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Career Versus Man

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Oscar or Oscars?
And love lies bleeding in my hand
Oh it kills me to think of you with another man
I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan
But my guitar couldn't hold you so I split the band
Love lies bleeding in my hands
Elton John "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"

A Sister Trope to Family Versus Career, only before the kids show up.

Essentially, when a woman — and yes, it's almost Always Female — must choose between her own career and landing a man—and generally, she will choose the man. This often comes with the expectation that she would be a stay-at-home mom should the couple have children; but even if they don't, she might still be expected to be a happy housewife, cooking the bacon that her husband brings home.

A successful woman with a strong career, like the High-Powered Career Woman, can intimidate potential lovers, and a woman who prioritizes her career over her marriage will often be seen as either a Straw Feminist or a bitch. And even if she keeps her job, she might still be held responsible for all the cooking, cleaning, and other wifely tasks - after all, manly men just aren't good at that stuff.

An infamous Double Standard, since men are rarely put in this position. The extent to which this is Truth in Television varies by culture. In Asia, many women leave their jobs upon marriage, though in the west, women are often expected (or forced) to keep working to bring money into the household. Even so, there's often an attitude that her job is less important; if someone has to cut their hours to part-time or refuse a promotion, it's frequently assumed that it should be the wife. This can lead to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy where employers are less likely to hire and promote women because they're assumed to be less likely to stick with the position, which leads to women being more likely to quit their jobs because they're making less money than their husbands are...


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A rare gender-flipped version occurs in Attack on Titan, in the shared back story of Commanders Erwin Smith and Nile Dok. As Trainees, both men intended to join the Survey Corps together. However, both ended up falling for the same woman, a barmaid named Marie. Erwin chose to become Married to the Job, abandoning love for the sake of Humanity while Nile abandoned his friends by joining the Military Police Brigade, and settled down to start a family with Marie. When they speak about it many years later, neither man has any regrets about the decision.
  • Captain Tsubasa: A preview for the Next Dream arc shows that, after the Madrid Olympics, Hikaru Matsuyama landed a chance to join the Arsenal FC, and proposes to his girlfriend Yoshiko Fujisawa, asking her to come along with him to England. Yoshiko, while overjoyed at his proposal, tells him that she can't accept it yet, because she wants to follow her own dream of being a flight attendant and helping people who has to travel and leave their loved ones behind for long periods of time (like she did before). Matsuyama understands it, and makes it clear he's going to support her all the way, and wait for her until she's ready to accept.
  • In one episode of Cat's Eye, Toshio is up for promotion, but said promotion would come with a transfer to another city. He asks his girlfriend Hitomi if she would be willing to give up living with her sisters and her family coffee shop to follow him to his new posting. Hitomi spends the rest of the episode wondering if she should give up her job (both her official one and her place as a member of Cat's Eye) to be with her beloved. At the end of the episode, she tells him that yes, she is willing to go with him, and he despairingly wishes that she'd told him that sooner - he had just deliberately tanked his promotion exam so that he wouldn't have to leave the city and could stay with her.
  • DIVE!! has a rare gender-inverted variant with the main protagonist Tomoki's relationship with his girlfriend Miu Nomura. While not intentionally malicious to her, Tomoki is so focused on his diving club activities that he practically neglects her most of the time. His younger brother Hiroya is constantly calling him out on it. After losing all hope in having a fair relationship with Tomoki, Miu decides to Settle for Sibling.
  • Played with in the final episodes of Hana no Ko Lunlun. The heroine Lunlun was entrusted with the mission of finding the Flower of Seven Colors so the heir to the Flower Star throne can have his Awesome Moment of Crowning. When she finishes her mission it turns out that the Mysterious Protector who helped her more than once, Serge Flora, was said heir, and in their travels, they have fallen in love with each other. Thing is, now that Serge is about to become the King, he wants Lunlun to be his Queen... but if she wants to marry her boyfriend, she'll have to abandon Earth and leave her normal life as well as her beloved grandparents. What happens in the end? Lunlun rejects Serge proposal despite her love for him. And then, the trope is Double Subverted, perhaps even gender-flipped: Serge decides to cut a deal with his family: his younger brother will become the King, and he will go to Earth with Lunlun. They accept, Serge's brother gets the Awesome Moment of Crowning, and Lunlun and Serge live a happy life on Earth.
  • Played with in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. A recurring romantic subplot is that of lesbians Setsuna and Konoka. During the School Festival arc, little vampire Evangeline gives Setsuna the choice during their tournament fight between "your sword or your happiness", meaning that she has to choose between her friends - with Konoka at the centre of this - or her bodyguard duties to Konoka. She Takes a Third Option.
  • Penguindrum has Yuri announce her retirement from her acting career on the same night she announces her engagement to Tabuki (presumably to become a housewife, though the real reasons turn out to be a bit more complicated). Don't get too comfortable in Yuri's posh apartment, there, Tabuki; I doubt you can afford it on just your income.
  • An episode of Pokémon the Series: XY has Jessie fall in love with a doctor and decide to leave Team Rocket. Her friends James and Meowth allow her to because they understand what she's going through and want her to do whatever makes her happy. After noticing her crush has feelings for his childhood friend Jessie rejoins Team Rocket.
  • Subverted in Project ARMS. In the Where Are They Now epilogue, Kei is working for the Blue Men and has long been dating Hayato. Both are happy to keep things slow.
  • Takashi "Shindo" Sugiyama from Run with the Wind. While the other guys in the dorm are surprised that Shindo actually has a girlfriend, she turns out to be a real person. Unfortunately, Shindo's responsibilities as a university student plus track team duties leave him with very little time to spend with her. In his character-centered episode, his girlfriend comes to the conclusion it is best for them to break up. This is not so much an actual plot point, as much as it serves to demonstrates Shindo's struggles for the team.

