Growing Our Marriage and Careers Together

For the past few months, the APW staff has been obsessed with putting together a week of content talking about careers. It turns out that the week we put together, thanks to all of your amazing submissions, was even better than we could have hoped. This week we’re talking about working together. We’re talking about all the ways that partnership lends itself to collaboration and support, professionally and personally (and wedding-ly). Our first post is from our own Allison Andres. It’s about marrying young and building careers together. It’s about the depth of support and commitment that I hope we can all figure out how to bring to our partners’ goals and professional struggles. It is about true partnership.

Unlike most of my peers, when Fred and I got married neither of us were college graduates with “stable careers.” In many ways, we were both just starting to navigate our place in the working world. I’ve heard plenty of times that this isn’t the best idea. As a woman, I’m constantly told that I should be established, have a degree, and be fully independent. While I agree that this is true for some, it just wasn’t right for me, or for us.

I often think that as a feminist, I should be self-driven, self-motivated, and self-inspired when it comes to my career. But the reality is, I highly depend on my husband and partner for professional support and encouragement. Fred and I are still pretty green in our marriage, but marrying on what some consider a younger age of the spectrum has really helped shape the way that we emotionally, physically, and financially support each other.

I often talk about the dichotomy of getting married at a young age. We are supposed to be in a partnership and team, but still maintain our independence and follow our own dreams. I know that some of my friends have struggled with this balance, and I feel fortunate to have not experienced this growing pain. I have to thank my parents for that. My mom and dad were married young (nineteen and twenty), and they were very much in the same position as Fred and I were professionally. Maybe I was just too young to observe it, but I never felt like my parents had made a mistake choosing to marry and have children before becoming established. I grew up in a home where my mother continued her education, my father joined law enforcement, and the two of them built their careers together, finding success after the wedding, on top of raising my sister and me.

I always knew that my parents had to make sacrifices for each other. My dad went to Kuwait during the first Gulf War, and then his job often had him working graveyard shifts in cities far away from the family. Mom worked and went to school finishing her accounting degree, causing her to be gone in the evenings. They spent the majority of their working years as a team, talking about whether or not to go for a promotion, or if it was time to quit a toxic job. Now they are getting close to retirement and enjoying the rewards from careers that they’ve built together. I strive for that level of support and teamwork from my own marriage.

A few years ago, Fred was fortunate enough to be working in his desired field, but his workplace was terrible, and the threat of being laid off always loomed. I knew that he wasn’t happy, so when he called me in a flustered state, proclaiming, “I’m on my lunch and I just CANNOT go back in there,” I gave him my love and full support to give notice and find something else. So when he quit his job and went back into the world of retail management, I never worried about how we would pay the mortgage or feed ourselves because I knew that we were in this together. Then, a few months ago he applied to, and began the testing process for, a career that has the potential to drastically change our lives. When someone asks me how I feel about it, I respond, “I know that this will make him happy, and I encourage him because he’s always encouraged me.” I know that he is choosing a path that is built for him, but I also know that if he is satisfied in his career, it will translate to a more satisfying and fulfilling relationship for the both of us.

When I decided to start my business two years ago, Fred was everything that I had imagined a spouse should be. While I spent long nights creating my business plan, he feverishly typed away creating my website, business cards, and client forms. He patiently listened while I ranted about a specific shade of pink (I know, I know) and the spacing of the letters on my first advertising badge.

I am so grateful for his encouragement, because choosing this life is not easy. When I am having an exhausting week, he tells me that he loves me and is proud of me. When I text him that I just can’t spend another moment working two jobs, he replies, “Four more months, then you are fully in control of your own destiny.” He’s okay with not spending our days off together because I am shooting a wedding, and he represents me at family dinners when a business meeting takes priority. Hell, he even sent me on my merry way to Las Vegas for an entire four days, just so that I could immerse myself into the photography world.

Our marriage isn’t about money, or always being on top of the heap with the best career, the biggest house, and the newest car. Our marriage isn’t about a perfect division of housework, or an equal amount of money coming into the bank account. Our marriage is about one person pulling a late night finishing a school project (or editing a wedding) and the other making sure that the laundry is done. Our marriage is about seeing the spark of passion in each other and making sure to help grow that spark into a roaring fire. It’s me standing on the sidelines giving an epic slow-clap as he approaches the finish line called graduation. It’s him rubbing my shoulders and letting me talk his ear off about an amazing wedding, even if it is at midnight and he has to work the next day.

