How To Put Your Wife’s Career First

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S1: I can recognize that on some level I felt guilty because I knew it was hard for him that I was having this success. And anytime I would describe that to people, I’d be like, you know, he left this huge job and he gave up everything. And someone finally stopped me at a much older woman like a grandma.

S2: And she said, why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he?

S3: Welcome to How To. I’m Charles Charles. No.

S4: Good. Good. How are you guys?

S5: Live in the dream, brother. We have invoked your name publicly so many times. I feel like alien being jumped out of these microphones.

S6: This is Dave and Rachel Hollis. And Dave was a successful executive at Disney for 17 years where he helped put all those enormous box office hits from like Pixar and Marvel into theaters around the world.

S7: It didn’t take a ton of work necessarily to convince a theater to take a Star Wars or Avengers.

S6: But if you have heard of Rachel and Dave Hollis, it is probably not because of Dave. It’s because two years ago, his wife Rachel wrote a book called Girl Wash Your Face, which became one of the top selling books in the nation. And then she wrote another book, Girl Stop Apologizing.

S8: And that became this enormous hit to probably the first 13 years of our marriage. I was Dave Hollis, his wife. And then something flipped and Dave Hollis became Rachel Hollis husband.

S9: Today, Dave isn’t at Disney anymore. He quit so he could manage the growing empire of Rachel’s books and podcasts and personal development conferences under the Hawley’s company banner. But he did that before he and Rachel knew if it made any financial sense for him to leave his job. And since then, Rachel and Dave have moved to Austin, Texas, with their four kids, which also happens to be where this week’s listener lives. Hey, this is Andy. Andy is a woodworker by day, and he plays drums in a punk band and a doom metal band by night.

S10: The punk bands called Bad Dad and heavy metal bands called Thunder Kif. And on weekends he plays unicycle football, which is apparently a thing.

S6: Andy is the kind of guy who, when you hear the motto, keep Austin weird, that’s basically Andy there talking about it.

S11: And he would agree. So it’s hard for him to imagine ever leaving Austin, which is why, unbeknownst to his girlfriend, Kasey, he reached out to us.

S12: Well, I’m dating this girl that I’ve been dating for a little over a year. And she recently decided she wants to go to vet school. And she’s been applying to a bunch of different schools that are out of state. It kind of put me in a weird position being with this girl that I love and potentially having to move and leave my particularly good job and all my friends and all of my family for the first time my life.

S11: You’ve been living in Austin for how long now? 32 years. 32 years. So in viewer to pick up and move to follow her to vet school, another state like how big a deal is that for you? I mean, it is it is the deal. You know, Handy’s girlfriend, Cassie, wants to go to vet school so she can launch the next phase of her career.

S6: And so Andy has to decide, is he ready to leave Austin and everything he knows to put his girlfriend first? Is he ready to put his life on hold and take a risk to support her?

S13: Dave and Rachel Hollis know a little bit about that, and we’ll see if they can help after this quick break.

S6: We’re back with Dave and Rachel Hollis, who have been listening in, as Andy has been describing his question, should he leave his job and his life in Austin, Texas, to support his girlfriend’s career? Rachel thinks it’s actually a pretty easy choice.

S14: I want to give you 50000 pieces of advice, but the Corps is like, what matters most? What matters most is the person that you link arms with and you say you are the one that I want with me in the bunker. Like you either want to walk with me in the foxhole or you are the one that I want to face this life. When you can absolutely find new jobs, you can find new community, you are gonna still be in community with the people who live here who you know and love. But the bottom line is you can’t find another Cassie.

S6: But that doesn’t mean that the nuts and bolts of this choice, how you move, how you frame this decision in your own head so that you don’t become resentful, how you build a new life when you’re making real sacrifices for someone else. It doesn’t mean that those things aren’t still hard to deal with.

S15: I mean, Dave and Rachel, let me ask you guys, take me back in and paint the picture for me of that moment. Dave, when you guys are having a conversation and you’re deciding actually I should give up a career that I’ve worked 17 years for, I’m at the top of this career. Like, what is going on? Paint that picture for me of how you make a decision to say, no, I’m going to throw it all away and support my wife’s career. Oh, man.

