I can’t begin to tell you how often I see extremely high-functioning women in the workplace under-function at marriage (or other romantic relationships). These women can run companies, create companies, manage dozens of employees and handle multi-million dollar contracts with an ease and confidence that is inspiring. However, when many of them get home, they begin to question their home-related decisions, silence their voices and do whatever they can to please, placate or duck from their partners.
What is going on? How does a highly competent, confident leader become so ineffective at home? Where do all their skills go and what takes their place?
For starters, personal relationships are often more of a hotbed for people. We tend to have more to lose at home than we do at work—interpersonally and spiritually. Work is largely about knowledge, skills and expertise. Relationships on the other hand are about emotional risk, vulnerability and a need for love and belonging. All of these needs leave us all more vulnerable in our personal relationships. Romantic relationships, in particular, go to the core of a person and can leave them wondering if they’re lovable or not. Women can get stuck in wanting so badly to have their relationship work that they lose themselves in the process—even highly, competent, very successful ones. In fact, the more successful women are out in the world, the more pressure they can put on themselves to be successful (or at least look successful) at home. This pressure can lead to doing whatever they can to keep their partner happy, calm and not upset.
Trying to keep your partner happy is, almost without fail, a recipe for trouble. Keeping conflict low and your partner’s happiness high, is a prescription for resentment, poor treatment and loss of self. Fostering and maintaining a mutually respectful, connected relationship is great. Keeping your partner happy—is not so great. Great female leaders in the workplace may try to not be the boss at home (a wise decision), however how they try is often by going to the opposite place. Female leaders, in an effort to not “be the boss” at home, often put themselves in a subservient position rather than stepping into their relationship as an equal. They try not to make waves, can fail to set limits, don’t ask for what they want and are often afraid to take the bold steps necessary to have a healthy relationship.
If you find yourself in the position of being highly effective at work, yet ineffective and shrinking at home, take a step back and implement the following:
1. Own your worth, don’t try to prove your worth. You have to see yourself as an equal and step into the relationship as such—not less than or better than—simply equal.
2. Be honest and forthright. Speak your truth in the moment “cleanly” and confidently. Lying to avoid upset will create more upset in the long run.
3. Get grounded. Avoid the extremes in your behaviors and reactions. Don’t shut down and silence or blow up and yell. Find the middle and land there.
4. Don’t allow fear to determine your actions. Choose your actions based on the healthiest move, not based on how you think the other person will respond or not respond.
Regarding relationships, you teach people how to treat you. Be sure that what you’re teaching others are lessons you want them learning. Don’t leave your most confident self in the boardroom or at the office. Stand up, have your back and make relationally healthy choices, not fear-based ones.
Challenge: Don’t allow yourself to be lost in any relationship. Own your worth, find your voice and step in as the equal you are—both at home AND at work.