Our marriage is an environment that nurtures creativity and encourages leaps of faith. While to some, we may not have “made it,” I know that in his eyes I am the most successful, and in my eyes he is the most driven. How could I not rely on my marriage for motivation and inspiration?

Photo from Allison & Fred’s personal collection

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Rachel

    I love this! Thank you. A lot of people seem to think that getting married young means giving up any chance at “success,” especially for a woman – making it an unfeminist decision. It’s not.

    While waiting until you’re financially established may be right for some people, I love being married right now, as I wade through my twenties, trying to figure out what to do with my life. My husband and I support each other, and that makes everything else just a little bit easier.

    Since I got married, I’ve felt stronger and more capable than ever, thanks to my loving, caring partner, and I am so grateful for that.

  • KEA1

    YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry for all-caps and massive overuse of exclamation points; I’m not currently operating much more coherently than that. %) I want to high-five both of you for the awesomeness that you’ve built and are building. This post was the absolute perfect start to my morning and week. Huge congrats to all that the two of you have accomplished, and huge best wishes for all your years ahead!

    • Thank you! I know that we have long roads ahead of us, and that the journey isn’t going to be easy but I think that looking at what we have DONE and not what’s left to do is a big driving force! Also, high fives to you as well!

  • Flo

    THIS. SAID. IT. ALL. Thank you so much. I’m printing this and taping it in my wedding scrapbook or something. This is exactly what modern marriage is about, right ? Whether you marry in your early twenties or later in life.

    Getting married young when you’re still trying to figure out your career path and everything is kind of like having an at-home life-coach, except so much better and permanent and free.

    • KC

      I mostly agree, but wanted to note that different partners and partnerships have different strengths, and the “life coach” area is one of those areas of potentially variable strength while still having a great marriage. Yes, a great marriage will include both partners encouraging and supporting each other in all areas of life, but sometimes that looks less life-coach-y than other times… and sometimes partners are better at caring about you than at giving career direction or at saying the exact right thing to encourage you at the right time.

      (mine: good at being supportive of me tackling what I want to do, once I’ve figured it out, explained the goal, and he’s understood it. This has been enormously useful and great, but not at all life-coach-y “let’s explore your options and find your strengths” and “rah rah rah! You can do it!” and “let’s set some definable goals with definite timelines” and such.)

      • Cleo

        “mine: good at being supportive of me tackling what I want to do, once I’ve figured it out, explained the goal, and he’s understood it.”

        Same here. Mine doesn’t fit the mold described in the post (he’s not goal-oriented. mostly a live and let live guy who wants a comfortable seat, his XBox and an ice cold root beer), but he understands that I’m not that way. He’s the one who asks “didn’t you want to run today?” when I’m lazing about in bed on Saturday trying to convince myself that I don’t want to work out, so I shouldn’t, or who suggests timeline adjustments on our day, so I have a bigger chunk of my time to revise my novel. He thinks self-set deadlines do nothing more than induce stress, so he “pshaws” them when I reference mine, and would be perfectly happy if I never set another goal, but he supports my desire to accomplish certain things.

        (and then I support his desire to have home be a sanctuary by getting a little 50s housewife and bringing him his ice cold root beer when we get home, cooking dinner, and listening to him talk about his day without interjecting)

      • I think that this is a really good point. I don’t do well when Fred tries to get “life coach” on me. I end up freaking out and telling him that I’m an adult and don’t need a cheerleader! For us, it’s just simply being there for each other and talking through the big stuff together.

        That is the beauty of marriage though, while you and I prefer a quiet partner, Flo like to have a life coach and I’m sure that her spouse fits the bill!

