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3 Big Marriage Metamorphoses and How Couples Can Get Through Them Intact

When people couple off and get married, the vows usually include something to the effect of "for as long as you both shall live." The possibility of divorce notwithstanding, the goal is that your marriage should be permanent. In reality, though, it's not -- not necessarily because couples may split, but because any long-term marriage is likely to go through a series of significant transitions that change it into a whole different relationship over time.

In this podcast, Motley Fool Answers co-hosts Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick have in the studio Jennifer Petriglieri, an associate professor of organizational development at the international business school INSEAD. Author of the book Couples That Work, she joins them to talk about those personal and professional transitions, and some tools that can help us to better get through them. But first, in this week's "What's Up, Bro?" segment, Brokamp digs into three stories about ways that people can make the "right" financial moves and still wind up getting the short end of the stick.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 15, 2019.

Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers! I'm Alison Southwick and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool. 

Robert Brokamp: Hi, everybody!

Southwick: In today's episode we're joined by Jennifer Petriglieri, the author of Couples That Work. She's going to share her research and advice to help dual-earning households navigate the tough transitions that can upend a relationship. All that and more on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers

__

Southwick: So, Bro, what's up?

Brokamp: Oh, I've got a few things. 

Southwick: Do you have three things?

Brokamp: As a matter of fact, I do. 

Southwick: Do it!

Brokamp: There you go. 

No. 1: The swelling inflammation of healthcare expenses. So the Kaiser Family Foundation released the latest results from its annual employer survey and found that, on average, the cost of employer-provided health insurance for a family is now $20,576. That's up 5% from last year. Seventy-one percent is covered by the employer and the rest is covered by the employee. While the overall cost has increased 5%, the employee's share has increased 8%. We've seen this recently over the last few years, where employers are shifting more of the costs onto the employee. 

Once again, we see another year of the cost of healthcare going up much higher than overall inflation, which these days is less than 2%. In fact, The Wall Street Journal had a little stat that said that in 1999, the cost to provide health insurance for a family was $5,791. I put that into an inflation calculator on the internet and if healthcare only went up at the rate of inflation, today it would cost $9,000 a year, so it wouldn't have even doubled. But, of course, no, it's over $20,000 a year, so it's quadrupled. 

We've talked about this before. We've talked about, in particular, prescription drugs. It's a very long conversation, but basically this can't go on forever where healthcare just eats up more and more of our economy. That's a topic for maybe even another show, but I can tell you one thing that you shouldn't do and that is you should not skimp on your insurance, which brings us to a Bloomberg article which told the story of David Diaz. 

The Diaz family did have insurance, but it was short-term medical insurance, which was allowed under the Affordable Care Act as a bridge between jobs. You could have it for no more than three months. The Trump administration changed that so that you could have it for up to a year and then keep rolling it for three years, so many people decided to get this lower-cost insurance and save some money.

What happened to David Diaz? He had a heart attack. 

He thought he had insurance. It turns out it's not going to cover that. What's the bill for having a heart attack for this family? $244,447.91.

They also had this quirky tidbit in the article. One of the insurance companies that offers this type of policy is HIIQ. According to the article, there was a guy named Charley Butler, a truck driver. He gets cancer. HIIQ won't cover it, so he sues the insurance company. According to the article, during a deposition the following year, Lee Henning, an attorney for HIIQ, tried to undermine Butler's claim that the debt had left him anxious. "If you need money so badly," Henning asked, "why doesn't your wife get a second job?" He reminded Butler that the Bible says "a wife should be a good helpmate." Could you imagine this came out in a lawsuit? HIIQ fired that guy.

The lesson, here, is when it comes to health insurance, you don't get what you don't pay for. A low-cost policy could be low cost for a reason. 

No. 2: Funds distribute capital pains. So throughout the year, your mutual fund manager is going to be buying and selling stocks, bonds, whatever the fund is invested in. If they generate a capital gain on those sales, to the extent that they exceed losses they have to get paid by somebody and those are distributed to the people who own the fund, even if you didn't sell your shares in the fund.

