ERP 064: How To Keep Your Relationship Strong (when she is more successful) – Part II [TRANSCRIPT]

ERP 064: How To Keep Your Relationship Strong (when she is more successful) – Part II

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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.

This podcast is 100% ad-free. To support this show, please subscribe and write a review today. Here is your host.

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Hi, thank you for joining me today as we continue the conversation around how to keep your relationship strong when she is more successful. This is part two, so if you haven’t listened to episode 63 part one, I really encourage you to check that out first, because it’s going to really lay the foundation for today’s conversation, which is the part two. Again, we’re talking about how to make your relationship strong when the wife or the female – this is obviously in heterosexual relationships – partner is more the breadwinner or is more successful, and all of the things, tensions that arise in that dynamic. There’s a lot of research findings that I share for you that lay the foundation for our conversation today.

I had so much fun sharing a couple reviews that I had received on iTunes with you last week, and wanna follow up and read a couple more. Again, these mean the world to me and I appreciate those that have been submitting a review, writing a review, honest reading and review – it means a lot to the show and it means a lot to me personally, so thank you.

This comes from David Cornelson and he writes “Sage advice” with five stars. He says:

“Dr. Jessica Higgins offers wonderful insight around romantic relationships. I especially trust the advice she dispenses and appreciate the cohesive theme presented. The cohesiveness often lacks in other pop cultural resources in regard to relationships. Subscribe, listen, apply to what resonates and I hope that you find your relationship more fulfilling, loving and secure.”

Thank you so much, David, for writing that. It means a lot to me.

This comes from Roy – he’s saying he was the person that submitted the question for episode 55, and he titles this review “Truly cares for her listeners”, five stars.

“As testimony, she had given me the advice I needed to complete my recovery from my breakup, what I could have done right and how to make sure I’m a better man next time around. The confidence she gave me with her advice is priceless, and the fact that she’s willing to go the full distance and turn my question into a podcast was well worth it for me. She truly cares about her listeners.”

Thank you, Roy, I appreciate that. I’m glad you feel that, because I really care, and it’s so funny because I’m sitting in front of the computer with a mic and sharing with you guys, but it’s often hard to get the relational feedback, right? I don’t have you sitting in front of me, so this is really nice.

For those listeners that completed my survey last year, who had really requested having more mini-courses, smaller experiences to engage in this work more deeply without doing a three-month, six-month course – so I’m listening, and I think I told you a couple months ago that I was going to be working on this, and I’m really excited that I’m listening to you guys. I have a course that I am going to be working to create with you for those listeners, for those people that really have struggled or are struggling with criticism and defensive patterns in their relationship, really getting stuck in that critical dynamic, and the defensiveness and all that ensues, and really helping people shift that in a really profound way.

I am putting together a small group, so if you’re interested, contact me. You can find all the ways to reach me on my website – DrJessicaHiggins.com and click on Contact, and you can find the ways to reach me there. Let me know you’re interested in this small group experience.

What I’m doing is really tailoring this to what your burning questions are, what you’re really wanting, and how to really help you transform this dynamic in an incredibly sustainable, powerful, lasting way. That’s my intention and I believe in it, I know it works; just wanting to really customize this. So what I’m going to be doing is taking a small group through this experience together, focused on this topic. I have lots to offer you and really want to customize this. So if you’re on my e-mail list, you’ll get an announcement I believe next week, and I’ll be enrolling people. Again, I’m going to keep this small, into that small mini-course group experience.

I’m going to tailor this to determine how I’m going to deliver this and meet with you guys, depending on what preferences people have. So more to come on that, just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know that I’m listening and really want to provide opportunities that seem really doable and accessible, so that you can start beginning to shift your patterns, improve your relationships, strengthen your relationships and really feel confident about the direction of your relationship and the quality of it. That’s my overall intention, and I continually invest in my learning, in my professional growth, as well as my personal growth. Again, I just want to normalize that I am on this journey as well; I just want to really offer you the opportunity, the guidance and the support.

Okay, for today’s podcast episode – again, this is episode 64 – How To Keep A Relationship Strong When She Is More Successful. Again, if you haven’t listened to episode 63, I encourage you to check that out.

