Ask Team Practical: Sharing the Shit

My husband has a job working in an industry that he loves but at a company he dislikes. Unfortunately, in order for him to work at a company that he also loves, we are probably going to have to move. This is a problem to me for a few reasons.

1. We have moved once for his career and I hated it. I spent ten months trying to find a job, trying to make friends, failing at both, and became increasingly depressed.

2. I genuinely love the city we live in now. I moved away for awhile, and I missed it so much. We’ve only been back for a few months, and I am really upset at the prospect of leaving.

Right now I’m still unemployed (ugh) so technically, if he got a better job elsewhere I could go. But I’m worried I will hate the new place and the old no job/no friends/depression will repeat.

He’s generally more concerned about finding the perfect job and furthering his career. I’m generally more concerned about living in a place I like and having friends. I knew this would be an issue in our marriage but he really downplayed it. I think it is okay to say I would be willing to move to A,B,C, but not D,E,F (for example), but he is starting to get annoyed and say that he wants to be able to move wherever his career will take him. I can’t figure out how to make it work. Gah.


Dear Anonymous,

Sorry. I’m gonna tell you what I hate for my mechanic to say to me: put your husband on the phone, sweetie, I need to talk to him.

Marriage, along with all of the nice, squishy, wonderful stuff that we talk about on here all the time, also means that you’re stuck considering someone else’s feelings every time you make a major decision. That same team that makes you capable of conquering the world, is the reason you need to call home before you set off to do it. It would be just lovely for me to be able to say, “Mm hm, honey, you go ahead and don’t let anything stand in the way of your goals.” But, you’re married now. And agreeing to stick with someone during rich/poor and better/worse means you both have a say in deciding how that plays out.

So, basically, Husband. Suck it up. It’s not all about you.

And that doesn’t mean that you two necessarily need to decide to stay where you are and ignore career goals and “just get over” terrible job situations. It just means you two need to decide. Both of your feelings on the matter are equally valuable and merit consideration. Even if it’s “his” job, it’s still “our” decision.

Alright, Anonymous, you can come back on the line now so the three of us can start tackling this to find a reasonable compromise (or, more likely, determine who bites the bullet). You could start with the classic 90s sitcom favorite: the pros and cons list. Are there any factors other than just crappy job vs. lack of friends? Could he feasibly find a better job where you live now? Could you possibly find a way to take up a social hobby and make friends if you move? Are there some factors that weigh more heavily than others (for example, if you’re not able to pay rent unless he moves for a job)?

Like you mentioned, both of you can start setting parameters for your compromises. Your example of, “I’m willing to move here, but not here,” sounds like a good start. Another that he might be willing to consider is to set time limits, like, “I’ll hang around here, but if I don’t find a good job in this area within six months, we’ve gotta look somewhere else.”

You could also work out the worst-case scenarios of all the different possibilities. What will you both do if he stays here but can’t find a good job in his field? What will you both do if you move, and you end up depressed?

Notice the “both” I used there. Because, if he’s unhappy at work, that’s your problem as much as his. And if you’re feeling lonely and disconnected, that his problem as well as yours. That’s the other thing about teams. If either one of you is independently miserable, it’s bad for you both. That’s the sort of thing that breeds resentment and a terrible sex-life and yeah, divorce.

But before we jump to big scary “D” words, the real question is, has this happened yet? Has someone made him a job offer, forcing the decision of to-move-or-not? Or, is this just hypothetical future talks? Maybe for right now, you can agree to expand the job search, while still discussing what would happen next, before you make the definite decision to move. That’s a tricky line to walk, of course, so you want to make sure to keep discussing things as they unfold.

Honestly, it’s not an easy thing. But, whatever decision you make right here and now isn’t necessarily determining the rest of your life. And, sometimes you need to have one or two terrible years as a stepping-stone toward something better. No matter what little tricks and tips I give you for discussion and compromise, there’s a good chance that one of you will end up with the shitty end of the stick—at least for now. In the best teams, the shitty end is shared or gets passed back and forth in shifts, both people taking the brunt of crappy situations for the sake of adulthood and bills. Even though it sometimes sucks, that really is one of the best parts of marriage: sharing the shit.

Somebody write that into their vows for me?


Team Practical, how do you compromise on the big decisions when it seems you’re in a stalemate?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Another Meg

    We have definitely had this sort of discussion. What works for us is pretty much what Liz said. I will move to the following places, but I want to end up in X. He’s find with setting down in X but first he wants to live in the Pacific Northwest for five years. There’s a lot of give and take. Your husband needs to recognize that, too.

    But I will say this about moving to a new city- if you end up having to move and you’re worried it will suck again, try this- it helped me. I made a list of the things I loved about my city. When we moved, I took that list and started exploring to find the counterpart. Like, I had a favorite vintage place, and a favorite used book shop. We tried everywhere on Yelp for the best burger in town. I even enlisted people I had met to help in the search. Girl I clicked with who worked at the vintage shop told me a about a great place for a latte, etc.

    • Agreed. Liz’s advice is right on as far as compromise. His job isn’t more important than your lifestyle preference, and your lifestyle preference isn’t more important than his job.

      But I can add moving advice! Love Another Meg’s strategy to find all the great spots in a new town. I moved half-way across the country for my partner’s schooling, and had no job to speak of for a couple months, then a shitty job for the next year. What really helped me was getting involved organizations that complimented my own values or even job dreams. When I started volunteering or participating in a bunch of earthy, sustainability related events and nonprofits, I got to know a broad group of people quickly because I started to see a lot of the same faces. Eventually, that’s how I got a job I liked in my field as well- through contacts on a volunteer project.