So there you are, being a well-behaved buy-and-hold investor and boom, you get hit with a tax bill for investment. You're still holding. Now if you hold your funds in an IRA or a 401(k), or another tax-advantaged account, it's fine. But this could be a particularly rough year for those of you who hold funds in a regular taxable account, especially for those actively managed funds, and that's one of the points made in a couple of recent Morningstar articles, one by Christine Benz and the other by Russ Kinnel. 

The problem is actively managed funds have been seeing huge outflows and when a fund gets lots of requests for redemptions, they have to sell a lot of investments to raise the cash to meet the redemption requests. A lot of funds are probably going to making these distributions at the end of the year. If you hold a mutual fund in a taxable account does that mean you should sell the fund before that happens? Generally no, if you like the fund, because when you sell the fund you're also going to generate capital gains.

But if you were thinking of selling the fund, anyhow, it may be a time to pare back. But also, you should wait until the distributions at the end of the year if you're going to buy into a new fund. 

No. 3: "Wall Street Brokers Missed the Index-Funds Memo," and that is a headline from a Wall Street Journal article by Randall Smith. We just discussed why many people are dumping their actively managed funds in favor of index funds. Why? Well, it can be pretty tough to beat the index fund.

However, brokers are still mostly sticking with actively managed funds. The article quoted a report released last month by Cerulli Associates, which found that brokers at four major Wall Street firms have just 29% of their clients' managed fund assets in passive index funds. The majority are still in active funds and it's even a lower percentage in passive index funds for smaller and regional brokerages. Compare that to overall and about 40% of assets are invested in index funds these days and in August it topped 50% for all U.S. stock funds. We actually mentioned that in one of our previous episodes.

So why are brokers not joining the exodus to index funds or at least not as much? You can take a guess. It comes down, probably, to money. There are many reasons, but generally speaking, you're more likely to get commissions and other payments from the actively managed fund families. The article quoted Doug Black, a consultant who works with wealthy families. 

He said that the big firms' active tilt is partly a legacy of Wall Street -- the relationships that these folks have with these big fund families -- but also that higher-fee active managers often make pay-to-play payments to big firms and, indeed, according to the article, two of the largest Wall Street firms (Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch) curtailed their brokers' use of mutual funds from Vanguard because they wouldn't do these pay-to-play payments.

As we regularly point out on this show, not all actively managed funds are bad. I have several of my own. We have several in The Motley Fool's 401(k). There are plenty of good ones, but if you have a broker and they have put you mostly in actively managed funds, you want to make sure that they have done it because those are the best funds for you and not the best for them. And that, Alison, is what's up.

[...]

Southwick: Jennifer Petriglieri is an associate professor of organizational development at INSEAD. Her book, Couples That Work, looks at the experiences of couples around the globe and how they thrive in their relationships and at work. Thank you for joining us!

Jennifer Petriglieri: It's great to be here! Thanks!

Southwick: I was on the old Facebook the other day and a friend of mine had posted she was reflecting on her past 15 years of marriage with her husband. She had all these pictures of them when they were younger and it was so great. 

And she talked about the idea that you and your partner don't really have one marriage -- but instead you have three or four marriages with the same person -- because you grow and change together, and the people that you were when you got married are not the same people that you are as you mature and as you are today. And I thought, "Well, that timing is pretty perfect," as I'm reading your book. 

That's really at the crux of what you wrote about in your research; it's the idea that people change -- their wants, their needs -- both professionally and personally, and there are tools that you can use to navigate these tough transitions. How did you decide to start writing this book? 

Petriglieri: It really came from my personal experience. I'm in a working couple like most couples out there and we were at a point in our lives when things were tough. We had two under twos. We were both striving to get ahead in our careers. And to be fair, my husband did very much his fair share of the washing, the cooking, the cleaning, and all that sort of stuff, but we felt like we were hanging on by the skin of our teeth. 

