How The Third Metric Could Transform Your Marriage

The Surprising Decision That Could Transform Your Marriage

Newlyweds Meghan Telpner and Josh Gitalis' professional lives are the stuff of overworked urbanite fantasies. Both are self-employed -- Josh, 31, as a nutritionist, Meghan, 33, teaching online cooking courses. Their daily routine involves meditating together in the morning and evening trips to the farmers market, with lots of yoga and bike riding in between. They fell in love in part because each prioritizes healthy living, which Josh describes as "almost a religion."

Meghan and Josh, and three other like-minded couples profiled in The Huffington Post, have intentionally shaped or reshaped their lives to be, as one couple puts it, "a little bit simpler." They value exercise and recreation as much as work. They reject corporate ladder-climbing and the miserable home life that can be its byproduct. They simultaneously want less and so much more.

This new approach to work and life was the focus of a conference hosted by Huffington Post President and CEO Arianna Huffington and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski in June 2013 called "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power." "Society's definition of success [is] not working for anyone," Huffington said recently. "It's not working for women, it's not working for men ... It's only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, diabetes, heart disease, sleeplessness and high blood pressure."

Instead, Huffington argued, we should measure success in terms of a third metric, well-being.

The couples you'll meet below are taking a Third Metric approach not just to their lives but also to their marriages.
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Given what is known about the effects of stress on marriage and the fact that 50 percent of first marriages fail, it's not a bad strategy. In a 2007 study, 662 divorced individuals didn't cite general stress as a cause of their split, but a majority of them "considered the accumulation of everyday stresses as a central trigger for divorce."

In an era and economy when it is often financially necessary for both men and women to "lean in," marriages like Meghan and Josh’s seem almost transgressive. However, data from the Families and Work Institute suggests that they are acting on what many of us are feeling. A study titled "Times Are Changing: Gender and Generation at Work and Home" showed that men and women's desire for more responsibility at work slides between the ages of 25 and 44.

That shift in focus could be generational. Millennials and those straddling Generations Y and X know downward mobility all too well. They witness how little sleep, and how many emails and competing demands the most successful boomers and elder Gen Xers withstand. They also know how stressed they are. An American Psychological Association survey published earlier this year found that people ages 18 to 33 are more stressed than Americans in other age brackets. It's no wonder some 20- and 30-somethings have decided that living for and at their jobs probably won’t fulfill them, and have begun devoting their energy and creativity to the things that might -- including their marriages.

For now, these pairs are outliers. They are also privileged. Most of the spouses we profile have four-year college degrees, and several have flexible schedules –- a very rare scenario among American workers. (Meghan and Josh live in Canada, where flex work and self employment seem to be slightly more common.) But they've also adjusted to lower, sometimes inconsistent incomes, altered their career trajectories and made other sacrifices in the interest of living better.

Maybe education and socioeconomic status are essential ingredients in marriages as low-stress as theirs. But according to them, it’s a deliberate change in values that has made all the difference between a thriving marriage and a failing one. What if they're onto something?

This story appears in Issue 62 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, August 16.

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