Tom Brady is in the news these days, but not for his football prowess. He’s in the news because his Brazilian supermodel wife, who’s got even more net worth than he does, wants more of him at home and with the family, but Tom has made other choices, including un-retiring, after a retirement that had been planned and agreed to by the couple. It’s all too easy to say who is right and wrong here, especially from the sidelines, but rather than do that we want to take an opportunity to reflect on balancing high-powered careers and serious relationships like marriage and offer some tactics on how to navigate between the two.
When does work end and personal life begin? Especially post-pandemic, with the rise of remote work, these boundaries can get blurry. But being consistent on boundaries isn’t just helpful to your spouse, it’s helpful to you and to your work colleagues. By drawing clear lines on when you are available and when you are on personal time you’re going to give yourself time to recharge and build that personal life. Ideally, if you have a family, that’s what that career is ultimately helping to finance and grow, apart from offering you opportunities to develop personally and professionally.
When a couple doesn’t have children, it may be easier for both spouses to go full throttle on their careers. But even this often has bad consequences as all that time away from each other leads to couples naturally growing apart.
When there are children involved, very often one of the spouses chooses to ramp down a career to spend more time with the kids. But this cannot (and should not) be an indefinite sacrifice. Ideally, there should be timelines set on when the other spouse may also ramp down a career to spend more time with the family.
Offer Unconditional Support
For those in high performance careers, support is often the X factor that helps the best succeed. While the most obvious support may be on the sidelines of an event, the support that really matters is far out of the public eye, in those daily setbacks or challenges. In those moments a spouse can help counter a bad day at the office simply by being a sounding board and a place to dump all the setbacks of the day. Unconditional support is a superpower one spouse can gift another, though it should never be a one-way street.
When you’re single, you don’t really need to reference others for decisions, though the advice of family, friends, and trusted mentors can help you realize your blind spots and prevent you from making decisions that look good almost every other way except one…that you missed.
But when you’re married, particularly with children, your life is no longer solely your own, and decisions have to be shared with your family and especially your spouse. Sometimes your spouse will offer the objection you don’t want to hear, not because they’re wrong, but because it goes against what you really want to to do.
But unless it’s something that goes against your morals, the very heart of marriage and serious relationships is giving up something we want in relation to the greater good of the relationship. It’s that spirit of compromise and flexibility that doesn’t just make for lifelong relationships, but for rewarding careers. That’s the successful dance of joining two (and more) lives.
Marriages come with vows that include “until death do us part.” Careers rarely come with such ceremonies (or vows). Whenever a major conflict comes that threatens to derail one for the other, it’s important to consider what we might think in five or ten or fifteen years: will this be worth it? Will you say to yourself that I wish I had spent more time on my career and less time with my family? Or vice versa?
Only you can answer that.