Blanchard & Walker Weekly

Topic of the Week  Dual Income Strategies

  • Avoid cruise control.
  • Negotiate with employer.
  • Feed forward with spouse.
  • Gottman's 5:1 ratio.

Dual Income Strategies

I recently saw a study that surprised me. In 1992 they asked women in graduate school if they definitely wanted kids. 79% said they did. The study was repeated [in 2012] and the number of women who wanted kids was almost cut in half, to 42%. Wow, clearly women look around and wonder if the work and family juggle is worth it. This convinced me to take a deep dive into the topic of dual income couples. Which reminded me of a study of married couples in Michigan which found that couples that kept their anger in when attacked didn't live as long as couples who fought with each other.

The phrase that researchers used was "expressing anger constructively." And when you're working and trying to maintain a relationship there will be anger. But before I get to the coping strategies, let's take a look at some stats so we can better understand dual income couples. 58% of women work or are looking for work. Wives earn 38% of family income, with 30% earning more than their partner. Dual income couples have more bankruptcies and divorces. Even though dual income couples today earn 75% more income, often they are worse off than single income couples in the past. Put succinctly, more money equals more challenges. Here are four coping strategies.

Avoid cruise control. Let's face it, after being married for a while it's easy to kick into cruise control. There is one huge problem with that, little annoyances can become big problems when they're not addressed early and often. That's why it's so important to connect with your partner and family on a regular basis. Avoid taking things for granted, talk through them.

Negotiate with employer. Most of us know how to negotiate with our company over salary and benefits. But we don't tend to negotiate over flexibility. And that's often the most important survival tool for a dual income couple. Heck, maybe you should even consider turning down a raise for the chance to telecommute one or two days a week, if that's what's required.

Feed forward with spouse. We all know about feedback. That's where you beat up your partner over past sins. But what if you just avoided that trap and went right to feed forward, where you describe the kind of behavior that you'd like to see in the future. This is a much healthier dialogue to have with your partner.

Gottman's 5:1 ratio. John Gottman is a marriage expert based in Seattle. He is well known for being able to predict what couples have a divorce in their future. His trick, he monitors how many compliments they give each other compared to criticisms. He's found that for each critical comment, successful partners will give five compliments. This is the one variable that distinguishes good marriages from bad ones.

So let's all express anger constructively with each other by not avoiding criticism, but by giving five times as many compliments. Imagine how great work, and life, would be then.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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"It is better to lose the saddle than to lose the horse."

–Italian proverb

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Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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