Just to recap, there’s all of these findings and studies about the male and female dynamic when the female is more successful. Men are actually really attracted to female intelligence, and it’s just the instinct that if a female is perhaps outperforming the male, that he interprets that unconsciously as some type of threat, or interprets it as he’s not as successful, or inadequacy [unintelligible 00:07:14.06] I think is just wired neurology around being really primed for achievement and winning and success, so it’s a really natural response.

Again, my whole goal here is to offer you some information so that you can be conscientious of what might be operating if this is something that plays a role in your relationship, and more importantly how to work with it really consciously and intentionally. None of this is at all determining the satisfaction of your relationship just because if you’re the female in the relationship and you’re more successful does not mean your relationship is doomed. I just want to invite you to consider some of these tensions that might be operating.

As I even mentioned myself, I have it operating in me. I’m also very interested and have been committed to some of the things that I’m sharing with your today. Because the negative part of this is if we’re not aware, some of these studies and surveys say that couples in which the wife earns more report less satisfaction in their marriage and higher rates of divorce. There was a study also released last year where men who are a hundred percent economically dependent on their wives are at most risk for cheating. So there are some real things to consider here, and this has to do with “Is this something we chose by choice? Was this by default? Did life circumstances put us in this situation and this isn’t really what we wanted?” We talk a lot more about that in episode 63.

And just to recap here, the first two points of the nine that I have to offer, one is “Know what kind of life you want to create with your significant other.” This is really looking at the division of labor, the gender roles, expectations, the quality of life, your personality and preferences, and I give you some examples for that.

The second point that I offer is considering what it means to you to be a man, or what it means to you to be a woman.

If we think historically, your grandmother, what it meant to be a woman for her might be very different than what it means for you to be a woman. But what it means for you to be a woman might be very different than your best friend. So there’s different nuances to this, and some of us haven’t even really paused to feel into what’s the expression that really feels unique to me in being a man or in being a woman. Again, you can find more on that in episode 63.

Today I’m continuing the conversation, offering your seven additional ways to keep your relationship strong when you are experiencing these tensions perhaps. So in total I’m offering you nine ways to keep your relationship strong when she is more successful.

Number three – know what role money plays in your relationship. So living in United States, I think that money is highly valued, and I can tell you I was brought up in a pretty progressive family that really valued education, and health and wellness, and community; money was not the number one value, yet I grew up in a pretty affluent community and it was around me, and I know that it impacted me. And as much as I personally subscribe to my values of being a family, making a difference, play, I have some top five values that I’m very clear on, and status, and prestige, or being highly wealthy isn’t ranking highest, but I can tell you it plays a role. I can feel it inside myself.

As an example, I’ll have family members that are extremely wealthy, and just what I feel when I’m in relationship with them, and I feel like there’s a part of me that really respects and really honors and really values them. And it’s hard for me to distinguish because I love them, they’re incredible human beings and I know that I would have that same sentiment even if they weren’t as wealthy, but I have to be honest, there’s probably a part of me that gives them some credit for what they’ve been able to accomplish in their life.
So when we take this back into relationship and who’s making more money, it’s easy to kind of fall into cultural norms, cultural values. So if one person is making more money it can feel really easy to think that that person is more important, or that person is more valuable, or they should have more power or status or clout, their vote counts for more. So I just want to invite you to consider the role that money plays in your relationship, and I think this is largely connected to your values.

One exercise that I got from a book called “Smart Couples Finish Rich” by David Bach

and it was written several years ago, but there’s a chapter too in there that I love and that I’ve recommended to many people, and it’s an exercise. Why I like it so much is because he’s talking about money, but he’s really not talking about money. He’s talking about what means the most to you. He’s asking you basically to take pause, gain some perspective and really look at your life big picture. Essentially he’s asking you what means the most to you. He’s got different ways of asking that really get at the heart of this, and I think it’s a great exercise.

I’ll put the link to this book on my show notes, and I think you could probably get it at the library, or you might get it for a couple bucks at a used bookstore, Amazon; I think it’s a great exercise.

