There’s nothing I hate more than the way media portrays spouses of successful people. Well, there’s a lot of things that I hate more, but at the moment nothing is bothering me more. In movies and television, spouses or relationships of any kind are shown to be a burden on the person trying to have a successful career. It perpetuates the false myth that you have to choose between having a career or having a relationship. When coupling this with the fact that women are often told that you will not be able to rise up in the corporate world and also have children, you are essentially telling everyone that dating seriously is the end of their career success.
The issue with this myth is not only that it’s wrong, but that it has a real impact on the way that we view the world. People think it’s normal to have a significant other that isn’t supportive of their career trajectory. Having to compromise your goals in life for the person you are dating becomes the norm, especially for women. When I announced that I was taking a job in Boston, despite my girlfriend living in Chicago, many people in my life were confused by that decision. Why would I choose a job over a relationship? Did that mean that I was doubting the strength of our relationship?
That could not be further from the truth. Because I understood how good our relationship was, it was never a matter of our relationship “withstanding” being long distance. Our relationship was built on a foundation of mutual respect for each other and each other’s career aspirations. My girlfriend expected me to take the job in Boston because it was the best job for me, just as I expected her to stay in Chicago since that was the best job for her. This isn’t a matter of compromising our relationship for our careers; in our relationship, we both want the other person to succeed.
I was recently watching VEEP, and in the show Selina (Julia Louise-Dreyfus) spoke negatively about the fact that Mike (Matt Walsh) was getting into a serious relationship. She was worried about the way that it would affect his willingness to show up for work every day. And then, it did impact his productivity, with half of his mind distracted by thoughts of the relationship and starting a family while he was in the office. Of course, this somewhat worked for Mike because he was having doubts about his job at this time. However, I firmly believe that in the right relationship, your goals for your career will align with your spouse’s goals for your career.
My girlfriend has only helped me to stay motivated. We encourage each other to work late if that’s what the other person needs. I am not writing this to gloat about the strength of my relationship. Instead, I write this to say that this should be the model that we are using for all relationships. There’s a reason that 50% of relationships end in divorce, and it’s because media gives us an unrealistic representation of what a career/family compromise should look like. By implying that it’s normal for people to have to give up one or the other, people just assume that the other person will make those compromises once marriage and children gets put on the table.
The reality is that that’s not true. People who want to spend X amount of time dedicated to their career before marriage will likely want to dedicate the same amount of time to it after marriage as well. A good spouse, and the majority of spouses that last, is someone that is in agreement about the X amount of time, as well as the amount which you value and care about your job. It shouldn’t be the norm to show relationships where people have to give up their career for their home life, illustrating that as the picture of a healthy relationship.
Healthy relationships are when you and your partner are on the same page about things that matter. That isn’t to say there won’t be compromise, but if career is something that is important to you, then your partner should both support and encourage that passion. Media sucks at portraying a lot of things, and this is just one of many that causes real life problems, perpetuating a subtly misogynistic outlook. If we accept that spouses of all genders should be supportive of their significant others, then we start to look at women as more than just nagging homemakers. It is inherently tied to feminism in a subtle but meaningful way.
The unsupportive spouse should not be a reality and if it is, maybe that person isn’t for you. If the media would stop perpetuating this rumor, there would be fewer people in unhealthy relationships.