    Comic Books 
  • The first Captain America (1960s) run has a mild example with Cap and his girlfriend, Sharon Carter, whom he expects to quit SHIELD when they marry. She disagrees, which upsets their relationship. In a later story, they compromise by having her transferred to a desk job; the point is not that she can't work, but that they shouldn't both be doing very dangerous work if they intend to be married and maybe have a family.
  • Green Lantern: This was in Katma Tui's origin: she had to choose between a man she wanted to marry and the Green Lantern Corps—she chose the latter. Brought back and gender-flipped 20 years later when Hal Jordan has to choose between the Corp and his girlfriend; Katma gets to complain when Hal makes the opposite choice she did.
  • Stormer from Jem and the Holograms (IDW) has an interesting variation. Her bandmates don't mind her dating however they loathe the titular band. Stormer is forbidden from dating a Hologram or she will be kicked out of the band. Thus she and Kimber begin a Secret Relationship, though Kimber's sisters know.
  • Sensation Comics: Dr. Pat's fiance forced her to chose between him and her career, claiming he couldn't deal with them both being doctors and that he expected her to quit and become a housewife when they married. This surprised and infuriated her and she swore off any romantic entanglements to focus on her work from that point on.
  • Starfire's Revenge: As romancing Supergirl, Derek Marlowe tries to convince her to give up her burdensome super-hero job and live like a normal woman. As soon as he broaches the topic, though, Supergirl replies she cannot give up her responsibilities, whether she likes them or not; and if he wants her to choose him over her duties, then she must break her budding relationship.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Diana Prince, whose identity Di bought, loves her work as a nurse but her husband insists that no wife of his will ever work since he sees that as marking him as a failure. He goes so far as to attack her knock her unconscious and chain her in the kitchen, which is treated as an endearing quirk rather than horrific, and she agrees to stop trying to work.

    Comic Strips 
  • Invoked in For Better or for Worse: When Anthony married Therese, he assumed she would give up her career and become a housewife (despite the fact she specifically told him otherwise). He was wrong. This was treated as a clear-cut case of Ambition Is Evil and a sign that their marriage was destined to fail to make way for Elizabeth.