S16: It’s it’s such a different set of circumstances because I had been in something that was very comfortable for me for a very long time. And interestingly, the comfort was actually a thing that was introducing an under fulfillment in my life, that in order for me to do something to undo that feeling, I had to push myself into something that was not comfortable, that would force me to grow. And so I left a very conventional entertainment job where I for 17 years at the end was running sales at the Walt Disney Company’s distribution of movies at the studio and and came here to do this work with Rachel and had to do it against every instinct I had and frankly, the opinions of every human being who thought they understood what was best for me.

S1: And at the time, I was I had gone to a really long journey with pretty severe anxiety. And so I start to truly change my life. And I am with every month that passes, just getting better and better, living more joyfully, like all the things. So now you have this partner who’s really for a long time has been stagnant, really stuck. And now he’s starting to get worse because he’s unhappy with his job, but feels like he should be happy because it’s this thing that everybody admires. And I’m over here, like, truly living my best life. And so that that tension between me sort of on the upswing and Dave really feel like he was going downhill, kept making it worse and worse. And just straight talk, it manifested through alcohol. Yeah. So lots of drinking.

S16: Yeah. Too much drinking. I would drink rather than deal because if I could just mute it, if I could just push it down, well then it doesn’t really exist. Except of course it was festering and turning into something that was putting our marriage at risk and making my kids a thing that maybe wouldn’t be proud of me one day. And so I have to make a radical change in my life, even one that doesn’t make sense to everyone. I need to move to disrupt the things that I know for the things that I need. And boy, like the last year and a half, again, it’s been super turbulent.

S15: Andy, let me ask, does any of this sound familiar to you? Does it feel like this is similar to what you’re like working through or thinking about right now?

S17: I mean, yeah, for sure. Which is part of the reason why decided to write you that e-mail. You know, I need to start making the changes that are going to push things forward instead of letting Cassie make her life and me just kind of follow along. I need to be obviously part of this. Yeah. Yeah. Which is easier to say than to do.

S16: You know, it’s not easy. So one, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say like, oh, you’re gonna make this choice and you’ll be with Cassie. So it’s rainbows and unicorns because like it’s just not going to be. But I got this tattoo at the beginning of this journey. That has been something I have to look at to remind myself of every day of it. A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for. And I got it because I was choosing at the time to leave this harbor. That was to anyone that you would ask. The thing that you stay anchored to the ropes tied, you don’t leave because it’s safe there. But I’m not built for that safety. I’m built to be out on these choppy waters. And part of why you’re sitting here. Despite your certainty with Cassie, is the wonder of what the choppy waters are going to feel for sure. Right.

S18: And so here’s the first big rule and this is a rule any time anyone is contemplating making a big change, except that it is going to feel scary, that you’re not gonna be certain if this is the right thing to do.

S19: But don’t let that scary doubt keep you from making the decision just because you’re worried. That doesn’t mean you’re making a bad choice. It just means you’re wise enough to know what you’re getting yourself into. And you are built to do hard things.

S7: Can I ask, what what is the biggest fear in a scenario where you decide to go that you think might unfold? Right.

S17: I don’t even think it’s a specific fear like that. I think that I’m just generally hesitant to change things that have all been kind of working in my favor for the past, however long.

S20: Like, let’s say let’s say you move to another state and you’re forecasting a year into the future after the move. What’s the worst case scenario that you think happens?

S17: Well, you know, as it is now and I live together, but I have friends and band practice and work.

S12: I have a lot of buffers between us. So would you spend a lot of time together? But I wouldn’t say it’s as much time as we would be spending if we were living together in another state. And I had to. You know, get my friend, my new friends and work and stuff together. We’re gonna be spending a hell of a lot of time together.

S21: Yeah. Yeah. And I think we spent a lot of time together. Yeah. Good thing to be on the lookout. I’m afraid that we’re gonna drive each other nuts.

S9: Yeah, and you probably will. This is something that Rachel and Dave have thought about a lot because they themselves recently moved and Rachel wanted to make sure that she had other social options, that she knew where she was going to make new friends before they arrived.

S22: I really, through social media, got dialed in to the community before I ever came here. So I knew where I was gonna go to the gym. I knew were like basically the things that are valuable to me. I had established that through hashtags like I literally just had buying hash tags and I knew what I was gonna do. Like I’d set it up so that we hit the ground running instead of like the culture shock of like, oh, god, we’re here now. What?

