Homer, the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is recorded as saying:
“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”
While the gender descriptions might not be accurate in modern society, compared to the late eighth or early seventh century BC, I cannot but agree with the spirit behind Homer’s philosophy.
Recently, I have been dealing with a business that needs a sharp change in direction that requires further investment. In the past, necessity for additional money in my businesses used to stress me out.
This time round, my anxiety has been pretty manageable. And, I know it is primarily because of the unstinting support from my wife Dr Susanna Santhiram-Hofherr.
Of course, at times, my wife is the very source of my tension. But, after living together for more than 12 years now, we have worked out how we can actually support each other, emotionally.
I have to add that it’s not all hunky-dory with us. We still have tectonic differences of opinion in many parts of our life. And, our arguments can get rather boisterous, at times.
My wife and I have just figured out that when one of us is working towards an exciting and beneficial goal or dealing with a complex situation, we really need the other’s support, every step of the way.
Your home must be a sanctuary from work stress. And, you need the love, patience, and support of your spouse to pursue and build your own career.
In the book “Passion and Purpose” that discusses some of the best and brightest young business leaders, authors John Coleman, Daniel Gulati and W. Oliver Segovia, argue that you must move away from the notion that “you’re two individuals managing stress” and move toward the idea that “you’re partners managing it together.”
They assert that the most successful people become a constructive outlet for their spouse.
So, whether your spouse or partner is upset over a conflict with their boss; an impending downsizing; a nut-job of a client; or like me, in need of more investment for business, when you can manage these stresses as “solution-partners” it makes you significantly more resilient, personally.
How do you act as a supportive spouse to help your significant other to succeed with their career?
Susanna actually listens to me; as in she actively listens to my rantings.
Jennifer Petriglieri, an academic at INSEAD, the global graduate business school suggests that when your partner comes home and begins describing their latest office frustration, many of you have a tendency to only partially listen to them, without paying attention.
This just adds to their frustration.
You must listen and really focus on what they are saying. Don’t interrupt, and try not to offer any immediate advice. Often, when I “download” my issues to my wife, I don’t actually need her to be a problem solver. I just want to be heard, in a safe environment.
Next, Susanna offers support.
Coleman and the other researchers suggest that it’s critical to show engagement by saying sympathetic things, having empathy, and using compassionate language.
Years ago, when I first started living with Susanna, when I’d complain about something at work, she would often retort by telling me how much harder her day was in comparison, with complicated pet-owners, and terribly sick patients.
She eventually figured out that this wasn’t helping me.
Now she doesn’t compare stress with me. She might not be able to provide on-demand support, but she always follows up later that evening, or offers me something to read which might help, or she’d come back to the conversation, when she is emotionally able to.
The biggest support I get from my wife is that she actively encourages my outside interests.
Susanna has realised that she cannot cope at being the sole repository for all my stress.
I know that I rely on my wife the most. But experience has also taught me that relying on her too much, sours our relationship.
We talked about this, and over the years she has helped me create an “alternate space” outside my home and work to foster a support network.
You must give your spouse the freedom and space to pursue things they enjoy.
This could be a hobby, sport, exercise, travel or even friendships. These activities or people can offer your spouse an alternate avenue to work through their professional challenges.
For example, I travel quite a bit regionally for work, and Susanna often encourages me to take an additional day or two without work, to decompress. I end up going to the restaurants I like, or meeting friends I know, and just hang out. And, I am never under pressure to explain why I took that time off.
Remember that a successful home life will ease the pressures and burdens in your work-life, and it all starts with a supportive significant other.
Are you a compassionate spouse or partner?
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”