I can’t get this conversation out of my head: “Did she just say she had to ask her husband for his permission? She is a CEO for Christ’s sake!”
This thought came while I was listening to a podcast over the summer. I won’t name which one to protect the innocent (or innocently misguided?). But, I will say it’s a podcast primarily about female entrepreneurs. That day’s guest was a woman telling her story about how she followed her dreams to become the CEO of a small company she was passionate about. As she told her story, she mentioned no more than three times that her husband gave her permission to make a big career jump.
I could not concentrate on anything else she was talking about. Her whole entrepreneurial journey became a buzz through my car speakers. Permission?! What year is it? Perhaps I could have given her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she isn’t a great speaker and doesn’t realize how her words sound to others. Maybe she and her husband discuss things thoroughly until they agree and then she used the word, “permission,” when she really meant “blessing” or “agreement.”
But, I couldn’t get past it. She repeated, “He gave me permission” throughout her story and each time I felt as though someone had just thrown some kind of racial slur in the middle of conversation. I found myself saying to no one in particular (because I was in my car by myself), “Did she just say that? Is anyone going to say something?”
Now, I am usually the first person to say that every marriage is different. What any given marriage needs depends greatly on the people who are in that marriage, obviously. So what; she needed permission, or he needed to give permission? I think it struck me so intensely because it goes against just about everything that my marriage is based on.
Our marriage has been so successful so far because it has been based in this simple partnership approach:
We each want the very best for and from the other.
That’s it. I always want the very best my husband can ever have – in his music, career, relationships, hobbies, and anything else that comes along. And I have no doubt in my mind that he feels exactly the same about me. I don’t just feel it. I know it. He has demonstrated it to me every day for our entire marriage.
Over the years, we have gone to great lengths to prove to each other that we are equal partners, interested in the other’s happiness.
We supported each other when the other was down.
This is probably part of Marriage 101, but it can’t be underestimated how important it is to just be supportive when that’s what the moment calls for. We just say, “That sucks” and hug each other and wallow.
We pushed each other – hard – to become better in every way.
When I was scared to apply to graduate school, Jamie wouldn’t hear a single excuse from me and kindly (but clearly) said, “Get to work.” I’ve pushed him on his writing, his music, his career, everything. When either of us saw the other one slipping away from an important goal or dream, we pushed back.
We eagerly try to be our best selves for the sake of each other.
There is a funny thing that happens when you have a person in your life who sees the very best in you – you feel obligated to be your best self quite a bit of the time. (Maybe that has to do with being an Obliger.) His incredible belief in me has carried with me when he’s not around at all. Every time I think I can’t do something, I imagine him laughing at me and saying, “Okay, sure. Get to work.”
We make each other celebrate milestones.
Both Jamie and I are terrible at acknowledging our own successes. That’s why we don’t let the other escape having at least a little bit of enjoyment. When I barely acknowledged my promotion, my husband loudly told anyone who would listen. When he was ready to move on after a successful crowdsourcing campaign, I made sure all of his fans got a chance to get the news and celebrate with him. The truth is, we both seek out a lot of praise, but are scared to make it happen on our own. So, we each step in and help the other one.
Permission is Power
Of all of the things we do for one another, we do not ask permission. To me, permission implies power. It means that one person has authority over the other, like in a parent-child relationship or an employer-employee relationship. Jamie and I don’t hold authority over one another. There is power in our relationship to be sure, but it comes from love and friendship and partnership. We talk about almost everything. We certainly seek out agreement, blessing, and support from one another.
But never permission. I cannot bring myself to imagine what it would be like to ask him for permission, and all the more so when discussing career. I value Jamie too much to ask for his permission. Certainly, I don’t want to jockey for power within my marriage. Mostly, I want a true partner who supports me, sees the best in me, makes me want to be my best me, and celebrates my achievements when I’m too insecure to do it for myself.
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