    Fan Works 
  • Izuku finds out in Conversations with a Cryptid that his mother Inko used to be a corporate executive in the Heroes Mirror, the gossip magazine Izuku had offered a job in. However, Inko quit her job in order to marry her boss, the owner of the Heroes Mirror, Hisashi Midoriya. While the marriage was initially happy and resulted in Izuku, the marriage later soured due to Hisashi's disappearance from their lives.
  • First Try Series: Male example. Tetsuo had to choose between his wife and his career as an active shinobi. The reason he becomes a jounin-sensei to begin was so he could have a less dangerous job and be more available so they could start a family.
  • He Can Only Blame Himself plays with this in several fashions:
    • Lila exploits how Gabriel has been overworking Marinette by convincing Adrien that she's chosen her job over her relationship with him, luring him into dating Lila behind her back.
    • Felix berates Adrien for allowing his father to hire his (now-ex) girlfriend in the first place, firmly believing that business comes before romance and that it was foolish to let such things get entangled.
      Felix: Having a designer like Marinette on the payroll is more important than your feelings or libido, or whatever you call it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Nicely averted in Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper. Erika initially turns down Dominick's marriage proposal so she can fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a singer and seeing the world, which he sadly agrees to, but gives her a ring before she goes. After a while of touring, Erika freely chooses to return to him and get married, meaning she got to have both.
  • Zigzagged in The Princess and the Frog. Tiana is driven to achieve her goal of starting her own restaurant but then learns a lesson on the importance of family and love, eventually realizing her love for Naveen. At the same time though, Naveen tries to put himself out of the picture so she can have her restaurant. At the end of the film, we see that Tiana is able to start her restaurant and she and Naveen are Happily Married. There is also a gender-flipped version with Tiana's father, who also strove to start his own restaurant. He didn't succeed but did live a happy life as a devoted House Husband.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In All About Eve, Margo Channing's main source of strife is her career. She's a very successful stage actress but is playing parts much younger than herself which makes her insecure. She eventually gets married and it's implied she accepts her fading career.
  • In the old movie Cover Girl, Rita Hayworth plays Rusty, who wants to go to Broadway, gets into a fight with her boyfriend. Eventually, she realises she wants to be with him, but this seems to be at the cost of her Broadway career (which she strongly wanted at the start of the film but makes her miserable later).
  • The Devil Wears Prada - Miranda Priestly is the highly successful editor of Runway and suffers her fifth divorce during the movie's plot. The movie also demonises Andy for working too hard to have time for her boyfriend.
  • Subverted in Down with Love. In the end, she gets the guy and they write a book together.
    • Played With in that the entire thing was her own plan and her only real goal was to get the guy.
  • Played with in The Five-Year Engagement and subverted when Jason Segel's character drops his successful chef career in San Francisco to follow his fiance to Michigan. However, he's ultimately not happy there, and the resulting friction takes a severe negative toll on the relationship.
  • Audrey in Godzilla (1998) broke off her relationship with Nick in the past because she chose to pursue her dream of being a reporter. By the present, she's still unsuccessful and reconciles with Nick, but chooses her career over him again when she swipes classified data on Godzilla from him, causing Nick to be removed from the operation for allowing an information leak. This still fails to further Audrey's career because her sleazy boss takes credit for it, and at the end she quits to go independent and re-reconciles with Nick again (sidestepping the issue of having to choose).
  • Subverted in His Girl Friday; part of the reason Cary Grant's ex-husband character chases after his ex-wife is to keep her in her career as a journalist since she planned to settle down with her new fiance. She gets back together with her ex and they continue working together.
  • Keep Off My Grass! has a Rare Male Example, with David, a young man from a respectable family, dropping out of law school to follow Sandy to a hippie commune.
  • Mario (2018) is a gay example. If Mario and Leon pursue their relationship, it'll hurt their careers in the homophobic world of Association Football. In the end, they make opposite decisions. Mario becomes a lonely and depressed but famous football player, while Leon finds a new boyfriend named Joel and gives up on professional sports altogether.
  • Mona Lisa Smile Joan's speech to Katherine pretty much sums up that while she would like to have both, she knows that she can't reasonably pursue both a career and a family and that she feels that she would regret not being married more.
  • This is the main conflict of My Brilliant Career: Sybylla wants to go into a creative field, even though her friends and family insist that the only way she can live is through marriage. She eventually finds the love of her life and foregoes marriage to pursue her career as a writer.
  • In The Red Shoes (1948), Vicki is torn between following her career as a ballerina and marrying a composer; the company's impresario Lermontov finds love to distract people from their true potential as artists, and her lover Julian worries that the devotion to career demanded of her will be her doom (ala the events of the fairy tale that gives the film its title and major dance setpiece). She chooses marriage, but misses her career so badly that she tries to return to it over her husband's objections. Ultimately, she decides to Take A Third Option — suicide. Interestingly, critic Danny Peary (in his book Alternate Oscars) argues that Julian is the bad guy in all this because his career is not halted by their marriage yet he won't let Vicki dance!
  • Somebody I Used to Know: Cassidy is upset that she has to break up her band because Sean wants them to settle in Leavenworth. Ally admits that she had also felt repressed by Sean's life plan and broke up with him to pursue her career. In the end she encourages Cassidy to fight to keep her band while being married to Sean. Six months later, she sees an Instagram post that shows Cassidy is both pregnant and still touring.
  • In Stormy Weather, Bill wants to build a dream home for Selina and for her to quit her singing career and start a family with him. She decides not to. But then she changes her mind. Ah, the 1940s.
  • Surprisingly averted in Third Finger, Left Hand. Myrna Loy doesn't have to choose between her career and her man; she can have both!
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie uses a variation of this trope where Millie pursues her career with the intention of marrying a rich man (her boss) as the end goal. Then she starts falling for a different man and has to choose, but it all works out for her in the end when the man she's in love with turns out to be rich anyway.
  • Aunt Roo from Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? was once a celebrated performer living a glamorous life in Paris. She gave it up to marry Col. Forrest, a magician, and live in his manor in England.
  • Wimbledon: Lizzie finds herself in this dichotomy, as she finds love with a fellow Tennis player during her first Wimbledon tournament, but the relationship ends up distracting and throwing off her game, and she ends up losing her big tennis match after having spent the whole night with her him... while he wins his own. She blames him for it and they break up with him, but later they make amends and by the end of the movie, we see that they've managed a sort-of balance: they get married, he retires, and soon Lizzie goes on winning the US Open and Wimbledon twice, with him as her biggest supporter.
  • In Woman of the Year, career woman Tess Harding ruins her marriage to Sam Craig by neglecting her personal life in favor of her public life and then fails when she tries to make up for it by playing the traditional domestic wife. In the end, Sam suggests she doesn't have to pick one role or the other: she can be Tess Harding Craig.
  • Played Straight and subverted in Ziegfeld Girl. The film focuses on three girls - the first gives up the show to be with her boyfriend, who didn't support her success; the second one burns out from a destructive lifestyle and her former boyfriend comes back to her; and the third becomes a big success in the show. The third girl notably had no boyfriend to make her choose between her career and her show.