  • SarahToo

    Thanks for this very timely reminder…

    My partner has an amazing career as a musician, but (like many musicians) struggles on the financial side. His chosen field also has him spending big chunks of time on the road, touring. This is challenging for me. After our honeymoon in early June I drove him to the airport, kissed him goodbye, then hardly saw him for the remainder of the summer (9 days together in 2 months and a half). I confess that there are times I regret/resent his career…it’s way too easy to get mired in loneliness and self-pity when I’m home working on unglamorous things (like scrubbing the toilet) and he’s off touring Southern France. But your post made me remember that for us to have a great relationship, we both have to be happy. Music makes him very, very happy. I guess it’s up to me to find work that makes me feel just as inspired (I’m in the final year of my Master’s degree, and the job situation is up in the air). And as I figure out what that is, hopefully we can strive together to find a balance between our home lives and our livelihoods…

    • While neither of us spends long days away from home I can commisterate with you! Typically we only have one day off a week together, and it’s not even a whole day because he’s off on Mondays and I’m at the desk job for a full 8 hours. Sometimes it really, really, really sucks and I know that our personal goals mean being apart but I still give myself a little wiggle room for the occasional pity party. You are much stronger than I, Sarah! I would probably needs lots of wine to get through all of that time alone. ;)

  • AMEN.
    I’m getting married straight out of college and when people raise an eyebrow, I just want to tell them THIS. Yes.

    While we could struggle through our early twenties trying to find careers and fullfillment alone, wouldn’t it be so much nicer to have a teammate in the whole game? Someone who can support you when you want to go out on a limb and try something new? Someone to commiserate with if things arent quite working out in your favor?

    The early twenties seem to be one of the most fraught, confusing, and emotionally draining times of life. the last thing I’d want to do is to just make myself feel more isolated and alone to get through it.

  • katieprue

    No YOU get an epic slow-clap! Wonderful words.

  • Made it schmade it, you guys GET IT and that is awesome! This is such an inspiring post!

  • carrie

    For what it’s worth, I was the independent, “successful” (so subjective) career woman when I met my now husband, who also has an established career. We met when I was 32 and he was 35. We’ve been married for a year, together for 3, and this is EXACTLY how we do things. It warms my heart to know that those who are just starting out in some ways are doing it the exact same way. With love and support. That’s what we all vowed to each other, right? Thanks for writing this.

    • meg

      Totally. This is so age-less, I think. We should all be aiming for this, no matter how old we are when we get married.

    • Thank you Carrie! I can only hope that even once we’ve become “established” or succesful our marriage will continue to look like this. Especially since things will probably only get more crazy and complicated in the years to come!

  • This is so encouraging and awesome and exactly what I needed to read right now. My fiance put in his notice that he will not be returning to work after the wedding in 2 weeks so that he can pursue his dream of becoming a writer, and I am waiting patiently to hear about my first possible full time job after freelancing for three years.
    We’re planning to come back from our honeymoon and start a whole new life together, I’m so glad to hear about other teams that are making this adventure work together.

  • Melissa

    Such a timely post. I had an interview for a new position in my organization this morning, and I was nervous and jittery all morning. My guy made me breakfast and lunch, and then told me just how hot I was in my outfit. If I was on my own, I would’ve been a wreck. He knew exactly what to say and how to give me that extra boost of confidence. When we get married, that support will only get stronger. I’m so excited for it!

  • Caroline

    I love this! This is exactly how we do things. We’ve been together since we were teenagers and I’m now early 20’s and he’s mid 20’s. When he came home and said ” I can’t take it anymore, my job is killing me,” we sat down and made a plan to get him out. When I worked a job so bad I gave notice in a fit of tears one day without planning too, because I had reached my breaking point, he supporte me and even boycotted the bsiness for treating me so badly. When I suggest a new potential career path that has me fired up, he’s excited too, even if it would mean radical life plan changes. I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve worked on resumes and cover letters together, and helped eachother figure put what to do.
    We aren’t married yet although we’d like to soon, but we are absolutely partners in our careers, and it’s wonderful to have that support starting to build a career.

  • “Our marriage is an environment that nurtures creativity and encourages leaps of faith.”

    This is such an encouragement. This is what my FH and I are hoping to do. We’re not at all settled or established yet (far from it- we’re still pursuing advanced degrees), and we’ve accepted that we’re going to be pretty broke for a pretty long while still. But we both see entering marriage at this stage not as a career impediment but as becoming a team who has each other’s backs when life gets a little crazy. I am definitely keeping this post for future reference- thank you for sharing!