      I’ve been in my new city a year and a half. I’m still working on finding really close girlfriends, but I do have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances to hang with on weekends- from my partner’s department, as well as my volunteering networks. When we go out on the town, I’m usually the one who recognizes people I know. Takes time, for sure, but hang in there!

      Good luck with making the decision together with your husband :-)

      • Emily

        SarahE, are you sure you didn’t steal my life? I could have written those exact same 2 middle paragraphs, to the t.

        Point being, for Anonymous, a move is very stressful, and the older we get, the harder it is to develop community. I’ve found, though, that I’m (usually) more satisfied at this point with a smaller group of friends than the expansive and awesome crew I had in my last city, since expansive and awesome can also be more overwhelming.

        • Ha! If I stole it, could you tell me how the next chapter goes before I get there? :-)

          I agree with the stress. You can’t swing a cat in the YA section at the library without finding a story about making friends in school, but when you’re an adult, people just assume if you’re a well-adjusted, nice person, that you already have a crew. There should be an orientation (minus the lanyards!) when you move as an adult.

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          It takes me 2 years of being in a place before I feel comfortable there. It takes me that long to find the new places, new groups, and really develop the new social network in a location.

          Even when I moved to a city at the same time as one of my bestest friends (which, maybe parallel to moving with a partner? I haven’t done that. Don’t know). Even when he moved away after two years. Still felt more at home after I settled in and built up my network than I did before.

          All of which to say, I hope that a homey feeling is coming up soon for both of you.

    • Adi

      That’s advice I wish I had when I moved!

    • SarahToo

      My favourite way to discover all those amazing cool places and hidden jems is to WALK WALK WALK as much as possible when I move to a new location. Also, I try to take different routes all the time, walk with my head up, a mind full of curiosity and open-ness, and scrutinize the posters on the utility poles for cool and quirky events/ businesses, and other alternative goings-on. Biking around the area can be good too, but if you really want to notice cool stuff and potentially meet cool people, walking is the way to go. Also, try to live in public as much as possible…for example, find your favourite local park and hang out there regularly reading books, picnicking, playing an instrument, or strolling around. Go to your local library branch and check out their events listings. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Stuff like that can really help you feel connected to a place more quickly.

  • sandyliz

    “one of the best parts of marriage: sharing the shit.”

    I will totally put that in my vows. Once the afianced agrees, of course :)

  • Amy March

    Am I reading the timeline right? He’s only been at this job in this city for a few months? Not sure how he thinks hopping from job to job is going to build a career.

    • Anonymous!

      Nah, he’s been at the JOB for 3.5 years, but has worked in two different offices on opposite coasts of the US. We’re back on the west coast in the city I love and he’s itching to get a new job at a different company and is willing to move pretty much anywhere if the job and the offer is right. I’m…not that willing! When we moved for his job last time I had a really rough time of it, as I said. Compromise, why you so hard?

  • Kelly

    Good timing.

    I was offered a job in Thailand last week, all through the interview process we would talk about what it would be like if I got it, how we felt about going, but refused to make decisions. Once I finally got offered the job, we had a much more serious discussion and ultimately he was like “I just am not ready.” But I think it was really valuable to go through the exercise of talking it through, rather than him just saying “no, you can’t apply for jobs in Thailand!” or me saying “I got a job abroad, we’re going!” One step at a time made SUCH a difference, and we both learned a lot from it – even if we had to decide one way or the other eventuall!

    • Maddie

      Yes. One step at a time.

      When Michael started talking about jobs in California, it was terrifying. But we slowly progressed to applying, then interviewing, and finally accepting the job. Being able to up the ante a little at a time really helped in making it a reality.

    • Emily

      We take this approach, too. I even took it on my own, pre-boyfriend who is now my husband.

      If you don’t create options, you won’t have a decision to make.

  • Audrey

    WOW! Were you on the walk that my hubby and I took last night? We are having the same conversation and it is not getting us anywhere fast.

    Figuring out where to move (and if we move), and how to balance work opportunities/family obligations/us living our lives in the way we want is SO HARD!

    For us it’s my husband who is worried about reaching out and finding community where-ever we go, because right now he is lonely (outside of our marriage) and I’m worried about the right fit in a job and having other opportunities in case I don’t land the right job right away. The catch? He is in a better place to get a job where-ever we move.

    It’s rough and confusing. We go from ‘move away now’ to ‘stay! it’s not that bad here’ just about every time we discuss this. And it’s really hard to focus on what’s important- how we as a team will handle whatever we do, because really- we are two people who have different ideas about what is most important.

    Best of luck to you!!!!!


    OH! I so needed this. I’m living this right now. We’re recently engaged but have been together for six years. I never dreamed that moving with him for his job would make me crazy. I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to telecommute nationally, so I can literally go anywhere.

    I told him I would follow him to the ends of the earth. I just didn’t think he’d bring me there.
    Seriously ya’ll…this town is so small it has a MUSEUM of a LIBRARY.

    We’re trying to be open about communication so I’ve been a cross between vibrantly supportive of him being in school and unapolagetically miserable with having no friends, family or a LIBRARY nearby.

    And he’s heard me. He found another school where the loans won’t kill us, the housing market isn’t completely ridiculous and there are more people. In about 10 months we’ll be ready to go.

    So with all empathy, here’s my advice: be unapologetic about your needs. They’re valid and being in any relationship means that your person will have to treat them as such, even and maybe especially, if they don’t seem that way to them. If there’s wiggle room: use it! Find your compromise and work it. I can do anything for 10 months, so this is my anything right now. You may find, as I have, that if you make your compromise and plan it that you can do anything you need to in the interim.

    Best of luck to you, my dear. Be well.

