When you hear the dichotomy of “career vs relationship,” the normal assumption is that good, thoughtful people with the right value systems will always choose the latter. After all, a promotion can’t hold you at night, and you can’t raise children with a 401k. But sometimes the choice to follow one’s career dreams simply does come at the cost of a relationship, and it doesn’t make the person in question any less romantic or hopeful about life. To learn more about the people who’ve made this choice, I started by talking to six women about why they chose what they did, and if they have any regrets.
1. “My ex-husband and I did the thing you are never supposed to do: start a business together. We both quit our jobs and used our savings to go full-time on a startup we had together in graphic and web design. As you can probably tell by the term EX-husband, it did not work out very well. Basically he was extremely lazy when it came to work, and didn’t respect the fact that the money we were using was out of our own pockets (primarily because it came from me, from a sizable inheritance I received from a deceased family member).
At the end of 18 months, we were barely profitable, and I realized that this was because I was essentially carrying a dead weight of a business partner. I had a serious talk with him where I showed him very specific instances of him not pulling his weight, and that I thought we needed to discuss the prospect of him leaving the company and me reabsorbing his shares, which I would then give to another partner who could really take our company to the next level.
Long story short, he did not take that well and threatened me with all kinds of legal action if I kicked him out of the company. There had been a lot of tensions in the relationship to that point, and I knew that I wanted to separate as a couple, at least for a while. And since I owned the majority of the company (as the person providing most of the startup capital), I had the right to essentially fire him. When I did, it became a protracted battle wherein I had to get a loan to pay him for what he owned, and our relationship turned very sour. We almost never speak now, except for a few legal things (part of our deal was that I owe him royalties on certain things). But I have a new partner for almost two years now and the business is going extremely well.
In some ways I do regret this, because I should have known that my husband was never meant to be an entrepreneur. He’s a great artist and a caring person but was in over his head, and it in many ways destroyed our relationship. But I knew that if he disrespected me to the point that he would threaten our business which he knew I had worked so hard and given so much for, we couldn’t be together. Starting a business probably just revealed flaws that were there to begin with, but it hurts nonetheless.” –Sarah, 32
2. “My ex was in undergrad when I moved to LA to pursue a career as a full-time writer, and he was in a northern California town doing pre-med. Because of starting my new career and getting settled, I had to focus a lot on LA stuff, and couldn’t go see him often so it became really complicated. And he would get exasperated and act like writing was frivolous, or that it somehow wasn’t a ‘real’ job by his definition, even though I was earning a full-time living doing it. So eventually I had to be like ‘You need to respect my times of working, even if it is at home,’ and he just was mad disrespectful and so I broke up with him. And NO I do not regret it.” –Jessie, 24
3. “I was working in auditing for a big firm in New York and, at the same time, dating my then-boyfriend of two years. We were very happy and considering moving in together, and it seemed like the relationship was definitely going to lead to marriage – in fact, I hoped it would. But shortly after a promotion, I got an offer to live in London for two years and join the firm’s England branch. I hadn’t particularly dreamed of living in London, but I’d always wanted to live abroad and I loved travelling Europe, which is extremely easy to do when you’re based in London instead of the States.
So I got the offer and I told my boyfriend about it and right away his reaction was very negative. Looking back I feel now like he might have felt jealous or threatened by my career, because he was working as a counselor in a high school and earning a lot less than me at the time, and didn’t really love what he was doing. I asked him if he would consider coming with me (which would have meant getting married), or if he felt we could do long-distance for a while with lots of visits in-between. He didn’t really want to do either, and it was pretty clear that he wanted me to choose between him and the job. He assumed I would choose him.
My mother was the only person who really dissuaded me from taking the job, because she’s very traditional and really liked my boyfriend and felt like it was “time” for me to settle down with someone (late 20s). I felt like I was disappointing her more than I was disappointing myself, honestly, but I knew that I wanted to take the job and I would always regret it if I didn’t give myself that chance and that experience. I sent my boyfriend a long email explaining the situation, and basically said ‘I want to make this work with you long-distance, but I need to take this opportunity or I will always regret it, and resent you for that.’ It was harsh but it was honest.
