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June 15, 2009
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For Better or For Worse

“For better or for worse…for richer or for poor…in sickness and in health…until death do us part.” These were words spoken by the HR Newlywed to his beautiful bride, Charlotte, in June 40 years ago. Those words have never been regretted. These are the words which would become the anchor points of love and fun for all these decades.

ImageOn the occasion of this important anniversary, it is time to use a bit of personal privilege and stumble through saying how much I love her, how much our relationship has meant and how it has brought fulfillment to my life. 

Being an HR Spouse is not easy. The work of an elected or appointed professional in public service involves a lot of time at the office and a lot of time engaged in work wherever you are. I’ve gotten called while in the shower, while at the supermarket, while on vacation, while ill, as well as regularly on weekends and holidays.

That is part of the deal for a person who signs up for public service. It also becomes, intentionally or not, the deal that the family signs up for as well.

Charlotte and my amazing daughters, Elyse and Rachel, have put up with my leaving unexpectedly for this or that meeting, with me coming home from meetings of the Board of Supervisors or city or County Commissions very late, only to be told of the early morning meeting the next day. They have read my name in newspapers or on local news broadcasts amidst controversies, budget crises, and occasionally in reports about the very many wonderful things done by public employees, which somehow, though rarely, accidentally made it into a news story. 

During all of this, Charlotte has remained committed to volunteerism in her own right as well as attending the interminably long formal dinners, public hearings and awards events. She is my friend, my confidante and my partner. I thank you for putting up with me for all these years, dearest Saint Charlotte.

As an HR professional, I realize that the very best approach to retaining and attracting the most innovative and productive employees is to help them realize, ironically, that there is more to life than being at the office. Building positive relationships in the community as well as at work is critical. This is even truer of relationships at home and in the neighborhood. 

HR Daughter ­— and now Doctor Daughter Rachel — points out that married people live longer than those who are not part of a committed relationship. The same is true of those with a well-developed sense of humor. Interestingly, a key to a successful and long marriage is also having a sense of humor. The more an employer helps people at work realize their life dreams, respects their pursuit of personal interests and recognizes the necessary balances in life, the more successful the employer — and the employee — will be.

When that is not the case, the result will be relationships that break down. Repairing the breakdowns in the office and at home with a spouse, with kids, with significant others, and, yes, even with the dog, requires hard consistent work and a willingness to look in the mirror and recognize the large part you have probably contributed to the problems.

In our “disposable” society, when our electronic toys break down, we are much more likely to just go out and replace them than to spend the energy and time to try to repair them. This mindset can easily and sadly carry over to relationships.

In America today, about 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce. In case you and your spouse are curious, about 67 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages also end in divorce. The statistics do not extrapolate out to ninth and 10th marriage rates. 

“Irreconcilable differences” is a popular phrase uttered, at least around show business divorces, although those words seem never to appear as couples walk breathlessly down the aisle.

Perhaps the people involved should not have qualified for marriage in the first place. “Qualifying” for marriage leads to an obvious local government business opportunity.

People already have to come to a government office to obtain the license to wed. Why not have Human Resources administer written and oral examinations and grade the couple while the couple is already present and waiting in line?

The result can be a civil service eligible list which determines whether or not the couple will be allowed to marry. This might well be very effective. Unfortunately, it might take months for the results to be mailed to the last known address of those involved.

Charlotte, here’s to the 40 wonderful years of our lives together, two amazing daughters, and two lives of caring about each other and about the world. I can’t wait to see what the next 40 will bring us!

Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor Husband


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