    • Rebekah

      Oh, dear sweet APW, you have once again warmed my heart with commiseration and support.

      Shanon, thank you. My fiance is in medical school in Nor Cal. I’m from AZ and moved to him after I graduated but I have not been able to adjust. I just returned from a long weekend home and cried at least once an hour for the 11 hour drive.

      As he gets closer to matching for his residency, we talk about moving, both short-term and long. I have a few states on my NO WAY list, but I keep stressing how important it is to me that we raise our (future) kids near family, either his or mine.

      Thank you for talking about your experience and reminding me that my feelings are valid and more important despite the differing amounts of education we have.

      (I hope you love your new home and are able to look back at your tiny town fondly in the future)

      • Diane

        Ahhh! I was the match-er, not the partner but ACK! It’s so hard being in limbo. I believe the Match is in two weeks — best wishes to you both!

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I feel your pain on the no library. AWFUL. I loaded up on books whenever I visited friends. “I’ll return this half of your shelf when I visit in 3 months? Kay?” Cause there’s not enough budget to support my reading needs.

      But the two-far-away-and-in-another-state-so-not-really-useful library in the town with an actual grocery store was amazing. They had cake pans that you could check out. CAKE PANS! Cause, honestly, how often are you going to make a cake of every Star Wars character? I’m still trying to find cake pans in my city (between my 5 current library cards).


      Oh definitely re: being unapologetic about your needs. Another thing I would add is that if you’re unhappy about your general life situation think about what things you can change that would help. There was a period when my husband was working a lot and we were living somewhere I hated. He wasn’t there very often, so didn’t care that it was a shoebox. For me, moving somewhere larger but further from his work made such a difference to my peace of mind!
      Now the shit stick will be his for a while. I’ve got a great opportunity that might mean extra travel and being away during the week. It’s still unclear what this will look like. No doubt we’ll have a few conversations that cover this territory!

  • We went through something similar but it was more a discussion of whether to stay (and buy a house) where he had a job he loved or whether to keep our options open in other places (where I might find more of what I was looking for). It was tough; we had to dig deep and figure out what we each wanted. I determined three things contribute to my happiness: 1. work/job 2. friends/social life/cool city events and 3. proximity of family. I needed ONE of them to avoid resentment/depression/etc. (Two would be nice, but one is a requirement!) Choosing his city meant nether of us got #3, he got #2 but it was much harder for me to come by, and he got #1 and I didn’t…but #1 was something I COULD get with his help. As a writer, I can technically work from anywhere (though I’d surely have a cooler job in some other cities) but mostly I need TIME to write outside of my full-time job (which is good but not like my OMG COOL DREAM JOB). So the trade-off we made for deciding to put down roots so that he could get his #1 and #2 immediately was that he had to do some things to help me get my #1 and #2. For us, that thing turned out to be doing more cooking/chores so I’m free to write in the evenings. It was a small change but it made a HUGE difference. Now I’m very satisfied with my career path and he is happy with his work and social life.

    That said, it took a lot of hard, long conversations to realize this stuff and figuring it out a couple years ago was the one time in our relationship that I was really not sure we were going to make it. “Compromise” gets tossed around a lot, but solutions do not come easily to everyone. My best advice is to dig deep and figure out what you really need to be happy and then find creative ways to get those things. I was pretty amazed at what little I needed to feel like my needs were being met.

  • KC

    Argh. One positive is that each move is different – you won’t *necessarily* repeat the misery (specifically, I would note that if his moving-for-career means you’re under less stress to immediately get a job as soon as you land for financial reasons, this may make transition easier, since a panicked job hunt rarely improves mental state).

    But moving is still just plain horrid for some people and fine for others; some people root and some people drift. And if he’s moving to a job and you’re moving to… nothing, he’s got the job plus people-at-work to help him feel “at home” in the new place and it’s gotta be recognized that this makes a difference.

    Sandwiching discussions with verification that yes, you do want him to be happy and fulfilled, and you also know that he wants you to be happy and fulfilled, so let’s explore ways we can make both of these things happen and things that will injure these goals… might help?

    And, if you do have to move, options for plugging into local communities slightly faster when you don’t have a job yet include: volunteering (library? pet shelter? soup kitchen? after-school programs? nursing homes?); religious community; getting a dog and walking it or just plain walking all over the place (or hopping public transit and seeing where you end up); contacting friends-of-friends(of-friends!) to see who knows anyone in your region-to-move-to; classes in something (art? yoga? book-binding? sheep-shearing?); puttering around and finding allll the thrift stores; talking with people at farmer’s markets and flea markets; starting a group (book club, dinners once a month, game night, whatever). But it’s still rough and some communities are still just plain hard to get into or find friends in, and good friendships often take time to build. Argh.

    I hope this all works out really well for you and your husband.

  • kcaudad

    on a semi-related note: my brother did say sh*t in his vows. Something to the effect of: “when things are wonderful, I’ll be there for you; and when the sh*t hits the fan, I’ll still be there for you”. The look on my Dad’s face was priceless! But, it was so ‘him’ and how he thinks!!

  • Natalie

    This is a tough one. I share some of your frustration.

    My husband and I live in the city where I grew up, which means that my entire family is here…which is its own animal for me and my husband. Husband is an attorney; doesn’t want to take the bar in another state, therefore, we really can’t move until he has practiced for 5 years. I would have an easier time finding a job and moving up in my field if we moved to a rural area or if we could move to another state, but we really can’t do that as long as he is only licensed in the state where we live. I would love to live somewhere else for a while, find our own space…find some breathing room…but alas, it’s not realistic for me to think this way as long as he is licensed here and refuses to take the bar exam in another state (can’t say I blame him—that test is horrifying and also expensive to study for.)

