Marriage and Making a Living

Marriage and Making a Living

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Much has been written about the issues of dual-earner families (research). Dancer and Gilbert (1993), famously defined three categories of family types based on the occupational level of wives: single-wage traditional, where only one spouse works; dual-earner, where wives held jobs while their spouses held jobs or careers; and dual-career, where both wives and husband held careers. Beyond the gender expectations that leveraging the wife’s occupational level and the suggested sex bias of husband-wife relationships, the point is that a quantifiable difference may be noted in families in which both partnering adults work.

The Problem

Dual-earner and dual-career couples have less time to interact and share. This was true back when Kingston & Nock (1987) wrote that dual-earner couples experience less time to together. Minnotte adds in 2005 that dual-earner couples experience higher levels of stress, work-family conflict, and overload. As recently as 2015, books are being written on how to balance it all for the health of the relationship.

What Can Be Done?

Human resource professionals have been counseled to respond with flexibility when they create policy for dual-earners (Elloy & Smith, 2003). Many employers have “workplace supports” designed to address the needs of dual-earner couples (Colton, 2004; Hammer, Neal, Newsom, Brockwood & Colton, 2005). It is unclear whether these supports are consistently used by the most dual-earner couples. Moreover, research in marital satisfaction seems to focus on either assessment of satisfaction or quantifying what creates at-risk marriages.  The recommendations that result are confined to identifying adaptive strategies (Haddock & Rattenborg, 2003), addressing equality in home chores (Marshall, Heck, Hawkins, & Roberts, 1994; Zimmerman, Haddock, Current, & Ziemba, 2003), assessing gender roles (Blair, 1993), and managing the amount of hours worked (Doumas, Margolin & John, 2003). Few methods exist that go beyond recommendations to introduce interventions that couples themselves can implement to enhance their relationship and appropriately address the pressures of the dual-earner family.

Just Generic Advice

Advice to increase the effectiveness of communication and the amount of interaction is abundant (Gottman & Levenson, 1992; Kingston & Nock, 1987; Thomas, Albrecht & White, 1984). However, research on dual-earner marriages suggests very few techniques that support both the career happiness of the individual and the efficacy of the couple. That is, individuals within a marriage may develop well in each of their respective careers, but the marriage may not present opportunities for meaningful collaboration. This meaningfulness is vital to the success of the marriage because many couples assess their happiness with their partner by the amount of support and meaningful involvement they perceive (Patrick, 2003).  Spousal support is associated with increased family satisfaction for working couples (Parasuraman, Greenhaus & Granrose, 1992).  It is reasonable to question,

What techniques are available to couples who desire to support each other in career achievement AND foster marital satisfaction?