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Friday, December 12, 2014

How far is marriage important in your career?

Very recently, i have been helping some graduate students ( with 3-5 years after their graduation) to answer this question. Some students feel that marriage is the last priority for them and completely avoid taking any decision. Some embrace it because their friends went through a marriage. And some adopt it because it is risky to repent later.

But the real question that they should ask is ' How is marriage important for helping or hindering career". And here career does not mean just work-life alone. We, human beings, consider our career successful only when we can ride both horses: Work and relationship. So how does marriage help us in achieving our career objective?

Four big reasons to marry

1. Avoid the big error of fundamental attribution ( Helps increase self awareness which is a common horse of work life and people-life)

"When we make a mistake, we feel that it happens because of the situation we were in. When others make a mistake, it happens because others are 'foolish, useless or villainous'." It is very easy to fall in this trap and assume that others make a mistake because they have a flaw in their character. Psychologist call this the trap of 'fundamental attribution error'. 

It takes a very dense relationship, like marriage, to understand and avoid this trap. Only in marriage, where we stay together and see the other person in different situations for long time, we understand how 'small situations' blow out of proportion, how a minor event of past affect the 'view' of today, and how a minor change in 'belief' can repair or damage a situation. 

2. Understand one's own left and right hand gap (Helps increase self awareness) 

We all of us have big gap between 'what we believe and what we do'. This discrepancy between our values and actions is common in all of us. Psychologists call it a left hand-right hand difference. Without a 'window' of a dense relationship like marriage, we are not even never aware that our actions are contradicting our intentions and beliefs. And because we are not even aware, we cannot even 'correct' it.

In a marriage relationship, this difference between left and right hand is exposed quickly. In the early days of marriage, this gap is a common reason of conflicts and fights. But very soon, most of the couples sense that both are avoiding to face their 'real selfs'. Some of the couples cross this hurdle and manage to see their 'self' which is hidden behind the 'facade'. This process of reconciling left hand with right hand is triggered and helped immensely by this relationship with spouse, even if it is irksome and frustrating most of the times.

3. Develop the skill to collaborate ( Directly impacts work output)

Collaboration requires one to share and expose oneself to others. One has to be prepared to show one's vulnerability. And one has to 'listen' to others ideas and beliefs even though they may seem 'silly and bookish'. One of the biggest bottlenecks of entrepreneurs in their growth, i have seen, is their inability to create a team who can move 'together' with them. The same is true with corporate professionals, who manage to develop such a deep distrust of others that they rarely collaborate with each other.

Marriage-relationship is a practice ground for getting ready for the final play of collaboration with strangers. In marriage, one gets a practice ground to share one's deep values ( and visions), disarm oneself and face the consequences, and develop the practice of trusting people in steps. Entrepreneurs and corporate professionals can grow faster and higher if they can utilise the dense relationship of marriage to learn the basic skills of collaboration. 

4.. Develop the skill to find happiness in relationships ( Helps ride the chariot of people life)

If you have read this, we all believe that career success depends on 'happiness in relationship'. Although, many individuals know this, they ask a very interesting question " Is there any guarantee that marriage will always produce happiness"? One liner answer to this question is " No and Yes". 

If you keep on searching for the right person to marry, then the answer is No. If you however get equipped for a marriage relationship with the right expectation, then irrespective of the kind of partner, you will find happiness in a relationship. Why? 

In a relationship, other person does not determine the 'happiness index'. Happiness index is determined by the 'dynamics' of you and the other person. And this dynamics changes all the time. That is why, even if you are in love with your partner today, there is no guarantee that the dynamics will not change in the future. For instance, if you grow faster than your partner in the future ( this happens most in India where women sacrifice their work-lives), happiness index nosedives even when you have done nothing wrong. But if you understand the 'dynamics' of relationship, you will not make the mistake of setting wrong expectation, or making wrong conclusions.You will still find 'happiness' in relationship. 


Without understanding 'why' of marriage, many individuals ask a substitute question "Whom to marry". If you want to grow in your life, not just work-life, it is better to exploit the 'four big benefits' of being in marriage. Marriage relationship comes with a package of 'white and black'. And benefits outweigh the costs by a huge mile. Morever, as human beings, we do not have any other option that offers us these 4 big benefits. Other options - like going to Himalayas or joining a non-religious group which are now observed in plenty - do not even come any close in helping us. It is true that marriage relationship does not come with any 'warranty period' or guaranteed benefits. But, it is upto us to utilise the relationship profitably if we want to succeed in career.

We do not get the most from our marriage relationship because we deal with 'marriage' only when it is too late. Late in life, we can only do 'damage-control'. Instead, if we see our careers from different angles ( not just work-life alone), we can have a chance to find 'happiness' in a marriage relationship. Due to new practice of live-in relationship, everyone thinks that marriage institution is dying. On the other hand, because uncertainty is increasing all the time, importance of marriage-relationship has increased, not decreased.