  • This is so great, Allison, and very similar to the dynamic in my marriage. We didn’t marry young and were both working in fields where we were doing alright, sometimes even great, but both of us have decided to put the more stable jobs on the back burner to pursue our creative goals – me with my photography business and my husband with writing. We are each other’s biggest fans and support systems and we are nurturing those sparks in each other. Last week I proofread one of his short stories and he helped me design sample albums. That level of partnership and encouragement is such a great feeling, and I’m really glad that you have it and shared about it!

  • Leaps of faith.

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Forrest and I are 32 days from our wedding and leaping, together, into the unknown has been an absolute hallmark of our partnership and something that I look forward to knowing I can count and rely on.

    Leaping. Together.

  • Love love love this post Allison! You two sound very similar to James & I (which I already knew, mostly)… in that I believe there is no ‘perfect time’ to get married, or that you should wait until you have all your ducks in a row (because those ducks never line up perfectly)! Marriage is about building a life together and supporting each other through all the ups & downs (which there will be plenty). Loved reading this. Love you! :)

    • Class of 1980

      I had a friend whose son got married right out of college. When he got engaged, she asked her son if he thought maybe he’d like to have some adventures before getting married.

      He replied that he was planning on having lots of adventures, but that he’d be having them with Jenni (his fiancee and now his wife).

      • Oh, that’s the best reply ever! I also believe that the adventures can be quiet ones too, not always things like backpacking through Europe or Skydiving! ;)

  • Class of 1980

    It used to be expected and common for people to get married before they were established. Being established before marriage is a concept that’s maybe twenty years old.

    There is no one-size-fits-all. Either way, the marriage described here is what all marriages should aspire to, whether the couple is established before the wedding or not.

  • Anya

    I love APW, but this post feels like it fits into similar, very tidy narratives about how easy and awesome it is to be married – cheerleading for marriage in our corner of the feminist, leftist world that’s put marriage under siege. And you know what? It’s not always rosy and easy and awesome. Sometimes, even when being in love is great, the circumstances that surround that little puppy pile of love is pretty mediocre. And no amount of romantic rose-coloring makes it any more awesome than it is.

    My fiance and I support each other, but neither of us find it easy or romantic to be broke. We’re 100% there and loving, and one of the many, many reasons I’m marrying my Love is because he’s supportive of my unconventional, not-traditionally-thought-of-as-successful career (hello, farming). And though I love my work and love my honey, that doesn’t make it blissful to have money issues. Most of the time, it just feels like we have money issues. I hated being poor alone. Living pay check to pay check was sad and hard and full of frustrated rage. Making only enough money to live on with someone else in tow isn’t magically more fun. It just makes for more conversation. As in, “I know you want X, and I promised to buy one for you months ago, but after getting that car work done, my pay check can’t cover it, so I have to go back on my word, I’m sorry, but I really, really love you.” And THAT sucks.

    my Love may see me as being successful and I may see him as being so smart and driven, but that doesn’t make it fun or easy or great or anything other than frustrating to have to deny ourselves that dinner out, or bedside tables so our shit doesn’t pile up on the floor. And no amount of marriage-as-blissful-solution will cover that up or change what being broke feels like. I get that this post is about being supportive anyway, but sometimes it feels like having yet another conversation about money isn’t so fun and rosy, ok?

    • meg

      Write a post! We’re always, always up for talking about the fact that marriage isn’t a tiny narrative, and isn’t always awesome, but we have to get those posts to run them (or the staff has to be experiencing something they can write about publicly on that front). We work hard to provide as balanced content as we can on these topics, though we’re always limited by the posts we have at our finger tips (or can write with our finger tips).

      Separately, being broke is awful. I’ve written in the past about working minimum wage jobs and paying the bills in New York City, and it was no goddamn fun, to say the least. That is always on the table for discussion around here.

