Sacrificing A Dream Career For My Marriage

Dana always wanted to be a nurse. During her freshman year of college she met and fell in love with Kraig who was a senior. Shortly after their marriage they were in a dilemma. Kraig had been accepted to a prestigious MBA program but in order for them to make it work financially, they would need to move and she would need to leave school and enter the workforce.

A few years later as Kraig was taking his first corporate job, they were blessed with their first baby. Dana spent the next sixteen years being a stay-at-home mom raising their three children. Kraig’s career continued to expand with more responsibilities and better pay. Kraig was living his dream, while Dana began to resent the fact that she had given hers up for the sake of the family.

We met them in a Marriage Intensive. During the day long session, Dana was able to communicate her desire to reach her dream of becoming a nurse. Kraig finally got it and together they developed a plan that made sense for family goals and Dana’s lifelong dream.

We have witnessed this same issue in many struggling couples. He seems to think that his wife has lost interest in him and is mad or depressed all the time. Her resentment and bitterness about the loss of her lifelong dream is never spoken. However, it shows up in how she interacts with him in such a way that it is pushing him away from her and the family.

The Debate

A feminist driven debate around a wife giving up her career for the sake of the relationship or family has people talking on all sides. In Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman’s Guide to Having It All, Megan Basham advises wives to opt out of corporate careers. “Men whose wives aren’t employed earn on average 31% more than single men, but for men whose wives have full-time jobs, that number drops to 3.4%.”

Yet unfulfilled life dreams are costly. Living with an unfulfilled dream can lead to anger, resentment, heartbreak, frustration, and depression. It can be paralyzing, as if you are frozen, stuck and unable to find motivation to engage the world. And in a relationship, it shows up with aggression, sarcasm, defensiveness, withdrawal, isolation and passive-aggressiveness.

Having made a decision in the past to focus on the marriage and family has yielded some incredibly positive things. They are weighed against the cost of the lost dream. And in the weighing, we are neither able to present nor create a new future inclusive of our dream.

We cannot undo the past or go back in time and redo past decisions. What we have today is the present. And what we do in the present creates our future together. We cannot move into a new future together without letting go of the past.

“For this reason, a man must leave his father and mother and the two become one.” Ephesians 5:31 (NLV)

Creating The Marriage You Want

Your spouse deserves a conversation about this. If you are the one who is living your career dream, your spouse’s sacrifice needs to be honored. If you are the spouse who has put your career dream aside for the sake of the family, your spouse needs to hear how it is affecting your relationship.

You can create the marriage you want by connecting with your spouse in a crucial conversation about this issue. Follow the rules laid our in the crucial conversations series and consider the following together:

  • How can we work together for me to re-engage the lifelong dream?
  • Is there a new dream career that has developed?
  • What can I do to help my spouse around this issue?
  • What is the first step toward our new future together?

We love to hear from readers. If you implemented this plan, how did it work? What other suggestions do you have to help couples stay together and address this issue head on?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at