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Married outside academia

(40 Posts)
MumOnBus Mon 02-Oct-17 00:20:01

Long time browser, first time poster (in this corner).

Basically this is it: I'm finally beginning to get places in my career through my hard work (long days, little time off, lots of conference travel and networking). I have not yet finished my PhD but have had two academic posts offered at very prestigious universities in my field.

My DH has a PhD but has never worked in academia and I don't think he gets me. I feel sad saying this as he is very supportive (sharing household chores, looking after the house and DD when I'm away, etc) but he resents it and thinks I do too much for my department, especially as many of the things I do are not aligned with my thesis. He says I should be more selfish and just finish writing up (had I done "just" what's required for my PhD I would not be as employable as I am now, I think ^but that's for another thread^).

I don't feel DH is interested in any of the things I do, be it important or not (from proofreading to even hearing a bit of the gossip/politics that go on in my department). I think the worst of it is that I feel like we're growing apart: it's not just his lack of interest, but his outright disapproval even, of some of the things I feel passionate about.
There are not many women academics in my department, the ones I know who are happily married, have DH academics. All the other ones I know have never married OR have divorced already!

Please tell me if you are happily married a non-academic and what are your secrets? Any tips welcome :-) I love my DH, don't want to end up hurting our marriage :-(

NewbieAcademic Mon 02-Oct-17 00:48:58

I'm not sure the problem is your career in academia. Loads of couples work in very different fields. It seems like you have different expectations of how involved your partner should be in the nitty gritty of your working life.

Some couples know every little bit of gossip about each other's work. Some couples spend their free time discussing other things and eschew all talk of work. You need to find a happy medium that works for you and your DH perhaps? Are you as interested and involved in his work?

Otherwise no evidence that he isn't being supportive right?

Fwiw, I'm also mid PhD. DH is in completely different field. He proofread my masters thesis for me at the final draft stage. And I'll occasionally practice big talks on him and get feedback. I do the same when he's got a massive meeting at work. But otherwise we exchange general notes on what's happening at work but don't get into a play by play.

His work involves 8 hours of meeting and chatting with people. Whereas mine is super solitary. So we both crave starkly different levels of socialising in the evening. That's something we keep needing to work on.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 02-Oct-17 08:58:11

I can relate to this. So many people I know are married to academics. I find it really irritating, too, that there is (still!) a big expectation that your partner is there to provide unpaid support for your career - especially if you're a man.

I love my DP, but she doesn't get it. She's getting more aware, but there are still lots of things where I have to keep explaining this really is how it is.

Summerswallow Mon 02-Oct-17 09:22:00

If you had an academic husband, the problem would be that their career might end up taking precedence over yours, and it can be very competitive, I know of very few where the wife/woman is the senior academic (perhaps more democratic amongst same sex couples, I don't know). So, I don't think a non-academic husband per se is the issue.

It sounds like your husband isn't behind your career full stop- if you were a diplomat or high up in business, you would also be required to travel etc. This sounds like resentment/issues over whose career is prioritised- I don't think you will be able to convince him that you need to do all of this academically, because he's not happy to support you in this way- and you need to get underneath this and understand why- does he have views about mums not leaving their children apart, does he find looking after the daughter difficult, is his own career stalling, is he fearful your career will come first (or is he just a bit inbued with the idea he was going to be more important and is miffed he isn't?)

This isn't just an academic thing as others have said, I'd tackle it and find out why he's got this resentment, also these things ebb and flow and it may be you have to take it in turns to support his career/yours at different time points. It's worth getting your PhD done pretty soon as you need his support to do this and if it is running dry due to lots of previous support, this might prove difficult on a pragmatic level.

MumOnBus Mon 02-Oct-17 09:45:41

Thank you all for your replies! For more context, we both met at the institution where he did his PhD (and I was doing one too), but this was many years ago and sadly I did not finish that PhD.

Fast forward a number of years, where I had been the SAHM and fully supporting his career, I decided to start again seeing our DD was old enough for me to even consider going back to study.

It was very hard, but I have overcome that initial failure (maybe there's a bit of impostor syndrome in the mix too) mainly through doing much more than it's been expected from me. So yes, I think we both know this is his turn of supporting me (emotionally rather than financially), as I had supported him in all our married life before this PhD.

