I chose my relationship over my career, here’s why

words by lauren payne

Tapping out of the rat race and putting my relationship first was the best decision I’ve ever made.

I’ve known what kind of career I wanted from a young age. I realise this is something not everyone can relate to, but it’s true for me. At around the age of seven, I was already collecting magazines. I told my mum I wished I could interview the famous people on the covers, and she said I could if I became a writer.

By the time I was 21, I was already on my way towards a successful writing career. At this point in time, girlboss culture and feminism were one and the same, so I believed if I dedicated myself to the hustle, I would have the job I’d dreamt about since I was little. Friends acted as career cheerleaders, reminding me to always read my contracts, make sure I was being compensated correctly, and to never let a man stop you from doing what you want.

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Eventually, at 25, I landed my dream role as a full-time fashion writer. I’d always loved fashion and this job felt like a true career win. I knew this role could take me places, but at the same time I was offered it, my long-term boyfriend found out he had to move interstate for work.

We’d been living in Sydney for a while which allowed me to build my career while he kept working on his own. But this move threw a massive spanner in the works. Because working from home wasn’t normalised due to a global pandemic just yet, I knew this move would mean I’d have to choose between my work and living with my boyfriend.

I was devastated. I felt like I’d worked so hard to get to this point. Although my boyfriend wanted me to come with him, he knew how much my work meant to me, so we decided to try a long-distance relationship. At first, it was good, but it quickly became unsustainable. Then I was thrown another curveball – I was made redundant.

Just like that, I’d lost my dream job. I knew this meant I could now move to be with my boyfriend, but my internal capitalist (and whispers from my feminist friends) told me to stay put and put all my energy into finding a new job. I spent the next year blindly hopping from one unfulfilling role to another, hoping my writing career wouldn’t collapse.

My mental health was at an all-time low. I was anxious about losing another job, I worked extra hard to please my superiors, who also had me working extremely long hours. I was barely eating, had almost no energy to go out and see friends, and was too exhausted to travel to see my boyfriend. I was burnt out but thought I needed to keep fighting.

Eventually, I decided to quit my job and move interstate to be with my boyfriend. I was exhausted and lonely and knew deep down that this was what I needed to do. I made that decision two years ago and I think it’s the best one I’ve ever made.

As soon as I moved, I got a corporate job that didn’t require work after hours. I took a break from writing and gave myself time to appreciate my boyfriend and how far we’d come as a couple. Funnily enough, giving myself some space to breathe helped me re-evaluate what kind of a writer I wanted to be and significantly improved my career.

I’ve never felt more comfortable and secure in my relationship than I do now. Giving myself the time to focus on something other than my work has made me a more relaxed person, a more present person and completely transformed my idea of feminism.

I spent my early twenties pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, for something that didn’t align with my values. I was told to not let a man stop me from reaching my goals and that if I did, I was just as bad as those ’50s housewives who were at their husband’s beck and call.

Author Roxane Gay explained in 2014 that we must let go of the man-hating misconceptions placed on feminism to allow us to move forward. “I think one of the most important things we can do as feminists is acknowledge that even though we have womanhood in common we have to start to think about the ways in which we’re different, how those differences affect us and what kinds of needs we have based on our differences.”

A choice like this can mean you lose friends, career contacts and visibility in your industry. The thing is though, what’s the point of having those things if you’re not happy? No one’s career path is the same, so why take the road someone else tells you to take?

Only you know what’s best for you and for me, the best thing was tapping out of the rat race and putting my relationship first. This doesn’t make me a bad feminist; it just makes me someone who values love just as much as they value their work.

For advice on how to maintain a work/life balance while in a relationship, try this.

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