How to Develop Your Career
and Keep Love in Your Marriage
Introduction: The letters I selected this week are from women. But my advice is the
same regardless of the writer's sex. I strongly encourage both husbands and wives to
develop challenging careers for themselves (my daughter has a Ph.D. degree in
Psychology), but the Policy of Joint Agreement should be their guide. A husband or
wife should also remember that throughout marriage, no goal is so important that the
meeting of each other's most important emotional needs should be ignored.
Dear Dr. Harley,
I hope you can help me. This morning my husband told me he doesn't love me
anymore. I love him very much and want to do what I can to save our marriage.
I have just earned a doctorate degree in Chemistry. While I was in school, my husband
supported me, and was willing to move so that I could get the education I needed. But
he has recently found a job he really enjoys and has talent for. My training is very
specialized and there are very few jobs available in my area of expertise. I have been
offered a job I would love to have but my husband doesn't want to leave the area we're
in because he loves his job so much.
I am hurt that, after my being in college so very long and training so hard, he is not
absolutely supportive of my career. Now the hard part is over and it is time for us to
reap the financial rewards of years of diligence. Can you offer assistance? I would be
I think if you and your husband were to have a heart-to-heart talk, he might tell you
that he does not feel that your educational efforts were in his best interest -- he might
tell you that they were in your best interest. Your achievements were not for you as a
couple, they were for you as an individual. He may not even feel he had a choice in the
matter. Or, he may have supported your educational objectives because he loved you,
not because he felt there was something in it for him too.
If you've read the Basic Concepts section of my Web site, you know I feel that
romantic love affects our state of mind (I call them States of Mind in Marriage). When he loved
you, he was in the state of Intimacy and was willing to make sacrifices to make you
happy. Now, because his emotional needs have not been met, his love for you has faded
and he is either in the state of Conflict or Withdrawal, probably Withdrawal. In these
states of mind, he is now more concerned about his own interests, and tends to ignore
yours. That's why he wants to pursue his own vocational goals independently of yours.
He lost his love for you because, in the pursuit of your education, his most important
emotional needs were not being met. I've been to graduate school too, and I know that
it takes long hours of study to be successful, hours away from your spouse. You have
probably been so busy that you didn't have much time to meet his emotional
needs. One day, perhaps years ago, he woke up and realized he didn't love you
anymore. He may have admitted it only now because you were expecting him to move
to another city.
In the state of Conflict, he may have thought to himself, she cares more about her career
than she does about me. If she cared about me, she would have been more concerned about me,
my career development, and would have at least considered staying here. The evidence at hand
would have supported his argument.
We marry to find someone who cares more about us than anything else. Both men and
women feel that way. If your career interests are more important than your husband's
interests, he will eventually conclude that he is missing what he needs most in marriage,
someone who puts him first.
Incidentally, that applies not just to careers, but to everything else, too. If children are
most important, they will come between spouses. The same is true for friends and in-
laws, how you spend money or what you do on weekends. These will ruin your marriage
if they are more important than your spouse's feelings. Your most important
consideration in life should be the interests of your spouse, or your marriage will suffer.
If your career really is your first priority, your marriage does not have much of a chance.
I don't think it's possible to love anyone, for any length of time, whose career is his or
her highest priority. But if you put his interests first, your career will flourish and serve
both of you very well.
Re-focus your efforts in life to prove to your husband that you care more about him than
you do your education, or your career. That's what my Policy of Joint Agreement is all
about (never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your
spouse). It helps spouses put each others interest before all other considerations, even
when they don't feel like it, or don't have the sense to. You can read about it in my
Basic Concepts section.
Your husband may not be in the mood to follow that policy himself at this time, but that
doesn't mean that you can't take the initiative and follow it unilaterally. Tell him that
from now on, you will not try to make him do anything unless he is enthusiastic about
it -- unless he sees it is in his best interest too. And that includes moving to take a job
that will advance your career objectives.
Your husband's telling you that he doesn't love you may be a very timely warning of
disaster on the horizon. Refocus your intelligence and effort so that your educational
efforts don't end up costing you your marriage.