Two careers in a single relationship might just describe most couples today. What people may not understand, however, is how new this phenomenon is and the many opportunities and challenges that come with a dual-career relationship. How do two full-time employees clash or mesh at home when the workday is done? Can spouses help manage their partner’s workplace stressors? And what about balancing family life?
We surveyed 856 people in dual-career relationships to find out the answers to these questions and more. We asked them about the work conversations that came up at home and how those talks impacted their careers and the relationship itself. Read on to see what we found and how your current or future relationship may play a more significant role in your professional life than you realize.
The phrase “career power couple” is relatively new, so survey respondents were given the option to identify with the phrase before giving more specific information about their and their partner’s work behaviors. Overall, 79% of dual-career couples (partners who each have their own job) considered themselves to be “career power couples.” According to the Harvard Business Review, a power couple occurs when “both members of a couple are focused on their careers.” And couples were 14 percentage points more likely to identify this way if the partners worked in the same industry.
Millennials were the most likely to identify as career power couples – 82% of this generation felt this way, compared to 70% of Gen Xers and 73% of baby boomers.
Career power couples were also less likely to be dissatisfied with their career, work-life balance, and romantic relationship. In other words, identifying as a power couple is a good thing. The most dramatic difference between career and noncareer power couples, however, was in career satisfaction.
Discussions for Dual Careers
Our data would suggest that it’s actually a good idea to bring your work home with you: Couples who discussed work daily were more likely to be satisfied with their careers. More than half even “talked shop” every day. Another 31% discussed their careers outside of work weekly.
While research has shown that younger couples are more likely to talk to each other about money than their older counterparts, these conversations can be mutually beneficial no matter the career stage. As one Gen X respondent pointed out, “It’s very nice to have someone outside of our businesses to talk to about ideas – outside trusted advice is invaluable.”
On another positive note, the discussions respondents had with their partners about work rarely ended badly: 36% said career conversations never ended in a fight, while another 36% said arguments only occurred every few months or so. An argument might be a small price to pay, considering that the more frequently couples consulted each other for career advice, the more likely they were to be satisfied with their careers.
Advising Your Partner
In light of such a strong correlation between career satisfaction and “talking shop” with your partner, we dug a little deeper. What career advice were respondents wanting from their romantic partners? Most often, they needed help dealing with a supervisor or boss (68%). For couples working at the same company, a partner could offer particularly poignant insight. As one respondent pointed out, “It’s a very positive situation, and he can offer excellent advice when dealing with my bosses because he knows them so well.” That said, working for separate companies can still afford a partner’s helpful insight.
Another 65% of respondents looked to their partners for advice on managing work-related stress. Interpersonal conflicts are some of the most common problems in American offices, so having a partner to ease some of this tension can be invaluable. If your partner needs career advice or help managing workplace stress, the Harvard Business Review emphasizes that putting down your phone and giving your undivided attention is the first step. Next, help your partner identify any potential blind spots and then gently offer advice.
In any given situation, 92% slightly to wholeheartedly agreed their partner was a top source for career advice. And 1 in 3 respondents strongly considered their romantic partner to be a top source for advice, as well. Sixty-two percent also wanted their partner’s input on how to deal with office politics, while 49% sought help with negotiating a promotion or pay raise. Some even helped each other with career moves.
Precisely 50% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Neither my nor my partner’s career takes priority over the other.” When push came to shove, however, 45% of couples said they felt resentment as a result of they or their partner’s career taking priority.
Gender roles greatly influenced sentiment: 57% of male respondents thought their career should take priority within the household, compared to just 25% of the women surveyed. These responses might be influenced by the persisting gender wage gap, as 60% of respondents agreed the one who would keep their job would be the one with a higher salary. Another 38% of respondents would base the decision on who had better benefits between the two partners.
Balancing the Business
The adage of keeping your business and personal lives separate was not applicable for most participants. Only 34% of respondents said it was easy to separate the two. That said, those with children had less choice in the matter: The difficulty in separating work from home life doubled (15%) among respondents with children.
And the conversations that did come home were fairly serious ones: 27% of millennial respondents felt they needed to delay or even forgo having a family for the sake of their careers. In fact, 43% of millennials said they might need to delay starting a family as a result of being in a dual-career relationship. Considering the birth rate among millennials continues to decline, these conversations that participants described may just be part of the reason.
Within any relationship, communication is key. Our data showed that true “power” among couples might come from talking shop with your partner, looking to their experience for advice, and enjoying each other’s company while bouncing professional ideas off one another.
To keep your conversations as influential and inspiring as possible, leave the nitty-gritty legal work to the experts at ZenBusiness, so you and your partner can have time for more inspiring shop talk. ZenBusiness makes it easy to start, grow, and run your business with the help of a variety of user-friendly business tools. Ultimately, we’re here to help your business (and maybe even your at-home conversations around your business) flourish.
We surveyed 856 Americans who were currently in a relationship in which both partners were considered career professionals. Respondents were then asked to answer questions about the pros and cons of being in a dual-career relationship.
Fifty percent of our respondents identified as female, 50% identified as male, and less than 1% identified as a gender not listed on our survey. Respondents ranged in age from 22 to 67, with a mean of 36 and a standard deviation of 9.4.
It is possible that with more respondents from each demographic, we may have been able to gain a better insight. The findings on this page rely on self-reporting and, as such, are susceptible to exaggeration or selective memory.
No statistical testing was performed. The claims listed above are based on means alone and are presented for informational purposes.
Fair Use Statement
We know how important it is to keep these career conversations going, so you are more than welcome to share this data online. Just be sure the use is noncommercial, and you include a link back to this page.