At the end of this experience or this exercise you’re going to essentially have five of your top values, and these can be used to orient some of your decisions. So if we’re going to take this back to the relationship, if you’re going to be really conscious of what means the most to you, what’s most important in your relationship, then you’re going to be able to target some of your decision-making, maybe even orient some of your thoughts or even some of your feelings about your partner – who they are, who you are and what your relationship is about, and the role that money plays.

Number four – know what you can provide. So I was listening to a talk, this was a while ago, it’s The Art Of Love series, and I think Arielle Ford puts this on and she gets lots of experts and people in the field of relationship and love and dating, and she does a summit, so to speak. This was 2004, and it was called Bucking Traditional Rules In The Name of Love: How To Navigate Tensions When A Woman Is The Breadwinner, so exactly the same topic we’re talking about here.

In this session Alison Armstrong was on the panel – I think there were like four people – and she something that I thought was so great. She was talking about a man wants to provide, right? We all know that, we know that there’s cultural pressure for the man to be the breadwinner, to be the provider, and that could even be really instinctual, too. – it’s not even cultural, it’s biological. Well, Alison really pointed out that while our culture is valuing money and financial contribution, Alison was saying that a man ultimately wants to provide what matters most. So this relates to point three – if one of your highest values is play and adventure, and if the man can really provide the opportunity and the experience of that, that might be way more meaningful than him being the financial breadwinner.

Being able to have this conversation with your partner would require just some gaining clarity around what matters most to you, maybe your top five values, and the consideration of what you really want to provide, so what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, the things that you are drawn towards. Those are going to be your strengths, your gifts, your inclination.

So with my husband, he tends to be a little more detail-oriented than I am, so in my younger years I  – this was actually at the time… So I actually didn’t go to college right after high-school, I took a year off and I worked full-time for a bank called First Interstate which is now Wells Fargo bank; at the time, the banking industry was really different. It was all full-time employees, and I was like the first young… All the other tellers – mostly women – were kind of in their mid-forties and this was their career. Just to even give you an example, I did three weeks of training before I even went into the bank; I don’t think they even come close to that now, I think there’s one or two days.

I was actually a really good teller, and I could have pursued a career in banking. I was pretty good at math growing up, and accounting, balancing my [unintelligible 00:17:35.24] and all of that. I say this because I’m actually fairly good with numbers, yet I’m not super detail-oriented in the way of accounting and all of those things, it’s just not something that I tend to want to do. When I’m into it and I’m doing it I don’t mind it, but it’s not something that I love and it’s not something that left to my own devices I’m going to choose to do; I usually push that towards the last. My husband actually enjoys keeping tabs on things and being a little more detail-oriented around numbers and budgeting and finances. He largely keeps track of all our itemized receipts, and our accounting, our accounts, and he does a great job at that, and I love that. Where there might be other things that I really have strong interest in or energy around.

So if we’re wanting to purchase something or get something, I tend to be the researcher. I like to look at what’s out there, compare, and my husband tends to get overwhelmed with all that and he doesn’t even really enjoy the process, where for me it’s kind of a little bit of an intellectual challenge – what’s available, what do we want, trying to find the right match, and I basically do all my due diligence to whatever level I can, and then I bring to my husband my top three, given what we’ve already talked about. Let’s say we want to take a trip together somewhere we’ve never been, and there’s a lot of logistics to consider. So we’ll start by having a conversation around what we would really want, what we’re envisioning and all the different aspects of that, then I will go out and try to meet those needs based on what we both talked about; then I present to him, “Here’s what I think will be a good fit”, and we ultimately choose usually from that, or sometimes I’ll go back to see if I can find something if those options aren’t the best fit. But most of the time that really works well.

So you can see these are just two small examples where we can find a way to provide and contribute to our relationship in a meaningful way.