    Anyway, I have come to a place of acceptance about this. I have decided that I am going to make up my mind to be as happy and as fulfilled as possible with what I have. Sometimes, when I am feeling low and isolated, I do something nice for myself….big or small…a treat at the store or a frozen yogurt or something from Anthropologie. ;) It is so hard to balance the needs, professional goals, and personal fulfillment for both people in a marriage. But if I can find little things to be excited and happy about—it helps to keep me going and focus on the good that I currently have in my life. It has taken time, though…

  • Alyssa

    If possible, maybe you two should take a vacation to this new town, or a cute town in its area…have a relaxing, romantic weekend of strolling the town and indulging in good food/drink/spa services/ whatever you dig. You might just find things you really like, and if you decide to move hopefully you’ll do so with good associations with the place.

  • Oh, lordie, this is my life. Has been my life for the last few years. The British Ambassador has been in various countries for work (the UAE, Kazhakstan, Canada . . .) while we have dated and when we got engaged, we made a promise that we’d stick it out in Texas until my (now nine year old) daughter graduates high school, and then we can travel the world the way he likes. But that has been hard fought, and we’re fighting just right now that his job in Canada is keeping him there longer than we had planned. I’m not sure we’re ever going to find a happy compromise, but I’d settle for one in which neither of us are miserable.

  • As someone whose career took my husband and I away from the house and city and friends we *adored*, I can tell you, being on the career side of the equation really, really sucked. My husband was *so freaking sweet* about it, constantly telling me it’s okay, it’s okay, and I was the one freaking out.

    To be honest, I shouldn’t use the past tense there. I have random crying jags all the time, worried sick that I’ve ruined our lives for my career, that “I’ve ruined our lives.”. And every time, he tells me “No, YOU didn’t. WE made this decision. WE decided it was the best thing, given our circumstances. YOU don’t get to take all the blame here.”

    By making the decision jointly, I know I shouldn’t tie this millstone of guilt around my neck, and when I feel like total shit, I know…even if I don’t feel like it, I *know* it was a joint decision. And that makes me feel better.

    I’m not sure if this will really help the OP/others in similar situations, but for what it’s worth, sharing the shit really does help. Even when the situation sucks.

    • “WE made this decision.”

      This. Once you make a decision together, you need to own that decision.

    • Athena

      I’m on the brink of this situation. I got into grad school in another province just as both of us finally finished our undergrads last year. We decided that deferring was the best thing financially for both of us (we own a condo and he wanted to get into the trades after doing a commerce degree).

      But now I am waiting for my funding letter for the fall and working full time in a decent job that pays okay and has major ups and downs, and he thinks it’s still too soon to go, but will go if I want to.

      Then it feels like I am forcing him to move for me, so I force myself to try to make this job work, to wrap my head around ANOTHER delay in pursuing my chosen career. Not only has this been a pendulum of utter agony, but I just had an overwhelming realization that I NEED to go to school.

      I keep trying to please everyone else (family wants me to stay, friends want me to stay, husband wants me to stay, employer wants me to stay) and I am making myself sick with it! The anxiety, today especially, makes me feel like I can’t breathe. But our decision was to defer for one year (otherwise I have to reapply when the time finally does come, and what if it’s not convenient then either?), so I think we need to stick to our original plan.

      The longer I stay away, the more money I make, the harder it will be for both of us to make the sacrifice. I think we’re both in a better position to deal with financial strain now, when it’s been run-of-the-mill for the last 5 years, rather than later when we’re living more comfortably. I don’t know. I spend so much time wanting school and even more time trying to talk myself out of it that I am not sleeping!!

  • sfw

    I can so relate to this tough situation — I am currently making some painful career choices so that we can stay in the geographic location that he is loathe to leave. One thing that has been influential for us is thinking about proximity to our families/social support in light of plans to have kids soon. I think I would be pushing harder to move somewhere brand-new if it were going to be just the two of us, but it suddenly feels important to shore up well-established social support for the little family we are growing. Just another consideration to throw into the mix!

  • Elaine

    This is such a hard one. My husband and I have a variation of this argument on an ongoing basis. We live in an area without many job prospects, but about an hour away from an urban area that has a ton more job opportunities. My husband has been at a job for 5 years that he likes well enough, but isn’t challenging him or building his skills and pays really poorly. Meanwhile, I commute closer to aforementioned large city in order to build my career. I’ve worked my arse off in my field, dealt with the commute, and moved positions in order to grow my career – and, to make enough money (in a field known for low salaries) to be the main breadwinner for the family. Husband has no desire to move closer to the city or even look for a better local job; I feel like he’s stuck in his happy little rut. He has a ton of student loan debt which we’re nowhere near close to paying off, and sometimes, I’m not going to lie – I get bitter. Something that’s helped us is setting a timeline, as Liz so wisely suggests: i.e., “We’ll try this for another six months and consider other options then.” Most anything seems manageable for six months – and, after those six months, you may be in another place entirely. I really have no other wisdom to offer here, but a lot of my friends have experienced similar issues as well, so OP, just know you’re not alone!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    We’ve been approaching this situation for 2 years. He’s been looking for a new job nationally for those 2 years. I just started looking for a new job locally in January.

    While I totally get “if you cross your bridges before you come to them, you have to cross them twice,” there’s lots of investment just in applying. There may be financial investment, such as flights across the country the prospective employer doesn’t pay for. There may be huge emotional and time investments. Applying for 1 job has cost me 2 half-days away from my current job, plus more than 8 hours on the 1 application. It’s meant working 14-hour weekdays and weekends for months. I’d also be ashamed to go through 2 rounds of interviews only to get an offer and say, “Your firm isn’t the right fit for me, right now.” That’s a waste of the prospective employers’ time, too (as well as that of any recruiter or headhunter you’re working with).

