W hen I first entered corporate America, I was so excited.
Not only did my paycheck go way up, but I got to wear a suit and tie, go to meetings, drink coffee, and just be so responsible. Being a professional, burning the midnight oil, and contributing to the bottom line felt so good—like I was part of something big.
Like most of us, I didn’t just fall into my first corporate job. I went to school, prepared my resume, and shopped around for the right opportunity. I interviewed and took the time to make sure it was a right fit. I had a vision of what I wanted and worked towards getting it. And I did—it was a fantastic first job, and set me on a path for further success.
One thing I couldn’t understand at the time was that as I was starting, other people were leaving. Meaning, just when I was getting my foot in the door at this great position, this great opportunity, others who had been there for a while were calling it quits. Why would they do that? Is there something wrong with this place? Did I not do enough research? Did I miss something important about this company that makes it undesirable?
I was too young and naive to understand that like anything else in life, nothing stands still. You are either going forward or backward, up or down—there is no middle ground. As enthusiastic as I was about my new job, like those who were leaving, it wouldn’t last unless I chose to move my career, my life, forward. I crossed the threshold into corporate America, but now that I’m here, it will only become what I make of it. If I don’t put energy, creativity, and hard work into my position, it will become a dead-end job. I will become just another of the employees I witnessed leaving, their cardboard boxes full of the few personal belongings they needed to take back home.
As a marriage therapist, I’m often contacted right before the cardboard boxes are being packed. Right before the resignation letter is submitted, or in some cases right after the dreaded pink slip has been delivered.
And each situation is different. As Tolstoy perfectly put it, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Anna Karenina) But something they all share in common is that working on their marriage, together, took a back seat to living life. Date nights were skipped, communication broke down, bids for intimacy were rejected, and connection severed. Eventually, the person you shared a home with felt like a stranger, and in spite of being right there physically, was unreachable emotionally. The marriage became a dead-end job, and her heart closed to you and vice-versa.
This is not to deny that real problems always exist between two strangers trying to become one. But consider for a moment that many of us, myself included, spend hours, days, weeks, months and years strategizing our jobs, our careers, and our kids, but may spend almost no effort at all in creating a solid marriage. Instead, we cross the marriage threshold and say “We’ve arrived. On to the next thing.”
In reality, our hearts and minds must save some space, daily, to make our marriage unique, exciting, and fresh. We need to become good at marriage—experts actually. You never “make it” in marriage as it takes effort and work as long as you want to live happily together. The good news is that showing affection and treating your spouse respectfully, with patience and gratitude is a labor of love. And, a great investment with terrific benefits and perks.
If, eventually, you wind up with a dead-end job, it’s not the worst fate. Just make sure that it only happens in the corporate world, and not within the four corners of your loving home.