Giving up Your Career for Your Partner

Shery Sandberd, the woman basically running facebook, once said “The most important career choice you’ll ever make is who you marry.” When you’re driven and dedicated it seems a little heart breaking giving up a career you’ve prepared for your whole life.

Don’t get me wrong, choosing your partner over your job is probably hands down the most selfless thing you can do in a relationship. But when does it become too much? When are your selfless acts getting the better of you and stomping on your achievements. You can only give so much.

Sacrifice is inevitable: In 2004, the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver asked to be let out of her NBC contract. She felt that she could no longer preform her duties as a journalist and wanted to support her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, behind the curtain of politics.

Shirver’s world came crumbling down when her husband’s scandal broke out which left a lot of women asking: “Was giving up her career really worth it?”


1.     How much of a sacrifice is it for you?

When your husband comes home excited and gushing that he just received the promotion he’s always dreamed of and that you have to pack up and leave for another town, city or country, should you be taking that plunge?

How important is this move really or how major will the after affects be?

Of course your decision can be rational or totally blown out of proportion. If your husband is a successful house doctor with a practice and a steady flow of patients and you decide to up and move to another country to pursue your dream of becoming a pilot (where last week you wanted to be a movie star) then some things need to be taken into consideration. A Tip to remember though is that job titles do not outrank jobs titles.

Research has shown that couples are happier and more likely to remain in their relationships if their partners are willing to sacrifice for each other. But Social psychologists such as Emily Impett, Paul Van Lange, and Caryl Rusbult said that if you find yourself always being the one who sacrifices—or if you feel forced to make a sacrifice—then you should tread with caution.


2.     Would your partner do the same for you?

Scarification is a two way street. If you have to think about giving up your career in order for your partner to get his promotion, then your partner needs to think about giving up a his promotion in order for you to keep your job. If they are not even considering or weighing the options and just expecting you to tag along, then the act is selfish and not selfless. Van Lange and colleagues say that “It’s important to question whether your partner has shown the same degree of commitment and is now going through the same thought process.”

Have there been times where your partner has sacrificed for you in the past? 

3.     Who wants it more? (Motivation)

Obviously considering a relationship decisions and a career together, might be a make or break point for the both of you (it takes hard work). Navigating the situation, you both need to be clear on your desires – if your spouse is really passionate about his work and you’re still trying to find your feet then you have to consider giving him the benefit of the doubt.

If you sacrifice to avoid conflict you might want to consider the outcome. If you rationalise by thinking “I might feel bad, but at least we won’t fight and our relationship won’t suffer” then you’re mistaken. Recent research by Emily Impett shows that when people believe their partner sacrificed for what psychology calls “avoidance-motivated” reasons, they feel less satisfied with the relationship. This is where resentment creeps into our hearts and we might feel that way for a very long time.


4.     Do they know it’s a sacrifice?

If your partner doesn’t know, realize or consider the fact that you giving up your career is a sacrifice then he’ll never be able to appreciate your act of selflessness. It’s also important to see if your partner agrees with you. You are sacrificing your career (it’s a big deal) does he acknowledge that or does he feel that you’ll eventually get over it? If you haven’t received a “thank you,” your partner may be taking you for granted

5.     Can your partner negotiate?

It’s a shame if he expects you to be the one to give it all up, with a “…and that’s final” tone of voice. His say should not be the final say. There may be a way to reduce the sacrifice in a sense – maybe looking at your options and how it will affect your future. If you were to give up your career can you get by financially? Maybe even consider the fact you might get a bigger promotion. You need to make arrangements that suit both of you and your future in the long run.


Conor Williams who’s the primary child raiser at home while also being senior researcher in the Early Education Initiative at the New America foundation says that he and his wife want to do their best to help each other, “It’s not a role reversal or trade-off”

  • Planning ahead is important, discuss what the partnership will look like, do you want to have a career? How long has he worked to get where he is?
  • Make plans to have these discussions Williams says “What we want and what we find fulfilling changes over time”

If you aren’t open about these things you both might resent each other eventually, nagging, fighting etc. are all chemicals that poison a relationship. He shouldn’t feel threatened by your success and neither should you. Tell your partner what you want and listen to his needs unmeant-expectations can end up being your downfall.

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