What the Rest of Us Can Learn From Sheryl Sandberg's Marriage

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved -- and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

When I read Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook tribute to her husband Dave Goldberg, I felt a twinge of disappointment about my personal marital experience. Sure, I have empathy for Sheryl and her children, who lost a husband and father far too soon. I'm impressed by Sheryl's gratitude for having had her husband in her life for however brief the time.

One of the messages of Lean In was about the need for balance and mutual support to help pave the way for women's career success and it seems Sheryl and her husband struck that balance. Though both held demanding leadership positions, Dave seemed to have had a tremendous respect for his wife, which Sheryl valued.

When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.

― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Attaining that balance within a relationship is hard work. Far too often, one partner leans in to the demands of the other, especially when a partner overwhelms us. We struggle to make everything perfect to avoid an outburst or glaring disapproval when things don't go exactly as the partner would have liked. We fall into a tempestuous vortex of vying for the approval we'll never have.

Partnership isn't 50/50 but a defined balance where both people strive to make each other better. Life doesn't go smoothly for anyone. We go through career challenges, sickness, deaths of loved ones. In a true loving relationship, one bends to help the other through these times as well as the triumphs.

Traditionally, we've expected the woman to appease her husband and children, taking a supporting role to the rest of the family. Women weren't expected to upstage men with our intellect so if we had thoughts, we were encouraged to keep them under wraps to avoid upstaging men.

Times have changed and for relationships to fulfill both partners, there must be mutual respect. Women can be "smart, opinionated, and ambitious" without taking anything from our partners.

Dave Goldberg left quite a professional legacy but perhaps the bigger picture is his relationship with his wife and children. He showed it's possible to have a loving relationship where each partner truly supports the other's ambitions and dreams.