Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Do I Have to Give Up My Career for His?

Marriage by KMichiels via Flickr cc.
Hey everyone,

I'm in a relationship with a recent grad from the naval academy. We have been close friends for a year and decided to give a relationship a shot. He's an officer and will be going to Norfolk soon. I guess my main concern is the frequent moving. If we end up together for the long haul how realistic is it of me to think I can stay behind while he moves around the country. I love my job and what I do but it isn't exactly a portable career, I doubt I could up and move and still be able to do my passion. Do I put my career on hold so that he can do his? It's a lot to take in for someone like me who has had no real contact with people in the military for my whole life. This is a lifestyle I am unfamiliar with and would love some input.

This is one of the more common questions I get form new Navy Girlfriends and Navy Wives, and I was shocked when I realized I had never written a post on this subject so here is my expanded answer: 

Navy Wives & Girlfriends Have Careers
Interview by Fellowship of the Rich via Flickr cc.
I don't know what your passion/career is, so it's hard for me to say much on how that will specifically work with the Navy lifestyle, but what I can also tell you is that many, many Navy Wives and Girlfriends continue to pursue their dreams, passions, and careers even though they have to pick up every couple of years. 

I know Navy Girlfriends who remained girlfriends for years, and I've known Navy Wives who have finished college, traveled for fun, and become professional chefs, teachers, social workers, and nurses. I know of Navy wives who have become authors, comedians, fitness experts, you name it! 

Some people even make a long distance situation work out if their careers can't move easily. I know one couple who has done this for years successfully. It's called "Geo-Bachelor" when a family lives one place and the Sailor lives at his duty station. You even receive extra pay for that separation too. 

Who Gets Priority?
As a couple, you have to weigh the pros and cons of both of your career needs and decide who gets a little more priority. For example, because I'm a writer, I have the ability to do my passion, to some extent, anywhere, so when my husband said we needed to go to Fallon, Nevada to further his career, I recognized that it wouldn't hurt my career to go there even though I knew I might have more opportunities in a city setting. 

You might have to ask yourself, who is the primary provider for your family? If you are bringing in more of an income, then you two may decide to choose your duty stations based on what's best for your career as opposed to his. 

You Have Choices About Where You Go
That's something else to consider. In the beginning it seems like you go where the Navy tells you, and at first he has less choice about where he goes, but he still has a choice, and the longer he is in, the more of a choice he has. So for example, when my husband chose orders for the third time, we had options on the East Coast and the West Coast. We wanted to stay on the West Coast, and we could choose from duty stations in Washington as well as Central and Southern California. The duty station in Lemoore, California was best for his career, and as the main provider for our family, it made sense to go with that choice. However, if my career needed a city life, we could have gone to San Diego and that wouldn't have ruined his career. These sacrifices don't leave you without options. It just means you aren't in the ideal situation you hoped for.

When I went to Fallon, which is a small and landlocked town, it was, and maybe still is, known as being a career-killer for Navy Wives, and I met a lot of Navy Wives who didn't try because they were convinced there were no options as far as careers go. Yet, in spite of the small size and bad reputation for jobs, I managed to find a job as a reporter, which was what I was looking for right out of college. Other Navy Wives there were also able to get jobs in a variety of fields including the medical, teaching, and beauty industries. You just have to be open to the possibilities and willing to hunt them down.

Civilians have to make these types of decisions too. People pick up and move all the time, sometimes because they want to, but more often it's because of a job. 

There might be some hard decisions to make, but that doesn't mean that you will have to chose between him and your career. You can do both if the both of you commit to making it work while also recognizing that neither of you can have every ideal along the way.

Your Career Paths Might Change
One last thing I want to throw out there is that as time goes by, things change in ways that you could never predict or prepare for, especially when it comes to your career. I'm sure you've already heard people tell you that they received their education in something that's totally different from what they ended up doing. It's also true that as time goes by, our priorities and passions change and so do our careers.

Careers Board Game by Hannah via Flickr cc.
I received my degree in history thinking I would become some sort of professional researcher (a job that doesn't exactly exist, lol) and I ended up doing journalism right out of college and then as I started pursing fiction publishing, I also did part-time work with an after-school program, so in addition to writing, I now have this strong background working with children, which has led me to do volunteer work with them at my church. This is crazy because in college I was afraid of children and was terrible at interacting with them. I was completely against the idea of becoming a teacher, so the idea that I'd end up working with them was crazy. 

When I met and married my Sailor, he was determined to have a 30-year career in the Navy and become an admiral or something, then somehow he got into computer programming and earned a degree in it, and after 11 years decided to get out of the military. His first job was with a tomato plant doing supervisor work. His time there has helped him develop skills that are making him eligible for really high paying jobs in the manufacturing field. So even though his degree is in program engineering and his experience is the military, he's going this totally other route. And get this, he HATES tomatoes! Like, can't stand to look at them, kind of hate. 

My point in telling you all of this is that as much as you might want to, you can't plan for everything, and you can't plan to pick a career and stick with it until you retire. Things might change, opportunities arise, and the cool thing is that a lot of those opportunities can come from the Navy life. I don't know if I would have had the time to write my first novel is I was a reporter in a big city right after college. 

Just remember that if you are willing to work towards your goals together, then it will work out one way or the other, even if ten years from now your goals are totally different.

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author

Buy Her Book A White Room!

Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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  1. Hi there!

    Your blog is great! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! This piece is so helpful and I think that your knowledge would be really helpful for my new Navy Wife network. I just recently started a network for Navy wives to share knowledge, inspiration, resources, and more! I was wondering if you would be interested in having a guest article in our group. Feel free to stop by and see what we're all about and email me if you're interested!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for your comment and interest. Please feel free to contact me via email so we can discuss this further. contact[at]stephaniecarroll(dot)net.

    Stephanie Carroll


I love, love your comments and questions! Just remember to not mention any security info about your Sailor! Thank you!

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