When Your Partner Jumps Ship On His Career

August 9, 2018  |  
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When people talk about marriage hardships, they may talk about raising teenagers, caring for aging parents, or even overcoming infidelity. But there is one surprisingly common change that can greatly affect a marriage, that people rarely discuss: when one person does a complete career change, long into the marriage. This is a huge adjustment on everyone. Look: it’s already extremely disorienting and emotionally challenging for just the individual undergoing the career change. And anything that is a massive adjustment on a married person will always be a big adjustment to his spouse, too. How could it not? Our careers dictate much of your day-to-day experiences, as well as our overall lifestyle and goals. If your partner tells you he’s thinking about completely changing career paths, and he’s a bit beyond the traditional age to do that, it can create an upheaval. Here’s what it’s like when your partner jumps ship on career paths.

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You fear he’s giving up on his dreams

If your partner is ditching his dream career path for a more stable, “traditional” one, you can’t help but fear that he’s giving up on his dreams. When he’s spent so much time on this one dream, made so much progress, and just cuts bait now, it’s only natural to wonder…is this a positive change or…a negative one? Is he pursuing something new, or just giving up on something old?

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And that may come with depression

That previous thought will naturally be followed by: is this good for him? Abandoning a long-pursued goal, or walking out on an industry that one is deeply involved in, can come with feelings of failure or guilt. So, naturally, you can fear that your partner might become depressed with this decision.

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Or, he’s being unrealistic

Now, maybe your partner is doing the opposite of giving up on a dream, and maybe he’s just finally starting to pursue one. Perhaps he’s spent his whole life in a safe, stable, but unfulfilling job and just now wants to leave it all to become an author or motivational speaker. That could leave you thinking, “You’re starting this now? Most people who are successful at this had to start it 20 years ago!”

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You have to support, either way

You have an understanding that, even if your partner might be unrealistic, and even if he’s up against huge odds, you have to support in him. You have to believe in him because, honestly, he’s probably already struggling to believe in himself. People often need others to believe in them before they can believe in themselves.

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Accept you have little agency

He’s not going to change his mind about this path so, he can either see you as a friend or an enemy to it. And it’s best for your marriage to be a friend to his decision. If you can see that he’s set in his decision, then you may need to stop worrying about how that will shake out for him, and instead focus on how you can continue to be a supportive force in his life during this journey.

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There needs to be a finance talk

You can’t tell your partner that he can’t go after one dream, or that he must keep pursuing another. But however his decision goes, it will affect your finances in some way. You may be the sole breadwinner for a while, which will mean some changes in your spending habits.

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He might need money

He may need startup capital for his idea, or money to go back to school. Where will that come from? What’s the most responsible way to liquefy an asset to make that happen or move money around? These are conversations that have to happen, and that may cause some tension.

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You’re settled; he’s starting up

Until this moment, you were both pretty settled in your careers. Things were on autopilot. You could toss out a sentence or two each day on how your day went, but not much was new, and you both got the idea.

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You’ll be a sounding board

Now your partner will want to gab and gab about all the new things he learned or accomplished that day because he’s in a whole new world. And you’ll have to be enthusiastic with him, even if you’re on an entirely different wavelength.

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Facing friend’s inquiries

You’ll have to face the questions of your friends, who are wondering why he’s making this massive change. It will feel oddly intrusive when they ask, and it will always feel like they’re slightly judging your answers.

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A status shift

While your partner may have been at the top of the ladder in his last career field, now he could be back at the bottom. That’s a status shift that can be hard on a man’s ego. Get ready for that.

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Moments of, “Who is this person?”

You’re bound to have moments of, “Is this even the person I married anymore?” You may not have realized, until now, how much you subconsciously tied up this man’s career with his identity. And now that the former is shifting, it can feel like the latter is shifting.

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You’ll remember he isn’t his career

You’ll eventually realize that your partner is not his career. He is a list of wonderful traits that are there, and will be there, regardless of how he makes his money.

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He’ll be distracted

Your partner will be a bit distracted at first. Intimacy may take a hit. To really get going in a new career, it kind of has to consume a person. Just take a deep breathe and understand that it won’t be like that forever.

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It can make you stronger

There will be moments when you wonder if everything is changing and if your marriage cannot survive this change. But if you were solid before, you’ll get through it, and then you’ll be stronger for it. Hey, life is long—a career change is just one of many things it will throw at your marriage.

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