Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When His Career Comes First

Today, I want to talk about something serious. I want to talk about what it means to follow a spouse in the pursuit of their career over yours.

I've done it. Some of you have done it too. So can we be honest with each other?

Most of the time, when I think about the career I could have had, I'm kind of bitter.

This is the life I chose. I didn't have to choose it, but I did. I have a fantastic life.

I know that if I'd chosen not to move, not to marry, not to tie my raft to his, I would have regretted it every day for the rest of my life.

But most of the time, when I really think about the sacrifices I've made in my career in order to allow Matt to pursue his, I don't have a very good attitude about it.

This is something I've known and felt for years. I keep pushing it down, because it's not Matt's fault, and it's not productive to dwell on it. But I got a text message from Matt's sister the other day, and I felt I finally had to deal with my feelings about it head on.

Her husband, my brother-in-law, plans to start grad school soon. He had an on-site interview with one of the schools he applied to last week, and I texted her to find out how it went. It apparently went well, and I congratulated them. Regardless of which school he chooses, the two of them would be moving away from Texas themselves.

She said she didn't quite know what she's going to do yet, wherever they go, but that she knew I could sympathize.

I didn't respond to that message. I started to type a sarcastic comment, and then stopped. Why, WHY does this make me so unhappy?

I've chosen to move twice for Matt's schooling and Matt's career, but the places we go don't have many career options for me. I find myself settling for jobs that are good enough, but that will never be what I had envisioned for myself. I find myself struggling to be positive when I think about the opportunities I've given up, the dream I've set aside, the life I could have had.

It's a terrible feeling to have. That negativity is draining, and unhelpful, but it's there. I can't pretend it's not.

I'm not sure what to say. I don't want my sister-in-law to feel this way. And I don't want to feel this way anymore either. I want to be able to be positive, to not have regrets, to be accepting of what is, to be an encouragement to someone who's jumping in my boat for the first time.

What would you tell her? How can we, together, you and me, take steps to stop begrudging our spouses for the choices we've made? If you've made your peace, how did you do it?

21 comments

  1. I'm not in your shoes, but a friend of mine is. She followed him around during his pHD and back home for a job. She found it really hard to move after she put roots down (even when she was moving home). After 10 years, she couldn't take it anymore and when he got a "dream job", she refused to go. Now they live a 2 hr plane ride away and see eachother for a weekend every 3 weeks. Like you, she seemed to push it down, decided it was not productive to talk about it. But I think not talking about it just lets those feelings of bitterness fester. It's not like it goes away just because you don't say it outloud. I encourage you to talk to him. And not just once. Check in with eachother often. I don't know that it will make the bitterness go away, but pushing the feelings away certainly doesn't.

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  2. Thank you for commenting. I should clarify that this is a conversation I've had with Matt many times over the years, and I'm tired of it being this nagging thing.

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  3. I made him give me kids. That's honestly why we started so early because i knew i wouldn't be making progress on my career during his 10 year commitment and once the kids are in school i can start focusing on myself. Also the promise to do everything in his power to get us back to Texas.

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  4. That is a tough one :( We've had to make sacrifices for both our careers, but it's very give and take. It's so hard to make those major decisions and wonder "what if" or what could have been, but if I allow myself to dwell on it I get a root of bitterness that just festers and festers for sure. I don't know the right answer, but regret really stinks :(

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  5. Wow, I relate to this SO MUCH. There are no easy answers, and I'm still struggling with a lot of the things you're struggling with. We should definitely talk some time and commiserate. It's a hard place to be in, especially if you love and support your partner and know that you chose to make the sacrifices.

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  6. This is hard. I'm not in this situation, myself, but I get the feeling of being 'trapped' in some way. Thinking of you, and hoping you can find a way to feel fulfilled no matter where you are!

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  7. Thanks, Mitra. He is very supportive of me, thankfully, and I have to hold out hope that someday I'll have my chance too.

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  8. We someday hope to be back in Texas too. We're enjoying our adventure for now, but Texas will always have my heart. But I'm still not 100% on board with having kids, so I can't make the same deal with Matt. :)

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  9. Hopefully you share in the sacrifices, so neither one of you bears the whole burden on your own. That's a heavy burden.

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  10. Yes yes yes! Commiseration, please. :) How on earth do you demand what you want without un-supporting the other person! My goodness.

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  11. This is a really hard thing. Even when I worked three teaching jobs (all part-time), I still made less than my husband. I chose a field that paid less than his, and it will always be that way for us. I totally understand feeling resentful, and I think it's normal. I'm home with my boys now, and he gets to travel a few times a year to really amazing places where his company wines and dines him completely. It's hard not to feel jealous or resentful while he's having so much fun and I'm at home dealing with everyday stuff. But I miss him when he's gone and he helps me so much when he's home. It's a tough thing, and I'm glad you guys talk about it.

