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Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Spouse’s Career Hold You Back

  September 2

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Why You Shouldn't Let Your Spouses Career Hold You BackI have a public service announcement for everyone out there – and especially women – because it seems to me there’s a common trend of women allowing their spouse’s career to hold them back in life.

I don’t know why this is – whether it’s a lack of confidence, fear, or because they don’t want to rock the boat – but I’m here to encourage you, all of you, to do whatever you can to make your career dreams come true.

After all, your happiness is important in your marriage too, and you shouldn’t feel resentful or like you’re giving up something just so someone else can succeed.

An Example

A few years ago, my husband was accepted to medical school in the Caribbean. I was still in graduate school, though, and I had one semester left. We were newlyweds and I wanted to be with him, but I was in the middle of my graduate education.

So, he went to the Caribbean without me for a few months, and I finished my degree and then went and joined him when I was finished. It wasn’t fun. It was quite hard to be several thousand miles apart actually, but I wasn’t going to let his dreams hold back my dreams. Plus time flew by because we were so busy.

Once I got to the Caribbean I met a woman who was also the wife of a medical school student. We got to talking about what we did back in the States, and I told her I had just finished graduate school. She let out a big sigh and said she wished she could have done the same. She’d gotten accepted to a really prestigious graduate program at the same time her husband got into medical school out of the country. She said they had to choose between his school and her school so they could be together. Obviously, they chose his…

Now, everyone has their own reasons for wanting to be together and every relationship is different, so it would be judgmental of me to say this woman should have just stayed back and finished her degree so they’d both have careers they loved. I mean, maybe it was the right choice for them. However, I sensed so much regret in her and it made me sad. Why did she think she had to choose? Why didn’t she have the confidence to say what she wanted, to tell her husband they could make it work and that time would fly because they’d both be in school and buried in their studies?

No Excuses

I realize that no one can pursue every opportunity that comes their way. I know there are times when one person in a relationship has to be the supporter while the other does something difficult or challenging in their career. However, I also believe that with a solid enough relationship people really can do both. They can be super supportive of their spouses and write a book or start a new business or learn how to cook or whatever else they’ve always wanted to do with their lives.

In a few months, I am going to an event in New York City for work. Because of the time, etc. that the event is held, I will have to stay overnight in the city to get the most out of the experience and make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, my husband also has to be in a totally different city and state on the same night for his work. So, who was going to stay home with our kids?

Well, instead of cancelling my RSVP for the event or my husband going through the lengthy process to try to take time off for his work, we spent time putting our heads together to figure out the logistics.

He didn’t want me to cancel an event I was looking forward to. He didn’t want me to give up anything I wanted to do because of him. I wanted him to make the best impression possible at this particular hospital and I didn’t want him to appear like he wasn’t dedicated enough to go into work every day.

So, how could we both kick ass in our careers in two different states on the same day? The solution we came up with was having grandparents fly up to spend time with their grandtwins so we both can concentrate on what we have to do. I’m sure this will be the first of many scheduling clashes we will have as both our careers take off, but the fact that we’re willing to work together and hire help or ask for help when we need it makes me feel like we can accomplish anything together.

You Can Make It Work

The bottom line is, you and your spouse can make your career dreams work. If you want to go to law school, but you’re worried you can’t afford to quit your job, find a way to go part time or downsize. If you want to start a business but you’re a stay at home mom, ask your husband to watch the kids by himself so you can hit up Starbucks and work on your business plan.

We can all come up with every excuse in the book to not follow our dreams, and our spouse might be the best one ever because we can *blame* them for why we can’t do what we want. This is a myth though. The people who really want to pursue what they want out of life will go after it with a vengeance. If you have dreams that aren’t full realized, talk to you spouse. Be open. Ask for support. Be confident. But most of all, don’t let someone else’s career stop you from pursuing yours.

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31 responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Spouse’s Career Hold You Back

  1. You tackled this really well. Fact is, there are some couples that will find it extremely difficult to allow both spouses to follow their dreams. We were nearly that couple. My dream job was ONLY in Houston (at NASA’s Mission Control). Had my husband flown for the airlines, he would have had to take a spot wherever it was offered. Maybe that would have meant frequent flights to Houston, though 🙂 I think military spouses also have a hard road… But sacrifices are made and perhaps the marriage looks a little non-traditional from the outside.

    When I go to FinCon next month, we won’t have care for our girls. My husband JUST started his brand-new job. Is he taking off to watch them? No! Called grandma! You and I are lucky to have grandparents who can fly in for a few days and help out. Not every couple is going to have that.

    1. Thanks Kirsten! We are definitely lucky and you’re right not every couple will have it – but had they not been available I would have asked a neighbor or a friend. It’s important for moms to really jump into their community and meet the people around them to make sure they have a support network if family is not available.

  2. Having a safety net of family members and babysitters definitely helps. I think a lot of women fall victim to second fiddle thinking because they feel like someone has to be available for the kids at all times. I never felt that way, but it’s partly because we have family nearby who can watch kids when needed.

    1. That’s true. And, I also feel like women don’t like to ask for help. All of our family is 2,000 miles away but when it comes down to it they will fly here if we need them. If they weren’t able to come I would have asked a neighbor or a friend.

