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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Compromising positions: Do you want marriage or a career?

Marriage-minded—think again. The going trend is women who are SAS, or “successful, attractive and single.” More and more women appear to be opting out on marriage in favor of their careers. 

As college women, some of us seem to be under the impression that we have to choose between having a meaningful relationship and having a career. Along with that impression comes the idea that we need to be strong, independent women.

Some of us have become so invested in our careers paths and independent lives that we make no time to commit to anyone but ourselves. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.

When I came to college, one of the first things I did was create a four-year plan. And that plan didn’t include a man and certainly not marriage. I had a major and a minor. That’s all I needed.

Look at me, I’m committed to my career, and come Friday night, I have a date with my homework. How hot is that?

In the name of full disclosure, I do have a boyfriend, and we’ve been dating for about a year. He’s kind, considerate, caring—and yet, I struggle to be with him. Why? Because he wasn’t part of the plan. And I’m not where I want to be.

The belief I’ve held is—get where you want to be, then settle. Not the other way around. Well, if being with him is settling, it sure shook things up.

I might be mistaken in my belief, but I’m certainly not alone in thinking it.

Where did these ideas come from?

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at Cal State L.A., gives us an insightful look into one obvious source—the media, especially TV.

“Repeatedly, on what little scripted-TV is out there anymore, the career woman is often a castrating bitch with impaling stilettos or an unmarried do-gooder. We definitely get the message from the media that career and marriage are incompatible for women,” Durvasula said. “Even in government, Condoleezza Rice and some of the new Supreme Court nominees—they’re all single.”

An unwritten ultimatum seems to say: marriage or career. You choose. And here I thought we were writing our own rules, not abiding by anyone else’s.

Guess what, we are! We can choose, and we can choose differently than marriage or career.

We may not be as confined in the working world anymore, but our relationships are getting pressed up against a glass ceiling, unable to make any advancement. The worst part of it all is that it’s somewhat self-imposed. We settle for lesser relationships, or no relationship at all, because it looks like that’s the only thing out on the table.

When women were offered nothing but tedious jobs in the past, they rallied against the oppression in an attempt to get women in the corner office. They demanded to have more opportunities opened to them for the advancement of their careers.

Why don’t we demand better relationships and more options? If we don’t, we’ll only continue to get backed into a corner we don’t want to be in.

There’s no reason for us to be pressed up against the glass ceiling, shoved in the corner, or left in the dark.

According to the Woman Expert Patrick Wanis, Ph.D., “Women are becoming empowered and men are giving up!” The statement nearly summarizes what Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert, wrote in his article, “Women are taking over.

In the article, he has a segment on media and gender roles.

Wanis writes, “In commercials and TV shows (‘The Simpsons’, Everybody Loves Raymond’, ‘Family Guy’, etc.) men are being portrayed as buffoons, simpletons and weak, helpless idiots who cannot survive without the wife who now is smarter, more grounded and the boss.”

If that’s the image of men and marriage today, who wants it?

Unfortunately, looking at how the media portrays women, the same can be said of us. Wanis also talks about women: “‘Sex and the City 2’ sends the message that women are selfish, never really happy, can’t be satisfied—particularly not by men: each woman is unsatisfied in spite of a loving husband, a successful career, children or sexual prowess. So they go on a vacation and go shopping.”

Isn’t that a lovely picture?

Taking time to focus solely on ourselves for a while can be a good thing, and learning how to be single and satisfied can build character. Being alone isn’t easy, but it forces us to search within ourselves to discover our wants, needs and desires instead of going by what someone else expects of us.

What’s more, you’ll learn to be true to yourself. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

Emily Roberts, M.A. LPC, favored independence over cohabitation or marriage so she could develop who she is as a person rather than who she is as a partner. She’s single and in her late 20’s, but that’s hardly a problem.

In fact, Roberts says, “The problem many young women face is that they look to men to fulfill them, rather than finding careers, hobbies, or ways of life that allow them to grow. The reason? Independence can be lonely and scary, and for many college grads, they jump at the opportunity to start a life, rather than figuring it out alone and growing along the way.”

While we’re young, it’s best to figure out who we are and what we want. I can’t imagine anyone would want to wake up in the middle of the night, only to realize, as Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat Pray Love, “I don’t want to be married anymore.”

The simple solution to the problem would be to never get married in the first place. But if we’re truly strong, independent women, why are we scared of marriage?

Annie Maguire gives us an answer: “Getting married at a young age means putting the brakes on discovering who you are.”

Annie is 22. She’s a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, and she’s single, which is something new to her. Since she was 14, she hasn’t been single for more than a few months at a time, and that’s not necessarily something she’s proud of.

“All of my life I have wasted so much time focusing on being with someone, all the while ignoring my own dreams, wants, and needs. For the first time in my life I am pursing my career goals, and it feels awesome,” Annie said.

But the singleton life, just like married life, isn’t sheer bliss.

“[Being single] can be really tough, especially because 99 percent of my friends have boyfriends and some even talk about marriage and kids, but I know that kind of life just isn’t for me. I know that I have more potential than to just be someone’s wife. I want my own life, my own career and my own money.”

In a way, Annie represents the way modern women are supposed to think and act.

Ashley Schwartau, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Central Florida, expands on what our modern women supposedly look like.

“There seems to be some idea that we’re ‘modern’ because we’re trying to put off love, relationships and lifelong commitments.”

Ashley has a boyfriend now, but in the past, she let subconscious messages get in the way of her finding love. What she heard was—“Never let love get in the way. No, no, no. ‘Modern’ women don’t need men, don’t need love. Love and wanting to be with someone romantically is a weakness that will hinder you from achieving your dreams.”

But as Ashley found out, it doesn’t have to be that way. She doesn’t view loving someone as a hindrance to her career anymore. And neither should we.

Rachel Petersen, an engaged college senior, is another example of a young woman who found a way to connect her career and relationship rather than have them compete.

As she says, “You shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a relationship because whoever you pursue a relationship with should be on your team no matter what and would never hold you back from becoming a successful woman!

“In today’s society, it seems that women are being told they can’t have both, but that is such a terrible myth. College girls need to realize that they don’t have to sacrifice finding a life partner to get a good job and be successful in today’s world.”

The thought of men derailing our careers and ruining our lives is about as ridiculous as this quote from “Sex and the City” when Samantha thinks she’s not getting hired because she’s a woman: “What does he think I’m gonna do? Get my period and ruin his empire?!”

Well, collegiettes™, what do we think men are going to do? Pop a boner and ruin our empire?!

I hope we’re smarter than that. 


Dr. Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at California State University in L.A.


Annie Maguire, 22-year-old graduate of the University of Connecticut and Her Campus intern

Rachel Petersen, James Madison University senior and Her Campus Campus Correspondent

Emily Roberts, M.A. LPC


Ashley Schwartae, 25-year-old graduate of the University of Central Florida

Patrick Wanis, human behavior and relationship expert