S18: And this leads us to the next road. Moving to a new place, particularly when you’re moving there for another person, they can be huge and scary.

S19: And if you’re not careful, it can cause resentment. So you have to do some work ahead of time. You have to do some research in advance and get to know the lay of the land so that you know, that you’re making this move not just for someone else, but for you. You have to figure out why you want this, why you should be excited beyond just supporting your partner.

S7: I’ll say this, too, because I don’t and I don’t know if there’s any of this that you will relate with, but if this decision is one that you feel like in any way will be made for you.

S16: If you feel like you have to do this or that, you do this out of an obligation or out of wanting to show loyalty, but not truly because of it being a thing that you feel driven to do, you will feel like it was being foisted upon you with thing that you did not choose. And then you will not choose it.

S9: Let’s say let’s say you decide to move with Kasey, and let’s say it’s a year in the future.

S15: And let’s say things are going well with the relationship. You guys are together, you driving each other a little bit crazy, right? Because you’re in a NewsBlaze, you’re hanging out all the time. But she’s the same basic person that she is today. And let’s say nothing else works out like you try and you try and get your woodworking business off the ground and then you’re finding that you can only get worse jobs. And you got an Austin. You want to find a new band and you just don’t click with anyone. And you’re in a place that’s cold and there’s no good breweries around. Like put yourself in that headspace. Do you feel like you still made the right choice or do you think that it might be a mistake?

S23: I don’t know. Oh, I love Cassie a lot. And so I’d be willing to put up with.

S17: You know, a situation like that for an extended period of time. But yeah, I feel like I’d probably feel like it was a bad decision in the long run. But then you could just move back. Yes, true. And you know, we’ve talked about doing the long distance thing. It was her idea, her moving and meeting here.

S23: And I feel like it would work, but. I don’t know for how long.

S1: Yeah, I think, you know, everybody tends to think when they’re trying to make a big decision that this is the end all be all like that. They have to know the answer to the rest of their life right now. And the reality is you could choose to do this thing and one or both of you could be like Wolke. Holy crap, that didn’t work. And then you would make another choice. And if that doesn’t work, then you make another choice and you just. Nothing that you’re going to choose is like it forever.

S6: This is the next rule, and this is true of all big decisions.

S24: Our instinct is often to see a big choice as something that’s binary, that it’s either going to result in something that’s good or in something that’s bad. And so we tend to overinvest it with all these consequences. But the truth is, you can always adjust a choice once it’s made. And what studies show is that over time, our happiness tends to be shaped much more by those small secondary choices. The adjustment choices we make then by the big decision that when you confront it seems so important at the time. And why do we treat some decisions like they’re so important? Usually it’s just because of how the people around us react. And Dave, I’m wondering. Tell me a little bit more like how did your colleagues react when you started telling them?

S21: I think I’m going to quit Disney to go help my wife. That was funny. That was a funny time. Yeah, most of them thought that I’d lost my mom. Absolutely.

S16: I mean, my immediate boss said, are you sure? Like, he wanted to really, like, rationally understand my decision making process and once I kind of walked him through. Now, this is really where I’m at emotionally. As much as you may not appreciate how unhappy I’ve been and I have to do this for me and for the future of our family. And don’t worry about us like this is going to be a successful thing. His boss asked the question.

S5: He happens to be suddenly and now. And he was very worried about us financially, like, can women make money?

S22: How will that where I can.

S16: Like almost like my decision to do something that challenged the box inside of which they’d created value and order was being threatened by my having suggested that it didn’t have the value they’d assigned to it.

S22: It said another way. If you make this decision and you have friends or family in your life, Andy, who are also very comfortable and set in their ways out of fear or not understanding. They will talk negatively about the decision that you’re considering are making because it challenges what they believe about their own life. Thank you. If if Andy can pick up and move and I never did. What does that say about me? Right.

S15: Andy, how how driven is Cassie? Like, let’s say you said to her, I love you. I want to marry you. I don’t want to leave Austin. I don’t think you should go to that school.

S17: Well, she say she would probably still go to vet school.

S1: Yeah, well, nobody honestly, male or female, nobody should be with anybody that would try and destroy your dream because it doesn’t fit with their right.