Summer, I guess his resentment comes from me getting my thrills through work I am that sad and do not share his various hobbies. He doesn't like talking about work for some reason, though when he does I can totally understand and relate, give him my opinion, etc (it's not like I'm not interested!!).

Newbie it sounds like you've got it right! I wish my DH were as involved in my endeavours. People make assumptions that he helps me academically (with proofreading being the best example) but he totally doesn't! It's not like I'm expecting that he does more than he does (he would say his support enables me to put all the hours in!!), in fact I feel it's me who perhaps should do something to prevent us growing further apart. Hence this thread.

Any tips please? LRD, how have you made your DP more aware?

7to25 Mon 02-Oct-17 09:50:13

I am the non-academic one. Mind you, I am the non-anything one!
We have been married for over 30 years, I think very successfully!
I also think DH does far too much for the University, thankless, pointless and unpaid.
I can't stand the navel gazing and petty feuds.
I can't stand how there is no family time and how everything comes second to work.
I try and offer a "real world" view.
I refuse to take part in any conversation involving the words "p value"
Despite these failings, most people think I am very supportive. I know all the many research fellows and try and help them with practical problems. We will have them home for a Christmas drinks party. There will be about 15 of them. I know all the colleagues and what they are interested in. I buy presents for new babies.
Despite this, I have never heard him rehearse a talk and I'm not interested in the minutiae of anything!
I have the benefit of years. We have grown up children and have been through life's traumas together. He could run off with a research fellow tomorrow because she "got him" with a passion derived from admiration. But....his loss.
You can't expect too much from him in terms of excitement about your work. That rarely happens in other jobs!
Another academic would have jealousy issues and location issues. You may be lucky.

Summerswallow Mon 02-Oct-17 09:52:18

I think you are assuming this is an academic/non-academic problem, but to me, it a plain old-fashioned communication/marriage being a bit stale problem. He knows what's involved in a successful academic career, you don't need to inform him, but for some reason he doesn't see you, his wife, doing that or being that or perhaps it's not that conscious and it just feels a bit one-sided (which is where you remind him of what you did in terms of support up til now). He knows what academics requires if he's done a PhD, he's not clueless at all, this isn't an education problem, it's an emotional one (IMO).

badg3r Mon 02-Oct-17 09:54:22

My DH didn't study past his BSc and I am on my 4th year of post doc. I actually love that he isn't in the academia bubble and it has made me much better at evaluating what my priorities are. An outside opinion is very important to me. I don't buy into presenteeism and he is very supportive of moving around (two moves abroad) to facilitate new jobs. Our philosophy is very much do what is right for the family and while a job should be fulfilling it should not take precedence over the family. I realise that this means I will never be top dog in my field, but I can still be respected hopefully!!

Summerswallow Mon 02-Oct-17 09:55:17

And I agree- no-one will be as excited about your work as you, but I do get a lot of support from my husband saying 'go for it', I would hate to go away to conferences feeling less than 100% support.

7to25 Mon 02-Oct-17 09:57:09

Sorry slow typing meant cross posting.
The essence is that I feel that so much has been sacrificed to academia that I want our time together to be unsullied by work as much as possible.
Maybe your DH feels like that?

badger2005 Mon 02-Oct-17 10:02:47

Hi MumonaBus

I do understand where you are coming from. I am an academic with a non-academic dh, and every member of faculty in my department is either a man or a young woman without dependants. It can be tricky.

But I have made the decision to put my life and the family first - ahead of work. Work does not really love you back, you know. It sounds like you are going through a purple patch - you have just had some job offers, and I would imagine some papers accepted to get there. But there will be patches where you get lots of rejections and where no-one seems to understand your ideas and everything sucks. I think it is best not to put your heart and soul into work, but to keep that for the family. Set yourself some work hours, and do something close to your best in those hours, and then switch off and spend time away from work. I know that you say that you only got where you are now by going above and beyond, and that might well be true, but there should still be a limit to how much you give to work. Given that you already have job offers, it sounds like you have done more than enough.

I think it was only after I got used to having a job at a great department that I realised that I needed to have some limits - that there should be a barrier around me where work couldn't get in. It should not take over your life.