    Not that I have a solution. It’s just in my experience the job search process can be an undertow it’s hard to escape from. That force shouldn’t be ignored.

    • “I’d also be ashamed to go through 2 rounds of interviews only to get an offer and say, “Your firm isn’t the right fit for me, right now.”

      But isn’t that precisely what the interview process is for? I’d say that it’s the exact opposite of wasting an employer’s time (or your own). Interviews are like dates and it’s really totally okay to have two dates and a slew of e-mails and texts and to say: ‘Hey, you know what.. I’m not feeling it. I think we should leave it at this and see each other anymore.’

      I once went through four rounds of interviews with a wonderful company before either of us made a decision on a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They even specified that I might have been a good fit, but that they’d only hire me if they were deeply, deeply certain I was the best they could get. I really think you shouldn’t be ashamed to act the same way.

      • Elemjay

        Absolutely – of course you can turn down an offer! The employer can decide not to take the process any further, so can the prospective employee. No need for shame there….

  • Alicia

    This reminds me a little of issues I had with my ex. I moved in with him during our relationship, to a new town (not too far from where I was working, but culturally very different). It was his hometown, and he worked from home, whereas I had grown up in a different part of the country and was commuting 40 minutes each way to work. Over time it became clear I was unhappy, and not bonding with his friends and family in a meaningful way, and couldn’t find an outlet to develop my own network. When I would talk to him about it, I often got the response that I wasn’t trying hard enough because I am a shy person, or I held judgments about his friends/family due to our cultural and political differences. A few times I asked if we could try a new activity together in an effort to meet mutual friends and establish ourselves in the community, but we never even tried anything. This was one of several reasons why I called off our engagement just a few months before the wedding. I wish this person well, and hope she and her husband can compromise!

  • Jesselyn

    This is so apt for me and my husband right now as we are both moving for my job but conversely I am terrified he won’t find friends, I am going to be ruining his life and I am taking him from everything and everyone he loves. It makes me feel so sick like a selfish wife. So our compromise was “one year” if in one year he is miserable or I am miserable or we are both miserable, we will move and we can at least say “we gave it a shot” but this means a legit shot. No half assing it. We are going to really need to make it. That is also another compromise to consider. Go into it with an open mind and give a time limit. I moved a lot as a kid for my dad’s job so moving doesn’t phase me as much as it does him. However, that 3 month mark till the 6 or sometimes 9 month mark really blows. So a year works for us.

  • Grace

    I can absolutely relate. We moved almost 2 years ago for my fiance to start law school. This meant that I had to leave the job that I loved and a community that I had built and start over.

    But I was starting over with him. And what made it work for us is that we approached everything about the process as a team. From applying to schools to deciding on which school to picking our apartment, we had a real dialogue about what our needs were. They were never my needs or his needs – they were ours. We made a list of our needs in relation to my employment, our lifestyle, recruiting possibilities for him, and where we’d want to settle long term. Each of us had an equal voice and equal veto. Anything that was important to one, was important to both.

    And now – I’m looking at schools and we’ve had to have frank discussions about living apart temporarily for some programs and how that would work. I’m pretty confident that however things pan out, we’re going to be great.

    I don’t want to paint a sunny picture. I’ve had a tough time settling and have (more than once) resented him for the move and the change and the leaving the job that I love. But as a team, he shares the shit and understands that this is a tough transition.

    • I think that school is one of the more challenging iterations of this situation. It’s so challenging, because the move can be “temporary” for the partner who is in school. It’s almost impossible for my husband and I to see eye to eye right now because he is so focused on school. It was bad when we first moved, and I was lonely and unemployed, but now that I’ve found a “good” job, it’s even harder. He is starting to get excited about internships abroad, and opportunities to work in other parts of the country, and it just devastates me, because I’ve worked so hard to start building a life here now. The prospect of him leaving me here alone for two months, or moving AGAIN in a year or so just turns me into a puddle. The temporary nature of school just really exacerbates the issue. Part of the problem is that we didn’t talk enough about the move for school in the first place, but neither of us are having our larger expectations met in the city we ended up in. It’s hard not to be bitter when you feel like you are putting your whole life on hold for 2+ years while your partner works towards their goals and then wants to uproot again.

  • Laura

    My partner and I have a similar but inverted situation. He’s already dropped everything and moved across the country to a small town where he knew no one else for me once. It’s taken some time and a lot of strife and effort, but he’s finally managed to build a name for himself here career-wise and a social circle that he is happy with.

    Meanwhile, I’m wrapping up my PhD, which means that, in about 18 months, we are getting married, and then, in about 20 months, we are going to move somewhere else (insofar undetermined) entirely. Because, unless I want to limit myself severely, I have to be able to go wherever the best place is for me to do my kind of research. He knows this and is actually amazingly understanding.

    But, that said, he has a few requirements for where we move next, and I think he is entirely entitled to assert these parameters. Like, he wants to be in a city or, at the very least, in a real metropolitan area (i.e. not a farm town, not in the middle of nowhere), both for his personal sanity and to maximize his job options. Also, he doesn’t want to move to the South (this is also related to both his sanity and job opportunities, in a complicated way). Luckily, I generally agree with these viewpoints. And even more luckily, it turns out that most of the best places for my kind of research are in the SF, Chicago, and NYC areas.

    Still, when we first started our discussions about what will happen when I graduate, I had a series of mild panic attacks imagining that he would not want to move to whatever place was best for my research (because, like, what if I can *only* get a job in a farm town?), that I would have to choose between my love and my career. We have had to have many, many conversations to arrive at some level of understanding/agreement/peace on this topic, and I am positive that we will have some super hard talks this fall when I have to actually find a job and these decisions become for-real.