He sent me back a really nasty email essentially telling me it was over, and saying he hoped I would enjoy ‘skanking it up in London,’ which he later apologized for. But he’d shown his true colors, and I’ve never regretted the decision once. I’m still single but dating, and love my life and job in London.” –Allison, 29
4. “My story is actually about my parents. My mom divorced my dad when I was really young, and I never knew the story, but now I know as an adult: She wanted to go back to school to have a career, and my father, who was a very traditional Indian man, did not want her to work with three children. So she divorced him (which she could only do because she was in America, but most of her family shunned her), and spent several years struggling through grad school as a single mother.
Now I am proud to say that she is a psychologist with her own practice, no more student debt, and three college-educated or current-student children. She is also remarried, to a man she met in grad school. She never regretted it for a second, and has always instilled in me that anyone who wouldn’t want you to have your career is not the right person for you.” –Nat, 23
5. “I used to be one of those cliché New York 20-somethings who was obsessed with her career, and I absolutely loved it. I took real pride in being the first one at my office, and the last one to leave, even though I had a 45-minute train ride from Washington Heights to SoHo. I loved my job, I loved getting ready for work every day, and I loved the experience of being at the office. I was working for a small PR firm that was in its infancy and demanded of us 70+ hour weeks in exchange for a mediocre salary, lots of really cool events with free booze, and free stuff from brands and clients. Looking back I can see now that it was one of those startup jobs that took advantage of its employees, but no one could have convinced me to leave it.
At the time, I was on-again, off-again with the same guy I had been seeing since college, who at the time was living in New Jersey and working there, as well. I knew that he wanted me to move out there, or at least compromise in Hoboken/Jersey City, and start moving towards marriage. But I couldn’t. I wanted to marry him, but I also knew that he was more interested in a slow-paced lifestyle than I was, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my glamorous “New York Life” for what he could offer me. One night over dinner, he bluntly asked me when I planned on slowing up on my office hours, as I had been promising to do for over a year. I told him, partially because I was already a little drunk at this point, that I was “never going to choose him over my career.” I could tell he was really heartbroken, and we stopped seeing each other pretty quickly after that.
I do regret it, when I think about it, because I’ve never met a guy nearly as good for me as him since, and I’ve also cut back on my work hours significantly and changed jobs (almost four years later), for my own sanity. Ultimately he was right, and though I’m not living in Jersey, I definitely live a more slow lifestyle than I did before. I don’t know if we would have lived happily ever after, but I’m sad that I will never know.” –Maya, 28
Ever had to ask yourself this question, is it love or career? While it’s never really easy to choose, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.
When it comes to choosing between the two, it’s never an easy answer.
You have the diehard romantics who’d tell you to choose love.
And on the other hand, you’d have the ladder climbers looking down and yelling to give up your personal life and reach out to your ambition.
But seriously, if it ever comes down to choosing between love and career, there’s never an easy way out.
Unless one side wins by a mile or you have no regrets, whatever the decision, you’ll always be bitter, unless you’re whole heartedly convinced with your decision.
Love or career – What you should know
If you ever do find yourself having to make the big love or career decision, here are a few things you really need to understand.
True love is hard to find
Love is special, and that’s what makes it so rare.
While falling in love may be easy, staying in love needs two soul mates that understand each other and are selfless in love.
Do you have that relationship that makes you feel lucky at the end of the day?
A better career can give you a better life
There’s no beating around the bush here, a good career can make for a better life. You can have your perfect partner but if you’re suffering in a bad career, will you ever be happy in your “miserable” life? [Read: What does your office table tell about you?]
True love can withstand all odds
Now this is true. If both of you truly love each other, you don’t have to worry about separating for a few years or having to spend less time with each other. Instead of worrying about love or career, think of ways to make it work better.
You’ll always be ambitious
Will one promotion in your career satiate your ambitious heart? Will you ever settle down and be happy with what you have? All of us want more. And sometimes, we decide to give up on a perfectly good relationship and pursue something that will never really satisfy us.
