Thoughts on Spouses and Careers

Feb 27 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Get Rich Slowly did an article about a woman who is a self-proclaimed "sugar-momma."

The person in the post is to be commended... she's doing what she wants to be doing in the career of her choice and building experience and credentials, and she's also supporting her DH allowing him to fill his career goals through more education. This situation sounds like it is going to work out.

One thing I would caution for women in general is not to sacrifice their own career goals for their husband’s education. As an academic, I know plenty of couples where the woman worked at what she considered to be a temporary job to put her husband through school, but rather than return the favor later (as implicitly promised), they got divorced. Sacrificing one’s own ambitions puts a lot of stress on the marriage, no matter which spouse is doing the sacrificing.

Apparently that situation is not limited to academics. Plenty of folks in the comments chimed in about other situations of both sexes when one sacrificed and then they divorced. I doubt that most couples going into that kind of a situation are planning to use their spouses for easy living followed by trading in for a younger model. However, resentment (or guilt) can build when one member of the couple feels like he or she is sacrificing for the other. On top of that, school changes people. While one is working at a dead-end job, the other is becoming a different person.

Even though it may take more loans and definitely less spending, why can't both people pursue their goals at the same time?

Sometimes that kind of joint pursuit is not possible (for example, if one member of the couple cannot get a visa in a foreign country). But oftentimes the joint pursuit really is possible, except that both people have to sacrifice some not just one sacrificing a lot. Is it better for both to sacrifice, even if the total sacrifice is bigger (imagine a world with no fancy cheese)? Or is it better for only one person to take all the sacrifice?

What do you all think? Did you make sacrifices for your partner? Did your partner sacrifice for you? Or were you on your own in the pursuit of education and career?


6 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Both "sacrificed". Very large difference of opinion on relative ratio of course

  • then there are those people who claim they want to pursue educational and career goals but refuse to do so when presented with the opportunity, then blame the partner for their own lack of initiative. this scenario looks the same as what you describe, but the hidden reality is quite different.

  • Monisha says:

    This is complicated and interesting. In some sense, my spouse sacrificed by giving up a home country to come to my home country; and also had to turn down an offer at a significantly more prestigious institution because there was no place for me at that institution. But the former sacrifice turned into a real career booster, and the second sacrifice has to be seen in the context of a family-based choice - to stay where we had two tenure-track (and now tenured) positions, and all the leisure/lifestyle options we like, but less prestige, or to move to a place where we lose the leisure/lifestyle options and one of us is no longer tenure-track.

    so i guess my larger point is that what seems a sacrifice today can be the best (or worst) outcome ever in the coming years.

  • mikedunford says:

    The bulk of the reply I was going to leave here is turning into a full-length post at my own blog.

    I've got quite a bit of personal experience with the sacrifice thing. My wife's been the primary breadwinner throughout or marriage, and is having a very successful career. I've bounced around the country as a military spouse and done most of the home and childcare stuff.

    I'm going back to school in the fall as a full-time JD student. Our relationship was a big factor in that decision. After 15 years of watching my wife's successes, I was starting to get jealous and resentful. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, but I definitely need to aggressively move forward on my own career if I don't want to completely destroy the wonderful relationship that I have.

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