Rocking The Ego Boat

I am often fascinated by the things we confuse for feminism. Caitlin Moran sums up our wider cultural misuse of the term in How To Be A Woman thusly, “I do understand why women started to reject the word ‘feminism.’ It ended up being invoked in so many bafflingly inappropriate contexts that—if you weren’t actually aware of the core aims of feminism, and were trying to work it out simply from the surrounding conversation—you’d presume it was some spectacularly unappealing combination of misandry, misery and hypocrisy, which stood for ugly clothes, constant anger and, let’s face it, no f*cking.” But it’s not just that feminism gets misused in the wider cultural conversation (and boy does it), it’s that we misuse it in our heads. We use feminism to excuse our own shit sometimes. To not do the hard work of sharing with others and not always putting our ego first. We can’t! Obviously! Because of feminism! So I love this post from Carolyn, about how she personally found the line of separating ego from feminism, and how she and her partner worked to build a life together.

Deflation. Let me set the scene: my PhD thesis was due in less than twenty-four hours, I was surprisingly calm and feeling generally prepared. I stopped home to get dinner before returning to work to make final edits and print over one thousand sheets of my heart and soul and brain. I stepped into the kitchen and was abruptly told by my husband that he has been offered a lucrative post-doctoral position in another country (which might as well have been Timbuktu or the moon). I stopped dead in my tracks and immediately sobbed. Note: this is not the reaction a spouse is looking for when they get an amazing impromptu job offer. I cringe to write this but my first thought was actually, “How could you do this to me? Today?” I was devastated.

The Ego Boat. I know, I’m terrible. But the thought of changing my plans, our plans, was emotionally unbearable. I like to think that I’m a supportive, forward-thinking, family-first kind of girl, but in the days that followed I was completely swallowed by self-pity and selfishness. The worst part in my mind was that I’d spent the previous five months searching for justtheright job in New York City (where he was currently a student, but had worked out a deal to live with me and work remotely for a year from Ohio while I finished school. Oh, did I leave out the part where he’d already made a selfless decision for me and our baby family? Of course I did. I am a monster.) I had secured two great interviews and it was a literal impossibility to change the course of my giant ego boat. There just wasn’t time to start looking again for jobs on the moon. I didn’t know anyone working in my field on the moon. How was I going to explain to my advisor that maybe all the hard work we’d put into researching jobs and milking connections in New York was for naught, because I was a wimpy woman who wanted to follow her husband to the moon?

Dear God, The Ego Boat. My fear that the clock was working against me was well founded—the job hunt typically takes six months to a year in my field right now. It’s not terrible. It just is. In the meantime while I was hating the moon and my husband’s good fortune, I went on two interviews in New York and frankly, I kind of rocked. Now I was starting to resent my husband and that isn’t a good look for anyone. I’m not proud of those feelings, and I tried not to let them slip out, but they were there. I felt like I’d worked hard to get these great interviews that were near his school and going to make our lives awesome! And fulfilling! (And smug?!) And now through him being smart and accomplished and successful he was trumping my hard work. I was mentally competing against my teammate and losing. Maybe I was jealous that his offer was good enough that I had to consider giving up my good offers. But why should I? I am smart and accomplished and successful too damn it. Oh my stubborn self! Could I give up New York for the moon? Was that even a choice?

Plan B. We stared long and hard down the barrel of the long-distance relationship gun. Again. We’d been there for three years and while we did okay, and even got engaged during this time (so you might say we even thrived) I just generally did not like being apart. I was lonely and I ate a lot of cereal. Knowing that my dream job (yes, one of the New York offers had suddenly morphed into my dream job) might come with a lot of cereal made me resent him for leaving me. Naturally and logically, he would point out that neither of us lived there, so really no one was leaving anyone, but whatever, I was mad and sad anyway. I didn’t want to live apart again, but not going to my dream job in New York seemed like an impossibility. But again, stubborn self.

Truth Time. Of course what I was really afraid of was that I would be seen as weak for not pursuing the best job opportunities possible, and like a fool for having already invested my job-hunting efforts on a city for a man, and well just look how well that worked out?! I had a very real fear that I would be judged for wanting to live and work in the same city (hell, country!) as my partner and that not going to New York was somehow conceding or taking second place in the dual-career-family olympics.

