Choosing a Partner on the Path to "Having It All"

Could choosing the “right” guy be the key to having it all?

Some high profile women think so. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg called this choice the “most important career decision you’re going to make,” while giving the commencement address at Barnard College. Sandberg went on to explain that “If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further.”

France Córdova, the first female chief scientist at NASA, current President of Purdue University, chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, and mother of two credits her ability to balance career and family largely to her husband:

A supportive husband will certainly make a difference in your ability to balance work and family, and that’s something young women need to consider when they are on the path to marriage. Many women I know could have saved themselves (and their mates) some serious turbulence if, pre-marriage, they had earnestly considered some questions like these:

These kinds of questions are important, and I’m afraid that they are too often overlooked.

But at the risk of undermining that point somewhat, I have to say that I’m cautious about embracing the idea that simply choosing the “right” guy will unlock the door to “having it all.” As we talked about last week, that phrase will have different meaning for each of us, and there’s no magic formula for getting there. France Córdova’s husband was willing to move all over the country for her career and to take on more than half of the child-rearing. Maybe that’s the kind of husband you need, but then again maybe it’s not. You don’t necessarily have to live Córdova’s life to have it all.

Moreover, choosing a partner for life is a big deal, whether or not you want to pursue a career. That’s why for me, first and foremost, there must be a shared foundation of faith. Faith provides the framework and the perspective that will enable you to work through the other stuff. Because marriage to the best of men is hard sometimes. Life is hard sometimes. So you should ask the tough questions, you should consider your decision very carefully, but at the end of the day, you should also expect to work at it.

What questions do you think are most important to consider before getting married?