Pierre Curie, a celebrated physicist, pleaded with fellow scientist, Marie Sklodowska in 1895, to marry him and pool their remarkable ambitions. “He felt himself drawn toward Marie by an impulse of love and at the same time by the highest necessity.” (Eve Curie, Madame Curie, p. 137)
A more contemporary example is Ronald Reagan, who made several Hollywood films as a leading man in the 1930s and 1940s, but still felt unfulfilled and troubled by a divorce and a declining career. He later admitted freely and repeatedly, “…if Nancy Davis hadn’t come along when she did, I would have lost my soul.” (Nancy Reagan, My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan, p. 126)
The point is, regardless of their previous attainments in life—whether negligible or considerable—many well-intentioned men feel their “quest”, that is, their life’s dream and work, is undefined or incomplete without the support and involvement of a loving woman. Is your man one of them?
- Has his career path been more of a meandering stroll than a focused climb?
- Is he either too discouraged or too comfortable with the status quo?
- Does it seem to you that he’s by-passed one-too-many opportunities?
In the case of your unmotivated, stalemated, or rudderless guy, it could be that he is counting on you, consciously or unconsciously, obviously or intuitively, to be his “guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure,” as Joseph Campbell put it. His ultimate success may very well depend of the two of you piecing together what he’s made of and what he’s meant to do in this world. Here are some ways to help him on the road to discovery.
- Encourage his individuality. The courage to be himself—to form and share his unique opinions and approach to life—rests largely, if not exclusively, on you. How you respond to his ideas and impressions has the power to inhibit or to liberate him. You don’t necessarily have to agree with everything he says, but give him the respect he deserves as a man and as an individual. Let him be passionate, dramatic, and ambitious as he brainstorms his quest. The world will cut him down to size if given half a chance—you don’t have to.
- Spur his creativity. Instigate a running dialogue between the two of you about the world around you. Observe people, organizations, nature, products, the arts, media, religion, politics—everything! Ask him what he likes or doesn’t like about the way something is designed or functions: what could be improved about it; what would he do to make it better? Remember, you are creating a quest that expresses his unique essence.
- Spend time with positive, creative people. If you want a man who is jazzed about life—who learns to see and seize opportunities and overcome obstacles—then you would do well to expose him (and yourself) to enthusiastic, creative people. Such people talk about ideas, live optimistically, spark your imagination, and fire up your enthusiasm. Friendly, confident, exuberant attitudes are invigorating and contagious.
- Help him consider other the options. Ask him about what it is in his dream occupation that appeals to him. Keep digging until you can take his answers—those inherent values—and apply them to his present work or to a completely different, but similarly challenging endeavor. A quest is a step-by-step journey, not a destination.
My own marriage is an example of this approach to dream seeking. Adrift at the start, it took my guy decades of starts, stops, and rewinds, to finally land on the right quest. Looking back, a real pivot came with my perspective change: I’d been thinking of myself more as the finish line than his springboard.
What my man craved, like Pierre Currie and Ronald Reagan, was a fully vested partner to help channel his energy and inspire his ambition. Today he’s highly respected in his field of cyber security, a global keynoter, and when I watch him do his work, I have to admit I’m just a little proud. Of both of us.