  • Subverted in A Brother's Price. Jerin meets his former schoolteacher, who quit her job to get married. However, she was working as a teacher in the first place to make money so that her sisters and she could afford a husband. Now that they have enough money, they'll marry, and she returns to her home to get her share of the husband's company. Not so much "career versus man" as "career in order to get a man". (It's implied that her family owns a farm, but that she could make more money as a teacher).
  • At the end of the first arc of the Deverry novels, Jill realizes that the life of Lady Aberwyn would not leave her time to seriously study magic, so she could have Rhodry or her dream career, but not both. She chooses magic over love and doesn't see her lover again until more than twenty years later.
  • Darryl of Heart In Hand provides a Rare Male Example when the photograph of him kissing Alex is leaked, but he is not identified as the person pictured. He fears that his NHL career would be destroyed if he owns up to it, but if he stays silent, that means Alex will have to face all the media attention alone. He chooses his career, but later finds that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
  • French novel La Vagabonde by Colette tells the story of Renée Néré, a woman who divorced from her cheating, emotionally abusive husband and became a theater actress, swearing to never be hurt again by men. However, as the roman goes on, she meets a man named Max, who falls in love with her. While initially rejecting him, she ends up starting a relationship with him- until she realizes she is missing him during a tour, meaning she has to choose between being with him or preserving her independence by sticking to her career. She ends up choosing the latter, and breaks up with him by the end of the novel.
  • A subject brought up by Daniella Ivashkov in Spirit Bound. She figures that Rose will have to eventually choose between her career as a guardian and settling down to become a housewife. And correctly realizes out that Rose will always put her career first.
  • In The Twilight Saga, it's mentioned that Bella has ambitions of going to college and becoming a teacher. While she never flat-out abandons this goal, after her marriage to Edward, she really shows no inclination to continue on with that plan. How much of that is this trope and how much is due to the events of Breaking Dawnnote  forcibly rearranging her priorities is a matter for opinion.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Miles' first girlfriend Elli Quinn is forced to choose between marrying Miles and a career as Admiral of a mercenary starfleet. She chooses the fleet.
  • In Warrior Cats, male deputies and leaders are allowed to have a mate and kits, but female leaders aren't because it might get too in the way of their responsibility of the Clan. Specific cases:
    • In SkyClan's Destiny, Leafstar thinks about how unfair this is, and by the end of the book, she decides to follow the "The word of the Clan leader is the warrior code" rule and declare that SkyClan female leaders are allowed to have kits.
    • In Leopardstar's Honor, Leopardfur is given an ultimatum by the guy she's on the edge of a relationship with: either she quits being Clan deputy to be his mate and raise his kits, or she stays as deputy without him, because he doesn't want a mate who focuses so much on the overall Clan instead of just him. She chooses to stay as deputy (and eventually leader), and he moves on to another she-cat. She still has feelings for him, and is jealous of his eventual mate, but the Clan is more important to her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It's implied that something like this happened to Annie in Being Human, when she tells about how she decided to move away from home to live with her boyfriend, Owen. We later find out that she was very unhappy because of this, partially because of homesickness and partially because he was abusive. Later on, Annie takes a part-time job which she balances with dating someone but it doesn't work out, mainly because she's dead.
  • Charmed:
    • The Bad Future in "Morality Bites", Prue demonstrates this trope. Whilst she chose Career this decision comes with strong, negative overtones. When she asks her assistant if she has a husband, the assistant laughs and says "as if you have the time". To be fair, it also implies that Prue has been neglecting her family as well - the assistant not even knowing that Piper was her sister. She's outright said to be a Corrupt Corporate Executive - having used her magic to acquire more wealth and also giving a "to hell with the little people" speech.
    • Subverted in Season 6. Jason asks Phoebe to move to Hong Kong with him, and her job at the Bay Mirror is one of the reasons she considers not going. Her boss Elise reminds her that she can still email her column in.
  • Averted with Kaylee and Zoe in Firefly. Zoe is Happily Married to the ship's pilot, Wash, and both balance their jobs and marriage quite well for the most part. Kaylee, meanwhile, sees no reason why she can't continue her work as a mechanic while pursuing a relationship with Simon and at the end of The Movie, the two hook up with her keeping to her job.
  • Technically in the Friends finale. Rachel chooses not to take a dream job with Louis Viton in Paris in favor of getting back together with Ross (in her defence, she didn't know that Ross wanted her to stay). Of course there's no reason to believe she couldn't get her old job back or find a new one.
    • In season nine Chandler is reassigned to Oklahoma by his company. Monica tries to find a chef job in Tulsa but instead gets a dream offer at a fancy restaurant in New York. Chandler is upset as he feels she doesn't value him but Monica stresses that he's more important to her than any job. Ultimately it's Chandler who quits so they can be together, but it's long been established that he hated his job and only stuck with it because he couldn't decide on anything else to do.
  • The 1960s series Get Smart has been recognized for its aversion of this at a time when it was taken for granted in Real Life — 99 continues working as an agent after she and Max get married and even after they have children, with no one even considering the possibility of her doing otherwise or acting like its odd, making her the first female character to do so in television.
  • Rachel Berry, of Glee fame, zigzags in and out of this plot at various points throughout the series - or claims to. However, given that the man in question is Finn Hudson and the career in question is currently non-existent but an at least somewhat plausible future possibility, it's hard to view it as anything more than an Informed Conflict and sop to convention.
    • When the writers aren't being dumb, they actually portray this conflict very well and at least with this relationship portray the realities of high school dating (esp. when one partner is more ambitious than the other - the other may eventually become a hanger-on). The rest of the time, it's Finn and Rachel being... Finn and Rachel.
