Last weekend I celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary!
Doug and I have actually been together for a total of 22 years, which, I’m sure you can appreciate, is no small feat.
Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my relationship with Doug. Many of the questions stem from the fact that I have always been the primary, if not sole, provider for my family.
As you may know, I resigned from my career as a nurse midwife right about this time last year, and at the time I got a ton of emails from readers asking how I could leave that job – what many considered my only source of “secure” income.
Many of the questions were summed up by the following note:
How are you making the transition work financially – did you have to save up money? How is your husband handling it? How do you negotiate these decisions with your spouse? How did you overcome the fear? How and Holy Cow! LOL
I know that at the heart of all of these questions is a desire to know everything will be all right. But who has that kind of knowledge?
Anything we feel we know comes from choosing to believe a thought.
Sure, it’s easier to believe in something that many, many people believe – like work 40 hours a week for someone else and you’re being financially responsible – but that belief is not at all guaranteed to help you feel happy and satisfied with your life.
And isn’t that what we all really want?
Over the last 20+ years I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be truly happy and satisfied in your life, and Frederick Buechner said it best when he said that vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.
I published the following article last year and I want to share it again now. I hope it helps you create a relationship that fully supports both partners create their own definitions of authentic success and fulfill their dreams.
Let me tell you, it’s hard work, but SO worth it!
When I was 8 years old, I remember my mom complaining that my dad was watching a program (probably sports) that no one else enjoyed. My dad looked at her and said, “It’s my TV. I paid for it, and I’ll watch whatever I want.”
I saw the look of hurt in my mom’s eyes and I remember thinking, “I will always make money. No one will ever say that to me.” And I have always made money, and no one has ever said anything like that to me.
When I was in my early 30’s (the ripe old age that my dad was when he made the statement about who owned the TV) I was in the position of making money when Doug didn’t.
I also gained understanding of how my father could say things to my mom on the basis of who “made the money.”
Quite frankly, it is stressful and challenging to be the sole provider for a family and there is a certain amount of understandable frustration that goes with it – that is, until you consider the fact that you always have a choice about how you feel.
And being completely responsible for the financial well-being of your family can either feel stressful or it can feel fantastic. (Which do you think I’ve chosen to feel?)
Unfortunately, early in our relationship, I found myself perpetuating the errors of my father. I judged my husband for not making money and said demeaning things to him.
Fortunately, I knew that this was not the way I wanted to treat Doug, nor the way I wanted to be in the world. I sought counseling, and I’ll never forget my counselor saying, “You love Doug. You have a great relationship. But you want to leave him because he’s not a provider?”
At that moment I realized that Doug has always supported me in every way except financially. And what I’ve learned since then is that the thing you want most from your partner – or anyone in your life (although this is a tall order for a mate, let alone anyone else) – is that they see you and value you for exactly who you are.
The support I want from my husband is his unfailing belief in me. Period.
Think about it: How many women do you know who are “supported” by their husbands while they pursue less-than-lucrative passions? There are a lot, right?
And they know their husbands are paying a price: I once read a heart-breaking thread on Amy Oscar’s blog where she talked about how she wanted to make a lot of money so that her husband could finally have a “break” from the responsibility of supporting their family while she pursued her creative passions.
She wrote, “The greatest gift I can imagine for the man in my life: A year of complete creative freedom – without interruptions; a year to take his imagination to the edge of its edge and beyond.” Many other readers chimed in that they would love to give that gift to their husbands as well.
Amy and her husband are in their 50’s. My husband is a gifted writer and while I believe that one day he will be hailed as the next JK Rowling, I don’t want to wait for the day – not in 10 years, not in one more year – for him to “make it big” so I can have a year of complete creative freedom, free of financial concerns.
So that’s why I decided to claim a break for myself and resigned from my position as a nurse-midwife, and I left that career behind for good.
The career that defined me for 20 years satisfied many of my needs – to be of service, to make income to support my family – but it was no longer my passion.
No matter how great the steady paycheck in the “secure” field of health care is, it’s not as compelling as the satisfaction and meaning that comes from living my purpose – which is helping other women find and live theirs.
So what was that conversation with Doug like when I told him I wanted to leave nurse-midwifery for good? Well, after years spent proving my faith in him – and relying on his faith in me – it was easier than you might expect.
Is it scary to dash the “security” of a good hospital job for the dream of designing my days exactly how I see fit? Well, to answer that question let me ask you this: Did you notice that I can’t even write “secure” or “security” without quotes?
In our current economy, I don’t think any job is secure. Economy aside, life is not as secure as we think it is.
Often what “security” we do have we acquire at the cost of something much more important – the knowledge that we are fulfilling our life’s purpose.
Here’s what is secure: my knowledge that no one knows better than I do how to provide for me. That’s something I decided when I was eight, and my conviction has only gotten stronger every day since then.
Here’s what else is secure: my husband’s unwavering faith in me. I’ve learned to return that faith in him.
Of course, we don’t have guarantees that we’ll be so successful in our creative endeavors that we will never have a financial concern (um, who does?), but we believe in each other no matter what.
Now – 17 years into our marriage (and 22 years together as a couple) – that’s something to celebrate!
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