Power couples who stay together have 6 things in common

Mark zuckerberg priscilla chanFacebookPower couples don’t just happen. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a relationship agreement with his wife Priscilla Chan.

From Google cofounder Sergey Brin’s split from 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki to SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s second divorce from actress Talulah Riley, the separation of several high-powered couples could signal that extreme career success comes at the expense of relationship success.

But relationship experts say this doesn’t always ring true. You can have a successful marriage and balance high-powered careers — it just takes work.

Dr. Michael McNulty, a master trainer from The Gottman Institute and founder of the Chicago Relationship Center, tells Business Insider that maintaining a marital friendship, romance, and intimacy, managing ongoing conflict that is inevitable in marriage, and creating and maintaining a meaningful relationship is more challenging for partners with successful careers because they have less time to do so.

He says these couples are at more risk when the connection to the career becomes primary, and the commitment to and trust in the relationship becomes questionable. “Having a spouse addicted to work can feel like as much of a betrayal as extramarital affair to the other spouse,” McNulty says.

But as research psychologist and couples counselor John Gottman explains in his book “What Makes Love Last,” 40 years of research shows that trust and commitment are crucial to holding relationships together. “When both partners have a strong commitment to a relationship, this leads to a strong sense of trust, which makes love last,” McNulty explains.

Here’s how some of the most successful married couples keep their relationships strong:

They outsource tedious chores

Win McNamee / Getty
You don't have to be the richest couple in the world to afford spending quality time together.

A number of power couples say they outsource household chores like grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and cooking so they can spend more quality time together.

Laura Vanderkam,author of 'I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time,' previously told Business Insider that when determining whether you should outsource a task, you should ask yourself, 'How much time does this task take?' and 'How much do I hate it?' Another helpful method is figuring out the monetary value of your time and comparing that with the cost of the service.

If you make $45,000 annually and work 40 hours a week (that's 2,080 work hours a year), that means your time is potentially worth about $22 an hour ($45,000 divided by 2,080).

So if you really hate grocery shopping and you can outsource it to someone else for $20 an hour, you'd likely be better off outsourcing it.

Their time is spent doing good

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Together, Bill and Melinda Gates support initiatives in education, world health and population, and community giving through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Gerber says it also helps if power couples spend time doing things outside of the ego.

Last year Zuckerberg and Chan launched the philanthropic LLC the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative together, and Bill and Melinda Gates have overseen their own foundation together since 2000.

'People dedicated to making the world better or with a spiritual side seem to have more chance of success in partnership because they aren't depending on external factors only to feel good,' she says.

They listen and empathise

Entrepreneurs Neil and Rachel Blumenthal prefer taking road trips rather than flying because it gives them more opportunity to talk.

'Make time every day to talk with your spouse, in person or by phone, about one another's lives,' McNulty says, noting that texting is often not enough.

'Focus on the stressful things or events that are important to your spouse. Listen. Help your spouse express his or her feelings. Empathise. Show support. Don't problem solve or fix. Most of us just want to be heard,' he explains.

According to McNulty, Gottman's research shows that this kind of conversation is the one common thing that all successful couples do after marriage therapy.

In The Gottman Method of Couple Therapy, he says this kind of conversation is called a 'stress reducing conversation.' 'Successful, busy couples' relationships will suffer if they fail to find a way to have this type of conversation on a regular basis,' McNulty says.

They speak up about problems before it's too late

Getty Images
Meryl Streep says you have to talk about even the smallest problems.

People with successful careers and love lives know that time is precious, and it's best not to waste it on holding secret grudges.

Successful power couples express their needs sooner to avoid pent-up emotions getting the better of them.

'We're very conflict-avoidant in our culture, and so people sometimes are afraid to speak up about what they need from one another,' McNulty says. 'And then what tends to happen is, people store up their complaints, and they have to almost build up a sense of self-righteousness before they allow themselves to even express their needs and their feelings.'

And this self-righteousness often results in poor communication and fights.

They agree upon important issues from the get-go

Courtesy of The Mark
Celebrities like Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake have reportedly drafted 'love contracts' with lifestyle clauses concerning frequency of sex and infidelity.

'Two egos in a marriage can be great if all the important issues are agreed upon up front,' Gerber says.

Some of the most important issues couples should agree upon early on include sexual and romantic needs, who pays for what, and family boundaries.

Most breakups happen because of cheating, Gerber says: 'Couples who face the reality of this threat head on and deal with it stand the most chance of success.'

Gerber says there is a range of what's acceptable within the bounds of a relationship if agreed upon in advance, so partners need to hash it out and agree on what the rules to live by are.

Arrangements could include:

• No alone dates with the opposite sex, even socially

• Certain outside-the-marriage content is ok

• We can bring others into the marriage and and have an open relationship

'Know what your partner can handle, what they want, and what the deal breakers are going to be as you face head-on the fact that cheating will be an option,' Gerber advises.

One way to limit issues later is to write a handbook detailing boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

'Don't be afraid to put it all in writing to refer back to as a living breathing document,' she says. 'And plan to have meetings about how you are running your marriage and family just as you would for your company or any other project you care about profoundly.'

They commit to one another overall

Entrepreneurs Brit and Dave Morin make a point to put their phones away at dinner.

For a marriage to remain successful when both partners are highly driven and busy, McNulty says couples must remain committed to one another before anything or anyone else.

'A successful career and exciting workplace can distract partners from their relationship, and from the family they have created,' he says.

'Each partner has to be able to trust that the other has his or her back, and that they intend to do all they can to understand and support one another,' McNulty says. 'The relationship must come first.'

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