    • This arc has now been resolved by other circumstances.
  • Gossip Girl features a gender-flipped version. Starting with Jack Bass telling Chuck he should choose business over Blair, continuing with an evil, ghost-version of Bart mocking Chuck for choosing love and thereby being soft, finishing with Chuck choosing business over love. By selling his girlfriend for a hotel.
  • Grey's Anatomy: Izzy falls in love with her patient, Denny, who needs a heart transplant. She cuts his LVAD wire, hoping it will move him up the transplant list, risking her career. She ends up getting fired (later rehired) and Denny dies soon after getting the transplant.
    • Miranda Bailey's marriage starts to suffer due to her ridiculously long hours, especially after she's made Chief Resident. While her husband Tucker initially accepts becoming a stay-at-home husband, the situation eventually starts to get to him, as he only ever sees Bailey from midnight to 6 AM. After a bookshelf falls on their son, Tucker blames Bailey for not being there and moves out (she's not allowed to take part in the operation to save her son's life due to her being too emotionally rattled, despite her practically begging to assist). They start to go to counseling, and it appears they might make up. Then Bailey is offered two attending positions at the hospital: general surgery and pediatrics. She really wants to do pediatrics, but that would require spending two years studying (i.e. even less time home). Tucker gives her an ultimatum: either she takes the general surgery position, or he files for divorce. Bailey Takes a Third Option by filing for divorce herself (if a marriage devolves into ultimatums, it's pretty much over) but still going with the general surgery position, as she can't afford to be away from her child even more now that she's a single mother. Kudos for Bailey never even considering for one moment to cut back on her career before this. Later, her father shows up and expresses his disapproval for her choosing work (e.g. "cutting out some fat guy's hernia") over family. After a shouting match at the Christmas dinner, he admits that he was primarily upset that she didn't tell him herself, and he had to find out from other people.
  • On The Hour, Bel realizes that if she wants to keep up her affair with Hector, she's going to have to sacrifice her growing career, and she's not willing to do that when she's worked so hard to get to where she is.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted's Season 1 girlfriend Victoria, though in this case, the choice arises because her dream job happens to be on the other side of the Atlantic from Ted. They try a Long-Distance Relationship, but it doesn't work, partly due to the fact that they only knew each other for a couple of months before she goes to Germany and Ted still has feelings for Robin.
    • Robin is often in this situation. Notable that Robin has no serious regrets about this until later in the series, and even after acknowledging those regrets, she isn't about to stop furthering her career for a husband. In one episode, she thinks about taking a better job in another city but decides not to since she's in a serious relationship with Don. Her boyfriend gets offered the job instead and he immediately takes it.
    • At the end of season 1, Lily, whose dream is to become an artist, gets offered an art internship in San Francisco, though she didn't originally plan to do actually do it. She decides to accept the internship knowing she couldn't make her relationship with Marshall work if she did. The decision has more to do with her wanting to figure out who she is outside of the relationship she's been in for 10 years than it is about her career, and when she comes back to New York she continues to try to do this but eventually returns to being a kindergarten teacher.
    • In season 8, Marshall (who by that time is married to Lily) finally gets offered the chance to become a judge, which he had been waiting a long time for. By Season 9, he accepts the offer but is afraid of how to tell this to Lily, since she was just offered a job in Italy for a year that could advance her prospective art career, which she had previously given up on. Justified in this case since one of them would have to be in this position since being in different countries for a year would be impractical while raising a new child together.
  • JAG: In "Scimitar", Colonel Al-Barzan is fascinated by the strong-willed Meg Austin, leading to a discussion (and dismissal) of this trope:
    Colonel Al-Barzan: How can work compare to the caresses of a man you love?
    Lt. J.G. Meg Austin: I wasn't comparing them, Colonel. You were.
    Colonel Al-Barzan: A woman like you needs a strong hand.
    Lt. J.G. Meg Austin: I already have a strong hand. My own.
  • Jane the Virgin
    • Throughout the first season, Rafael struggles to balance between his work to continue his father's legacy as a hotel owner, and between Jane and the baby.
    • Like Rafael, Michael also finds himself in this situation in the season 2 premiere. Jane and Rafael get Mateo back but he has to let Nadine, his only lead on the Sin Rostro case, go.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015), when she discovers her mother Alisa is still alive, she reveals that her marriage to Jessica's father was far from happy, and one of the things that caused a rift between the two was that Alisa, a math professor, had to turn down a tenured position at a prestigious university out of state because he was unwilling to quit his own job to relocate, forcing her to continue teaching at a community college. It's implied that if he were to take a job opportunity elsewhere, she'd be expected to pack up and move without question.
  • The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House: Justified. It's customary for geiko to retire when they get married. Iwai asks Momoko for commitment in episode 4, and she's torn because it would mean giving up the job she's loved for so long.
  • In the Midnight Caller episode "Nighthawk's Got the Blues," Devon's boyfriend buys a sailboat so he can fulfill his lifelong dream of sailing around the world. He wants her to abandon KJCM to come with him, while she wants him to abandon his dream and stay in San Francisco. In the end, they break up, and he goes without her.
  • In Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, set in The Roaring '20s, this causes conflict when Dot's fiancé assumes that she'll become a housewife once they marry. Quickly zig-zagged: when he insists that it wouldn't be appropriate for her to keep her job as Miss Fisher's assistant, she cancels the engagement until he changes his mind, and they end up Happily Married with Dot still happily employed.
