When I turned 25 I decided to devote the rest of my twenties to being a star writer struggling freelancer. Having spent my first few years after university in a corporate setting, I at least looked the part of a successful young woman (evidenced mainly by my pencil skirts and laptop bag).
After I made the switch to impoverished creativity, any notion that I was a professional went out the window and the gulf between my long-term boyfriend’s success and my own became glaringly clear.
He’s the CEO of his own mid-sized online startup. He started a company and grew it to what it is today. He did this through natural brilliance and an insane amount of hard work. I admire the hell out of him and would never detract from his well-deserved triumph but really, living with that day and night starts to screw you up a bit.
Having never harboured Mad Men fantasies (beyond liking pencil skirts), this knowledge began to eat away at my self-esteem and slowly warped my idea of what I should be striving for.
Instead of coming up with articles that I felt passionate about I began to trawl the most prestigious titles out there, devising ways to get myself published in them, regardless of what it took and what I had to write. Seeing my name in print in these publications would validate me as a writer. I’d be known in my own right, not just as the lovely partner of The Successful Entrepreneur.
To be clear, he never lauds over me with his ridiculous success and is my number one champion and all the rest. But his blockbuster career is still there in front of me, quietly brushing its slightly whiter teeth next to my sink every night.
The logical thing to do would be to simply let it go and accept three very important arguments:
1. He’s a bit older
2. We’re working in two very different industries
3. It’s quite possible that as a freelance writer I’ll never feel successful so I should probably just get used to this feeling of professional insecurity now
But really, I’m human and most of the time I can’t accept logic when it comes up against my own vulnerabilities.
So, instead, I’ve developed two very curious habits that allow me to reassure myself and maintain somewhat of a well-adjusted approach to both my relationship and my career:
1. Career porn
Yes, that’s right, I have become addicted to career porn. Each day I secretly (and sometimes even in public when my need gets bad enough) read stories about writers who have really inspiring lives. Scratch that, not just writers, women who speak and teach and run companies and present and write and mentor and do all manner of things that combine to form a really awesome career. I’m looking at you Sheryl Sandberg, Lauren Bush, Patty Sellers and Hanna Rosin. You’re my dirty little secret.
2. The search for the anti-trophy wife
I have also fallen into the habit of trawling the Internet for those hidden stories of wives and partners of successful men (which, btw, are not easy to find. Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of Steve, only has 200 measly words to her name in Wikipedialand, despite her MBA from Stamford and the massive role she plays in women’s human rights organisations).
So that’s it. That’s my coping strategy. That and hard work (but whatever). Are these immature ways of dealing?
Marina is a twenty something freelance food and lifestyle writer living in Sydney. Her writing has appeared online at Women’s Weekly, ninemsn and Sydney Morning Herald. She’s currently working her way up to features.
Have you had to deal with a more successful partner? How did you do it?