  3. Great post, Cat. Growing up, my mother told me a story about how she turned down an excavation in Mexico because she didn’t want to be away from my father. And she really regretted that decision. I kept that story in mind when I moved away from my college boyfriend to come work in Nashville. But being married is different. There needs to be an end in sight for time apart. It’s great you and your husband respect each other’s professional goals. And it’s awesome the twins’ grandparents can help out.

    1. Yes I agree with you – you wouldn’t want to be apart forever when you’re married but doing a year here or a year there to get the right training or to work with a specific client is doable – not fun, but doable until you can work something else out.

  4. True! Both of you can come up with ways to overcome those obstacles. Having both of you happy with the career you choose is so rewarding, giving both of you a sense of identity which will make your relationship that much stronger and fulfilling.

  5. My situation is a little different. I am focused on my professional dreams (and will not stop until I get there) and my fiance feels like he has had to sacrifice his dream career for me. It hurts because I have never asked him to put anything on hold and always try to encourage him to go for it. What can I do to show him that I support him and want him to go after his dreams?

    1. Hmmm that is an interesting problem. I feel like a ton of communication would help and depending what his dreams are, you can do some things to push him along. Like if his dream is to go to graduate school, you can give him some pamphlets from different universities or things like that.

  6. This is SO IMPORTANT. As an unmarried person I’ve never had to make these decisions, but I worry so much when I see women making choices like the ones you mention. Even if the plan all along has been for the woman to stop paid work when they have kids…. I’ve seen husbands die suddenly, I’ve seen unexpected divorces, I’ve seen the man finish grad school and be unable to find work in his field (thankfully, in that case, the woman had not yet quit her job — I’m sure the original plan was for her to do that and follow him to a new city, but as things have worked out, they’re still where they are and she’s still working as a lawyer.) Women really, really, really need to be able to support themselves; it’s a hella uncertain world. And of course, there’s the matter of feeling fulfilled in their primary work!

  7. Such an important thing for women to hear. It can be so hard as a woman to balance work and personal relationships. I know that I often want to put my relationship ahead of my career, but in the long run I think it is better to acknowledge that sometimes my career needs to come first.

  8. I love this Cat. Personally, for me, one of my biggest issues with ex-husband is that he had MAJOR problems with me wanting to follow my dreams. I’ve always been very ambitious and went for things and he always took the complain but don’t take action route. There were so many things I wasn’t “allowed” to do and it made me miserable. I definitely understand that some women “can’t” follow their dreams if they want to hang onto their marriage.

    Luckily I now have someone who fully supports me in everything and I do and I support him in everything he does. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

  9. Great solution! I would hate to be in a position where I felt like I had to chose between my goals and career and a spouse’s. I’m glad you found a way for both of you to be successful.

  10. Yes, it’s definitely important for women to take care of their careers and have options in life as well as the men! My Mom has never worked and has always been dependent on my Dad. They divorced after 30 years and she makes do with very little. The absolute best advice my mom ever gave me? “Don’t you depend on no dang man!”

    Now I’m blessed to have Mr. Crackin’ as my partner in life but I also know that I am capable of surviving on my own.

  11. I LOVE this post, Cat!! I think it’s something that women are guilty of most – and they risk so much. This is a great reminder to follow through with your goals and persist, no matter what.

  12. It can definitely be difficult not to let your spouse’s career trajectory and goals prevent you from achieving your own. That goes for both men and women. My wife has excelled in her career and we’ve always been able to find balance and align our goals together.

  13. This is a wonderful post! When we first had kids, I planned on putting my career on hold so I could stay home and raise them, but my reasons for doing that were selfish – I hated my previous career!!! Now, I’m doing something I LOVE and my kids are still loved and well-cared for. In fact, I think I’m a better mom and I like that I’m a good example to them! My husband is also in a field he loves. While we’re busy, we both love our jobs and our home life. I call it a win win!

  14. Yes! I think having an education is SO important. While your spouse may have a great career what of something happened to them or what if you ended up separated? Having you’re own ability to earn income is a huge asset. Even if one decides to stay home the educational background is an insurance. Though i love my daughter having a career is important to me too.

  15. Thank you for this, Cat. I have put my career on hold for 5 years while my husband was getting his degree to then get additional training for his dream job. I am just now learning to be more forceful with my dreams and pursuing my career. I love my kids and my family, but I need something for myself too. My parents are going to be coming to watch our kids for us while I’m at FinCon. I am so blessed to have parents who are willing and able to drive a ways to help out on occasion.

  16. I 100% agree. I would think that in a healthy relationship both partners would want to support the other’s dream. I’ve met many women who’ve expressed regrets about the dreams that they’ve pushed aside. I don’t want to be that person! Because I would eventually resent my husband’s perceived role in ending my dream (if I didn’t pursue it).

  17. YES! I firmly believe that this message needs to be spread to young women everywhere.
    The fact is, there are no guarantees that having only one spouse work is any better, easier, or more effective than allowing both spouses to work. I think it is great to analyze your situation personally – what works for one couple may not work for another – and to go from there.
    Another great post!

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