I did what every good academic girl does. I went to the library and tried to find books, advice, anything that could help and really I found either stuff that told me how we should divide up the laundry or things about even these power couples who had everything sorted and this really was not helpful. 

And I knew this wasn't just my experience. It was the experience of my friends, my family, my colleagues, my students and I really came to the point to say, "If no one has done that research, then I'm going to do that, and I'm going to write that book." So that was really the motivation. 

Southwick: Your book goes into three main transitions that couples are going to go through, typically. Everyone's different, but you found that there were some common threads here. You talked to so many different couples. Let's just get into the first transition. 

For most of us we find a partner. Maybe we get married. Maybe we move in together. Not a lot of changes. It's pretty smooth sailing. But then upheaval comes and you found that was usually in the form of having kids or when one partner opts to take a job elsewhere. 

Petriglieri: Yes. Essentially when we first get together, we still have parallel lives. We're pursuing our careers. We've got our friends. We just lay it on top, this wonderful relationship. Life is rosy and it never stays that way.

Southwick: No, it doesn't! 

Petriglieri: And what tends to kick off that first transition is either a great career opportunity which presents a hard choice. I get a job on the other side of the country. The parallel living. Do we move together? Do you follow? Do we go our separate ways? A baby, which anyone who has kids will know that really does end parallel lives. 

Oh! Maybe if we get together later in life, and this is the decision, do we blend families from an old relationship? Again, real end to parallel lives. And at that stage couples have to face a fundamental question. "How do we make this work?" How can we combine our lives into one joint path in a way that we can both go after the career goals we have, but also have a decent relationship and a healthy family around that. And it's a tough decision.

Southwick: It is. You had a piece in The Wall Street Journal that I read, and we talked about this before we turned the microphones on. A lot of the articles, so far, about your book have really zeroed in on the couples contracting and so people really focus in on that cold word "contract." 

I mean if you read the comments section in The Wall Street Journal piece that you did, they're getting all cranky about how, "In my day, we just listen to each other, and love, and what's this with the kids and their contract?" And they totally miss the point, because I'm sure they didn't read past the headline that what you're talking about is really having thoughtful conversations that lead to a mutual understanding about what makes your partner tick. 

Petriglieri: Exactly. And I think the problem with that first transition is we tend to be rabbits in the headlight. We reach this decision point, we go into panic mode, and we almost always think practicalities like child care, geography, spare bedrooms, these kinds of decisions. And, of course, we need to fix the practicalities, but what I found very strongly with couples who just focused on that is this is the path to hell, because they're not doing it with any logic in mind. They're putting the practicalities before the principles and the logic of their relationship. 

So couple contracting -- and when I talk about contract, I mean a psychological contract, and not a legal one that we sign in blood and put in a safe forever. 

Southwick: If that works for you as a couple that's fine...

Petriglieri: That's fine, but that's not what I meant. It's really a way of discussing, "Look, what are the things that really matter to us?" And once we figure that out, then we can make choices more mindfully and layer on the practicalities. 

And those things may well be career goals. "This is really important to me to pursue." It might be things like, "How can we stretch our life in a way that gives us enough time for other stuff on the side?" 

It might be about financial stability. How can we build financial stability? Maybe five years down the road I can try entrepreneurship or I can do a career move. 

It might be about the type of family we want. "I really want us to be a couple that's deeply rooted in our community. How are we going to set up life that way?"

And the couples who started there really did much better, because they had this set of principles that they could then make decisions from and they could really honor each other's desires and ambitions in their relationship. 

Southwick: As you were talking about how to have this conversation [in your book], you talked about [how to] have a conversation around values. Around boundaries. Fears. And [I thought], "Oh, yes. This is all great. This all would be a wonderful conversation." But it feels like you would need a third person in the room to really nudge you both forward. "What do you really mean by what you value? What do you really mean [when you say you want to give your kids] the best childhood possible?" It sounded like you needed someone else in the room to help you.

