When Your Spouse's Academic Career Zooms

What it's like to be married to an academic rock star.

September 23, 2018

How many of you are married/partnered with another higher ed person? Are you also part of a dual-academic household?

I am part of a blended academic family. My wife is a traditional academic. She is a professor of the academic physician sort. I'm an alt-ac.

Over the past couple of years, I've watched my wife's academic career blossom. She got promoted. She was asked to take over a key committee. Her academic reputation grew. She ascended into an institutional leadership role.

My wife has become an academic rock star.   

How does it feel to the academic partner of the zooming academic?

For most of our dual-academic career, my wife and I have pretty much moved together. We both did okay. We followed different paths, traditional and alternative, but mainly at the same level of career success.

Nowadays, my wife's academic career is ascendant.   

It has surprised me somehow profoundly grateful that I feel for my wife's academic career success. How proud of her I am. How much that I feel that her academic career success is our academic career success.

The recognition that she is getting from her peers and our institution feels like recognition for all the hard work that she has put in for many years.

Anyone who does not believe that female academics have to work twice as hard to advance either is not a female academic, is not partnered with a female academic, or is not paying attention. The upper levels of academia remain an old-boys club. I've been watching my wife breakthrough.

To be honest, the deep happiness and satisfaction that I feel about my wife academic career success surprised me. For many years I thought - and we thought - that I'd be the one with the big academic (if alt-ac) job. I was the more career ambitious of our partnership.   

Nowadays, I feel content to step back and watch her shine. It's not that my academic career is not important to me. It is just that ascending in my academic career feels less necessary.

For now, at least, her academic career successes are enough for the both of us.

Are you the "normal" partner to an academic rock star?

How do issues of gender, orientations, or other factors play into the emotional dynamics of dual-career academic couples?

What advice would you have to higher ed people who happen to be partnered with an academic superstar?



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