S22: If you’re listening to this right now and you have someone in your life who would literally say, like, no, don’t screw you, dude.

S25: Like, you know, you don’t. Nobody else gets to have control of your dream.

S22: And too many people allow someone else’s fear and insecurity to keep them from becoming who they might have been.

S16: When I received the printed out on paper binder clipped version of Girl Wash Your Face. This book that has been a catalyst for so much of the good that we’ve been able to do in this company. I, with 100 percent certainty told Rachel that it was too transparent and too vulnerable, told too many stories that she should not publish the book. 4 million copies later. Right. Thousands and thousands and thousands of letters later from people who’ve found in her sharing honestly stories that I did not want her to share. They threw that empathy, felt like they weren’t alone and could take control of their life. Right. What did I know? Right. And so if Cassie’s got this dream, then, God, you’ve got to find a way to support it. But like, if it also, you know, supporting her dreamings, that you’d have to kill your own.

S5: That’s also OK. That’s also not a yes either. And let me let me ask you, Andy.

S9: Is your relationship with Cassie? How does it compare to your other relationships before her? Is it is it different?

S17: I would say so, yeah, for sure. My past dating history is funny at best. I dated three girls named Amber in a row.

S21: Oh, that’s good.

S17: Now, you know, I’ve had a handful relationships that pretty much all ended pretty poorly. And the funny thing is, every single one of them, I could see it from a mile away.

S26: And I think this is the first time I’ve ever been with somebody where I can really feel comfortable and I can like, you know, express myself and talk to her about really anything. It’s something I’ve never really had before, which makes this choice that Andy is confronting both easier and more difficult.

S27: At the same time, when we come back, we’ll try to figure out his next steps.

S9: We’re back with Andy and with Dave and Rachel Hollis, and this is his girlfriend, Kasey hasn’t decided where she’s going to vet school yet, but one of the top contenders is the Ohio State University in Columbus, which actually someone once described to me as the Austin of the Midwest.

S8: So you need then to cast a vision of what this is going to look like. We’re going to go to Columbus and hey, we’ve already checked and we actually found in every community doesn’t matter where they are. There’s a small pocket of people who are just like us. And so we’re going to intentionally move in this really cool up-and-coming neighborhood.

S6: And the next steps, as Rachel, if you really want to figure out how to make this move, something that pushes your relationship forward is that Indian KRC need to have an honest conversation.

S8: Dave always says people only get upset when they’re surprised. So she thinks we’re gonna commit to doing this.

S22: We’re getting engaged within the first three months because we’re moving to a new city together. And you think, hey, this next 18 months is gonna be the real test on whether or not this is it forever. You’re misaligned. And you’re both gonna be frustrated before.

S9: Dave, you left your job before you moved. Did you sit down and say, like, OK, this is how like roles and responsibilities and like how we are together changes?

S22: Oh, yeah. We had never worked together before. So we just one thing that we committed to working together and also, you know, spending a crap ton of time together. And so we committed like more hardcore than ever. We are gonna be we’re gonna communicate. If something feels weird, no more keeping it to yourself. Radical candor, you have to tell each other. We commit to working things out in real time instead of letting things fester. Because there’s the question of like taking a backseat to your wife’s career, your girlfriend’s career.

S1: There’s no back seat. This is a two seater car. There’s no back seat because I don’t know anybody in relationship who is successful without the support of their partner. Right.

S9: And this is an important point, because ultimately, if Andy is focused on the sacrifices he’s making instead of what he and Kasey are building together, it’s gonna be hard to achieve that radical candor.

S22: So for years, years and years, years, I’ve always worked as long as we’ve been together. It was just that my work wasn’t successful. And for years, I was support a support to my husband, not just with, you know, taking care of what was happening at home or or raising our children while being a working mom, but also just his hype squad and pumping him up in the same way that I’m sure you will with her while she’s in school, unlike none of us can do this alone. There’s no such thing as self-made.

S18: So in some ways, the most important thing for Andy is seeing the situation for what it really is, a relationship with Cassie that by moving to a new city is genuinely becoming a partnership of equals.