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  12. The only person I know personally who has had to do something like this has been a good friend, who is living far away from her family in a state she doesn't really like, all because her husband loves said state and is happy there. She's had to deal with the fact that they are probably never going to live closer to her family, because he doesn't like it out there and has found a job and a life in that other place. Although I really don't know how she's personally dealt with those feelings.
    I can relate somewhat, though, to feeling regret or bitterness over just the situation I have sometimes. Neither Jordan nor I have careers where we will ever make a ton of money. We didn't have parents who paid for our college or bought us new cars. We don't know people who have season tickets to sporting events and pass them out to their friends for free.
    I think that's why I am really trying to focus on being content this year. It's easy for me to be bitter at someone else because of the things they have that seem to just be handed to them. But we do the best we can with what we have. I think just continuing to talk with Matt about it, pray about it, and looking ahead instead of looking behind at what you left. Because I think you'll regret doing that more than you'll regret not doing anything else.

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  13. Katie @ A Beautiful Little AdvFebruary 6, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    This is so hard. I've done this twice for two different relationships. The first didn't work out. The second, my marriage to Ryan, is a struggle, but it's a constant give and take. This go around I demanded more compromise....that we both sacrifice equally. But we all know sacrifice is never equal. My advice is to keep the communication open. Always be open with your feelings of regret or bitterness or anger. I try to remember that I love seeing him happy, that that fulfills my heart. I try to remember that one day the roles may be reversed in some way.

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  14. I've got to say, in all the conversations I've had on this subject thanks to this post or in real life — and there have been many over the years — this is the first time I've had someone suggest prayer. And it's kind of like one of those DUH moments … why didn't I think of it sooner? You're awesome.

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  15. Very true. I am so happy for him. I am so proud of him. By being alongside him for these things he's accomplished, it's almost as if I've accomplished them too. Almost.


    No sacrifice is equal, but I've got to hold out hope that someday it will be my turn. And yours too.

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  16. oh sweet girl. i've moved twice for jon's job, and the first move gave me an actual panic attack. i knew the only thing worse than moving would be staying without him, and so we went- but ah- from chicago (hometown of my friends and family) to a rural wisconsin town. just 9 months later? minneapolis. granted, the second move was better than the first, but each time it came with a bit of worry. as for advice, i just focus on being together and remembering that your relationship is your first commitment. not sure that helps?

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  17. I've just had enough people suggest prayer as the first option that it's ingrained in my mind. It's a frustrating response sometimes, but at the same time I know it's the truth.

    *Amanda* | The Lady Okie Blog

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  18. It does. It is. You hit the nail on the head.

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  19. My husband and I have talked a lot about this and have come to the realization that the sacrifices that we make for each other will never been equal, so we aim for fairness instead.


    Given the opportunities that you have passed up for him, are there things that you can take the lead on and that he can make sacrifices for? In my relationship that would probably be which side of the family we spend holidays with, but it might be something else for you. The point isn't to keep a scorecard of sacrifices and weigh the value of each one to make sure both parties have given "enough", but I think it is helpful to expand the ideas of sacrificing for the other person beyond just your careers.


    The other thing I would say to your SIL is that she should take this as an opportunity to really get excited about living somewhere new. Yes, it's tough, but it is also an awesome experience that not everyone gets. And that depending on how far she's going, now may be the time to sign up for an airlines rewards credit card :)

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  20. That's an interesting point you bring up, about how it doesn't have to be just career that we make sacrifices for, as long as it's fair, that he can make alternative sacrifices for me. I hadn't thought about that before, and it's giving me something to chew on. I try — and fail, often — to not think of things in terms of scoreboards, so that's a tough balancing act.


    Great advice. Thank you.

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  21. I've definitely been there, and it's so frustrating. My parents raised me to be independent and to be able to support myself and stand on my own two feet. I'm lucky enough to have a job that pays decently and that I'm happy with (or happy enough with?), but I'm stuck location-wise being in places where oil is produced so my husband can pursue his career, and it causes me endless anxiety sometimes... I could have many more professional opportunities in a greener city.



    I don't think there's a right choice and a wrong choice. I try to do what I love outside of work, and dream about what we'll do and where we'll live when we're retired. But I admire the many leagues of women out there who have put their careers first and made difficult relationship choices accordingly. Either way, it's a heartbreaking decision to make.

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