My Husband’s Career Makes Mine Seem Worthless

CMSAF visits Airmen in Jordan supporting exercise

When Kelly’s husband came back from Afghanistan, bronze star in hand, he started his captain’s career course ahead of his peers.  Kelly found herself suddenly feeling like there was something major missing from her life.

Once upon a time, Kelly had her dream job, too. Before she moved to El Paso, TX with her then boyfriend, now husband, she worked as a counselor in a residential group home for adolescent males who had been convicted of sexual offenses.

Kelly wrote in a recent email, “I didn’t realize it until I left, but I gained so much satisfaction from that job. I wasn’t making bank, but it brought me a lot of self-worth by helping others through counseling.”

Even though Kelly did exactly what we tell spouses to do—get a part time job and go back to school until you can get the job you want—she hasn’t been able to reconnect with that feeling of self-worth and accomplishment.

 “What can I do for right now to get through the feelings of hopelessness?” Kelly asked.

Excellent question.  I hear the same thing from spouses all over the country.  They love their military member.  They would gladly move all over the world for him or her.  Yet there is this lingering feeling that while their ambitions are moving ahead, yours fall further and further in sight.

This feeling is supposed to be especially hard after a servicemember graduates from a school or has a promotion ceremony or takes command.  Spouses report that along with the pride they feel in their beloved, they often have this little, secret, inward oh.

When I get that feeling, I used the Old Lady Defense.  I remind myself that my grandmothers lived well into their 90s. This year is not the only year of my life.  I will be an old lady someday with plenty of good career years behind me.  I tell myself that the curtailing of my ambitions is only temporary.

What would you tell Kelly to do to get through her feeling of career hopelessness?

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at
  • Rquick

    I feel like this is a really common feeling. Like no matter what you do their sacrifice trumps whatever aspirations you have. My husband is super supportive of me no matter what but to society as a whole I fee like he is seems as contributing more and having more value than I. And then on the other side of the coin it doesent help that army spouses with careers are seen as less than supportive because they have their own thing going on. Such is the case most of the time but spouses can’t win either way.

  • Diana

    Moving to El Paso, I was ready to give up my job to be with my husband who was coming home from Korea. I am blessed in that my office decided to allow me to work remotely. That said, I miss a lot of opportunities due to being remote and my career as well as my education (I’m also a PhD student) has suffered.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that even if you can keep your job, it will never be what it was before. So, I’ve had to find other ways to supplement that feeling I used to get from leading a meeting or presenting in front of class. I’d suggest finding ways to volunteer in your new community that would utilize your talents. It’d be a great way to meet new people and would be more fulfilling than you’d ever imagine.

  • BeenieBee

    A sense of value, accomplishment, and self-worth comes from within. This is an issue I see with many military spouses. Basing your value on anyone other than yourself is fruitless. We all make choices. We all choose our paths. We choose to be with our spouses. We have chosen a life that is fluid and rootless- that’s the nature of military life. We also must choose to find happiness in that life, and basing our own self-worth on our spouses’ will bring nothing but a lifetime of misery.

  • professional_spouse

    Sounds so familiar. I am married to an officer but at the same time I am the breadwinner of the family, working in the very demanding field with several years of experience, and being a university professor. I get promoted, salary increases, the company I work for appreciates me to the moon and back…. and still I occasionally experience belittling, not from him but from others around.
    I hear comments like “what are you going to do next xx weeks while he is gone” and such. And my typical answer is “I keep doing the same I have been doing past xx weeks, travel around the country for my meetings, live my life”.
    I wish I was as adjusting as some other spouses above but unfortunately I want to have my career, and do something where I get satisfaction – mentally and financially. While I wholeheartedly support my husband (and he supports me), I am very determined to do whatever I find the best for myself. And I try to remind myself about the importance of what I am doing: in fact my everyday work with the technology helps to keep our troops safe and sound while home or far away. But I do not get the similar recognition for it like my spouse for graduating from a class and whatnot.

    • ophiolite

      I am in exactly the same boat.