Lately, stories are in the news about the occurrence of serious marital problems of Hollywood couples after the woman wins an Oscar. Kate Winslet announced her divorce, and Sandra Bullock is now separated. Not too long ago, after winning Oscars, both Hilary Swank and Reese Witherspoon divorced.

Entertainment headlines asked, "Is there an Oscar-curse?"  Not exactly. And should highly successful women, in general, be concerned about their relationships?  Possibly. 

The more important questions are:

  • What is success?
  • What are the signs that my less successful man is having trouble living with my successes?
  • What can I do if I see problems brewing?
  • How do I head off problems from the imbalance of power, fame, and fortune from starting in the first place?

What is Success?

Luckily for all of us, the definition of success is broad and highly individualized.  In economically mobile societies, it's easy to define success in terms of lots of money, expensive things, fame and access to the perks of the rich and famous. Yet, the news is filled almost daily with stories about the scams, arrests, affairs and even murders of the privileged. Suddenly, we who live without such cache feel better about our lives.

So, just what is success, then?  Think about the following factors that my work with thousands of people have showed me to be important. Some of the keys to success lie in the ability to:

  • Develop pride in what you've overcome
  • Sustain a sense of self-worth during bad times
  • Be proactive during hard times
  • Set realistic life and career goals and not back away from challenges
  • Develop values and ethics
  • Sustain mutually satisfying and respectful personal relationships
  • Be able to withstand self-examination and change if necessary
  • Be able to support yourself
  • Find a career and/or interest that impassions you and gives you a sense of purpose
  • Give back to others less fortunate
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle
  • Love life

Of course this list doesn't include everything.  Add your own.

Signs of Trouble: What to Look For

Now that you've read the success factors, you can already guess the warning signs. Here is a concise list of things to watch out for. If your man is having trouble adjusting to your success, he might:

  • Avoid being with you and your friends
  • Not attend your professional events
  • Retreat into his own world with his friends--and not include you
  • Pick fights or develop a hair-trigger temper
  • Criticize you and/or friends
  • Abuse substances
  • Get depressed
  • Become abusive
  • Have affairs

What to Do

Living with someone who is busy or in the limelight can be very challenging. Here are some tips if your lifestyle is different from your partner's.

  • Make all major decisions together--especially where and how you live. Don't fall back on "we can afford it" as a reason to buy things. Aim to make your purchases and decisions please both of you.
  • Go over bills and taxes together.
  • Establish separate bank accounts.
  • Maintain couple time.  Go away for long weekends, for example.
  • Create your own traditions and rituals. Celebrate holidays, anniversaries and birthdays together. 
  • Stay family-focused.  For example, go on family vacations, attend your children's activities as much as possible.
  • Develop shared interests and goals. For example, pick a charity where you can work as a team.
  • Stay in touch via email, text messages, phone calls, Skype and other venues when you are away.
  • Maintain a mix of friends.  Do activities together with his friends, your friends and everyone together.  Don't worry if other people don't mix.  It's your life--not theirs. 
  • Do emotional check-ups with each other to find out what issues might be brewing under the surface.