This article is an installment of The Everyday Warrior series that features advice, key interviews, and tips to live a life of impact, growth, and continual learning.
I am a 44-year-old mother of two who owns two small businesses, works as a 1099 for three different companies, trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and serves as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Not many men could be married to me, but thankfully, I only needed to find one. After 18 years together, I know my husband possesses many special skills, but perhaps his best is knowing how to support a driven woman.
In 2015, when I was attending Ranger School, all of the students had an eight-hour pass between the completion of the first phase and the start of the second. Of the three females remaining in the first integrated course, I was the only one who was in a steady relationship. As everyone was released for the day, I noticed several students were hanging around the parking lot with their families. Since Allan, my husband, hadn’t arrived yet, I walked up to the group of 20-somethings and asked why they were still there. I was 37 at the time and occasionally took on a “nurturing” role with these young men. One brave soul piped up and finally said, “Jaster, we’re really curious what kind of guy would marry you.”
Although many women would find that statement offensive, I got it. These men had literally slept in foxholes, gone into “mock battles,” and endured the most grueling experiences of their lives with me, a middle-aged woman, by their side. They had never met a woman like me before and weren’t sure what to make of me. I later heard the term “unicorn” thrown around to describe me. I never agreed with that moniker. The true fairytale creature is my husband, a guy who supports ambitions like mine without letting them get under his skin.
As Allan, my better half, rolled up and unfurled his six-foot nine-inch muscular frame from the rental, each remaining soldier punched my shoulder or winked as they rolled out with their families. My husband’s physical stature answered their question perfectly.
What makes us work, surprisingly enough has nothing to do with the fact that Allan is a tall Marine, but rather has a lot to do with his attitude. He’s secure and confident in who he is and what he got himself into when he bent a knee with a ring in his hand. There are two major things, among many, that make us work: He celebrates my success and challenges me at every turn.
Celebrate Her Success
As newlyweds, it was easy to build each other up. Allan supported my crazy endeavors without blinking an eye. We were able to ebb and flow into each other’s lives being there for the important moments while also being able to focus on our individual goals. But once we introduced kids into the equation, we had to start a new prioritization process. It’s one thing to take turns in the lead when you’re both pulling hard on the proverbial reins, but it’s another to feel like the team behind you truly wants to see you succeed. Allan has a very succinct way of expressing that support. He simply says, “I had sense enough to pick her.” That allows him to take a bit of credit for my success without taking away from the work I put in. He knows my success is his success and vice versa.
In our home, Allan has always been my biggest supporter and often my biggest critic as well. He pats me on the back, picks me up when I fall, and also holds me accountable. After leaving the active Army, I joined corporate America and started a successful career. Without his support, I might have opted for a less challenging option, which ultimately could have kept him from feeling comfortable enough to start his own business at the same time we were starting a family.
He made a point to remind me that my efforts in my job were appreciated and that each promotion helped us get closer to the professional freedom we yearned for. During that time, I traveled over 25 percent of the time, often out of the country for a week at a time, leaving him to care for our newborn. When I would call home, he didn’t greet me with a list of challenges or complaints about me being gone. He thanked me for my sacrifice and told me that he was holding down the fort.
As time went on and I was no longer happy working for a large corporation, Allan not only made it easy for me to leave the successful career I had built; he practically pushed me to do so. And that leads to the second critical way to support a strong spouse…challenge them.
Getting up for a big moment or event is one thing. Excellence day in and day out is another. Success is about consistency and continually pushing your limits. A spouse that is willing to challenge you and push you to continue to keep driving forward is the only kind of significant other that could gain and keep my respect. I needed a man who would challenge the status quo and call me out when I got complacent. I found a great job and was making really good money. We had great benefits and a lovely life. Although I wasn’t resting on my laurels, I was beginning to get stagnant.
Allan pushed hard for long time to get his business to a place where our family of four could live beyond a “comfortable” life. Now, he recognized that it was time for our roles to reverse. He was the steady income while I swung for the fences with a very ambitious career plan. Now I have two LLCs, a crazy work-life unbalance, and more freedom personally and professionally than I could have ever dreamed of because Allan forced me to challenge my situation.
It’s not just in business that Allan pushes me. He urged me to compete in CrossFit for years and now gives me gentle nudges about earning my blackbelt in jiu-jitsu. Many of my training partners and friends, like the soldiers at Ranger School, are bemused that my husband encourages me to train and grapple with sweaty dudes. What they don’t understand is he wants me to reach my potential in every aspect of my life: mind, body, and spirit. He’s the type of man who understands that all of the opportunities in the world are outside of an individual’s comfort zone and if given an out or the ability to relax, people become complacent and only become a fraction of the person they could be. He knows he didn’t marry that shadow of a person and enjoys pushing me to be the best version of myself. To be honest, his need for me to push the limits makes him all that much more attractive to me.
As a strong woman, I don’t need my partner, I want him. And that desire is stronger if it feels like we’re continually challenging ourselves and each other. It’s even better if I feel like he’s still trying to impress me. Other people might find the subtle ways we push each other off-putting, but that’s how alphas stay in the lead. I love that we still debate policy, the impact of current events on our respective branches of the military, and how to properly incorporate new technologies into our lives.
The biggest obstacle here when both are pushing hard is understanding who’s goals best nest with the team’s ultimate end state. Every alpha knows that being in the lead means you want to stay in the lead. It can often hurt a person’s ego to give up the front position—even if it is to the love of their life. In all truth, his success is our success and so is mine, but when my success puts our family in a better position, it’s important that my husband can find joy in celebrating me. It’s not a zero-sum game. If I win, he doesn’t lose. He wins when I win. All ships rise.
Although Allan’s size and demeanor is intimidating, that’s not what makes it possible for him to have an alpha by his side while maintaining his confidence and masculinity. The bottom line is a real man can revel in the glory of his wife’s accomplishments while simultaneously pushing her to work harder.
Lisa Jaster, PMP, is currently serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and one of the first three women to graduate the elite United States Army Ranger program in 2015, at age 37. She is a partner and senior contributor at Talent War Group as a keynote speaker and executive coach. She is also on the board of the directors of two non-profits, Team Red, White, and Blue as well as Dive Pirates.