Plan C? I confided in my advisor, a mere two weeks before defending my dissertation. This woman is a hardass (in the best way), she’s powerful, I look up to her, her husband followed her for a career! I didn’t think she would understand, and if she did, I knew she would judge me for it. But I should learn to trust in others. She was surprisingly nonplussed by the whole thing and was excited to encourage me to pursue opportunities on the moon. As what everyone seemed to understand except me was that the truly foolish move would be not to, at the very least, try. Through the grace of God, and the schmoozing of her superior (and hopefully a good resume from me?) I found myself with two interviews, and eventually one great job offer, on the moon.

The Moon is Actually Just Canada. The big lesson here for me, I suppose, was that by letting my ego and pride masquerade as feminism and independence I only caused myself heartache. I was too proud to make room for my husband’s opportunity and could only see it as destroying mine. I was too proud to be happy for him, too proud to realize it could be good for me too. I was way too proud to think others would understand that life is full of Plan Bs and Cs. I was too f*cking proud to be a good teammate and a good partner. Recognizing this was important, but it hasn’t changed me. I am a natural leader, and this newfound role of follower has required much time to take root. I am still very mindful of my perception by others and stubbornly refuse to enter on a spousal work permit, instead opting for my own employer-sponsored work permit. The distinction that although his opportunity prompted this move, I am building my career too, is an important one to me. I can finally say, with no snark or resentment, that I am proud of my husband excelling in a very difficult and competitive field, and I am excited for both of us to be making this move, together.

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Amy March

    I’m not sure why the cringing at the first reaction- it’d be mine too! 24 hours before your thesis seems like a reasonable period to maintain a cone of silence over potentially upsetting news. And I think it’s fair enough that his job offer rocked your world. I think too often we pressure ourselves to have the perfect reaction to life and to have it right away. But I think a big part of feeling secure in my relationships is being able to go to the omg-how-could-you-do-this-to-me place out loud, and have my partner be confident enough in me that he knows I’ll work through it to more of a we-are-doing-something-different-and-exciting place.

    • The timing of the news seems a little jarring, but reading this it doesn’t seem like the author’s reaction was all about the timing. And given that the job offer was impromptu and didn’t fit in with the plans that had been made to support both parties in the future I get why it rocked the boat. Coming to a place of being ok with a sudden, unexpected and life altering change of plans can be hard. Really hard.

      • KB

        I would (metaphorically) end my fiance if he chose to tell me something that life changing before my thesis was due. That said, I could TOTALLY see him doing this and being like “Oh, crap, probably shouldn’t have told you at this very moment…”

        • Tess

          My fiance PROPOSED 3 days before my thesis was due. Seriously. WHILE I was proof-reading a draft of the thesis.

          In fact, the proposal is written on the back of the draft. So now not only did I have to go back to concentrating on work, I also have a red pen covered piece of paper which I can never throw out!

    • meg

      Oh, totally. That said, I do get looking back on your reaction to a poorly timed but very important announcement from your partner and thinking both, “I am a jackass,” and “Never time an announcement that way again if you value your life.”

      • Like the, “hey guess what just got fired,” call that I got less than 48 hours before the wedding. That was a fun time. (NOT.)

        I like to reference that moment as, “remember that time you called me with terrible news and I didn’t try to murder you? That was good of me, wasn’t it?”

        I am a jackass.

        • meg

          No. You’re hilarious.

  • Anne

    I’ve just read yesterday’s and today’s posts back-to-back and both are quite thought-provoking. Over the past 5 years, I’ve juggled all of the options above, navigating Plan C, attempting Plan A, currently living Plan B. Yes, there are ways that my marriage has made exciting career options possible for both of us. We push each other to follow through on dreams and support each other through challenges. We both would say that we have gotten further together than we ever would have apart. But balancing who is working on what dream at any given time, thinking through temporary options versus permanent ones, and creating structures to nurture our relationship throughout….it is a very difficult dance.

    I’m struggling a bit with the concept of the Ego Boat. I’m thinking I have mine, and my partner has his. It’s hard to avoid when you work really hard for career/work/life goals. I’m just glad there’s a strong rope to tie them together.

  • This is a really well-articulated concept. I think the issue is so universal and can be applied to many things. Well written!