  • Faced this exact same thing! Now hubby and I were long distance with me planning to move back to my native East Coast after college. He is a native Californian and got an opportunity to run a business here. This happened 6 months into dating so I couldn’t really “tell him what to do.” He accepted the offer and company is doing well. After 2.5 years I decided to move to his state. After all I love him more than I love my native city. But it was not easy. Also couldn’t find work for long time, no friends, etc. But eventually things began to fall into place. We got married, I recently got accepted into my dream graduate program (also in his state.) And yes looks like I will never be moving back to the east coast but I’ve embraced my new identity as a west coaster :) besides I just told my husband I will be traveling back east at minimum once a year and he fully supports me on this. Sometimes you can’t have it all, especially if you and your spouse are from two completely opposite places. I think embracing it and really trying to make it work in your new place of residence is key. Oh and of course a very supportive and understanding spouse makes this process much easier. :) Best of luck!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Traveling back raises a good point about making it easier to move for/with a life partner. Sometimes it can be as easy as, “This job pays enough that we’ll be able to fly back 4 times a year.” Sometimes it’s trickier, as in, “We’ll be physically in [undesirable location] but the job/neighborhood/organization/whatever is full of people from [loved location] or is actually headquartered in [loved location] or otherwise feels like [loved location].”

  • Hannah

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m only pre-engaged, but we’re having a difficult time navigating this sort of thing. He’s moved once for me (although he agrees that it ended up being for the best, as it gave him access to a better graduate program) but when it comes to what comes next we’re working hard to figure out what’s best for both of us, and gosh is it tricky. Hopefully I can use this post to jumpstart a productive discussion.

  • Lauren

    We are also going through something similar! He has been accepted to two grad schools out of state, so the question isn’t if anymore, it’s where. And sadly, just weeks before now, I got an incredible job 15 minutes from my house with a lot of room for growth. After 9 months of telemarketing. So I’ll have to give that up sooner than I’d have liked.

    But, we’re looking at it at a fresh start for our new marriage; we’ll be moving in the weeks after the wedding. It’s scary and big, but I’m a big fan of getting it all done at once. :)

    • KC

      I know it’s often not possible (and for many people isn’t desirable, due to personality and need for human contact and whatnot), but have you checked if your recently-acquired incredible job can accommodate either telecommuting or contract work (that can be done at a distance)? Sometimes it doesn’t occur to people (or to companies), but once it’s suggested, working from home can sometimes be made to happen, especially if you really just love this particular job and communicate that clearly to them. :-)

      (and in our marriage experience, knowing and communicating that a set of changes will be scary and big is a good 2/3 of the way to coping with it well – hope everything goes AWESOME for you!)

  • Arden

    This post (and all the comments) has been so helpful to me because I fear my boyfriend and I will be in a similar situation in a year. After dating long distance for four years, after I graduated from grad school in May I moved across the country to live near him. I was super fortunate to find a job in my field, and things are really great right now. But my boyfriend will finish his PhD in a year, and then we’ll be moving again to wherever he can get his postdoc. I reallllly want to move back to at least the same region of the country as the rest of my friends/family/acquaintances, but I worry that there will be more opportunities for him elsewhere. I don’t want to hold him back, but I also feel like since his career will have determined at least two major moves in my life, my happiness should also play a role in that decision.

    I’m going to bookmark this post so I can read back through everyone’s advice when I find myself in this position. APW community, FTW!

  • Oh I can sooooo relate to this, and it’s a sh*tty, frustrating situation to be in. Before we got engaged, my now-husband quit a soul sucking but well paying job to go back to school to do something he loved. Which started the stress, in that we started to put his career as the first priority.

    Upon graduation? Well, he couldn’t find a job in our city. A city I loved living in. Then family emergencies hit the fan and we went for an extended stay with family in a smaller city that I grew up in and strongly dislike, and after a lot of talks, we decided to have him apply for jobs. First day out of the gate, what do you know but he comes home we a job.

    Making the big sacrifices (first financial and then location) for what sometimes feels like “his” priorities can be really hard. I have freak outs about how much I dislike the situation way too often for my liking … but it was a decision we made together. Was it to support his career and be closer to his family, well yes. But I had equal say in this, and we have frequent discussions about how to make the situation better for me.

    The trade off is that he acknowledges what we’ve put his priorities in first place a lot lately. There’s very open communication about the fact that it’s not something that can become the status quo, and he actively looks for ways to do things that support my priorities and we’ve talked about things we’ll be doing in the future that are going to put my career and my needs first. But again, we both have a voice in this and we both take responsibility for the decisions.

  • My partner and I dated long distance for three years (him in San Diego, me in Arizona). He would always (slightly joking) complain about how much he hated Arizona and the ridiculous heat. I just assumed he would never move here and we’d have to wait until we both graduated college and I’d move to San Diego.

    Well, he graduated college and I still had a year left. So instead of doing the hard long distance thing for another year he actually moved here! He had no friends, no job, no family… just me. We found him a job, he made friends, my family eventually became his and we try to visit his family a lot. Fast forward three years (two years out of college) and we’re still living in Arizona. Why? Because he has a great job and great friends. And while it’s still hot as balls in the summer, we have each other and that’s the most important thing to us.

    However, this might not be how your situation ends up. You may still hate the new place after a year. I think the important part is to compromise and not make anything permanent. I promised my husband we could move wherever he wanted after I graduated (and I meant it) so I think that helped him with his idea to move here knowing it wouldn’t be FOREVER.

