5 Women Who Chose Career Over Love Share Why They Did It

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.

Twenty20 / jrharris3
Twenty20 / jrharris3

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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