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Compatible careers

Are you and your sweetie at odds over your life at the office? Take some advice from these happy couples and marriage counselors to make sure your work lives are in harmony.

Pam Lontos and Rick Dudnick, of Orlando, Fla., have been married for 13 years. Together they run Lontos Sales and Motivation, where Pam is a motivational speaker and sales trainer, and Rick handles all of the "behind-the-scenes work," such as maintaining the books, paying the bills and booking the speaking engagements. They get to spend all of their time together and "travel to great places where we would never get to go if we didn't work together," says Lontos.

Life for this happy couple wasn't always in such accord. Dudnick was working as a geophysicist and Lontos was busy with her successful company. Because of speaking engagements, Lontos was traveling constantly, only to get home in time for Dudnick to head back to work. However, things changed when Dudnick was laid off and Lontos offered her husband a job. His response was: "I don't want to work for my wife." But after seven months without a job offer, Dudnick gave in and the couple started to work together.

"It took some time getting used to working with each other, but now I couldn't run the company without him," Lontos says. She attributes the success of the relationship and the success of their partnership to compromise, love, passion and that her husband has a vested interest in the success of the company. She also says that because their personality styles mesh well, they make great business partners. "He is analytical which makes him great at the books and I am more creative and outspoken," she says. That surely helps her career as a motivational speaker.

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Two ships passing in the night
One of the big problems that couples face with work is their conflicting schedules. "You can't have a good relationship if you can't hang out," says Pat Hudson, a marriage counselor in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area, and author of "Stop Blaming, Start Loving." She suggests that couples who are in similar fields have a better appreciation of the hours. For example, she says that a doctor and a nurse would make a good couple because they can appreciate the demands in the medical field, like spending your nights and weekends on call and answering to the needs of the patients. Well, there go my plans for marrying a doctor!

Hudson attributes a lot of career-relationship troubles to the increase in women entering the workplace. She says that in a marriage, women are often expected to give up their careers to raise the children and the man is expected to be the provider. She says that often, two to three years after the baby is born, she sees couples come to her with incompatibility issues. "The baby isn't as interesting and as time-consuming as it used to be," says Hudson. And the work the mother is doing in the home doesn't seem as valuable as it once was -- even though we all know it is still work.

On the subject of working at home, couples can face problems when one partner is working out of the home, whether one is writing a book or working as a freelancer. The other person may not understand that even though his or her partner is working at home, it's still work. Hudson offers an example of freelancers being expected to let the cable guy in even though they are working on deadline.

A lot of these problems come from more than just career incompatibility. Jeff Forsythe, a marriage counselor in Brooklyn, N.Y., says that when you get into a relationship you have to make sure that it is about love and not simple infatuation.

All you need is love. ... and respect, and trust, and ...
Love, he says, means that you are willing to give and take within the relationship for the other's benefit. If your relationship has a fundamental level of trust, rapport, respect, and shared ideology and value systems, it will help when problems with work arise.

Shared values help Jason and Stacie Morris of Lowell, Mass., with the course their marriage takes. Both of them knew that having children was the most important goal in their relationship. So, at 23, Jason is willing to work extra hard as the assistant account executive for Schwartz Communications Inc., while Stacie, at 22, is following a career in child care.

"We knew we would have to make sacrifices. I had to find a stable career and work really hard so that I can earn enough so we can be a one-income family," Jason says. They will able to test their family values soon enough; the couple is expecting their first child in September.

Most importantly, this couple respects each other's contribution to their family. And as Forsythe said, respect is the key. Michael Broder, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia says, "Lack of respect is the kiss of death. It's just a matter of time before the relationship dies." That means respecting not only your partner's career, but also the time you spend together.

He says that in every relationship, "Problems are going to come up. But if you can't get past them, that is when you have trouble. There is not a 56 percent divorce rate for nothing."

Before you file the papers and chose your job over your partner, try to build back that rapport with your honey. Talk about your work conflicts and attempt to find a compromise. "If you can work it out, you are home," Broder commends. But, he warns that while quitting that job may make things happy right now, there could be a lot of resentment in the long run. "There is no reward for 'martyrism'," he says.

So, expect some career-related glitches along the road to relationship bliss. If you and your partner remember the fundamentals of your relationship, then the career troubles can be worked out. If not, Pat Hudson offers this advice: "Life is one thing after another. But, if it starts to be the same thing over and over -- see a therapist."

-- Posted: March 18, 1999

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See Also
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