  • But does the unemployed person get the same vote as the bread-winner? Just saying…

    • I think so. Employment has nothing to do with the value of my opinion and my preference on how/where to live my life. ESPECIALLY in a marriage. If my partner (or anyone) said I don’t get as much of a vote because I don’t make the same/any money, I would be outraged.

    • KC

      Quite frankly, the unemployed person has just as much, if not more, to lose, especially if the unemployed person is in a situation where it is harder to get a job (due to different demands for different professions, or time of unemployment, or whatever, which if the letter writer is unemployed but spouse is employed *and* looking to “move up” elsewhere does seem like it might be the case). The idea that just because one is currently unemployed, it’s morally okay for them to be hauled around like a piece of furniture as their spouse unilaterally optimizes location for their own career progress is fairly repugnant to me. Monetary contribution ain’t all that; yes, if only one of you can work and if you have to live in Alaska for you both to survive, then you live in Alaska, duh [not meaning any insult to Alaska]; but if that’s not a “must”, then it needs to be a truly mutual decision.

      In practice, there’s usually some degree of compromise on all sides, and aiming for least-miserable-all-around and best-for-the-two-of-you-on-the-whole. “You must stay in the job you dislike so I can stay in this location” is not automatically more or less fair than “you must move with me to a location you’re miserable in so I can be in a job I might like more”.

      But the first step to actually solving this sort of thing maritally is to get away from votes and “deserves” and “oughts” and I-bring-in-this-much and but-I-did-all-these-things-for-you and positions of defensiveness and try to look at the situation together as a unified couple who wants what’s best for each other, rather than each person fighting “for” themselves and their own individual future and “against” each other. Me vs. you is bad. That way lies madness.

      • Your last paragraph is brilliant.

    • I moved for my husband to attend grad school, and this took me a long time to get my head around. I was the breadwinner before he decided to go back to school and I couldn’t understand why we should move and spend MORE money when my work life was going so well. However for our marriage to work, we need to both have equal input, no matter the value of our economic input. I’m not saying that making smart financial decisions isn’t important, because it is, but you have to weigh that against everyones emotional well-being.

      • Rebecca

        I think sometimes, maybe more often than we think living in a society where the equation can be money=worth, choosing the option that is better for everyone’s emotional well-being is actually worth a whole lot of money.

        Once you can meet basic needs (which granted has been/ can be a struggle for lots and lots of people), the point of making more money isn’t to accumulate a giant pile of it so you can look at it in your living room- it’s to make your life/ future better or more enjoyable. So getting X extra happiness from a Y paycut can totally be worth it- especially if you’re trading “utterly miserable” for “generally happy.”

        Like, I would probably pay at least $20 a day when it’s cloudy and miserable here (which is a LOT) to see two hours of sunshine (I’m basically solar powered). And 9 months at $20 a day is a lot of money- enough that moving someplace sunnier starts to make some pretty serious financial sense…

        • Basically solar powered. I love it! I like to tell people I’m part lizard. I need the sun.

  • Miriam

    I don’t know if this is the right place to mention it, … but I’m actually having the opposite problem right now. I’m finishing my B.A. in August and am currently looking for grad schools. Unfortunately, my boyfriend just got a new job (temporary, only 1 year) and has no idea what his opportunities are gonna be after that. I moved in with my boyfriend a year ago and can’t imagine us having a long-distance-relationship. However, we are probably not going to be able to keep living together. Still, it’s a huge difference whether we are 1 hour apart or 20. When discussing this topic, he is always like: “Choose the school that’s best for your career and wherever I’m gonna end up in one year, we’re gonna make it work.” I think it’s great that we are equally invested in our relationship and that he encourages me to pursue my career. Still, I really really want to take him into the equation when deciding for a school, but I can’t. I hate that I have to go first and only months later we’re gonna know for sure if he’s even gonna be able to follow me/find a job close to me.
    Just wanted to get it out there. Maybe one of you great people here can relate. =)

    • Rebecca

      There was a post a while ago about living apart, and I suspect the comment thread will have a lot of useful examples for you.

      And if you’re really worried about accommodating him in your choices, you might at least look at the overall employment prospects in the areas you’re looking at for school. My sister wound up near Detroit in the dead middle of the recession, and it was ROUGH for my brother-in-law to find work, although eventually he did find something that was pretty much a dream job- so things can work out, no matter what.

    • It seems to me you ARE taking him into the equation- you’re discussing your options with him and valuing his opinion in the matter. To me, that’s what “taking him into account” is all about. 20 hours apart is no joke, but a year will go by so fast and so slow at the same time. It will be difficult, certainly, but with grad school, the good news is that you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

      You are doing it right! It’s gonna suck, but that’s okay!

      • Miriam

        Thank you so much for your reply and encouragement, Rebecca as well. He is already planning on talking to possible future employers, but there is only so much you can do 1 year in advance. So we just have to see what he’s gonna be looking for anyway. I really just hope that we are gonna end up close to each other.

    • My husband and I beta tested living apart for a few months while he started grad school in the relative middle of nowhere (we lived in DC, he went to school in St. Louis). The school he got in to was absolutely the best for his career, and with the scholarship, we couldn’t say no. I was in a truly great place in my life in DC – really loving the city, work was going great, it was close to family and we had a tight network of friends. Neither of us really wanted to end up in St. Louis full time, so we thought (very practically, imo) that it might work to live apart while he wrapped up his degree program and then moved back.
      That plan, while good in theory, did not work at all for us. I picked up and moved to St. Louis in less than two months and eventually found a great job here. There are still lots of challenges, but it’s far better than the mess of living apart.
      I’m not sharing this to be prescriptive and imply that living apart doesn’t work for anyone, it does work for lots of people. My point is that you have to find what works for you, and that isn’t always the first thing you try. So follow your best instincts and don’t be afraid to change your mind. No decision has to be permanent, and being flexible with each other can do wonders for your happiness.