    Also I giggled every single time you said “moon” and came up with a lot of good images in my head.

  • Emily

    “…her husband followed her for a career!”

    Yet this isn’t the norm, is it?

    When I moved across the country by myself for a job, the first thing many people asked me was if my husband was military. When my then boyfriend, now husband, moved there to be with me, many were surprised – mouth dropping open surprised.

    Fast forward a few years, and we’ve just gotten married and moved to his hometown for his job. It’s more than acceptable for me to a) give up my wonderful full-time job to come here b) work part-time despite the fact that I want to work full-time c) run (drive) all over the region piecing together my employment

    Part of this is probably because we’re in what I’d call the north of the south and traditional gender roles don’t seem to be challenged here, but seriously, can’t we get to a place where we don’t need an exclamation point after the end of that sentence – her husband followed her for a career?

    • meg

      You should write this as a post. Yes. Yes you should.

    • elorrie

      Yes, its amazing how ingrained this is. My fiance and I were long distance for a little over 2 years. Everyone was always amazed to find out that actually he was looking to move to where I lived. Even after explaining that he didn’t really care for his job or the area he lived in and I liked mine, and the fact that there’s a lot more opportunity for both of us in the Boston area than middle-of-nowhere Connecticut people still seemed slightly confused. Even my boss later told me he was always afraid I’d get married and move away…really?

      • dysgrace

        This is interesting. I’m in Singapore, which is increasingly (a very tiny fraction of us, but increasingly) littered with the non-Singaporean male spouses and partners of my high-achieving Singaporean female peers.

        • dysgrace

          PS – Husband is in year 2 of having followed me across the world for my work; when he goes off to do his PhD it will be my turn – fortunately we both like adventures, and we learnt in kindergarten to take turns…

    • k

      When he was still living, Martin Ginsburg’s high powered tax attorney resume on his law firm’s website stated that he moved to Washington in 1980 and joined the Georgetown faculty when his “wife obtained a good job in Washington.” That wife would be Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Nearly every line of that cv was hilarious.

      He was quoted in the NYT thus: “I have been supportive of my wife since the beginning of time, and she has been supportive of me. It’s not sacrifice; it’s family.”

      • meg

        I love this. It might have almost made me tear up.

        THIS, my friends, is the kind of man (well, person, but it’s rarer with men, perhaps) we should be telling our daughters to marry.

        • k

          Yes. And one of the things I love most about it is the reminder that men like that have actually always been around (ok, since at least 1932, when Ginsburg was born), though we tend to think of them as being a Uniquely Modern Phenomenon.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        You got me reading up about him. Love the NPR obit. Turning introspective about his own life, he told a friend, “I think that the most important thing I have done is to enable Ruth to do what she has done.”

        This is what I want normal to be. For people to be respected for supporting their spouse. And for there to NOT be gendered expectations about who is supporting and who is doing.

      • Moz


    • Audrey

      Not sure how much this helps, but actually my boss recently moved because his girlfriend got a tenure-track job somewhere, and no one at my office batted an eye. To be fair: 1) most people here know academia well enough to understand that sort of opportunity and 2) the company is being awesome enough to let him telecommute — but it’s interesting that I was reading the comments before I realized I *did* know a man who moved for a woman, because I really hadn’t thought twice about it.

      • I think it does help and I have two examples of my own! There is not one, but there are two men in my office who moved here to SF for their partner to go to Med School. They work here and commute back to our office out east when necessary.

    • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

      Exactly! This was a big thing I struggled with in coming to terms with the decision. Why is it that I admire my former mentor for making one decision and yet I felt ashamed to make the other. Without the gender context, we both did the same thing- moved shop when one of the partners had a good offer for a good position. That issue is about feminism through and through. Me being afraid and whiny to move was on me instead.

  • As a Canadian, I am deeply offended by the portrayal of our country as “the moon.” Any Canadian will tell you that, due to the extreme cold, we are much more similar to Pluto.

    I keed, I keed. Welcome! Have a nanaimo bar.

    And from the other side, as someone whose partner will spend the rest of our lives following my career around the world every few years, it sucks to be the one making the request, too. He’s completely redesigned his career to (hopefully) be able to make it mobile, and in a lot of ways I think that it’s better for him than his previous trajectory, but OH THE GUILT.

