THIN REWARD FOR A DIFFICULT JOB
There is no formal training for this sort of life or the scrutiny that comes with it. A US consulting firm, RHR International, once suggested that anyone married to a CEO might like to take the Meyers-Briggs personality test as preparation. But it’s not clear how knowing whether you’re an INFJ or ESTP helps.
Colette Young, wife of former Dr Pepper Snapple chief executive Larry Young, took a more practical approach. In 2005 she set up a business called ExecuMate that offered coaching for executive spouses. Advice included having a positive attitude about relocation.
As if that’s not enough, professional spouses are also supposed to have an improving effect on their partners. A popular 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research claimed that unmarried CEOs made more aggressive choices and worked at companies with more volatile stock prices than their married peers.
The research feeds into an idea of marital serenity aiding professional life that politics is also fond of calling on. Think of Sarah Brown, whose warmth was employed by the British Labour party to offset prime minister Gordon Brown’s awkwardness. Or Michelle Obama, whose likeability helped to secure votes for husband Barack.
The job is to be mother, wife and helpmate for the great man, as the journalist Irin Carmon once wrote of Ann Romney, wife of US presidential candidate Mitt. The husband’s side of the bargain is to talk about how much they admire their wives. This sounds like thin reward for a difficult job. In two-career households, it can be even more fraught.