  • The New Adventures of Old Christine: After Christine marries Barb (They're not actually in a romantic relationship, but Heterosexual Life-Partners in a Citizenship Marriage) the company that financially supports their gym tells them they have a policy against gay marriage and threaten to withdraw their funding. Christine decides to stay married to Barb anyway, and the two try to figure out how to deal with the consequences.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • In a few episodes, Miss Brooks' intention is said to be to retire from teaching and raise a family after she's married(i.e. "The Wrong Mrs. Boynton"). This is in spite of the fact she is a good teacher, dreamed of being one since childhood (i.e "Here is Your Past") and (mostly) enjoys it. It's just that being a full-time wife and mother seems to be part of Miss Brooks' Series Goal after marrying Mr. Boynton.
    • It's unclear if Miss Brooks would even be able to continue on at Madison High School after her marriage, should she want to. The program ran from 1948-1956 at a time of different societal expectations. In an early radio episode, "Head of the English Department", the departing woman in the position retires when she's going to have a baby. On the other hand, in "Aunt Mattie Boynton", Mr. Boynton talks with reverence about his aunt who taught several subjects at school and took care of her husband and nine children. So it may be a matter of preference.
    • In "The Wrong Mrs. Boynton and "June Bride" Mr. Conklin is afraid that Miss Brooks will immediately quit her job upon marrying. This would cause him the trouble of having to promptly look for a replacement teacher. Miss Brooks' retirement from teaching is assumed by Mr. Boynton when he's finally ready to propose in the The Movie Grand Finale. Boynton is saving his money so he'll be able to support a wife. Although Connie Brooks and Phillip Boynton marry at the end of The Movie, it's never mentioned if Miss Brooks retires from teaching immediately, or waits until their first child to be a housewife full-time.
  • Happens literally in Parks and Recreation. Leslie's relationship with Ben is against the rules. Not to mention that since Leslie is running for city council, being with Ben (who is technically her boss) would cause a huge scandal. She actually chooses to try and have both, but ends up in trouble until Ben chooses her over his own career and resigns, taking all the blame for any wrong-doing.
  • On Schitt's Creek season 6, this is Alexis and Ted's dilemma. The two are doing a Long-Distance Relationship while Ted is in the Galapagos Islands for six months. Alexis was set to join him, but in the meantime has been building her personal brand as a publicist. When Ted visits, he tells her he's been offered a three-year contract there, and the two mutually decide to break up to grow their own careers.
  • S Club 7 had this plot many times in their TV series:
    • In Miami 7, the band ends up having to work for Howard's rival at his hotel - during which Hannah makes a love connection with a hunky lifeguard. When Howard wins them back, they would resume working with him. Hannah refuses to leave the band and does offer to compromise - but the lifeguard says "I'm an all or nothing type of guy".
    • In the Boyfriends and Birthdays special, Rachel's boyfriend gives her an ultimatum - leave the band and come back to live with him in the UK or they break up. She initially raises the money to go back to the UK but ends up changing her mind to rejoin the group (and getting dumped for it).
    • LA 7 did a gender-flipped version. Paul hits it off with a newsreader who thinks his band won't make it. He eventually tells her off, and she admits that their music is good, before disappearing after that episode.
  • Scrubs: When Kim gets a job offer in Washington, JD tries to act like an awesome boyfriend so she won't go. What makes the situation more complicated is that Kim has recently found out that she is pregnant with JD's child. She doesn't plan to be gone long, just for a few months, so she has a Long-Distance Relationship with JD when she goes to Washington. When Kim has a miscarriage, both realize they really only stayed together because of the baby, and their relationship fails because they had only been dating each other for a few weeks at the time Kim left. Later it's revealed that Kim lied about the miscarriage, and she was still pregnant when JD later saw her at a medical convention.
  • Subverted in Stargate Atlantis when a near-perfect man tries to woo Elizabeth. While she clearly likes him, she explains that having a relationship would split her focus and compromise her role as leader of the expedition. True to the trope, though, is the fact that she doesn't even consider trying to do both.
    • This also happened near the beginning of the season when Elizabeth had to leave her fiance without even a face-to-face goodbye in order to make the top-secret trip to Atlantis.
  • Star Trek:
    • At the beginning of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?", McCoy implies that this is common for Starfleet women:
      McCoy: One day she'll find the right man and off she'll go, out of the service.
    • This seems to be specific to Carolyn Palamas herself — though as a rule, neither male nor female Starfleet officers seem able to combine ship duty with family. The implication might be that the men tend to reconcile the conflict by pursuing their careers at the expense of family, while women in Starfleet more often choose to pursue relationships (and family) and leave the service more commonly.
    • Zig-zagged, but ultimately averted, with the O'Briens in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one of the few married couples involving a regular character in the franchise. When Miles takes the job on Deep Space Nine, Keiko is fairly unhappy because her skills as a botanist aren't needed there. She does continue having a career, as she starts up a school for the children living on the station, but she eventually shuts it down because many of the families leave once the Dominion becomes a threat. Eventually, she leaves the station for a while to work as a botanist on Bajor (Miles is supportive of this and their marriage becomes a Long-Distance Relationship). She returns to the station once she gets pregnant with their second child, and at the end of the series, the family is going to return to Earth where Miles has been offered a teaching job at Starfleet Academy and Keiko will presumably be able to continue her work as a botanist. In this case, the trope is played straight in that the man's career initially takes priority over the woman's, but it's depicted as a source of tension and their marriage is shown to be happier when they're both working.
    • In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds this is played with and modernized as Christine Chapel chooses her fellowship and career plans over her budding relationship with Spock. However, this is muddied by the fact that her choice is informed by a time-traveling Ensign Boimler telling her that history records Spock as far more Vulcan than human. It's also notable that Chapel will become engaged to the man who offers her the fellowship, per TOS canon.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Unlike in the books, a Wisdom cannot marry. Egwene would have to abandon Rand if she became Nynaeve's apprentice.