    • Kat

      And as another Canadian, welcome! Here is your ceremonial toque, mukluks, and bunny hug (hoodie, if you’re living outside Saskatchewan). Please try some of our poutine, would you like maple syrup in your coffee?

      • Bunny hug? Seriously? That’s why we Albertans are always making fun of you, you know. (That, and that 13th man thing is still good for a laugh… :) )

        • AMS

          Oooh, low blow bringing up the 13th man… :)

          • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

            Thanks for the warm welcome! We love it here so far (blessing in disguise anyone?) But your money is still strange. Ahem, hockey players on the $5…

          • But the money is colour codes so you can tell at a glance what bill you’re holding! It’s genius!

            Every time I’m in the States it takes me ages to pay cash, because I have to inspect every bill to see what denomination it is.

            (Okay, fine, you have a point about the hockey players. The older version was slightly less hokey.)

          • Not Sarah

            @Morgan I moved to the States a few years ago from Canada and my solution is to just pretty much never pay cash. Works great!

      • Sarah

        Don’t forget the butter tarts! Also Canadian.

    • I’d like to echo the welcome! I’m another wife who moved from the US to Canada (Quebec) for her husband’s career. And yes, do try the poutines. :) And make sure you have some good snow boots….weather on the moon/Pluto can be intense.

      • Ros

        Welcome to Quebec! Between the sweltering heat and freezing cold, there are about 3 weeks of good weather every fall here in Montreal – be sure to enjoy them! :)

      • Emily Rae

        We should have a club! Wives who go north. Anyone read Mrs. Mike? Sometimes I feel like the books I really loved as a child/young woman were setting my path — Little House on the Prairie, anyone?

    • Mmmmmm, nanaimo bars.

  • Lori

    Ok, I think you should cut yourself some slack. The academic job market is really different from the normal job market, and creating plans in order for dual career couples to be able to live in the same city is really complicated (speaking as a dual career couple who did live apart for 3 years and at this point only 1 of us has a tenure-track job so we can finally live together). So it’s not weird at all that you would have an adverse reaction to your partner’s sudden news that he’s definitely moving to Canada while you’ve been cultivating connections in NY, and are now forced to redo your search all over again. Sounds quite upsetting to me!! In truth, your husband’s opportunity DID destroy yours in NY, if you have to be together. That’s just how it goes sometimes, and it’s hard to recover emotionally. I’m happy (and inspired!) that you both ended up in the same place, but there’s a reason a lot of dual career couples split up or live in separate cities miserably.

    • rys

      This. The academic job market is very very different than other job markets, and even the most senior people often have very little control over the location of their jobs. This reality + the timing of the postdoc offer seems like perfectly reasonable grounds for being upset, a little crazed, even angry. That the possibility for cultivating new postdoc or job opportunities late in the job year exists in the sciences is fantastic — someone in the humanities would so SOL.

      I too have an extraordinarily accomplished female advisor whose husband has followed her; she’s senior enough that no one reacts now, but I can only imagine the response earlier in her career. There’s a reason she devotes a lot of time to supporting female grad students and junior faculty, across universities, and it’s not just because she’s a wonderful person (which she is).

  • Kashia

    Oh this, this! I had all sorts of plans to move away from the city I am currently in. But…

    But my husband has a really good job here, better than he could get almost anywhere else. So I’ve stayed here, in a place I never really wanted to be, don’t particularly like and don’t have very many friends. And while I am finally starting to make my way, I feel like I’ve let down my feminist self. Perhaps as you say it is just my ego.

    There are plenty of good opportunities for me here if I would just stop resenting it so d*amn much. However, it’s like you say, I feel like this is the moon. And quite frankly I have not yet come to terms with spending the rest of my life on the moon. So I keep holding off on really putting down roots, just in case…

    The result of course is that I am prolonging my own unhappiness rather than letting myself adapt and grown and find joy and purpose here.

    • I am in a similar situation, and it’s really hard. The only difference is that I’m back where I grew up, and living close to my family. But I had been back here for a couple of years before meeting my fiance, and had basically given myself one more school year (I’m a school social worker) to learn to like it or I was moving somewhere else.
      Then, I met my fiance. And he has a tenure track faculty position here. And he bought a house for us to live in.
      So, I’m here. In a place a I don’t particularly like, that’s not great for my career, and where I have hardly any friends (you’re not in Orlando, are you?). And sometimes, it is hard to let go of that resentment. If you figure out how to do it, let me know!