Number five is holding value for your partner and for your relationship. In number three I talked about the role money plays, but I also mentioned what are your higher values in your life, what creates a meaningful life to you, so this is going to help you look at your top values. For a lot of people family or relationship rank in the higher top values, so if you can consider the value your partner offers, what they provide, appreciating them, what they provide, and ultimately starting to shift to thing about your relationship as a whole, right? So if you listened to my podcast where I interviewed Leisa Peterson, she was really identifying this really explicitly, that we can often be in the self-concerned mindset, which is just an individualistic kind of place of thinking, or we can get into the ‘we’ mindset. So this is really viewing your relationship as a whole, that it’s its own entity almost, it’s like a team. You hear people talk about “We work really well as a team”, like there’s a partnership here that we’re describing.

In sports there is the common saying, “There’s no I in team”, so it’s the value for the team as a whole. So this is placing in your relationship… The relationship is really important, it ranks very high, so the quality of the relationship is more important than who’s making what, perhaps. This might take a moment or two to really integrate into your system, your nervous system, your experience, your knowing.

Clients that have come from a single parent family, or have been a family of divorce, or just didn’t really feel that they were a model at this level of partnership could really be a not individual, self-concerned mindset. Now, I’m not saying there’s not a place for that, but if that’s the only mindset we can be neglecting to really consider or really value our partner, or it becomes a kind of tit for tat – you did this, I did this, it checks and balances. But we’re still not kind of individual space, so we want to look at the health and the nurturing of the relationship, and the real value for what you’re both providing.

So in this talk, The Art of Love series that I keep mentioning, with Ellen Armstrong and another person on the panel was Dr. Sheri Meyers, she has a quote here:

“We both have a place on the team, and we both feel important and we both feel valued, and we both honor each other’s contribution to the relationship.” Again, that’s kind of what I’m saying here.

Here’s also a quote by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott:

“In marriage, when we honor and celebrate each other, we’re freed up to be the best we can be.”

Again, in the podcast episode where Leisa and I are discussing this ‘we’ quality and what can get created out of that is phenomenal; it’s more than we could even ever anticipate or expect. It’s almost like you have to move into that place of being to see the opportunities open up, and that we can be stronger together.

Number six – know how you impact your partner. So when we’re talking about these tensions that might exist if the female is the breadwinner or more successful, and we’re talking about the man feeling empowered or feeling really valued, that we’re talking about the importance of the connection in the relationship, the bond – that’s something I mentioned last week, and I’ve given you some points already around how a man can really feel that his contribution and what he’s providing is meaningful and significant, that that’s going to really matter around the quality of feeling in the relationship. Or, the other thing that I mentioned that happens is really stereotypically women will feel guilty, or feel afraid of emasculating the man. They might tiptoe around their success or hide their success, and the energy of this is that he can’t really handle it, right? There’s a sense of babying him, which in its essence is basically feeding into that same tension around ‘he’s inadequate, he’s not capable’ and you’re contributing to that energy. Because how does he really feel that he’s able to make a difference in your life if you can’t fully trust him, right? So he can’t feel the benefit of making a difference, where he ‘did good’, so to speak.

So stereotypically men want to feel that what they have to offer is helpful, is valuable, that they made a difference, that it was a good thing, and it was a win, right? There’s all this neurochemical response that a man gets from being able to provide that. So if we’re kind of hijacking that, truncating it, so to speak, then we’re playing into this real kind of yucky dynamic. And plus, women want usually to feel the men’s strength, so if we’re going to be playing into the role of him being emasculated and babying his ego, then we’re not going to have the experience of really feeling him step up in a really powerful way.

So the quote Dr. Sheri Meyers here, that was on that panel in that session of that Art of Love series, she says:

“More I trust him, then the more I rely on him, and the more I appreciate him. I am grateful for everything that he does contribute, the more manly he feels.”

Precisely. This is essentially setting up the dynamic for success, regardless of who’s the breadwinner. So you want to ask questions around “How do I feel loved? What do I need to be loved? What’s important for me to feel cared for, nurtured, loved, supported?” These things are going to help you know how your partner can really show up for you.

One of the things that I know that my husband really loves – he doesn’t always say it explicitly, but knowing him as long as I have, I know that when I deeply listen to him, when I stay really curious and interested and just allow him to deepen in whatever he’s talking about that means something to him, it’s incredibly powerful for him. It’s one of the ways that I can really show up for him and really love him.

