Marriages can last even when jobs don’t

Respect, understanding and love kept this couple afloat when their jobs bottomed out

my mother’s life (The Sweeter the Juice, Simon & Schuster, $22), which led to a public speaking and writing career.

Harold: California was a great opportunity for Shirlee, and I thought there would be a wealth of opportunities for me. Instead, I got negative reactions to my credentials and my schooling back East. Fortunately, I wound up working for a consortium of schools where I established the Children’s Art Collaborative. I then became Western regional director for Communities in Schools Inc. But the group soon restructured and I either had to move East or move on. I moved on.

B.E.: What advice do you give people who are struggling to manage the work-relationship balance?

Shirlee: Most people think in a vertical way-setting a goal and then thinking themselves straight up to it. Sometimes you have to think horizontally: that means take a step back and shift your thinking sideways before moving up again. Harold and I have done that many times to get where we wanted. Professional couples are naturally leaders who are knowing and opinionated, but you don’t always have to be right.

Harold: I’ve always acknowledged that I’m not fully in charge down here on earth. Listening to your words before responding is key. For Shirlee and me, understanding each other is more important than living the war of words.

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