Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Trailing spouses and bitterness by the bucketfull

The past 2 years have been particularly difficult for me in terms of my career. I have tried to explain it to DrH, and I think he sees it, but at the same time it doesn´t directly affect him, so it´s a bit of a theoretical. This article sums up a lot of what I´ve been feeling, that I´ve become a trailing spouse.
I´ve fought against that in many ways, not the least by taking jobs in 3 different cities which has required my moving, the two of us commuting, and untold stress on our relationship, just to prove my independence and own abilities. But I still gave up an opportunity in Berkeley for our relationship, for his job, for his career.

And none of it has changed the fact that I was still always going to come out second best to someone who is in my scientific field but several years ahead, and male. Sorry, but woman just cannot compete. Forget the equal opportunity bullshit that everyone spouts these days. It still doesn´t happen. I know of only 2 female professors in my field in Germany and neither have families. A few years ago an internal study from one of the big research organisations here, which shall not be named but may have something to do with a famous physicist or a piece of wood, looked into the ratio of women in the higher levels. Of the around 120 professor level positions 11 were held by women and 10 of those were in relationships with the head of the institute. That sound like equality to you?

So I´m sorry, but all of those open minded men that I´ve had this discussion with, who all insist that "it´s easy for women to get ahead in science", while they work 14 hour days and have the little woman at home looking after their babies and washing their underwear can just bite me.

Am I bitter and pissed off? Damn fucking right.

But I still may have tried to fight my way ahead through this. To try and be one of the few who make it. Until I married another scientist and I knew that this would never work. He woud always get the better job, he always had the better prospects. He is a damn good scientist, don´t get me wrong. In some ways he is better than me. In others though, I am.

So it was pointless trying to compete. It was better that I throw in the towel, look for a new career path where we aren´t competing directly. Which I´ve done. I´m enjoying my new job, don´t get me wrong. But would I have enjoyed my old job more if I hadn´t had this threat, this knowledge that it was pointless, hanging over my head? You know, I think so. But now I´ll never know.

And yet, I´m still the trailing spouse. When this position finishes in a few months, I´m back to looking for a new job. And I´m going to have to base it around his job. And that pisses me off. What if I get a good job offer around here? Or better yet, and extension where I am? It´s great here, I´m enjoying it, I don´t want to leave. Yet he doesn´t want to leave his job either.

So who´s going to win? Can we resolve this without one of us feeling bitter? I´m already carrying around enough bitterness and regret, that I´m starting to wish that I could pass it on to him. Tit for tat. I gave up my career for our relationship. It´s about time you did too.

I know it´s not fair. I know it may be considered by some to be selfish. But I almost don´t care anymore. Why should I be the trailing spouse? I didn´t sign that in the marriage contract. I agreed to love him, which I do. I didn´t agree to sacrifice my future for him. He tries to be supportive, he tries to offer up suggestions, but I´m still waiting for those magic words. The ones which say "I will follow you, anywhere, anytime". No caveats, no "wait and see if you like it", no "maybe we can work a few days a week/month at home so this distance thing works". For once, I want someone to give everything up for me. Show me I´m worthy of equal respect, not just muttered platitudes.


Anonymous said...

Hello you, what's wrong? Sorry you feel like this, I know how much you're right!!! but even so - it is not that dark! There is what you gain and what you lose from that situation. And together with having a woking relationship, one of you (but most probably both) would feel upset for giving up dreams... But one could have the dreams and lose the relationship, too. always 50/50. think of what you have, don't let it be destroyed from the bitterness.
But for the science you are right - this stupid old male kingdom... Maybe just most of the women are smart enough to leave before fricking out and starting to use nicknames for themselves:))) Hope so... Anyway, cheer up! Life is too short to watse it on anger and sorry:)) R

YelloCello said...

I have to respectfully disagree. I don't buy the whole "at least you have a working relationship" business. Yes, being grateful for what is going right in our lives is important. But it sounds to me like you need some small, but significant, changes in your relationship... and that those changes (i.e., getting more than "muttered platitudes") could only make your relationship healthier.... even as you get to pursue more career satisfaction. I object to the idea that we have to choose between a good relationship and a good career. I think that, with work and patience and carefully channelled bitterness, you can have both. I am pulling for you.

Megan said...

This was one of the most honest things I've read on the internet in a long time. I really admire you for owning up to all these feelings. While I'm not in the science field, I think many jobs in academia reflect the juxtaposition of male vs. female jobs. In my opinion, you have ever right to be bitter.

I loved this line that M said:
I think that, with work and patience and carefully channelled bitterness, you can have both. I am pulling for you.
I'm pulling for you too.

~*. D E E P A .* ~ said...

i feel the same way