When it comes to deciding between love and career, we’ll help you understand what really matters to you and how you should deal with it. After all, every relationship is unique and all of us have our own requirements and paths to achieve happiness.
When you choose love
If you decide to stick with love and give up on getting a better career prospect, here are a few things you always need to ask yourself.
# Would you ever forgive yourself for letting go of a career opportunity? Most lovers who choose love over career end up remorseful and regret their decision the very next time they have a fight or argument with their lover.
# Would you feel bitter? Bitterness is a slow killer of relationships. If you ever do regret giving up on your career, your bitterness would turn to hatred towards your partner. And over time, you’d end up feeling grumpy or annoyed all the time, especially when you can’t afford what you want to splurge on. And at times, the bitterness could also take a toll on your happiness and you may end up blaming your lover for your shortcomings. [Read: Money can buy happiness in love]
If you choose work
# Can you find a partner as loving as caring? Is your career move a once in a lifetime opportunity? You may end your relationship and move on, but you have to remember this, finding the love of your life is a miracle that few people ever experience. Have you found the one? [Read: Is he the one for you?]
And is this promotion or career move a once in a lifetime opportunity? If you’ve decided to focus on your career, then don’t look back and ponder over your lost love. It’s a decision you’ve taken, and you have learn to give up on love and move on.
# Can you move on and forget all about it? Sometimes, you may have second thoughts about moving away from your lover or having to end the relationship even if it’s a perfect one. Can you really put it all behind and avoid regretting it? There’s really no point in ending a relationship for a career and then spending several months regretting your decision and ruining your career at the same time. [Read: How to end a relationship]
Choosing love and work
You don’t always have to pick one and stick with it when it comes to making a decision between love and career. If both of you do love each other, you can always figure something out that can keep the relationship strong and yet, help both of you progress in your careers. [Read: How to be successful in your career]
Perhaps, the only hard part comes in when both of you have recently started dating each other. The relationship would be new and too fragile to face a relationship test. And that’s the only time when you really need to ask yourself if your new love has the potential to blossom into true love. And on the other hand, you have to make up your mind on how badly you need your promotion or a new job that may require more of your time or you having to move to another state.
Making the right choice
It isn’t easy to meet the right partner and find your soul mate, so if you genuinely think you’ve met the one who can warm the cockles of your heart for the rest of your life, then decline the career opportunity.
But if you’re not very happy in your relationship and think you deserve something better, go full speed ahead and choose your career. If you’re not happy with your relationship today, what are the odds that you’ll feel better after giving up on your career? And you’d definitely feel worse about giving up on your career on those tough relationship days. [Read: Is your partner serious about you?]
But whatever you decision may be, stick with it and never look back. Life is a box of mysteries and no matter what you decide to stick with, love or career, coincidences and circumstances have its own way of playing your life out.
Why we think love wins over career
Weighing the pros and cons could help you decide between love and career, but if they’re both even or if you’re confused, we’d still suggest you stick with love. It’s a gamble, yes, but one that can have a huge payoff for the rest of your life.
True love can give you more happiness than money ever can.
And at the end of the day, you want to earn more money to create happy memories and spend more time with the one you love. But if making money means having to give up on love, what are you fighting for anyways?
All of us need someone in our lives to share the happy moments and those sad times when we need a hand and a hug. Love can make your life so much more fulfilling and worthwhile. [Read: How to find true love]
Today, you may assume you don’t need anyone to share your life with. You may love yourself too much to care about anyone else. But as the years pass by, you’ll soon see that self-love, career promotions and money will have no value, when you have no one to share it with. Love completes you when you share it with someone selflessly, and gives more meaning to your life.
You can earn all the money in the world, but it’ll never really give you the happiness that a happy smile or a warm hug from your lover can give you.
If you have a tough choice to make, always close love when it comes to choosing between love or career. Better a romantic with lasting memories and happy times than a workaholic with no life and all money.
[Read: Are women fickle in love?]
But then again, when you have to make a choice between love and career, are you really happy in love or do you think you deserve better? That would make all the difference to your answer.
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