Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once said that “the most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” She recognizes that choosing your romantic partner makes you vulnerable. At best, their support can open you up to new experiences and make you dream bigger than you ever would have alone. But when you tie yourself to the wrong mate, it’s a bad decision that can ruin your career.
Take the minor grievance of your partner looking at your phone over you. If your partner is constantly on their phone at home, that phone snubbing creates relationship tension you’ll carry into your work. Your job performance will suffer. Your job satisfaction will tank. It goes to show that our partners have a hold on us — they can use it to advance or hold back our careers.
At worst, you have what happened to Eric Abramovitz.
Girlfriend ruined boyfriend’s career. Now she owes him $350,000
In 2013, Abramovitz was a McGill University student and one of the top clarinetists in Canada. Since he was seven years old, he had been working towards the dream of getting a bachelor’s degree at Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles on a full scholarship, a dream worth about $50,000 a year, and finally, his dream had been realized. He had gotten accepted. He would be studying under top clarinetist Yehuda Gilad.
Only he never found out. His girlfriend, Jennifer Lee, who was also a student at McGill, had access to his email and passwords. She saw the email and made a drastic decision that would radically change the course of Abramovitz’s life. Posing as Abramovitz in an email, Lee rejected the offer.
“Scared he would move away and perhaps no longer be in a relationship with her, Lee deleted the email,” the Montreal Gazette reports. She even went one more step forward in her nefarious scheme and pretended to be Gilad. Lee created a fake Gmail and posing as Gilad, rejected Abramovitz personally. Abramovitz said it was one of the most “shattering” moments of his life.
Abramovitz’s relationship with Lee ended a year later for “unrelated reasons.” It took years of following a hunch for Abramovitz to realize that he had been duped. When he finally took his ex to court for the deception, the Canadian judge sided with him and “against Ms. Lee for her despicable interference in Mr. Abramovitz’s career.”
Even without the full scholarship, Abramovitz still pursued his dream of becoming a clarinetist and completed his studies at McGill. But the deception had forever closed a door on a lost educational opportunity and financial income.
“It is difficult to quantify such a loss,” Ontario Superior Court judge David L. Corbett wrote in his ruling. “Mr. Abramovitz’s life and career have continued. Imagining how his life would have been different if he had studied for two years under Mr. Gilad, and earned his teacher’s respect and support, requires more speculation than the law permits. One hears … of the ‘big breaks’ that can launch a promising artist to a stratospheric career.”
Since the deception, Abramovitz has continued his dream despite the setback. He has accepted a position with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and yes, even has a new girlfriend.
“It’s very hard to know what my path would have been had this not happened,” he said. “But I am happy and proud of myself because I landed on my feet.”
His experience is a cautionary tale for us all on who we should trust. “I would like to think that since my first relationship my judgment of character has improved just a little bit,” Abramovitz now says about the experience.
Let’s hope it does not take getting betrayed like Abramovitz did for us to realize which partner is helping or hurting our careers.
This article originally appeared on The Ladders.