This post is an archive of the Growth Through Disruption newsletter sent May 14, 2020. Click here to subscribe and join tens of thousands of leaders across the globe growing through disruption together.
I mowed the lawn on Saturday.
My husband would have done it, or one of my children. But I've never mowed our lawn.
I was starting to feel that by never mowing the lawn, I was abdicating some of the joy of home ownership.
It was a small choice but not inconsequential. It's these kinds of little decisions that will, over the years, make me feel more—or less—connected to our home.
Mowing also connects me to my husband. When we were dating, he invited me to his home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland (just one hour outside of D.C.) There his parents, who had both grown up in Idaho, owned a pick-your-own berry farm. And he did a lot of lawn mowing.
Not long after that visit he and I were engaged to be married.
Deciding to get married was relatively easy. Worlds collide. It’s the most exhilarating time in your life–falling in love, being in love. You get married–and you are still in love. But you’re no longer on separate S Curves, blithely swapping S Curve stories. Now, your S Curves occasionally collide. There are joint decisions to be made with mutual consequences, and often consequences for children, too.
Amid the plethora of daily decisions, there are three major inflection points that successful couples must negotiate. So says Jennifer Petriglieri, our podcast guest this week and author of Couples That Work. The first one appears on the horizon when one partner or the other is offered a great new opportunity that nonetheless upsets the status quo. How to prioritize?
We smacked into this conundrum when our second child was four years old. We had recently moved to Boston where my husband had taken a position as an assistant professor at UMass Medical School. I was still working on Wall Street and commuting back and forth to New York. With two careers and two small children in play, plus a long commute, we were in pain. We wanted that pain to go away. Our bias was toward near-term relief. We had no real process, no framework to think through our shared and separate concerns. We decided my husband would off-ramp for a temporary stint as a stay-at-home parent. Of course, this had unanticipated and unintended consequences, with struggles of a different variety following in the wake.
We survived, though we would have navigated much better with Jennifer’s book as a guide. We’ve written a piece published in Harvard Business Review about some of the lessons we learned. The second major transition that can cause a lot of relationship angst usually crops up in mid-life, when one partner or the other (and maybe ultimately both) feel restless in their career path and want to try something new. My husband and I have encountered that, and more than once. Today we face a different decision, the third major inflection point, and this time we are armed with Jennifer’s book. Our youngest child leaves for college in September. With the child-rearing S curve in the rearview mirror, we are asking, “What is important to us now? What do we want to do; what do we want to create as a couple?
Jennifer suggests a shared passion, beyond your children. For us, this has always been our faith. But I see a new dream emerging. Pick-your-own berries. Not a whole farm but enough that we can make jam—together—and we can share with others.
What’s most important, Jennifer says, is not the exact decision you make. What really matters is that you have a process for making your decisions and you both agree to it.
Maybe you’re in the midst of one of these transitions, or maybe none of them. But with the pandemic, one or both of you may be finding your career path interrupted, with choices to be made that affect you both as individuals and as a couple.
How will you manage this dance of disruption? What will you do to make things work? Please join us for the podcast. Jennifer has lots of tips.
As always, thanks for being here.
P.S. We are giving away three signed copies of Jennifer's book. If you’d like to be eligible, leave a comment in the show notes, and say, “I want us to work.” We’ll choose a winner over the next few days.
P.P.S. Because we announce everything to our newsletter subscribers first, we wanted to let you know on LinkedIn Live this morning, we are going to be announcing a brand new online workshop series called Thriving Through Disruption that launches at the end of May. Registration will begin next week, and we expect the seats to go quickly. If you'd like to be first in line to receive registration info, sign up for the waitlist at whitneyjohnson.com/webinar.