  • Mallory

    What a wonderful (and funny) post. My partner and I are currently 1-1 for moving to a different state for each other’s careers and while we’ve both ended up with great opportunities when we have moved for each other, the transition is always difficult and unintentionally laced with guilt or resentment. We just moved for me to attend grad school and I find that anytime he mentions anything he misses about our former home, I feel like he’s blaming me. Which is RIDICULOUS because I miss things from there too, but it doesn’t mean I’m not happy to be here.
    We are both very career oriented so I know this will not be the last time we have to make geographic sacrifices for each other but this post has so many great thoughts on the trickiness of those situations. Thanks so much!

  • Laura

    I can relate a lot to this post! I met my fiancé and we got engaged very suddenly, and even though I am really happy to be in this relationship it has entailed a complete derailing of the plans I had when I was single. I’m not giving up my career, but it has definitely changed trajectory, and along with all of the other changes that come with marriage I’ve been feeling a bit unsteady on my feet, trying to get my footing on new ground.

    It’s so fantastic that you were able to find a nice job in Canada. Welcome! Be sure to stop at Tim Hortons on the way up, and enjoy your time here. It rocks.

  • Granola

    Oh man, the ego blinding you to what is actually a really cool and good thing! I haven’t completely been in your shoes, but reading this post, they seem like they’d fit really well.

    We did the long distance thing for 2 years while we tried to get jobs in the same city and oh how I fought against what I perceived to be riding on his coattails. But when he came to live with me when his job went south, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. I was just glad to have him around (and he found an even better job not long after).

    Perhaps one of the damaging unintentional legacies of feminism raging against the patriarchy (a rage I fully support) is this very lack of nuance. Any compromise is seen instead as capitulation and the mere perception that you might make a decision based on your husband’s opportunity becomes yet another link in the chain of oppression. Doesn’t leave a lot of space for rational team bonding. Now we have the hard work of making nuanced, thoughtful choices as opposed to reactionary measures against “what this has always represented” instead of “what actually is.” The macro/micro dichotomy gets me every time.

    Best of luck in Canada! Congratulations!

    • meg

      “Perhaps one of the damaging unintentional legacies of feminism raging against the patriarchy (a rage I fully support) is this very lack of nuance. Any compromise is seen instead as capitulation and the mere perception that you might make a decision based on your husband’s opportunity becomes yet another link in the chain of oppression. Doesn’t leave a lot of space for rational team bonding. Now we have the hard work of making nuanced, thoughtful choices as opposed to reactionary measures against “what this has always represented” instead of “what actually is.” The macro/micro dichotomy gets me every time.”

      So. Well. Put. I also fully support the rage, but fighting for the nuance is perhaps our generations very important fight.

      • Granola

        Agreed. Viva la nuance!

    • Shiri

      Wow, Granola. Brilliant, insightful, and so validating to hear put into words.

    • Taylor B

      Thank you for articulating that point so well! You’ve captured it so eloquently.

    • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

      Yes Granola, a million yes.

  • Lisa

    Oh, this post hits home! This is exactly my situation right now, so the author’s feelings are VERY familiar to me. It’s hard to compromise something, like a career trajectory, that you’ve worked towards for so long. And, yes, as intelligent, career-driven women, aren’t we used to putting our needs first? So, it’s OK to feel sad when you feel derailed (That’s literally how I feel, too — like a train pushed off the track).

    I wonder, though, how would the author be feeling right now if she wasn’t able to find a relevant/appealing job for herself in Canada? Would she have “followed” her husband even if that meant jumping into the scary world of potential unemployment and/or re-tooling her career? I know that “successful” careers look different to different people, and that every marriage is different. What I’m asking is, how do we know how much of ourselves and our ambitions should be on the table for marital compromise? (This goes for men, too!)

    • rys

      How do we know how much of ourselves and our ambitions should be on the table for marital compromise? (This goes for men, too!)

      Yes. So critical and so hard to answer (or even know how to approach answering).

      • Cleo

        Agreed. I don’t even know how to answer that question in general, but I do have experience finding my own boundaries.