So for this number six point, I want to encourage you to not only look at how you treat your partner, the impact you have on them and what you’re expecting them to be capable of, how you’re treating them, but also to know for yourself what helps you feel loved and supported, because that way you can advocate for it in your relationship and your partner can show up for you, as well as knowing what is meaningful and important to your partner so you can show up for them.

Number seven – allow space for the masculine and the feminine. So even in the event where the woman is the breadwinner, that does not mean that she has to be the masculine in the relationship, run more of that energy. Again, I believe both men and women have both masculine and feminine, and the dance in relationship between the masculine and the feminine is really beautiful. One of the ways that we see that most is in the bedroom, where the dynamic of the man taking the lead… And I think women can hold the masculine as well, it’s just as sexy sometimes, where the woman is initiating, she’s leading, she’s allowing her creativity to really lead the play, if you will, but that there’s a clear understanding of who’s in what energy, and you can play with that. There’s this quote from an article that I mentioned in last week’s part one episode, and this is an article by Sandra Spielberg – she’s talking about women breadwinners less satisfied in marriage – she writes:

“Although the Breadwinning Woman may appear to be this super independent, made-of-iron, can-take-on-anything woman worthy of a cape, many of us can’t wait to take off the iron costume we wear all day long and have someone care for us emotionally, physically, and sexually. Come close and I will tell you a little secret… shhh: We actually just want to be taken care of, we want to surrender, we want someone else to plan, decide, execute and control… at least some of the time. If you are a breadwinning woman, your husband better offer more than healthy competition for external accomplishments; he better offer some heart, some soul, and some you know what.” [laughs]

So Sandra Spielberg is writing this, but it’s in the context of this article, and I do think it’s a good description of how women often feel like they’re carrying so much, and running kind of this masculine in their head and don’t always tap into their feminine energy, their feminine expression, allowing flow and being in this more fluid state and the creativity, and all of the things that encompass it. I guess this is just a point to remind you to be considerate of this play, this dance where both you and your husband – or if I’m talking to you as the husband, both you and your wife – can both be in the masculine and the feminine, but just to be clear that there’s space where at least for the woman, if this is something that she wants to be in more, connect with more, how to hold space, how to allow for space in the relationship where she can be in her feminine.

Number eight – nurture the connection. So I mentioned a little bit about this last week, but really the importance and the significance of the security and the emotional bond with you and your partner, right? So if there’s that sense of warmth, that sense of security, that sense of connection, feeling safe together, and I mean not safe just physically, but I mean emotionally; feeling like you can turn to one another, you have each other’s back, you’re there for each other… There is a sense of togetherness and engagement. This does require some level of being really vulnerable, allowing yourself to be really known, and sometimes this is tricky to negotiate. And I want to emphasize how critical it is, it’s extremely important. Because in today’s day and age, we by and large do not need each other financially, right? We can pretty much survive independently, where in past eras that was not the case. So we primarily partner in marriage and in love for this sense of emotional connectedness, and there’s a lot of research that talks about the attachment style and bonds – I’ll put some links on my show notes for a previous episode – but this is critical: knowing that we’re safely, securely bonded in a way that’s really meaningful, and how to nurture that.

So how does this relate to the tensions that exist when the females is the breadwinner? Well, as I mentioned in last week’s podcast episode, that the research indicates that particularly for men, if they feel that their emotional connection is strong, then their ego remains intact when the woman perhaps might be outperforming him, or might be more successful; that the bond is secure, that he kind of sees this sense of ‘we’, right? There’s this team kind of mindset, that there’s the relationship as a whole, that he’s better off with her. Again, just having these moments in your relationship where you trust and know that your partner is there for each other, that you can really be available, show up for each other when it matters most.

Number nine – focus on partnership. Now, I believe that I’ve been mentioning this throughout my previous points, but I do think it’s worth really creating its own point, because it’s so important. So this is really how you work together. This is again that concept of working together in partnership, or that sense of ‘we’, and working together in that team mindset where you’re really helping each other, but it’s a common goal.

