The Third Great Love in Your Marriage


André & Jeff ShinabargerBy Jeff Shinabarger

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

Learning to love the purpose of your partner is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give. But this learning is a process. Even though André and I may be drawn to very different work, we can still be drawn toward each other. Sometimes love has a funny way of bringing two unlikely people with dissimilar passions together in a beautiful way. It is in loving each other, loving what we do, and loving each other’s purpose that a lifetime of true partnership is created.

The third great love is our partner’s work. Loving the person who is closest to you and encouraging them to do what they are uniquely made to do will change how you live in partnership together. Loving the purpose of your partner creates an instant emotional connection with each other. I don’t want to battle against my partner’s purpose; I want to celebrate doing purposeful work with my partner.

Have you ever asked whose purpose in your relationship is more important? Warning: (1) This question likely can’t be answered definitively, and (2) this question likely will start a fight. It is a controversial question, but it could help clarify some of your priorities. The tension between your competing purposes usually starts with calendar debates and money problems but can eventually lead to heart palpitations and real headaches.

Obviously, it’s common for couples to compare paychecks, and often priority is given to the larger salary. But this isn’t about money: Whose purpose tends to take precedence? Is one more important than the other? Now, you might debate with me on this, and yes, it’s unreasonable to compare one human’s existence with that of another. But if we are exploring whether we feel our purpose is more important than our partner’s, then let’s be honest: many of us act like what we do is more important than it really is. That ego is the problem. Resentment creeps into families when the love of one person’s work outweighs the love of everyone else.

Throughout the research for Love or Work and in my personal journey, I’ve needed to remember that overprioritizing work can cause others to question your love for them. This happens more than I care to admit. I believe it is a major tension.

If I do work that matters, it can be all-consuming. My attention is focused on the demands of my work. Everything I look at is first filtered through the lens of work. All my decisions are made based on how they will impact my work. I can’t go to that game because I have a meeting. I can’t go on that trip because I have a big deadline at work. I can’t be at that appointment because I’m already booked to go on that work trip. I can’t do life because I’m doing work.

There have been moments (months) when my work tainted the joy of my family. I have hurt my kids, and I continually hurt André when I prioritize my own purpose over her purpose and over our love. But if you can love the purpose of your partner with an equal amount of commitment as your own work, you’ll be able to create a consistent pattern of responsibility and respect.

Supporting your partner’s purpose will mean making sacrifices, but reaching a point where all three loves—loving our partner, loving our purpose, and loving our partner’s purpose—are working together is crucial to a healthy life. For me, it means I am willing to change my schedule to pick up the kids so André can complete her work. My belief in what she does causes me to take more responsibility for our family and household so she can do her work well.

In our research, only 31 percent of respondents feel encouraged by their partner to pursue their work and dreams. This percentage is way too low. Though we may believe in the abilities of our partners, too many of us fail to provide the support needed to make their dreams a reality.

Do I believe my partner’s purpose is equal to my own purpose? Or at the end of the day, do I think my contribution to the world is most valuable? Some questions we don’t want to answer, but we still need to consider them. This question targets a core belief defining your relationship.

André literally saves lives every day, and I help people with ideas. Her work is more important for individuals’ health, but that doesn’t minimize my purpose.

Valuing and even loving our partner’s purpose as equal to our own is an example of a new era in “family values.” When we love the purpose of our partner, we exemplify for our children a commitment marked by equity, purpose, and partnership. If we want to see more equality in the workplace, I believe the first place we should seek change is in our homes as we evaluate the equity of our partnerships.

It may be unreasonable for you to like your partner’s work as much as they do. I would need a helmet for every time I passed out seeing the things André sees, does, and fixes. But you can love watching your partner do what they are meant to do. Think about the times you’ve loved watching your partner do what they are meant to do. Have you gone out of your way to provide extra time for them to do those things? Would you be willing to stay with your kids so your partner can get more schooling? When was the last time you changed your work schedule for your partner’s work schedule?

Start watching for those moments when you can minimize your purpose and maximize theirs. Let your ego take a back seat and let their purpose shine.


Love or WorkAdapted from Love or Work: Is It Possible to Change the World, Stay in Love, and Raise a Healthy Family? by André & Jeff Shinabarger. Click here to learn more about this book.

Is it possible to work with purpose, stay in love, and raise a healthy family–all at the same time? Popular podcast hosts and founders of Plywood People Jeff and André Shinabarger share proven research, insightful practices, and stories from 100 working couples to cast new vision for the modern family.

We know the harm that comes from prioritizing work or family at the cost of the other, so what is the secret to living a fully engaged and balanced life in both work and family? Hosts of the Love or Work podcast, Jeff and André Shinabarger posed this question to 100 working couples–from professional athletes and artists, entrepreneurs and CEOs, to fashion icons and church leaders. They partnered with the Barna Group for a yearlong nationwide research project to find the answer and now, along with their own unique story of juggling demanding careers and a growing family, Jeff and André offer their findings: a new vision for the modern family and a path forward for the socially-conscious working partnership.

In this one-of-a-kind book, they address head-on the complex tensions in career fulfillment, working parent guilt, timing, and marital and spiritual health. With proven research, personal experience, and applicable insights, Jeff and André reveal the practices that will help you cultivate your own, individual, purpose-fueled family.

More than a formula, Jeff and André found that work-life balance is about embracing where you’re at in the journey, pursuing your passion with your family, and living the adventure of it all together. Learn more at

Jeff Shinabarger is a bestselling author and founder of Plywood People, a nonprofit in Atlanta leading a community of start-ups doing good. His work has been featured by Forbes, Inc., CNN, USA Weekend and Huffington Post. He is the co-founder of Q, mentored over 600 start-ups and created the largest social entrepreneur event in the South called Plywood Presents.

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