Five years into my marriage, I decided to switch careers yet again. I went from paralegal to executive assistant to homemaker; now it was time for loftier aims. I made the decision to become a professional wife.
This “career change” might seem laughable, but growing myself into an exemplary wife is serious business for me. I don’t want to be an amateur spouse, known merely as the “other half” or “the kids’ mom.” I want to be more. Not to win a “Wife of the Year” award (although that would be pretty awesome), but rather to model, through mutual love and reverence, the kinds of feelings God has for His followers.
I chose to sign a contract with my man. I chose to make matrimony my path. Thus, I make it my job to pour heart and soul into ensuring that ours is a union the devil can’t divide and society can’t slander.
And since marriage is a lot like work, I’ve found the following expert strategies invaluable in advancing my climb up the corporate conjugal ladder:
Communicate with your spouse as if he/she were your employer. If you’ve ever had a job that mattered to you, chances are that you showed up to work with a smile, were courteous and always ready to lend a listening ear. If an issue arose that required supervisor attention, you probably used the necessary protocol to arrange a meeting time. In conversing with him/her, my guess is that you offered opinions in a respectful manner and didn’t interrupt, verbally attack, or go off on tangents. You likely put in a great deal of effort to communicate well with your supervisor and colleagues, even if you didn’t necessarily share common beliefs or even LIKE the person, because (1) you wanted to keep your job; and (2) you were compelled to demonstrate commendable conduct because that is simply what your faith, personal standards, or professional goals required. Most couples are aware that effective communication is crucial to a healthy marriage; but too often all our well-intended practices fall by the wayside when we’re in casual mode—you know: it’s “just the hubs” mode. Hungry Husband saunters in after a busy work day and greets Worn-out Wifey with “Isn’t dinner ready yet?” who responds with a snarky “I’m working on it!” as she thrusts a poopy baby into his arms. So. Not. Effective. Especially if a heart-to-heart talk or sweet nothings are what you were hoping for later that day. I’ve come to learn that connecting successfully with my spouse requires the same attention that I would give when communicating with a co-worker. Even when annoyed about something he did or said, I try to give my husband space and consideration; use good timing for special requests; and refrain from gabbing or nagging when he’s focused on something else. And I respect him like a boss.
Maintain Confidentiality. Human resource departments exist to retain employee files and guard them under lock and key. How embarrassing (and potentially detrimental) would it be for one’s file contents—probation notes, performance reviews, complaints, medical records—to be leaked? How betrayed would you feel if your significant other spilled the beans about a personal struggle you shared or something he found unattractive about you? The ability to be discreet is an indispensable asset to employers and spouses alike. While companies have trade secrets, couples may trade secrets. Both are best kept under wraps.
A related issue is that of triangulation. Author Orrin Woodward defines this common workplace pitfall as “a vile process where people attempt to draw others into gossip from their unresolved conflict.” As a former manager, I have personally witnessed triangulation in the workplace; but it doesn’t just happen there. There is a boundary to be maintained between gab and gossip when discussing our marital relationship or partner with others, as well. One goal I have is to be the kind of wife in whom “the heart of her husband trusts” (Proverbs 31:11).
Contribute to a positive working environment (a.k.a. “home”: the place where relationships, productivity, and solidarity are always works in progress.) Studies show that the best-rated workplaces are those that allow plenty of opportunity for fun and ingenuity. So why not strive to make your shared space one that encourages a good balance of play, productivity, intimacy, and creativity? A few ideas: Display favorite pictures of you and your spouse in prominent places on the wall. Throw a big comfy bean bag in the living room to encourage spontaneous snuggles. Designate a journal to serve as the keeper of love notes to each other. Ugliness [I’m talking about attitudes here] and any material things that are time-sapping, stress-inducing, temptation-triggering, or simply pointless in owning all have a negative impact on the culture of your home. Focus instead on making your common living space a welcoming atmosphere filled with love, beauty, and vestiges of heart-felt moments. Fancy furniture not required.
Conduct a satisfaction survey. My husband’s employer recently requested that he complete a company satisfaction survey designed to convey his level of contentment in amount of responsibility, pay, work environment, etc. He confided to me his hesitation at filling it out truthfully because it wasn’t anonymous; but he did, and ultimately it led to a constructive conversation with his supervisor. This was the impetus that drove me to come up with a survey form of my own. I went all out and built a six-section survey using typeform.com with questions regarding love tank levels (see The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman), goals, communication, and growth/development which I then emailed to my hubby along with a request for completion and time to discuss. However, a short questionnaire that simply asks about overall marriage satisfaction would serve the purpose just as well. The point is to use it to launch an honest conversation with your spouse that gets you both on the same page and provides the opportunity to affirm positive trajectories in your relationship, or identify areas that could use some improvement.
Whether your marriage is winning or waning, perhaps viewing it through the lens of professionalism and applying the tactics above can bolster your team. It is one of the most important working partnerships we can have, after all, and well worth our time and investment.
For me, serving as chief confidante to my husband is my new happy place. What’s more, the pay is pretty darn good. The money I used to make working outside the home was meager compared to what I now earn. As a highly valued wife, I’ve received the raise of my dreams: a raise in shared joy, contentment in being loved, and in kisses—my currency of choice. Morale is high here at the home office, and I can truly say there’s no other place I’d rather be.
Author’s Note: Incorporating professional strategies into your relationship is no substitute for professional help. If any kind of verbal, physical or substance abuse is occurring, please do not delay in getting assistance.