If you’re on a sports team, usually you have strategies and ways that you play to win, right? The game is usually to win, that’s the goal. In relationship, when we’re looking at how we’re negotiating so many different aspects, from chores, to childcare, to money, and negotiating free time, work/life balance – you name it, there are so many things to consider, and what you each bring to the relationship, what you contribute and what you provide. And every person is different – the personality, the strengths, all of these things can really complement each other, and together as a team, like I mentioned, can be stronger. But essentially, if all of these other points are existent, then I think you can really get into a nice, beautiful conversation of kind of negotiating. And this isn’t necessarily like a cold business deal, it’s just more of like “I just want to make this worthwhile for you. I want this to be relevant to you or meaningful to you.”

If one person let’s say wants to move to another state and it’s really advantageous for that partner, but the other one isn’t interested, if we’re going to really pursue that conversation, you want it to be able to work for both people, right? So is there a timeframe on that move, what is the end goal, how does that meet really what your relationship goals are, right? So you want to have a vision for your relationship ultimately, but there’s a lot of smaller ways of trading, right? Time, money, how you’re setting it up, and even being really explicit about it. Who’s going to take the lead, right? Sometimes my husband and I, we both feel capable taking the lead, and sometimes… Let’s say I’ve been cooking a lot and he wanted to invite – this actually happened a few weeks ago – some of our friends over, and he said “Let me take care of everything. I’ll shop, I’ll cook, I’ll clean…”, he wanted to do everything. So he really took the lead on that, and it was nice to just show up – I did help him, but he was the one driving that, so it was nice to really be clear that he was heading that up, so to speak.

So knowing each other’s strengths – this goes into that partnership thing that we’re talking about here – but also being clear and explicit perhaps in negotiating deals that will work. I know it sounds so business-like, but I think it can be nice to be explicit, so we can advocate for what we’re wanting. And there’s real consideration for both people, because sometimes if you’re a little more passive, you’re maybe not going to be as assertive around what you’re wanting, and it’s easy to kind of get overlook if you’re not vocalizing that. So if there’s a real intention that you’re in it together and there’s a partnership, you want it to be working for both people. Essentially, you want it to be a win/win.

I do believe this is an ever-evolving process. We’re not always the same person, our partner is not always the same person, depending on the phase of our relationship, our relationship’s changing, so this is not always going to be a stagnant thing. I’m a super big fan of debriefing, like “How did that work?”; and again, not in a business sense, but just a real relational conversation, essentially debriefing. How did that work, what worked well, what didn’t work well, and reevaluate and fine-tune it, and do better next time.

So there’s some growth process in how you’re working together as a team. If we look at sports, the same thing happens. You have a coach that’s supporting the team to improve, but the coach or even really great players will look at the tape – if it was recorded – of their game, and looked at “What were some of our weaknesses, what were some of our strengths? How do we improve?” and it’s looked at as an individual, but also as a team. That’s to uplevel the way the team is working together, and I think you can do that in a relationship.

So as I’m mentioning coach, that’s part of what I’m doing – helping lead, support people in improving and strengthening their relationship. I’ve had people reach out to me, and again, the ways that you can connect with me are:

– you can submit a question that I will create a podcast episode on

– you can reach out to me for coaching, and we can see if we’re a good fit and if I can be of support

– I also have programs to offer you.

If you’re interested in this, or if you’re interested in engaging in the criticism mini-course, please reach out to me. You can find all the ways to reach me on my website. Again, that’s DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Contact and find the ways to reach me there.

I look forward to hearing from you, and I just so appreciate your interest in this topic to begin with in whatever ways you’re implementing this. So in that review that I read in the beginning, just taking what resonates. There’s a lot here that I’ve offered; each one can be its whole full episode, honestly. I could probably talk for quite a while on each one of these points, so if you’re recognizing one of these really landing with you, I encourage you to work with it a little bit, and if you’re wanting support, reach out to me, start practicing this more deeply.

As always, it’s such a pleasure to spend this time with you. Thank you for tuning in, thank you for your listenership. Until next time, I hope you take wonderful, wonderful care.

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