  • Magdalena

    Dear Anonymous, I have a friend that went through something very similar to what you are experiencing. She was born and raised on a city she loved, had a career there on something she loves and was very happy. Then she met her current husband and he was from a different city. So she decided to move there to be with him and she HATED it. As it was a big city it was too hard to make new friends, she could not find a job, she was miserable always wanting to go back to her city. And then an opportunity came for her husband to move to New York and she was extremely scared that she would have to go through this hole experience all over again and on even bigger city in the other corner of the world. She was very supportive and decided that the opportunity was worth it so they moved. Fast forward two years from that and she is super super happy with the choice they made. New York was great for her, it had nothing to do with her previous experience and she does not regret it a bit.
    I wanted to tell you this to consider that not all experiences are necessarily going to repeat over and over. Maybe you are on a different time in your life now and this new city will be a new opportunity. Take it as a new chance.

  • Alison

    I have two sort of conflicting reactions.

    The first is a little self-centered and a little not in that my own experience might serve as a “bright side” reminder to some of those on this thread navigating this difficult terrain. Here it is: ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, at least you are not dealing with a medical residency!

    If you are, you know how it’s a big demonic curveball-ish wrench in these kinds of conversations, planning sessions, and the like. Your partner gets “matched” somewhere by a computer based on preferences submitted. There aren’t really any do-overs or alternatives, and transfers during residency are very rare. And, it’s long. 3 years minimum, potentially up to 7 or so. In my (partner’s) case, 5 years. That’s a long time for me to commit to being somewhere while I’m still figuring out my own career and likely wanting to start a family in that time frame. A long distance relationship is one thing. A LONG long distance relationship is another, and long distance solo parenting is out of the question.

    Complaining aside, my other reaction is that I’m so thankful I am able to have any options at all. There are a lot of people who for various reasons, including systematic oppression in our society, will never have real choices about how to pursue their full potential and find their niche.

  • mimB

    Everyone has been great and offered their situations and sympathy and practical advice, so I’m fearful that my comment will get me rotten eggs and tomatoes, but here goes:
    I think the bigger issue between Anonymous and her husband is not where to live vs where to work, but insufficient empathy.

    Based on Anonymous’ letter, her husband isn’t placing enough significance on what she feels is important for her to be happy, refuses to try and grasp her concerns, and acts as if she’s putting sticks in the wheels of his career pursuit.
    In turn, Anonymous feels unheard and trapped (and potentially disrespected and unloved), and thus is having trouble keeping a positive outlook and brainstorming for solutions. Potentially, she feels that her opinion was dismissed in the disagreement – this could undermine trust and make her feel lonely. (I may be projecting, but something similar to the following negative inner monologue may be creeping in: “If my closest person, who is supposed to love and accept all bits of me, does not care enough for my happiness to pay attention to my worries, then what kind of emotional support can I count on from this person in other future aspects of life?”)
    (Perhaps he feels this way too, but I’m biased and mostly feel mad at him on behalf of Anonymous).

    So, in addition to the practical suggestions given in other comments… paying attention to the quality of communication in the partnership could help – specifically, how each of the partners feel after conflict resolution. I think it is very important to dissolve arguments to the point where each partner feels heard and understood, cared for, and optimistic about the outlook of any similar situations that could arise in the future.
    Thankfully, communication in a partnership is a learned skill; I’m very certain that it depends less on any particular person’s skill at communication, but on the willingness of both sides to improve.

    There’s a book I recommend to everyone (except couples who I’m afraid would take great offense): “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” by John Gottman.
    For anyone who’s witnessed unstable relationships or has gone through them, it has these dreadfully depressing moments (for me, it was reading about behavioral patterns in unstable relationships, and immediately connecting them to my parents’s interaction, as well as the pain from my first marriage). However, I found it incredibly helpful and, in a couple of places, eye-opening – it has made my fighting style less hurtful and more productive.

    Ultimately, I think any conflict resolution is about empathy, and empathy is about remembering that your partner experiences life differently from you. And trusting that your partner will accept and respect these differences.

    (If anyone is interested, I could write out a specific example – but I’m excluding it from here, in case extra wordiness is unwelcome or not pertinent).

  • K.A.

    The thing that bothers me about Anonymous’s letter is the part where she says her husband downplayed his desire to move anywhere and everywhere for career opportunities. Now, it is possible that this desire increased over time and he wasn’t actively downplaying it because he just didn’t realize it. However, as a “career first” person, I have definitely always held that view and am skeptical it developed in Anonymous’s husband after a few months of a less-than-ideal job situation.

    When I met my partner, I was nearing the end of my PhD in a field where it is extremely difficult to get a job. I attended grad school in my favorite part of the country, knowing I might have to live in an awful place forever to have an excellent job. I was extremely honest with my partner when we were dating that I had put 8 years into my graduate degree and I would take any job within reason. He agreed. Then when it came time to actually move, he hemmed and hawed about it, and I pointed out that he had always known this could happen.

    The key was that I had to be MORE flexible on OTHER things that were important to him in order for him to accommodate my top need of moving for work. It means that he is planning on being a stay-at-home father when children arrive, and I will need to financially support the family because he can’t find work here. It means that nearly all of our vacation time and money is devoted to traveling to his family’s reunion events across the country. It means that his friends from our old city are welcome to visit and stay in our home any time. I’m fine with these things because I want him to be happy. Something that at first looked like an impasse, turned out to be an exercise in compromise in all aspects of our lives.

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