I think I've had three husbands: Navigating spousal career changes

November 13 2013 | Guest post by Monk-Monk
Thanks to AcidBubble for uploading her three sock monkeys to our Flickr pool
Thanks to AcidBubble for uploading her three sock monkeys to our Flickr pool
Preacher's wife. Teacher's wife. Accountant's wife. Huh? Yeah, I've been all three. And in the relatively short (five years) of marriage, I have found that with each career change my husband embarks on, I am challenged with re-learning how I perceive myself, my husband and our relationship.

"Oh, my husband's a pastor," I said nervously at a cocktail party. Because typically in new social situations the rule of thumb is don't talk politics or religion. But how can the religion topic be avoided when one's husband's career IS religion? I'm not wanting to step on toes, or hear people nervously confess they haven't been to church in 15 years, or debate whether America is a Christian nation.

When I first met my husband, and knew he wanted to be a pastor, I wrestled with the question, "Could I be a pastor's wife?" I mean, I'm introverted, don't wear heels to the grocery store, and half the time I don't even know if I believe in this whole "God-thing." But I knew I loved him, and wanted to be with him, and after many talks about him only taking a pastoral job that fit (one where they weren't going to expect me in heels at the grocery store), I was sold.

After our wedding, while I was in graduate school, he got a job as a youth pastor at this small, geriatric church, (where we were closer in age, at 30ish, to the junior high students than anybody else), and I loved it. I loved it so much that I got involved on leadership committees, and made friends, and enjoyed going to his youth events and Sunday services. I loved my role as a grad student, and my role as a new wife, but was also embracing and loving the "pastor's wife" role, too.

But it was a part time gig, that needed to be supplemented by something else, equally flexible, and so he found himself substitute teaching. And the alternative high school at which he was frequently subbing asked him to apply for a position. And he got it.

Suddenly our world shifted, from preaching to teaching…

And I loved it. Because nobody gives you side-eye at a party when you say your husband's a teacher. Because I worked with at-risk youth, in a counseling setting, and he was working with at-risk youth in an academic setting, we had SO MUCH IN COMMON! You guys, there were nights where we would lay in bed, holding hands, and talking about how proud we were of a student (we shared a few on our caseload), at how much progress he was making, and how fulfilling the work was. We enjoyed time together, since he was off work at three, and in the summers. Even when he went back to school for his Master's in Teaching we were able to spend a lot of time together doing totally normal daily activities, like grocery shopping or going to the dog park.

And then, a few weeks after my son was born, my husband abruptly left the world of teaching. It was an emotional time that felt both exciting and scary. He was accepted into an intensive accounting certificate program, and here we are, on the other side of a busy tax accounting season, trying to get our bearings for how life will be with this newest endeavor.

Gone are the fantasies of three blissful months off each summer, together with our son, traveling the world, or lounging on the couch watching TV. What's replaced it has been long hours, including some nights and weekends, and a season where I very rarely saw him. It's been difficult. Our communication has lagged. And while the twingy-nervousness has been replaced by pride when I tell people "my husband's an accountant," rather than "my husband's a pastor," I really miss those dreams we had when we were newly married.

I miss the connecting over work that I had when my husband was a teacher. At night he's too exhausted to talk about work, and I have no interest in learning anything more about tax codes or deadlines. He's entered a world of numbers that I don't understand, and don't know if I want to understand.

And sometimes it feels like I've had three different husbands. And while I'd like for us to settle in for awhile, in moments I (half) jokingly say that up next he'll be a plumber, or a pilot, or a pizza delivery dude.

We've come so far together, and we are working on getting back to "us," without relying on the easy connection of talking about work. But we've had to be creative…

Like finding romance in laying beauty bark in our garden, or training our dog, or attending sporting events. I've tried altering my schedule a bit to stay up later and talk, and he's been working on texting on breaks. And when it's hard, I just look at my husband and see how fulfilled he is, and am glad that his career has evolved this way.

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. I think a lot of people can relate to the shifts in identity, conversation topics, schedules, energy level, etc. that comes with a partner's job change, even when they aren't as drastic as your husband's.

    I know that my and my partner's daily routines and future dreams shift a little bit each time one of us changes jobs. Sometimes those changes are great (a shorter commute, a less stressful job, shorter workdays) and sometimes they're harder to absorb (a big pay cut, on-call hours, less time off). Sometimes we're almost ready to make a big change like a cross-country move, or return to grad school, and then one of us finds a job we really love and don't want to leave for a while. There's not always a lot of conversation about the fact that our partner's career shapes our identity and daily life, too.

    • Thanks! I sometimes get nervous about admitting how much his career has an effect on me, since I am a strong, confident woman and didn't want to be defined (by myself, or others) by the person I'm with.

      • I am also having these feelings because my next major move in my life will be 100% determined by the husband. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's not because he's the MAN, it's because that's how our different careers work and it will be better for the both of us in the long run.

        • Career moves are tough!
          I am dreading our next move because it will be the first one that I am the follower instead of the leader. My then-girlfriend, now-wife moved with me from NY to CT for law school, and then CT to Western PA to be near my family and for my first job out of law school. I would like to stay in PA forever, but before, she was in a PhD program the whole time and was able to follow me fairly easily. Now she is on the academic job market and it is my turn to follow. I have a guaranteed great job in our current town, I don't WANT to take the bar exam in another state, and I love living so close to my family, but it's her turn.
          I dread moving but I know that if we didn't take turns, our relationship would be too uneven.

