Nov 29, 2022

I have been exchanging thoughts with a dear friend on what it means when our partners become more driven to achieve their goals. I'm willing to bet you will have some sort of reaction to the ideas presented.

Can one's drive decrease another's?

Studying economics can be a little dry. Household economics, on the other hand, can be quite fascinating.

I have recently been pondering the idea of household drive. By that I mean, commitment to one’s personal goals. This could translate to working more hours to advance in one’s profession... It could translate to leaving the paid work force to homeschool one’s children... It could also translate to hours each day in the gym and preparing a strict dietary menu or a host of other examples that are driven by personal interest.

Some of you might read that as being selfish, but that is not what I am trying to convey. I view drive as focus on achieving one’s goals. It could become selfish if others’ needs are ignored, but it does not need to be selfish.

This whole idea ignited when I was catching up with a college friend. She used the phrase, “the more driven my husband becomes, the less driven I am.” She described his drive as always wanting to do more or be more.

As his drive increases, my drive decreases.

I resonated with her phrase. I was on a solid path of lifetime academic administration while at the same time my husband was growing in his career. For him, it was the first time for him to live out his career goals. He has always been driven and it is likely the key reason why he is the first doctor in his family and among the mere 2% of veterinarians who become surgeons.

And as he became more driven and more involved with his profession, it meant there were fewer people hours dedicated to household tasks—my partner being more driven meant I defaulted to becoming less driven—I could no longer do more or be more…for me. Him becoming more driven did mean that I either needed to pick up extra household responsibilities, or we would have to hire it out. So, we hired house cleaners. That provided relief for a bit.

And then winter illness set in and one of us had to pick up the children from school and be home with them for several days. We could have hired a nanny, and we did to help with the summer months, but that too, was only temporary relief.

There's always more to be done.

For my friend, the "drive division" meant that when her husband took a job further away from home, in addition to growing their cattle herd and becoming more involved in industry organizations, she had to pick up the slack at home. They could have, and did, hire help to assist with the reduction in people hours. But alas, it wasn’t enough and the effect was also just temporary. Things happen. The help needs help. The kids have a day off from school. The kids get older and have more activities. They have functions out of town.

As one partner becomes busier, it seems that the other partner also becomes busier, but in different ways. For both me and my friend, the impact of a highly driven partner meant that our personal drive decreased in order to keep the rest of life moving.


…I’ll pause to say that neither my friend nor I are complaining and yet both of us occasionally ponder the “what if” scenarios.


All of this leads me to question if there a set household drive function.

Let’s assume the household has a household drive of 100 that is split equally among the two partners. If one partner pursues goals that increases their personal drive to 75, does the household drive increase to 125 or is it set at 100 and the other person reduces their personal drive by 25?

Let’s say there is a maximum amount of household drive. Does it matter if partners shift their personal drive allocation as circumstances change? How are you supposed to make that calculation?

Or, I wonder if it is possible for partners to simultaneously experience an increase in drive and grow the household drive function; i.e., if one partner increases their drive to 75, can the other partner also increase their drive to 75 and experience a household drive of 150?

What about bigger households?

Both my friend and I have the additional considerations of children living at home. Can household drive be limitless when there are no additional people to care for? In other words, could both partners have a drive of 100 and they could outsource all cooking, cleaning, yardwork, car maintenance, financial planning, and other daily household management? If so, who plans dates so that the partners stay connected? Who hires the help? Is it really possible to grow the total household drive??

Or, what about the case when the children get older and develop their own drive?! Do they consume a portion of the household drive? What does that mean for the rest of the household drive?

I definitely do not have the answers, though I suspect some of you will have strong reactions to this. Give me your thoughts! Do you think there is a maximum household drive function?

Next post: At what point is contentment the stop-point for drive? Ambition and goals are all wonderful traits—especially when you can clearly identify when enough is enough for yourself.


Read about professional trainings I offer or join me this spring in class for college credit or CFP Board and CFT continuing education through Texas Tech.

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