Culturally speaking, the American man is expected to be ambitious. Absent all other measures, ambition is the metric that often dictates our degree of success.
To support this theory (in case you needed some persuasion), do a quick Google search with the phrase “Marriage and Ambition.” You will find that the first three pages of your search results are focused heavily on the lack of male ambition.
Pretty definitive right? But, did you notice something else? A large proportion of the results deal with the apparent disgust that wives and girlfriends have for their unmotivated counterparts.
Just take a look at the number one search result. This MSNBC response column to a piece by Dr. Gail Saltz, listed response after response of women who are genuinely horrified at the lack of vocational drive in their men.
So, dads…how should we interpret this message?
If we are fighting for that next promotion or pursuing a more substantial education, then our priorities are in line and success in life should be ours…right?
Do you subscribe to this kind of methodology? Or…better yet, does your wife?
The Tightrope of Pursuit
In my marriage, there is a definite balance between ambition and contentment. In fact, I polled my wife and asked her to critique me on my level of ambition.
It was a simple question, “Do you find that I am overly ambitious, or not enough?”
Here response? Well…let’s just say that it was a mixed bag.
When it comes to my personal pursuits (writing, career trajectory, exercise) I am very ambitious. Maybe a little overly ambitious from her perspective. However, when it comes to things that I may not find stimulating or personally fulfilling (house cleaning, card games, certain family activities, etc.) then I have very little ambition.
Ultimately, her perspective is that I have a propensity to be “selfishly driven.”
It certainly isn’t the kind of thing a husband likes to hear, but I can honestly say that I didn’t expect her to answer much differently. Without me softening the blow with some self-censorship, these are my tendencies.
Ambition, it seems, can be volatile in the extremes of either direction.
When Ambitions are Challenged
Being that ambition is intrinsically an internal matter, what can you do when it becomes too much, or not enough?
If you are like me, your ambition (or absence of it) can be stifling to those around you.
When you find this being the case:
- Be a student of your ambition. If you know what makes you tick, then you are much more likely to be able to enact, reduce, or redirect your ambition towards activities that strengthen your relationship.
- Determine if your drive (or lack thereof) is stemming from selfishness. If you are being a selfish jerk…just call it like it is! You will be surprised at how easily you can change when you’re forced to identify yourself with something that’s less desirable.
- Challenge your sense of what’s important. Often you will find that your pursuits pale in their importance when placed next to something that’s more substantial.
- Look at the bigger picture. Let’s face it…that new promotion, or conversely, your lack of motivation to find work, does not take place of being an engaged husband or putting food on the table.
- Be willing to hear and accept constructive criticism. You need to be man enough to listen to your bride when your pursuits are hurting them. It may be tough to take, but if you have been successful at point number one, then it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Guess what? Being married is a selfless partnership…and so it should be.
Although I am far from becoming the poster boy for a perfectly balanced husband, I am learning at every turn.
How about you? Is your ambition in check?
Can you share something that might be of use to other readers?
Whether you have failed miserably or seen great success, I encourage you to be part of the dialog.
There is certainly strength in our collective experiences!