S8: This is not you taking a backseat. And what’s what’s interesting, I do I get gender roles and I get what society would have men believe about who they are. But man, women have been for doing this since the beginning of time forever. We have been the ones who have been supporting the that’s that’s what we were told we were supposed to aspire to. And for me to not like the years that I barely survived in my company or that I was breaking even or losing money, I carried so much shame, like as much shame as any man about the fact that I couldn’t contribute.

S1: Even though we didn’t like, quote unquote, need it, what kind of mom would work if she doesn’t have to? And so I I don’t know. I’ve watched my husband grapple with this over the last couple of years. And one thing I can tell you that absolutely was something that threw him off was when I surpassed the place financially where I, quote unquote, I didn’t need him financially, was really messed with his head.

S28: That’s interesting, because that was always the nature of our relationship. And he had to walk through this journey of, if you don’t need me, will you still want me? And I was like, my God. The fact that we choose each other, we are choosing this relationship even if there’s no finances associated with it. I think is the most healthy, beautiful relationship that you could have. And so the way that you frame this in your mind will absolutely affect the way that you receive this as like an opportunity, an adventure, something fun, something exciting or something negative.

S20: I agree. I agree 100 percent because I do think that, like the way that we frame this in our heads is am I taking a backseat or am I am I finding a new seat right next to you? It’s the differences than I had previously. And it’s a different seat than I might have. I was going to have, but we are in this together, that’s really what a relationship is in any romantic relationship.

S28: There are going to be seasons and maybe this is a season right now where you’re showing out for her because this is her dream and you want to love on her and you want to be in partnership with this woman. And when she gets her school, she has all that vet money. Right. Maybe that’s the season you’re building your small business, because now the financial you know, we we this what partnership looks like. I don’t believe in a leader. I believe that partnership is two people choosing to do life together. And sometimes you’re the captain. Sometimes you’re the navigator. Sometimes you’re the hype squad. It just looks like different things at different times.

S29: I think I’ve been mainly thinking about stuff from her point of view and her needs being met and her future. But I realize that I’ve kind of been shorthanded myself and spending a lot of time thinking about all of these things. I go.

S17: Terribly wrong for me and her. And you start thinking about the way that things can go terribly right for me.

S16: Absolutely. I truly, truly believe here this. I do not think you can make a bad decision. I 100 percent believe that this is a gift, this choice that you are having to make and that no matter what choice you make to try and have a long distance relationship or following her, as long as you look for the signs of how this choice is for you, you will find them.

S25: There’s so much possibility. There’s not a woodworking community, a freakin make one, right? Maybe there’s not one because you’re supposed to roll into town on your unicycle and be the person who who puts that on the map or takes what you know how to do here and brings it to a community that doesn’t have it. Maybe you’re starting the unicycle. Football League of Columbus, Ohio, dude. Yeah. Like maybe there’s a reason there’s a commission like there’s so you we look at this and go, gosh, what is what am I going to find? It’s like, now what am I going to brain? Right. Totally agree.

S8: So I’ll just say Dave Hollis actually has to take our children on a flight to his mother’s house right now.

S5: Trust me, if I had a choice as to what I was going to do with the next five hours, yes, I will get on a plane with a 2 year old. Right. The wrong year to stop drinking.

S6: Thanks to Andy in Austin for sharing his story with us and to Dave and Rachel Hollis for pulling back the curtain on their marriage and telling us about their journey. You should definitely check out their podcasts, including Rise and Rise Together and their many books, including Dave’s upcoming book, Get Out of Your Own Way. And a quick update from Andy after our conversation. He wrote to us to say that he and Cassie had talked it over and they had agreed that it is time to, quote, stir the pot and move together to wherever the next step in her career takes them. Good luck. Do you have a problem that needs solving? Send us a note at how to add slate.com and we might be able to help. And if you like today’s episode, you might like another episode we did called How to Decide Whether to Have a Baby featuring Cheryl Strayed. The author of Dear Sugar and Wild. You can find that in all of our episodes. Anytime you want in our feed online or wherever you get your podcasts. How TO’s executive producer is Derek John? Rachel Allen is our production assistant in Merritt. Jacob is our engineer. Our theme music is by Hani’s Brown. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. And Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director for Audio. Special thanks to ushe soldier and Sung Park.

S30: I’m Charles Duhigg. Thanks for listening.