Leadership

What to do if you're worried your spouse might be sabotaging your career

From the television series "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce." Pictured: James Lesure as Coach Mike.
From the television series "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce." Pictured: James Lesure as Coach Mike.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama and many other successful people have discussed the importance of having their spouse by their side as they pursued their careers.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case. In fact, some spouses may intentionally, or unintentionally, sabotage their partner's career success, says relationship expert Susan Winter. When this happens, she says, it's crucial that you address the problem.

"As soon as you identify an issue, speak about it," she tells CNBC Make It. "Articulate what you're feeling."

Winter says that there are various reasons why a spouse may be trying to hinder your success. Your spouse could be envious of your achievements and may be insecure, competitive or just less ambitious.

"You can be with a partner and not see this happen until your dreams are higher," says Winter. "It can emerge later in your relationship." Regardless, it's important that you bring up the matter with your partner, says the relationship expert.

Winter suggests using clear examples of what your partner has done to show this lack of support. For example, does your partner make you doubt your abilities, complain about your work getting in the way or display passive-aggressive behavior? These are all signs that your spouse may be holding you back in your career, says Winter.

After you have expressed what your partner is doing wrong, give clear examples of what they should do instead, she says. For example, if he or she is critical about all of your career decisions ask your spouse to begin with a positive when critiquing.

Winter calls this a "sandwich" and advises that couples use it when giving negative feedback. "For every negative that you want to relay you must sandwich it in between two positives," she says. "You want sweetness, medicine, sweetness."

Once you have called out your spouse on their behavior, "tell them to not get in your way," says Winter. From there, she says to look out for changes in the way they approach the topic of your career.

If you don't notice a change, then tell them so. If it becomes detrimental to you both emotionally and your career, "warn them that you will leave," she says.

However, she urges that when breaking up with someone, you shouldn't be rash. Winter says this should be the last and final resort after giving them ample notice.

For those who have a very open and honest relationship with their partner, Winter says you can begin this conversation by discussing how you feel. Then discuss the consequences your partner will face if they don't make prompt changes.

She gives this example of what to say: "I feel like you're threatened by me. That's not cool. If you get in my way, I will dump you."

Winter says that a lot of marriage isn't "sexy" and takes work. Even the strongest couples, like the Obamas, have admitted to weathering tough times in their marriage.

President Barack Obama (R) gives Michelle Obama a kiss as they wait for President-elect Donald Trump and wife Melania at the White House before the inauguration on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.
Getty Images
President Barack Obama (R) gives Michelle Obama a kiss as they wait for President-elect Donald Trump and wife Melania at the White House before the inauguration on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.

"The bumps happen to everybody all the time, and they are continuous," Michelle Obama told The New York Times when asked about the lowest point in her marriage. However, she continued, the two focus on having equal partnership and she fully supported him in his presidential role.

The former president said as much in a speech for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's "Profile in Courage" Award. "I also want to thank Michelle Obama for, after the presidency, sticking with me," he said. "I love my wife and I'm grateful for her, and I do believe that it was America's great good fortune to have her as first lady."

Winter says that in a marriage you want to build a foundation with someone who is your ally. "You want a partner who will allow you to grow and become the best version of yourself in all areas," she says. "Who will encourage you and support you. This is a teammate."

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See also:

Why the secret to your success is who you marry

3 ways your significant other may be holding you back from success

A man who's interviewed Bill Gates and Richard Branson says you need this skill to be successful