Petriglieri: I think that is a common feeling among many people -- "These conversations are frightening and I might get them wrong." First of all, it's not just one conversation. It's really, "How do I build a habit of talking about these things?" It's not that if we don't agree on everything tonight, this is never going anywhere. 

Secondly, in many ways, these are the conversations we all crave. How do we talk about what we really want out of life and plan this? And my experience when people start having them is they actually quite enjoy them, because this is the stuff that matters to us. This is what life is made of. 

So I think it's just about biting the bullet and starting. Sometimes people will say to me, "Do we need to go away for a romantic weekend and hire a log cabin?" I'm like, "Well, if that's what you want to do, that's great." But really you just need half an hour or 20 minutes at the end of the day, with your mug of coffee or glass of wine, and just spend some undivided attention with each other starting to talk this stuff through. It's not rocket science. It's really about how you are going to invest in your relationship. 

It's really funny. When we think about our careers we don't think twice about investment, right? We don't think twice about taking some time to sit down and think, "What's the vision for my career?" How many times do you think, "What's the vision for my relationship?" We don't think about how we're going to invest in our relationship, and yet we know, over time, that this is the thing that matters more than anything else in our lives: to our happiness, to our long-term fulfillment, and to our health. We know that our health is determined on our relationships, as well. So it's really about switching our mindset and thinking about investing in the relationship.

Southwick: Let's move on to the second transition. Why don't you tell us the story that you relay in your book about Wolfgang and Heidi. It's like their story came out of a German folktale. I love it. Wolfgang and Heidi.

Petriglieri: I got to choose the pseudo names through all the couples and it was just so nice. The reason I love Wolfgang and Heidi's story -- and it's interesting that so many people pick up that story -- is because it's so typical. 

It's that they've gone through their 20s and 30s, like many of us, in real striving mode. They're building their careers. They're building their relationship. They're also building a young family. And they took a choice which is a traditional choice in that his career took priority. She still had a good career, but she took more of the slack at home and he took more of the breadwinner role. They still both worked full-time -- they had full careers -- but that's how they split it.

And there came a point -- for them it was in their early 40s -- where both of them felt a little bit ill at ease with their choices. And this is really classic, because in our 20s and 30s the path we take is always a combination between what we really want and social expectations. Your parents think you'd be a good doctor or a good lawyer and, lo and behold, that's what you do. Or there's some cool companies that everyone at college is applying to and that's what you do.

This part -- and it sometimes serves us well -- served Wolfgang and Heidi well. They were doing well. They were enjoying themselves. They were growing a lovely family. But oftentimes, at that period of mid-career, we take a step back and think, "Is this really the path we want?"

And the answer for both of them was no, and in different directions. Heidi invested a lot in the family. She was still ambitious and she felt, "I really want my shot of pushing a bit harder in my career." And she was someone who had a lot of potential. She was often getting tapped for management roles but was holding herself back because of that. 

Wolfgang was in a very different position. He'd been really pushing ahead on the management track and he had discovered a passion for coaching. He was like, "I would just love to give it a shot to be an independent coach." 

But in the arrangement they were before, that was not possible. He was bringing in most of the income. He couldn't afford "to transition." And Heidi couldn't afford to step up because she was taking that role. And so for them, the solution for both of them was intertwined. They needed each other to shift so they could shift themselves. 

And, of course, that solution sounds obvious when I say it like that, but it takes a lot for couples to get to that realization and it can be a period, this second transition, of quite heartbreaking turmoil for couples. What happens is when a partner starts questioning their careers, and their lives, and their life structures, it's pretty threatening. We can think, "My goodness. Is this my fault? Is there something wrong with the relationship?" And often couples really start to unravel at this point.