Anyway, I guess this sounds like I am taking your dh's side. But I don't really know anything about the details - like what balance he thinks is right. I am just saying that in my own life I found it useful to think about this balance, and I find my own dh (and dc) very helpful in helping me to strike that balance. I think being married to an academic would actually be very difficult.

badger2005 Mon 02-Oct-17 10:04:11

Ah badg3r we have so much in common, besides both being badgers!

ArbitraryName Mon 02-Oct-17 10:04:14

I agree that it's probably not an academic/non-academic problem.

DH is an academic and much more successful than me. He's never proofread any of my work (although I have proofread a thesis, several papers and two books for him in the last decade; in fact, I taught him to write more clearly and seem to serve as his personal grammar checker). And it's generally him that goes to conferences while I stay at home. But this still isn't a 'married to an academic' thing. It's a married to this particular man issue.

The 'be more selfish' may actually be quite good advice, if you are doing a lot of service-type work.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 02-Oct-17 10:08:45

I see what others are saying about this being a problem that's wider than academia, but I do think academia has specific challenges because the pattern of work is strange to many people. Other jobs will also have specific challenges, I know, but academia's the one most of us on here know about.

My DP is a research assistant, resolutely non-academic, but despite being pretty close to lots of academics she tends to assume a job is something where you clock in, you do your time, and you clock out. So initially she thought that conferences were a total indulgence. And when she saw I could take a day off at random, she initially assumed I just did very little work. She also assumed if I could work from home, that meant I could mind the baby while working, because 90% of her work doesn't require a huge amount of concentration (I've been in her lab and she will chat away as she does it).

I think bits of it are still very strange for her but one thing I've been doing is to tell her when I get a concrete benefit from the things I do that look like 'optional extras'. So if someone hears my conference paper and offers to publish it in their special issue of a journal (or whatever), I tell her that's happening so she can see the conference actually had results. Otherwise I do think it can look a bit like 'love, I'm off to [pretty city] for a long weekend where I meet all my mates and we have many boozy dinners'.

Ttbb Mon 02-Oct-17 10:09:06

I think you may be expecting a bit much from him. I talk from the other side of the river being married to a former academic. Why in god's name would anyone be interested in your marking? I think you may over estimate how interesting your job is to other people. Talk about interesting things in your field of study sure but no body wants to sit and listen to departmental gossip.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 02-Oct-17 10:15:18

Ooh! I forgot to say, too: whenever I get those wankery comments like 'ho ho, I hope she proofreads' or 'the secret to a professorship is a wife' (had both of those, multiple times), I do a little feminist rant. And I rant about all those stupid smug thesis/book acknowledgement sections where someone thanks dear Debbie for her constant patient editing of the manuscript and loving care of the baby twins. It's bullshit to expect your partner to work for free and it is absolutely a gendered expectation.

MumOnBus Mon 02-Oct-17 10:20:23

Wow! Lots of responses!! Thank you. I'm seeing students and have a meeting following that. I'll keep an eye on the thread but won't be able to reply properly till after lunch.

It's great to hear from the academics and the non-academics, exactly what I was after!

I just wanted to quickly add: I'm not expecting my DH to do more than he does, I'm after advice on what should I do to nurture our relationship and not ending up like the female academics I know in RL. And I'm getting it!! Thanks mumsnet !!

worstofbothworlds Mon 02-Oct-17 11:07:57

I'm not sure the problem is your career in academia.

No it isn't!
Your DH has more of a clue what goes on in academia than mine (who has a degree but as a mature student and partly through the OU so little exposure to universities), but sounds less supportive.

My DH does occasionally say "what if you said you wouldn't do X"? but he also has e.g. seminars that he can go, or not go to e.g. for CPD.

It does help a little to occasionally have him say "do you HAVE to do that?" because sometimes he is right.

user918273645 Mon 02-Oct-17 12:30:16

And I rant about all those stupid smug thesis/book acknowledgement sections where someone thanks dear Debbie for her constant patient editing of the manuscript and loving care of the baby twins. It's bullshit to expect your partner to work for free and it is absolutely a gendered expectation.

I completely agree. I don't know what to do about this, though, working in a field where many men do have women who follow them around the world, take on all the domestic responsibilities etc. How can one "compete" with men whose wives facilitate 70 hour working weeks?

