. columnist Carrie Kerpen have triggered many a party conversation about the roles of husbands and wives as contributors to family success. I recently found myself in a fascinating conversation with Australian entrepreneur Mellissah Smith about the role of significant others in supporting success. Mellissah wrote a couple of provocative, viral blog posts for both men and women on the subject, so my ambitious wife Van and I were comparing our own activities to see if we measured up to Melissah's standards.
Turns out, Van and I were pleased with each other's performance. My wife is innately supportive, while I had the lessons from the failure of my first marriage to help me appreciate the power of mutual support. Regardless of how traditional roles for men and women may have changed, one thing remains clear. If you selflessly support your significant other, odds are that he or she will be even more successful and contribute towards greater happiness in your family. Here are nine ways you can start today.
1. Establish Mutual Priorities
Many talk of compromise and balance when it comes to a relationship. But constant sacrifice can leave both parties feeling diminished. Have a real discussion with your partner about what is important to both of you. Advocate strongly for your needs so you can support your partner from a position of strength and happiness. Give him or her the confidence to stretch the full length of ambition, knowing choices will be consistent with family objectives.
2. Up Your Image
How you look matters, especially after you are married. Make an effort to be stylish, well groomed and appealing even when you are lounging around. Let your partner know that he or she is worth the effort for you to take care of yourself and your appearance. Be the visual image your partner wants to work hard to impress day after day.
3. Show Encouragement
Since I first started dating Van, she sends me the most amazing and flattering emails when I have big opportunities brewing. I had never expected nor experienced this sort of support. I can tell you it makes me feel powerful, loved and ready to accomplish anything. Both of us write emails, note cards and texts to constantly remind each other that we are in each other's corner. When traveling, I often text messages of support and love in the form of limericks to brighten her day. Find creative ways to show your partner that he or she is your superhero.
4. Share Compassionate Truth
No sense in letting your partner fail needlessly when you know they are on the wrong track. Create a safe environment for sharing insights and coaching so you can help him or her stave off disaster before it happens. Both of you need to be open to constructive criticism and in control of your egos. Better to be wrong and successful then right and defeated.
5. Make Space for Growth
The number one lesson I have learned in my marriage is the value of space. People need the time to be themselves and grow confidently as their own person. Give your partner the freedom and trust to climb, grow, and make decisions with confidence and assuredness. Find your own independent path as well, so you and your partner can become the happy and accomplished people you want and desire instead of the mediocre crutches you need for survival.
6. Be Romantic
Simply put, a healthy relationship, where the flirting and sexual energy are strong at home, can eradicate distracting feelings of neglect and frustration that invade the workplace. Candlelight dinners, lingerie, small gifts and intimacy are not luxuries for ambitious people. Passion is what drives them. Make the effort at home to show your partner that love is in the air so they remember what it's all for. A little Barry White goes a long way.
7. Take Care of the Little Things
People find all sorts of excuses to feed resentment when things aren't going well. Remove the little issues that add up. House cleaning, laundry, childcare, dishes, meals, workouts can be a lot to juggle for any couple, especially if both are career driven. But with a little planning, prioritization and some hired help once in a while, annoyances go away and everyone can focus on the important things.
8. Grow Yourself
Your partner not only thrives on love; inspiration plays a big part as well. If you are stuck in a rut while he or she is driving forward, you will likely feel left behind, causing resentment and chaos. Be responsible for your own experience. Read, learn and engage your passion and ambition so your partner is inspired and you are admired every day.
9. Celebrate Selflessly
Regardless of who in your family may be the bigger breadwinner, it's teamwork that makes for real family success. Petty jealousy will suck the wind out of any advancement. Use every opportunity to create an awesome experience to celebrate every accomplishment, and demonstrate how happy and fun it is to have an amazing, supportive relationship.
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