  • The quote is from the second half of the song Elton John's song Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding and is a male example. A guitarist has to choose between his band and his love, he chooses the latter but both parties seem to regret the decision.
  • Nat King Cole's "Dance Ballerina Dance".
    Once you said his love must wait its turn
    You wanted fame instead
    I guess that's your concern
    We live and learn

  • The ending of Annie Get Your Gun has Annie deliberately throw a duel against her on-again-off-again lover Frank Butler so that he will marry her thinking he's the better sharp-shot in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, they then merge their routines. In real life, Frank Butler was well aware of Annie's superior skill and supported her career.
  • Norman of The Norman Conquests by Alan Ayckbourn keeps trying to force this choice on his wife Ruth. She tends to choose "career," but he hasn't given up hope yet.

    Video Games 
  • In Princess Maker 5, you can either get a career ending or a marriage ending, but not both; have a husband and that's your life.
  • In Six Ages, the magical power someone has is directly linked to how much they mimic a given Rune, so the healing goddess Erissa has a sort of primeval version of this problem. Healers (that is, followers of the Harmony Rune) have to love everyone equally. They can't be biased towards a specific person, or a specific clan, or a specific species. People have to be able to trust that a healer will treat them fairly, that they will be as nondiscriminatory as the life that gives them magic. So poor Erissa can't get married unless she wants to give up healing, which obviously she doesn't want to do. (Although it didn't hurt that the guy asking her was a complete and utter jerkass.)
  • Discussed but Subverted in Spider-Man (PS4): Peter believes that the cause of his pre-game breakup with Mary Jane Watson was to allow her to focus on her career as a journalist, however she claims that the breakup was caused because Peter was overprotective. note 
  • A few of the earlier games in the Story of Seasons series, such as Harvest Moon GBC 3 and Harvest Moon: Back to Nature for Girls, end the game and roll the credits as soon as the female player character gets married, implying that she gave up her career as a farmer to become a housewife. It's easy to chalk this one up to Values Dissonance, but earlier games in the series do show married women still having lives and hobbies outside of being a homemaker, so who can say for sure. Things change, though, and later games in the series allow the female player to keep going after marriage.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, the main character initially has her heart set on returning to her original modern-day time after being sent back 500 years to the Sengoku period because she was about to start her dream job as a fashion designer in the modern day. As she gets to know the warlords she's living with and falls for one of them in particular, however, she gradually changes her mind and ultimately decides to stay in the past to be with the man she loves. Zigzagged, though, in that most routes show that she's still able to pursue her dream job in a slightly different form as a seamstress in the Sengoku period and that her love interest is completely supportive of her career choices.
  • This trope is a recurring theme in In Your Arms Tonight, in which the protagonist is a recently-married working woman in her early thirties. She enjoys her job and is very good at it, but faces pressure from her husband's family and her own to quit her job in order to focus on taking care of the house and having children. In Koichi's route, one of the few points in his favor early on is that he firmly defends her choice to keep working and refuses to push her to quit.
    • In Ebihara's sequel and in Soji's epilogue, the issue comes up again as circumstances require the protagonist to choose between staying in Tokyo to continue pursuing her career or moving to another part of the country to stay with her lover. In both cases, she resolves to quit for the sake of her relationship, only for her lover to refuse to hear of it because he admires her work and knows how important it is to her.