I think the core of it is that the support we need in our couple at this time is quite different from the support we sometimes think of in a good relationship. So if we think of what a good supportive relationship is, we tend to think of a very British expression of the "tea and sympathy" model. That my partner is a good partner if they plump up my self-esteem and make me feel good about myself. Who doesn't like that? We all like that.

But at this stage in this transition, that's not the support we need, because what that support does is keep us close and keep us in the comfort zone. But when we're questioning -- "What do I really want to do and what's my direction?" -- we need to get out there and test new things and explore new fields. 

And so what I find at this transition point is it's a very different conversation couples need to have. It's really about how we can support each other in a different way. Instead of having this real close, comforting support, we need a bit of a loving kick up the a**, if I can put it that way. Now there's a technical term for this, is we need a secure-base relationship, which means yes, we have that comfort and support, but we always have to push away to say, "You need to get out of the comfort zone," which means the comfort zone of our relationship, and out and look at different options and think of different ways forward.

It's very counterintuitive, because when we're feeling a bit wobbly, a bit threatened, our instinct is to pull up close and this is exactly the opposite. It's almost a push away from the relationship. But what I found [and this is what Heidi and Wolfgang did really well] was when they could bake that kind of support into their relationship, both partners fared better, because both could explore and really think through these questions of direction, and then they could come back to the security together and figure out the way forward. It's a very different way of thinking about how we support each other.

Southwick: There is another couple you talked about in this part of the book where the wife wanted to explore more, so she was staying out late at networking events. She was meeting new people and it sounded like her husband was feeling jealous of this time away. He was feeling, "She's off exploring new things and I'm staying here at home helping keep the home fires burning." It seems like that push and pull can be extremely [difficult]. 

Also with the couples in this chapter it seemed like it took a really long time for them to even have these conversations [I think I want to explore more in my professional life]. This whole time the other partner was sensing this tension, so maybe they were thinking, "They're having an affair." You talk about how this is a great opportunity to get divorced.

Petriglieri: That's not exactly how I put it in the book. 

Southwick: It's not phrased exactly that way...

Petriglieri: I think there's two things. There is a reality. If we look at divorce statistics, they're not stable across time. There's peaks, and there's definitely a peak at this time of life. But I think silence is the biggest killer in couples, here. Our partner always knows when something's bothering us, whether we say it or not. And I think the reason people hold back is for many couples, life is kind of OK, so you can feel guilty. "Who am I to rock the boat?" We've struggled to get here. We're in a decent position. I should just be satisfied with my lot. 

The problem with that rationale is, it doesn't make the questions go away, so they build up and build up until they become these kind of really big issues, which they don't need to be as I talked about earlier on. 

The other thing is I think in this day and age, as a society, we rush to make decisions. There's a sense that, "I'm not happy in my career. OK, I'm going to spend the next two months networking and then by month three I'm going to transition and we're all going to be fine." 

What this transition is really about is it's more of a deep psychological transition. How do I build a path that's my own? And it's a little bit like pregnancy. It takes nine months and it's not good for it to be completed earlier. I think there's something about this transition that just takes a little bit of time where you need to stew in your own juices and really explore different options before rushing through it.

And if you rush through it -- this premature birth if I can use that analogy -- it's not particularly helpful. There's another example of a couple who do just that. They switch quickly and then, lo and behold, six months later they're like, "Hm, that was maybe not the best idea." It's really like, "Can we sit with the struggle, knowing that something will burst at some point that will be helpful for us?"

Southwick: Obviously, since we're talking about careers, there's the financial aspect. You talk about the importance, during this transition, of having made good financial decisions in your life because that's what gives you the options to explore a new path. If you're not on a good financial footing, you need to just keep working, and you don't get to go out and explore and go eat, pray, and love your way around. 

Petriglieri: I think there's two things in there. One of the huge benefits of being a working couple rather than one homemaker, one breadwinner is you do have a little bit more financial freedom. Even with that there's very few of us who can eat, pray, love our way around the world. Let's be clear. But it gives you a slight bit of more wiggle room, so I think that's important. 

