So you’re married to someone who works in an investment bank. Congratulations!
You have chosen a difficult and precarious path fraught with danger, albeit livened up with nice holidays and meals in expensive restaurants.
If you want to stay married, these are the rules.
1. Empathize and tolerate
Having a banking spouse means that you must accept your position: work comes first, you come second. “Tolerance is key,” says Louise Cooper, analyst and ex-Goldman employee. “You have to accept that they won’t be there for you.”
“You’re wedded to your work and you’re on call 24/7. You gravitate towards people who understand that world,” one banker told us.
“You need to face the fact that you’re going to have to be terribly understanding,” an analyst who’s been married for more than two decades told us. “You won’t see your husband or wife very often and they may be working away a lot. That’s how it is. You can’t impose any boundaries – it doesn’t work like that.”
2. Never expect, never assume
Just because it’s a child’s birthday or a family holiday, that doesn’t mean a banking spouse will be able to attend. “Our first date was cancelled twice because of his work… I would travel to London to discover that he had to work all through the weekend. I would hardly see him,” one banking wife said.
“You have to accept that you will have no help with the children,” says Cooper. “That’s the deal.”
3. Be there to bolster a fragile ego
Trading, especially, can take its toll on the ego – especially when things are going wrong. Traders need a strong belief system to function in their day-to-day jobs, David Tuckett, a visiting professor at University College London and researcher in the role of emotions in economics, told us. Spouses are expected to support that belief system. If they don’t, the trader will respond harshly. “Traders identify any threat to their belief systems as extremely dangerous,” he said.
4. Prepare to live alone
“I haven’t seen my wife for ten days,” the long-married analyst told us. “I’m driving down to see her this evening though.”
“On weekdays I do not include my husband in any of my after-office plans. He leaves home by 8.30am and is usually home by 10 or 11 in the evening, sometimes later, sometimes a bit earlier,” a banker’s wife told anthropologist Joris Luyendijk.
5. Appreciate the upside
It’s no good being married to someone who works in finance if you don’t appreciate the money. “It’s a deal,” says Cooper. “The work really, really, really hard and you get to spend their money.”
6. Iron the shirts
Now that bankers have less money than they used to, they can’t always afford ironing services any more. Spouses are having to fill-in.
“You need to make his life easy. You need to say, ‘I’ll iron your shirts’, not complain about how little you see him,” advises the senior analyst we spoke to.
7. Develop a strong support network
If your husband/wife isn’t there for you, someone else will need to be – especially if you have children. “In the early days, my wife spent a lot of time with her parents and her sister,” says the analyst. “My parents helped out too.”
8. Have a serious sense of humour
Ultimately, you will need to laugh at your spouse’s uselessness and failure to turn up to important non-work occasions. This banking wife, writing in Financial News, describes how their holidays were named after deals he was working on and how her husband had to put his dongle into a carrier bag and climb a tree in order to get an internet signal so that he could work on a holiday in Somerset. The analyst we spoke to calls such things, ‘war stories.’ – “My wife has loads of them,” he said.
9. Persuade him/her to quit banking
This is always an option. Except then you won’t be married to an investment banker – you may find you’re just be married to someone who hangs around the house all day trying to reinvent him/herself as a novelist or cabinet maker.