    Western Animation 
  • Inside Job (2021): In "Appleton" Reagan is torn between a happy, humble life with Ron, a man she loves and is very compatible with, and finally getting her dream job of heading not just Cognito Inc. but also becoming "partner" with the Black Robes. She tries various timeline simulations to see if there's a situation where she can have both and realizes there isn't. Eventually, she chooses Career and lets Ron go.

    Real Life 
  • It was common in Western countries from the late 19th century to the 1970s for women to be dropped from jobs upon marriage or denied jobs because they were married. For example, until 1957, women employed by the government of the Netherlands were dismissed as soon as they got married.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope: Hillary Rodham Clinton did get married - in fact, played this trope straight and followed her heart (and Bill) to Arkansas - but kept her maiden name as many lawyers and other professional women do. However, this was interpreted as an overtly feminist act in Arkansas and contributed to her husband's loss of the Governorship. So because she chose the dude, but not in a traditional way to protect her career, she had to choose between inconveniencing her career or his. As you know, she eventually settled on Rodham Clinton. (And her career wasn't all that much inconvenienced, either, considering the string of titles before her name includes "Senator" and "Secretary of State".)
    Bill Clinton: [in 2000] For the last twenty years, we've gone where I wanted to go and done what I wanted to do. Now I'll give her the next twenty years — and if I'm still alive after that, we'll fight over the rest.
  • Can sometimes be inverted by gender. If the man is a minimum wage labourer, and the woman is a skilled professional, the man might find it more feasible to be a House Husband over hiring a nanny and paying for two cars.
  • Sometimes the woman chooses both out of necessity: in many countries the wife is expected to work in order to have an extra income, often essential just to make ends meet. Even among middle-class families.
  • Up in Microsoft country (and in other places along the geektastic West Coast), it's not that uncommon for non-tech company spouse to work part-time or give up their job just so they can actually see their spouse for more than five minutes a day. Even the best of tech companies require insane work hours/weeks/months when trying to meet deadlines, but many allow extended time off when they're done. Good luck fitting a regular work schedule or vacation into that. Even better luck trying to maintain a good relationship when it's almost impossible to see each other.
  • Albeit it's still a majorly patriarchal country, in Japan, there are more and more women who face this decision since roughly the '80s, especially women raised in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka. Many argue that the clash between the traditional Japanese women image and the increasing number in independent women (who, the most cynical say, men have a REALLY tough time accepting since it affects the traditional Japanese men image) is one of the main reasons of why the country has had such a dramatically low childbirth rate in the last few decades.
  • One news story had a firefighter be in this position after marrying his boss' daughter because there was a rule prohibiting it, as the chief being the boss of a family member could be seen as a conflict of interest.
  • Just watch any interview with the astronauts on the space station. Most of the men have a wife back home and 3 or 4 kids. The women are nearly all single and no children.
    • Karen Nyberg averts this trope. She is a mother and is married... to another astronaut.
    • Russian cosmonauts Yelena Kondakova and Yelena Serova avert this trope. Both were married and had children at the time of their missions. Cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya married after their space missions but maintained active professional and political careers nevertheless.

Alternative Title(s): Man Versus Career, Career Vs Man, Man Vs Career