But I also think it's important we get away from this black-white thinking that the only way we can transition is to take a year, sit in a cave, and meditate. That then the angels will sing and suddenly we'll know the way forward. That's not actually what the research shows happens. 

How it happens, most commonly, is when people actually stay with their job and do inside projects. I'm spending some time going to networking events in the evening and reading books about different things. I'm talking to other people. Maybe I take a mini sabbatical at the most. Maybe I take on a volunteer project or a project on the side.

It's actually these things -- when you're still in your current life but adding things on top -- this is actually what the research shows is the most successful way to make these transitions. Now it would be lovely if we all had a year to go to Italy and do whatever else, but that may not actually be the most helpful thing in the end.

[...]

Southwick: Let's move on to the third transition. In the two previous phases -- and you've touched on this a bit -- they seem very much influenced by the expectations that we put on ourselves and that the world puts on us. You need to be super successful in your career. You need to be a perfect parent. But as you reach your 50s and you peak in your career, and the kids move on, you lose a sense of identity and you realize you're running out of time. This is obviously a frightening period, but it also sounds really exciting and a great opportunity to do crazy, new things together.

Petriglieri: It is. And you know the generation now and our generation are enjoying opportunities that no generation has enjoyed before for two reasons. One is our lives are getting longer -- which means our careers are getting longer -- and it means that period in between us having more freedom -- maybe the mortgage is paid off, the kids have left home, we don't have college fees -- and retirement is actually much longer than it has been in the past. 

And at the same time, the structure of careers is changing. We know there are many more options for flexibility, whether it's freelancing work. The gig economy. Whether it's a portfolio career. Whether it's trying entrepreneurship. There's all sorts of options that our parents and our grandparents just never had. 

And so what I saw at this phase was couples went in one of two starkly different directions. Either they got stuck with the loss -- I'm no longer the rising star in the organization. I remember one guy said to me, "The thing which was a real wake up was I went for a promotion and realized I was up against my protege, who was 10 years younger than me." A huge wake-up call. 

Sometimes people get stuck with that sense of loss and also often lost in the relationship. They may have been sweeping those resentments under the carpet for years and suddenly it's just the two of them left in the house with "oh, we've got to face this," and that's pretty tough.

There were also couples who felt that sense of loss, but also saw these opportunities and really did some quite creative things. Many of the couples actually started doing some things together. Now it wasn't that they all formed companies and worked together all the time, but they often did little side projects together that sometimes took them back to their youth when they got together. There were some lovely stories of couples really having this huge reinvention that, quite frankly, previous generations have just not been able to do. I think there is excitement about this phase, even though there were some though issues to wrestle with our couples.

Southwick: The schadenfreude-prone part of me really enjoyed in your book the stories and anecdotes about couples who, from the outside, seemed to have it all, but then after you talked to them and put it in your book, I got to see they were falling apart a little. Can you talk a little bit more about the "myth of the power couple"? It seems like at this point in your life -- in your 50s -- you're like, "I don't need this anymore."

Petriglieri: I think the term "power couple," is just awful, because it gives this ideal state as if these couples have everything, which no couple has. I mean, this is ridiculous. There are couples that work, though, and I think the question is what these couples that work have that the couples that don't work don't have? A lot of this comes down to whether we can maintain a balance of power in the relationship.

Often what happens over time is that power balance shifts to one person, and when I talk about power in a couple, I mean, "Do I have the opportunity to go for the things I really want to do?" Now this isn't about necessarily succeeding them, but it's like, "Does the couple support me in reaching those desires?" 

Let me give you an example and, of course, this is not necessarily linked to how much I earn or how much of a powerful or prestigious job I have. There's one couple I followed and she was a CEO of a midsized company. She was sometimes listed in these power women things. 

