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My Married Life: When a Spouse's Career Hits a Major Snag

I am a big fan of the “Modern Love” column in The New York Times. I was just catching up on my backlog when I came across this one by Caroline Bicks. Bicks and her husband were both professors working toward tenure. They were so focused on their uber-specific career goals that they were willing to live in separate cities for years in order to make them happen. (According to Bicks, it is next to impossible for married professors to find great positions near each other). So when, after years of hard work, her husband was denied tenure, Bicks was devastated. "I was thinking as a ‘we’ even though it was his career and his particular rejection," she said. I completely identify.

When Jack experiences a career disappointment of any kind, I find it painful on multiple levels. First, I want to take care of his feelings. Second, I have a few (not-so-cute) feelings of my own. My own ambition, ego, and fear of financial insecurity get kicked up when faced with any career disappointment -- even if it really happened to Jack. I'm usually able to snap out of it when I remember that no matter how focused Jack and I may be on specific career goals, we don't know everything.

We are often bad judges of what will make us happy (and even worse judges of what will make us money), so being bucked off track a bit here and there can be a gift. Ultimately, in the case of Bick's husband, that's exactly how it played out. The tenure snub proved to be his big break, leading him to seek out a completely different career -- one that he really loves. So tell me, how do you respond when your spouse experiences a career setback or snub? Or if you are the one who has taken a hit, how does your sig deal?

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-- Holly

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