Support in marriage = success in business

Haven’t we guessed it. A woman’s courage and success in business likely depend on the supportiveness of her husband. A husband that respects a woman’s personal ownership of things, and income, and decisions…. and that cooperatively supports her efforts, likely has a wife that invests (herself) more, takes more risks and is ultimately more successful.

In the same context, and provided with the same opportunities, women with and without supportive husbands can perform strikingly differently. This smart paper shows some preliminary evidence in that direction.

Inspired by these findings, dear lady daters, add to your list of criteria: he has to respect your decisions (and time, and property..), bargain fairly and help with your career goals.

Can you have a career and a happy family?

Today, dear readers, you get a reflective one. Not much evidence except anecdotal, but lots of reflection to make up for it.

Honest, do you know a hugely successful person that also has a home life you would want to emulate?

I used to have such role models in the past (e.g. an MD with four kids), but as I move up the ranks myself, MDs become less of a role model, and CEOs more so. Also, upon closer inspection, those four kids were not all as well adjusted as their mum. And as far as managers go…I seem to be seeing more childless, single and divorced people than at other hierarchy levels. Or people with a lifelong distance relationship; one CEO sees her partner once a month and considers that a relationship. Another variant is living together ‘for the kids’ but dropping the wedding band and normal marital interactions between the spouses; until the kids are grown and a divorce is less painful.

What is this? Does a parents’ high powered career zap the life out of couple communication? Does a job encroach so much upon spare time that people end up married to their job? Or is my perception not representative?

And what about the children’s growth path? Again, if you look at the anecdotes, successful parents often raise less successful kids. Warren Buffett’s daughter runs a (daddy-financed?) philanthropy, and his son is a farmer. Not that there’s anything wrong with farming. And Paris Hilton…well. The Clintons and maybe Mitt Romney seem to be an exception. Bill Gates’ kids are too young to tell.

Readers, this is one for you. Please share your observations via the comment function.

The Feat of the Cheat

Sadly, cheating happens. Media earn very well from reports on celebrity cheating. Both men and women are guilty, if in different shares. Why people cheat is open to debate and we, frankly, don’t know. But economists can say something about what happens to cheats – the feat of the cheat.

A marriage is an investment. A huge investment, usually into monogamy among other things, consciously foregoing other opportunities. A cheater renounces that investment while the other party still pays dues. Problem is, the other party usually suspects.

Economists call what happens next the ‘hold-up’ problem. Suspicion, lack of trust in a joint undertaking leads to hold-up of own contributions. Like attention, time, chores, love, honesty, loyalty….or all of these. The more likely someone is to cheat, the more likely he will be missing any of the above.

What can be done? The best prevention of this is to make the marital commitment rock-solid from the start. Different cultures have experimented differently, but remedies include wedding witnesses (with whom reputation can be lost), joint property, the administrative costs of dissolving a civil marriage, prohibition of divorce of catholic marriages, up to more draconian punishments under sharia (which were probably never meant to be carried out in the first place, but to threaten people into compliance).

A commitment ‘written in stone’ has the opposite effect to a hold-up: opening up of the partners pays. Giving more attention, time, chores, love, you name it – cannot be lost. What happens in the marriage stays in the marriage – rather than in Vegas..

Christmas Special: Kids and Relationships

What do kids do to a relationship? Will your marriage be better or worse for it?  – Recent research published by W. Bradford Wilcox and others at the University of Virginia digged out interesting findings. It turns out, that, on average, parenthood decreases marital happiness. Not overall happiness, but marital happiness. Yet, a significant minority of 35% (about the share of the winning parties in the recent elections in North Africa) remain happy in their marriage, or even see their marital happiness increase after children arrive.

What do these folks do differently? Here is a quick account of their top 6 relationship factors:

1.       A happy and active sex life. In terms impact, this is the strongest factor. “Sexually satisfied wives enjoy a 43-percentage-point premium in the odds of being very happy in their marriages, and sexually satisfied husbands enjoy a 46-percentage-point premium in marital happiness.”

2.       Thinking ‘we’ instead of ‘me’. Married parents who score above average in terms of commitment are at least 45 percentage points more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, and 23 percentage points less likely to be prone to divorce.   ‘Commitment’ measures the extent to which spouses see their relationship in terms of “we” versus “me,” the importance they attach to their relationship, their conviction that a better relationship with someone else does not exist, and their desire to stay in the relationship “no matter what rough times we encounter.”

3.       Random acts of kindness. Married parents who are generous with each other —both in terms of giving and receiving in a spirit of generosity—are significantly more likely to report that they are ‘very happy’ in their marriage. Generosity is defined as the virtue of giving good things to [one’s spouse] freely and abundantly, and encompasses small acts of service (e.g., making coffee for one’s spouse in the morning), the expression of affection, displays of respect, and a willingness to “forgive him/her for mistakes and failings.”

4.       A family-centered value system. Independent of religion, couples who value family life, and having and rearing children, and always did, are obviously: happier parents.

5.       Good friends and peers who share the experience of parenthood. “Research suggests that parents who have friends or peer support groups with whom they can talk about the challenges of parenthood do markedly better than parents who go it alone.”  But the influence of family and friends can be for good or ill.  Family and friends who encourage strife or who give a bad example are no support for married parents.  On the other hand, couples who experience high levels of support from family and friends for their marriage also report a more happy marriage. This factor ranks no. 5 for women, but is not in the top five for husbands.

6.       Shared and practiced religion. Couples who attend religious services together are more happy parents. Couples who subjectively feel ‘God at the center’ of their marriage are even more happy. “Shared religious attendance is linked to an increase of more than 3 percentage points that a parent is very happy in marriage, and to a decrease of more than 3 percentage points that a parent is prone to separation or divorce.” (These percentages increase 8-fold for couples who see a divine presence in their marriage.) – It strikes me that couples with young children who attend services together also have either (i) very well behaved children or (ii) a flexible solution for childcare.  – This factor ranks no. 5 for husbands but is not among the top five for wives.

These are the top 6 relationship factors that make husbands and wives happier parents. Our next special will look at the top social factors with the same influence…stay tuned!

Happy Xmas tide until then!