But in the couple she really didn't have power at all and the way she talked about her career was, "I know I've reached an objectively successful place, but this is not where I wanted to be. There were other avenues I wanted to take, but everyday I was running on this treadmill, essentially to keep the family going and so my husband could pursue his career dreams."

And I thought that was really interesting, because then I said, "How did you get there?" Because now she's at this stage of transition, and her husband can see it, as well. But, of course, it took two to tango and, of course, it starts with one small thing. Let's sweep it under the carpet. Let's not worry about that. And suddenly in a couple a pattern develops that one is the giver and the other is the taker. And very often it's such a slow dynamic, a bit like the boiling frog, that we don't realize until five or 10 years later when there's a real sense of power imbalance which, of course, brings the resentment and the guilt into a couple. 

And I think it's very easy from the outside to look at those couples and think, "Oh, it's his or her fault they've been taking." It's never like that. It's always this slow dynamic. This slow burn. And couples get into that situation because they've not been talking about this stuff. Because they have been sweeping it under the carpet. 

Brokamp: Our listeners can clearly figure out that you're British. 

Petriglieri: Yes.

Brokamp: Your husband's Italian.

Petriglieri: Yes.

Brokamp: You live in France.

Petriglieri: Yes. 

Brokamp: But all our American listeners can tie into what you're saying because really this is international, or at least in the Western-developed world.

Petriglieri: And even not in the Western-developed world. My sample for the research was global. There were a lot of American couples, but also European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African. And I think one of the things that was most surprising in the research was how these dynamics really played out across the globe. The issues of power, who gets what they want, how do we struggle through figuring out what we want, how do we face these identity questions are pretty universal. 

Of course, there are some cultural dynamics and these tend to pop up around children. Who takes care of the children? In many cultures the grandparents step in a lot more than they perhaps would in the U.S. and where I'm from in the U.K. Apart from that, it's surprising how common the dynamics are across the world. 

Southwick: It is kind of crazy how within essentially a generation women went from being the ones who stayed home and raised the kids to being the ones who also go to work.

Petriglieri: Yes and no. It's funny. We think about traditional structure as the breadwinner/homemaker, but it's not the traditional structure at all. It's a blip in the long course of human history. So until the Industrial Revolution, the idea that a woman would stay home and take care of the family was laughable. 

All members of the family contributed from as young as five years old. In the farms, etc., everyone is working. And really the Industrial Revolution changed that. So there's only a period of a little bit less than 100 years where that model existed. Now we're back to, in fact, what is the norm throughout human history.

It's interesting. When you look at tribal societies -- and there's research that's been done on tribal societies, the hunter/gatherer societies -- if we think of work in terms of how many calories we gather a day, women actually contribute a little bit more work. It's about 60/40 in terms of that. 

So the traditional model has always been working couples. We've just had a blip in that period from the Industrial Revolution through to really the Second World War. The Second World War was the start of the shift back, because a lot of the men were fighting, so the women took up those roles. And it's really that small period where we have that model, which we now think of as the traditional model, which actually isn't the traditional model at all. But yes, we're really going back to where we have been for most of the existence of humans on Earth.

Southwick: Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us! We covered all the transitions in your book and these different phases. It's a very well-organized book.

Petriglieri: Thank you!

Southwick: So for our listeners out there, there's tons of tips, tools, and advice for having these conversations and navigating all of these transitions. Again, the book is Couples That Work by Jennifer Petriglieri. Did I nail it?

Petriglieri: You nailed it!

Southwick: Thank you again! We look forward to seeing what your next book is going to be about. Do you already know?

Petriglieri: Thank you! I am actually finishing a children's book that I've written with my kids.

Brokamp: That's outstanding!

Petriglieri: Boring down the beach that started.

Brokamp: Let us know when that's available.

Petriglieri: Yes.

Southwick: Thank you!

Petriglieri: Thank you!

__

Southwick: Well, that's the show! It's edited contractually by Rick Engdahl. Our email is Answers@Fool.com. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish everybody!

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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