As you sink deep into your stuffed couch or loveseat, after packing lunches and flipping through your email during a mid-evening check of your smart phone, you flip on the DVR to watch the latest installment of the Real Housewives or reruns of SVU. In that moment, where that very last bit of energy you have transfers from yourself to that couch… you wonder how you're going to get up and get to bed-- for real. And maybe you nod off only to wake up a couple hours later to the dog whimpering to be let out the door or the baby monitor crackling into the late night. Silent, no children crying. For now.
But where did your spouse go? You know the guy or gal that plays the real housewife or husband in your life AND works 10 hours a day at a demanding job, only to come home and shovel some food in their mouth and walk the dogs or make sure the kids get spic-and-span clean in the bath. That one. Do you even remember where he or she was when you fell into that worn spot on your sofa?
All families are busy. And all marriages and jobs are demanding in some way, shape, or form. The dual-income family is a tricky scenario where communication has to be sharp, or else the relationship and quality of life can wither away over time according to local psychologist Doctor David Lowenstein.
I sat down to talk with Lowenstein the other day, as we are ending the month of February, the month known for love (thank you ever loved and also ever despised Valentine's Day.) We spend so much time this month ordering the perfectly blooming and manicured flowers, the decadent chocolates, and making reservations for the right restaurants. We reserve overly grandiose verbiage and communication for those $8 cards we buy for the holiday. But we should be having a more detailed conversation about our lives with that significant other. In the world of the dual-income family, it's incredibly important.
Dr. Lowenstein shared some of his advice on what conversations you need to have and how you need to have them in the video above and you may have heard some of his tips Thursday morning on NBC4 Today.
It's very difficult to be the CEO at work and the CEO at home, nearly impossible according to Dr. Lowenstein.
"It's not the 40 hour a week 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., come home, and nothing happens until you show back up at work the next day."
Lowenstein shared that many times he sees one half of a couple is advancing in their work, maybe because of the quantity of work they can contribute to their job. The other might be working in a role that's unchanging and might not have a lot of growth potential. He says this is the time to have one important couple chat.
#1: Who is the primary breadwinner?
#2: Who is the primary parent? (Or who is primarily responsible for home life?)
Sometimes it's hard for a career-minded person to change their focus, according to Dr. Lowenstein, so these conversations are especially important considering they could struggle. It's not that they won't be working; it's just that in the grand scheme of things they understand the role of their job in the family's everyday life.
Once you have that conversation, and he says it's one ideally had before a couple decides to have kids or not, there is another key discussion you must have between each other.
#1: What do you need right now?
#2: What is important to you?
Ask each other these questions, really think about your loved one's answers, and try not to do it while you're sunk into that sofa and releasing that last bit of the day's energy. You know how conversations that you have there can tend to go. Lost somewhere in that dreamlike state you'll be in on that same sofa in the next half hour.
Dr. Lowenstein talks about the family dynamic all the time at his office in German Village or online in a monthly newsletter. You can read more on his perspective and his advice by visiting his blog: http://www.drlowenstein.com/blog/