We read Couples That Work: How Dual Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work by Jennifer Petriglieri.

The book is an informational guide for dual-career couples to balance career and love. The book defines dual-career couples as those who are passionate about continuous growth in their career, those who see their job as an important and integral part of their identity. It does not only refer to dual-income. The book provides a long-term perspective and aims to help identify and manage relationship challenges that come with the evolving career and work challenges in different stages of life.

Why we chose it

Working and building a career are something that we both are passionate about. We recognize and often discuss how spending those 8-10 hours a day on work affects people greatly and how common it is for couples to grow apart in-the long term. This book seems relevant to us. We are interested in understanding how we can grow together as a couple over the long-term while thriving individually in our careers.

Additionally this is a nice continuation from the Eight Dates. While The Eight Dates covers all important areas of the relationship on a high level, Couples That Work digs deep into long-term professional development and its impact to relationships.

Key takeaways

Over a lifetime, couples are likely to navigate through 3 transitions, each with unique challenges.

The first transition happens often in the early 30s and is triggered by major life events like having a new-born baby, a big promotion, relocation, or dealing with serious illness. The main question to answer is: How can we make this work?

The second transition arrives in the middle years, when one or both partners start to face existential questions about their life and the sense of purpose and fulfillment their career can or cannot provide. This may lead to exploration of a new career path. The big question to answer is: What do we really want?

The third transitions come as kids leave home, careers plateau and couples are aging. The question to answer is: Who are we now? In this final stage, couples reinvent themselves in a way that is grounded in their past accomplishments, while opening possibilities for the future.

True life partners are not independent, but rather interdependent. This mutual dependence requires couples to collaborate rather than barter. Although the transition is a personal process which likely will happen to each individual, it is key to communicate openly and to actively involve the other partner in the decisions around these three transitions.

Actionable advice

1. Couple contracting: discuss and decide together on your career prioritization method and parenting/family prioritization. The discussion is built based on three pillars: our values, boundaries, and fears. This is something that needs to be revisited and re-discussed over time.

2. In making decisions, don’t get trapped by solely economical evaluation and practical logistics. Over the long-term, a sense of purpose and fulfillment will become more impactful. Do not overlook the long-term impact.

3. Involve your partner in all the thoughts and struggles you have in each of your transitions. Be open and be kind in communicating. When one partner is experiencing the challenging transition, it is important for the other partner to provide a sense of security and assurance. The relationship dynamics where both partners can take turns in being a secure-base is critical for the relationship’s resilience.

How we liked it

Fun: 8/10 | Thought-provoking: 9/10 | Actionable: 7.5/10

The book is an informative book and is a must-read for career-driven couples. However, it is more of an informational introduction of the concept rather than a concrete solution-focus book. Readers will need to digest the information provided by the book and then develop their own exercise and discussions with their partners.