  2. I really love this. When my husband and I first met, we were both undergrad students working towards theatre degrees. Then when we got married I had my degree and worked in a call center while my husband was working at the college we met at in the moving department and planning on going to school to be a psychologist with a focus in facial recognition. Now, I'm in grad school to be an elementary school teacher and he's still working at the college in the electrical department and wants to start an indie game company.

    I like to remind myself that we're both different people from where we started dating. We're growing together. We chose to spend our lives together so it's worth it to me to learn about what he's interested in. It's worth it to him to listen to me vent even though he has no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to teaching. It's nice though. Even through all the changes career-wise (and therefore, personality-wise) , he's still the person I want to spend every day with.

    • I really like your perspective here! I do like that I'm choosing him even though his career keeps evolving and it brings out different aspects of his personality. I sometimes wonder if I would have married him back then if he was the accountant, and I think probably not, but I know I'm supposed to be with him so it's a good thing it happened this way.

  3. I've gone through the same thing with my husband a couple times. He was student when we met, a photographer/camera salesman when we were married, car salesman when our first son was born and four days after finding out we were pregnant for the second time, we became farmers. Each time, it's really affected our relationship. Now that we're farming, we're much closer and we're the most in sync we've ever been. Right now, he's thinking of taking a job in town for the winter and I'm not really looking forward to it. It's nice having him come home for lunch or stopping by to take kids for a tractor ride.

    • Yeah, I miss the ease of him just being right down the street. I sometimes wonder if distance (commute) and time (all the hours we spend working vs. hanging) will ever cause it to feel like a rift. I guess I'll focus on the sweet parts of it, rather than let the anxiety of the 'what ifs' keep me from continuing to love the evolution.

  4. Hey you!! Cool post. . . I think it is awesome how flexible you are to adapt to three pretty different "husbands" and also that your husband must have a pretty solid sense of self to be able to switch jobs and stay true to who he is. . . I know my identity is so enmeshed with my profession that it would be like moving to another planet to be anything else. My husband has been in the same profession since i met him in college, so it is pretty trippy to imagine him being anything else either.

    • You!

      Yeah, I think the exploration of identity and how it does get enmeshed with how we see ourselves (and or our partners!). I also think it's interesting about how children might see their parents (or even their grown parents). I know I've felt really proud of certain jobs my dad or mom has had over the years, but I wonder if it's because THEY felt a certain way about the job and I was picking up on that feeling?

  5. Thank for this story! I'm the one with a "serious job" in our couple, my husband has been a student for what seems to be forever, hehe. I never realized how much impact my choices had on my husband. I mean, I know it affected our family, but not so much his own identity. Thanks for sharing your point of view! For me, making those kind of realization is part of always trying to become a better companion to my husband. 🙂

    • Yeah, I don't know if my husbands identity is as affected by my job/career as I sometimes feel of his. I sometimes wish I didn't feel that way, it feels like a lot of leftover stuff from when women were more defined by men.

  6. This was pretty interesting for me. It made me think about how I'm doing this to my husband in reverse. We've been married for almost 13 whole months now, and I've already switched up on him once. I was an engineer when we met and started dating. We moved together to my home state 2 months before we got married because I love it here. Less than 3 months after the wedding, I lost my engineering job and decided I wanted to try something else. Now I'm a mortgage loan officer, but I'll probably be transitioning to a stay at home mom next spring/summer. When I'm ready for my next stage of growing up, I think that I might like to be a pilot (not kidding!) or a teacher.

    I really hadn't thought much about the impact on his identity to these changes. I really only think about how my work schedule impacts my family. Not so much how the reputation of the profession impacts him/them.

    • Yeah, I think it'd spark an interesting conversation between you two, no? I know my husband is affected when my hobbies go wildly different (like the time I bought a massage table to become a travelling reiki practitioner…which never really got off the ground…or the time I bought a drum to start drumming in a drum circle…), so I think he'd be affected if I did something wildly different than social work/teaching.

  7. Right in the feels with this one. When we met, my husband was a bus driver. Then I became a bus driver, too. Then I started training bus drivers. Now I teach at a zoo and he's in basic training for the Army to work in human intelligence. Incoming crazy life change where I have exactly zero choice in where we end up.

    I'm so excited for my husband to begin the career he's wanted for years. And I can't wait to travel with him. But I'm still afraid of how things are going to change in the next few years. Thank you for this article – always great to know you're not alone in whatever you're going through 🙂

  8. I think alot of life events change people, I think you g
    'grow up' alot between 18-24 and my fiancé and I have known each other and been together between 20-27. I think with age we've grown and changed as well as our lives.
    We started off as students, I graduated he failed and didn't want to 'waste any more money'. He then was unemployed, worked in a cafe (with a terrible boss), before becoming a train ticket inspector. He's currently training to be a train driver, it's a dream job for him and he's happier than even perhaps, when he was a uni. He's all about stability and he's so happy he has the stability now to support his family.
    My role as his girlfriend then wife to be has changed many times, he's shown appreciation each time I've had to do more than my share to support the team. He's lovely in many ways and I like stability too.
    I miss our free time as students and when I used to hang out with him at work as a ticket inspector, and if I become a stay at home mum I'm sure I'll miss talking about work. It's great to hear I'm not the only one, with a ever changing spouse!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.