      • Emily

        Paying the bills in New York City is the absolute worst thing ever. But I’m so thankful to be doing it as part of a team as opposed to by myself. My husband encouraged me to leave my toxic but well-paid job before our wedding so that I could focus more on the career I wanted. I am now in a job I love, but that pays much less, while he is jobless. My other immediate support system, my family of origin, was very critical of my decision to leave. If I had not had my husband supporting me, I probably never would have left. Honestly, if I did not have my supportive and ambitious husband, I would probably still be living in the Midwest. Money is scary. Building a career that is fulfilling can be difficult and sometimes require taking big leaps of faith. Getting out of a career that makes you miserable can be difficult, because unemployment is an even more miserable and frightening option. These things are not impossible to do by yourself, but I think what this post is about is how establishing a fulfilling career can be easier when you have another person who is behind you 100%, pushing you in the direction you need to go, and when it gets hard, reminding you that it will be ok.

      • Anya

        thanks Meg – APW does have great and diverse snapshots of married life. I didn’t realize you were so broadly crowdsourced though! maybe once the growing season is over I’ll write a post or two.

        • meg

          Oh, of course we do! Anyone who reads the site can submit a post, and we love it when you do.

    • It’s super duper frustrating to not have the money to go out to dinner or buy the things you need (I’ve been there) but I don’t think that’s what Allison was getting at AT ALL. As a matter of fact, I think what she was meaning was that your partner is supportive of you trying a non-conventional career. They’re willing to skip that dinner out because they want you to chase your dreams.

      It seems to me, like dealing with money woes is a whole different can of worms than discussing the idea that your marriage is inspiring and can free you to take a lot of risks that would be more difficult alone.

    • Class of 1980

      I also didn’t see the post as saying that marriage is the solution to being broke. The post seemed to be talking about growing into being established together. It’s two separate subjects in my mind.

      No doubt, being broke is one of the toughest things in the world to deal with. I would never try to soothe anyone into thinking they should be happy about it because that would be callous. It will wear you down and destroy your peace of mind.

      The only consolation I know of, is that when things get better you tend to be careful with your money, and you tend to have more empathy than people who haven’t struggled.

      I wish you and your husband success, Anya.

    • Anya,

      I don’t want to give the impression that everything in my marriage is super awesome and perfect all the time, I mean if it was I would be lying about something, right? I admit that on Monday night I had a freak out on Fred (about a closet organizer) and I thought it was kinf of hilarious that I was melting down in the Home Depot while he just looked at me and let me work through my shit. Our house is pretty clean right now, but the laundry is piling and my office is a disater. Everything with us is a work in progress, but we work on it together.

      Along with Meg, I really do encourage you to write a post! I didn’t talk about money in this post not because financial troubles don’t exist in my marriage, but because it’s an entirely different conversation that I honestly wasn’t ready to start.

      Fred and I moved into our first apartment when I was 19 and we were both working minimum wage retail jobs. Going out to dinner was unheard of, and when we did it was cheap burritos from the place down the street. Even when we both started making more money, it wasn’t that much and the burrito dinners were upgraded to “fancy” pizza (I only say fancy because we ordered from the local place, not dominos). Not being able to do fun things with the money that we earned really DID suck. Especially in the months leading up to our wedding when we were picking out my engagement ring and what I truly wanted was “reasonably priced” but well out of our budget. I know that sounds frivolous, but having to go without for a lot of little things made it frustrating when when I had to also cut out the big things.

      I feel really fortunate to be in the place that we’re at, but it doesn’t mean that everything is rosy, you know? We decided to buy a house and knew that meant having to miss out on big trips or babies for a few years. This also means that I still have to work my full time desk job, plus my photography job until the end of the year to make sure that we have enough money scrolled away.

      I also didn’t want to bring up money because I am in a constant struggle of comparing myself to others. Close friends of ours have much more money in their savings and 401k than we do, plus they own their home and are able to take big trips to Hawaii and Mexico. They often don’t understand that we don’t have the same financial freedom as they do and it’s a hard pill to swallow when someone my age is getting to travel and buy a new car. I have to pull myself back from the ledge and realize that I really want new kitchen counters, or to travel, or have a fancy meal with my husband…and eventually I will have those things, but not right now.

      I really want more of this dialogue to happen, I think it’s really important to know that everyone has their own struggles AND triumps and sometimes they go hand in hand.

