Joshua Becker, Contributor
Aug. 18, 2020
As you read this, working parents everywhere are overwhelmed and exhausted, trying to figure out how to handle the collision of work, school, family, and marriage in the midst of a global pandemic that won’t quit. Does this sound familiar?
Married couple Jeff and André Shinabarger can relate. Jeff is a non-profit founder that helps social entrepreneurs launch their dreams to sustainability, while André is a Physician's Assistant (a first responder), serving the most vulnerable at a major hospital in their community. They also have two elementary-age children, who are now going to school at their kitchen table.
Three years ago (and well before COVID-19 began wreaking havoc), the Shinabargers began researching, podcasting, and writing about working couples who want to stay in love and raise a healthy family. Their learnings are now more important than ever as many couples find themselves working from home, becoming overnight homeschool teachers, and trying to stay in love.
Their research is now available in a new book, a guide for working couples about love, work, and money, titled Love Or Work: Is It Possible to Change the World, Stay in Love, and Raise a Healthy Family? .
Their research began by simply asking the question: Is it possible to change the world, stay in love, and raise a healthy family?
Jeff and André interviewed over 100 working couples on the topic, and led a national survey of over 1,500 people to learn more about the unique challenges of this tension. They found that over 95% of couples believe it is possible to simultaneously have a career, stay in love, and raise a healthy family, but the challenge is how to maintain it all.
After interviewing them for this article, here are four things they want to encourage couples everywhere to prioritize during this season to keep making love work:
Choose a same-team mentality
Let’s call it like it is: sometimes the easiest people to blame when things go wrong are the people you love the most. It can be an almost natural reflex to blame your partner, especially when life in social distancing has been minimized to very small groups of people. They must have done something wrong. It was their fault.
The truth of the matter is that this pandemic is no one person's fault, and there is no person to blame for the tensions and struggles of today’s way of life. Couples might as well go ahead and decide to do life together.
Doing life together means continuously choosing your life partner over yourself. Sitting on the same side of the table and figuring out problems together instead of competing for who is right and who is wrong.
To make it through this time, it’s important to believe that our partner is in this with us, not in competition against us.
Proactively communicate needs, and block your work time together
The health of your relationship will only be as healthy as the individuals within it.
When partners are trying to keep up the juggling act that is balancing work and maintaining a healthy family, it creates a never-ending cycle of frustration and exhaustion—but couples need to give each other breaks.
Take a turn watching the kid(s) or doing homework hour, and offer freedom for your significant other to have the time they need for meditation or a workout, having a conversation with a friend, and/or finishing the work that needs to get done. Go out of your way to give the gift of time to each other.
The pandemic has no near end in sight, so help your partner take the time to invest in their own personal well-being. When partners know what each other needs to do, it's easier to help each other get the work done.
Understand that your partner’s purpose matters as much as yours
Stopping work is not an option for many people, not only due to financial reasons but because they find great purpose in what they do. Even more, 83% of couples actually say that working has made them better parents.
For these reasons, it’s critical that couples value and appreciate the work that their partner finds fulfilling, especially during a time of such heightened stress. You may not be able to love your partner’s work the way they do, but you can go out of your way to minimize your own purpose for a season to allow them to shine.
Commit to being lovers, not just roommates
Just because couples are physically in the same space does not mean they are physically being together. It's easy in this season to be caught in the continuous shifting of time and logistics. But keeping love alive will require intentionally connecting with your partner.
Creating space for intentional conversations and dedicated times, like going for a morning walk or coffee run, will give your relationship the head and heart space it needs to truly connect. Start scheduling appointments with each other. It doesn’t take away from intimacy to build in time for one another—in fact, it can add to its anticipation.
While the state of the world feels a bit bleak right now, Jeff and André are finding hope and courage in the findings of their research—and I hope you will, too.
You can learn more about their research and personal journey in Love Or Work.
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