Summerswallow Mon 02-Oct-17 12:51:17

user this is the same in all fields though, many many men are facilitated to work at a moment's notice, stay late several times a week, move countries or locations for their career (have a trailing usually wife) and so on. I think the only thing you can do is just do your best, set your own limits and realise they also waste quite a lot of time/duck out of responsibilities by these actions, I'm not convinced one needs to put in 70 hour weeks, I never have and whilst I'm not the most starry of stars, I'm a pretty decent performing academic with a permanent job and an interesting set of project on which to work- that pleases me, and I don't worry that some guy might have leap-frogged there before me as his wife is happy not to see him most evenings or lets him do little round the house- who wants that life? Not me anyway. My husband is very supportive though and does take the load off me when I need to get work done- I do likewise for him when I can, which is why the OP's husband needs to stop being actively hostile to being supportive- as he's had his turn actually and now its hers.

worstofbothworlds Mon 02-Oct-17 13:27:52

I'm a pretty decent performing academic with a permanent job and an interesting set of project on which to work- that pleases me, and I don't worry that some guy might have leap-frogged there before me as his wife is happy not to see him most evenings or lets him do little round the house

YES this is me. I get people saying "wow, that's an amazing project", how do you find the time - mainly by not really caring about some aspects of my job - I also work 0.8 and have recently done two spells of 0.6 when the DC were tiny.

I really want to carry on with my Big Project and I would love also to continue with some smaller projects I have ticking over but beyond that I don't particularly want to be Fellow of a Learned Society or gain prizes or be a bit media star, nor do I want to be Dean of School or anything like that. Maybe professor but even then I'm not as bothered as I could be.

I also have a very lovely DH whose parents brought him up well to be a considerate human being.

user918273645 Mon 02-Oct-17 13:37:00

I am in a field where nobody works part-time and pretty much everybody does work long hours just to survive.

I worry not for myself personally, BTW, as I am already senior, but about the fact that my whole subject area pushes out so many very good people who are not willing to move around the world, work long hours, take on unreasonable workloads, give up family life.

NewbieAcademic Mon 02-Oct-17 13:38:43

Trying to think of "tips" but tbh it all sounds v patronising. We are early 30s so both of us are more junior in our careers - it sounds like your DH is more senior? Also I'm pregnant but as of now we don't have kids - which obviously makes a massive difference in terms of household chores / domestic arrangements.

After a few years of being a SAHM is the dynamic that DH resents you a bit for suddenly having to pick up childcare and domestic responsibilities etc? He needs to have a discussion about how this is the new normal and won't suddenly change once you finish your PhD.

In terms of being "interested" in issues you are passionate about - that's a tricky one. Is he reacting to you the way he'd like to be treated? this is also something we've had to work on. DH doesn't care much for talking about his work, and if he whinges about some situation he'd like concrete suggestions. I otoh sometimes just want to whinge and don't want to hear "solutions" from him. Took us a while to react to the other person the way they want to be treated rather than how I would want to be treated. Again worth discussing.

But tbh I don't see it as something you need to fix in isolation. If you're having trouble communicating it makes sense to discuss it together as a team so you do a better job. And he'd be best placed to tell you how he can better meet your needs and vice versa.

I'd be wary of expectations post PhD because the focus on getting you to finish could mean he imagines life suddenly changing after you do; if you continue in academia it may not and may only get more stressful!

worstofbothworlds Mon 02-Oct-17 13:43:32

I worry not for myself personally, BTW, as I am already senior

There is that, of course. I spent years doing postdocs and was a bit older when I started lecturing; I have colleagues who are in a similar position but don't have their first lectureship but of course it's so much harder to get one now. I have made a policy of telling them where the bodies are buried, horror stories etc. so they know it's not just them, it is all crap.
I try really hard not to be one of those "I had to go through it so I don't see why you shouldn't have to" senior academics. I try to be a good mentor. But there's also only so many hours in the day/limited energy etc. etc.

try2hard Mon 02-Oct-17 14:55:01

My dh has a PhD but works in industry. I think your expectations are a bit weird. It's hard to get involved in departmental gossip when you can't even picture the faces you're talking about. I try to talk about my husbands work with him but I quickly zone out, he probably finds the same.

Fwiw I think it's actually very useful to have a non academic dh because it can ring fence your work life balance a bit. It's not actually healthy working all hours even if it gets you promoted, you need to live too.

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