  • Lauren

    I just want to take a moment to thank you, and all of APW, for existing. When I started the process of getting used to being engaged, all I found at first were The Kn*t and sites like that. While wonderful for some, they just overwhelmed me and filled me with angst.

    Then I found APW and finally (finally!) someone was saying it’s OK to get married young, it’s OK to be a feminist and want the religious ceremony and it’s OK to take things one day at a time when it comes to careers and money and stability. We’ve been together since high school and six years is all I want to have to wait for our life to begin. We’ll be 22 – he’ll be on his way to grad school and I’ll hopefully have a stable, full-time job by then. Hopefully.

    I’m seriously making myself tear up here, because this site is everything women like me – and women very unlike me, which is awesome – need. I can’t thank you enough.

    • Lauren

      Also: holla at me Allison,fellow bride in glasses! Beautiful picture!

      • Ah, thank you! I wanted to wear contacts but then I didn’t feel like myself so glasses it was!

  • Amanda

    This post reminds me of a time when I was at the lab late preparing for my annual committee meeting. I came home around 11pm, and my husband rushed to the door with a worried look on his face (it wasn’t because I was late, he knew I would be). He shook his head slowly and said “I did the laundry since I knew you would be late”. I was thankful – one less thing on my chore list for the evening (the laundry is happily on my chore list). But then he held up a t-shirt of mine and said “I’m so sorry, but I wrecked it.” I was confused – it didn’t appear to be in any different condition, other than clean! “I shrunk it” he said. I laughed so hard I nearly cried – he hadn’t shrunk it, I’m just that small!

    And I think we navigated our new marriage this way often – doing things for one another, for our baby family – when the hectic times came in waves, even if we weren’t sure we were doing it “right”. We are never keeping count, just making sure we are fed, clean and deadlines are met. Right now, I’m holding down the fort at home while he works two insane jobs. In the future, the roles might be reversed. But the truth is, neither of us could live this wonderful, rich life we live (and I’m not talking a rich in terms of money life) if we didn’t have one another to hold us up, steady us, and push us forward when things get tough. Our partnership is so unreal, sometimes I fear speaking about it will make it disappear. But then I give me head a shake and remember to be thankful for what I have, because it is real. You get what you give, and sometimes even more.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      One of the things they don’t tell you about marriage: All the laundry! I was expecting more dirty towels, but not the triple volume of clothes. I’ve decided it’s not that he changes his clothes more often, it’s just that they’re so much bigger.

      Meanwhile, he describes folding my laundry as playing with doll clothes.

      • The laundry is THE WORST right? Two sets of towels, two different piles of dirty underwear, and usually only one person to put it all away!

  • Denise

    I sent a link to this post to my (wonderful, supportive) fiancé, who replied: “Reading APW makes me want to be a better person for you”.

  • “Our marriage is about one person pulling a late night finishing a school project (or editing a wedding) and the other making sure that the laundry is done.”

    This JUST happened for us. I was up very late on the school project (dissertation), he cooked, kept me company for a bit, and did laundry. I could do these thing myself (and I have), but I sure do like feeling like a team.

    I know not all teams operate the same way, some are zone defense, so man-to-man, but I think Allison’s point is such a good one. Unlike professional sports, though, this team is here for me, win or lose, pass or fail. And that gives me so much courage.

    • Miriam

      Seriously.. I often wonder how my single grad-school friends survive without someone there to do this stuff for them. Obviously they can do it themselves but its such a relief to have someone to share the chores with (and someone to cook more elaborate meals than most grad school dinners).

  • I think this is great piece (by my favorite photographer nonetheless). Marriage is about supporting each other, not just financially but emotionally. This definitely is relateable at any age! My husband and I always say our relationship is an equal partnership and its a balancing act! This said it all!

  • This is how Aidan and I do things too. The biggest changes are often totally worth it. It’s a great adventure really, and so fortunate are we who have an awesome partner to back us up and go along for the ride.

  • Yes to this. A thousand times over! Your story sounds SO similar to Wil’s and mine. So much of what makes our marriage precious is our ability to encourage and push each other like no one else can. And then lean hard on each other and say it’s ok to pause and find what you really want/need sometimes too.