        I completely changed my career trajectory (i.e. went to school in a field far outside what had been my dream job since I was a kid) to see if I could make a theretofore long distance relationship work.

        The tipping point for me was realizing that while I was happy to be in the same city with my then-beau, the field I was training in was making me miserable. All I wanted to do was get back to the industry I had dreamed of working in all those years. That industry is geographically specific, so I had to move to one particular city to really make a go at it (and really have a job in it. I looked). I told my then-beau how I was feeling and he said, “I can’t move there. I don’t like that place.”

        After a couple weeks of back and forth on this (he’d never been in that city for more than 3 days at a time and there were PLENTY of job opportunities for him in his chosen field in and around that city), I realized that he wasn’t willing to even try to sacrifice for me in a manner that I had for him, and the change I was asking him to make was more one of climate than anything else.

        His unwillingness to compromise was the straw that broke the camel’s back of our relationship (granted, there were other issues already pulling us apart, but that was the catalyst. I broke up with him 1 week later).

        • Copper

          That’s so awesome of you Cleo, to both give the relationship and the live/work situation that came with it a solid try, and to know and admit when it wasn’t working for you. That’s the most honest thing a person can do in those circumstances.

        • I find that the idea of equal compromise to be very important to me. I will compromise on a LOT for my husband, but I also need to know that he would be willing to make similar compromises if the situation was reversed. For example, when he quit a lucrative job to go back to school and the pressure was financially on me, we discussed how this worked into our future, and one of the reciprocities we agreed on is support if I want to be a stay at home mom when our future imaginary babies are small.

          Knowing that the compromise is not all one sided, even if it feels that way at the time, is so key.

    • meg

      Posts exploring this question very much encouraged!

      I actually moved across the country for my then boyfriend’s (grumble about him not being ready to be engaged but I DIGRESS) law school, totally without a job. Obviously, that turned out pretty ok in the end ;) However, that was at the (last tail end) peak of the market, and I have a very non-specific uber-employable skill set, AKA, I may not always land the fanciest job, but I do tend to always land one. So, it felt right, and I was ready for a change and I did it. Gut instinct was that I knew the person was more important than the job at that point, and I’d had a lot of influence on the choice to go back to school and the location. And then I also kept a job I hated to support my then husband when he wasn’t employed after law school (bottom of the market), and put off things like writing a bok. So, yes, compromise sucks and can happen, but that’s just my limited experience.

      • BSW

        My GOD, life is serendipitous. Not an hour ago, my boyfriend told me he was offered a position in an 18 month long program with 3 different location rotations. I have a little of the freaking out bug, as this is a solid deviation from our (read: my made-up) plans.

        Meg, I can’t recall, did you put any stipulations on your moving with regards to an engagement? Has anyone else done this?? HELP.

        • Granola

          My best friend got accepted to a great graduate program in Seattle. Fortunately, she is a teacher, which is also a fairly transferrable skill set (though not always the greatest prospects). His then-girlfriend was uncomfortable moving across the country not engaged. They got engaged before moving, with a planned engagement period of two years I think. He told me it was important to her to have that signifier before they took such a big leap. And I think it’s easier to justify to other people, moving for a fiance or a spouse than a significant other. But speaking of the best laid plans – their wedding was supposed to be in between his masters and PhD programs, but then he accelerated it and now it’s in the middle of everything again. So there are always hiccups….

        • meg

          Well, I tried to get us engaged first, but he wasn’t ready. I tried stipulations, but he clarified that he WASN’T READY. He said he hoped he’d be ready soon. I said we should get different apartments in the new city. He said that was the least logical thing I’d ever said. I cried. Then I decided it was the right thing to do, so I moved.

          Poor thing, he said he thought I’d get over being pissed after we, you know, got married. But he may hear about it till he goes to his grave.

          But it all worked out. Sometimes stipulations just don’t work, is the truth.

        • I had moved once to be near my then boyfriend. Then he wanted to go to grad school. I loved where I was living then though. I didn’t want to move again. I needed commitment at that point to entice me away from a stable living situation. It was a very difficult autumn with him applying to schools and me proof reading his application essays without knowing if I was going on to that part of the journey with him. It was the thing I brought up in fights for several months even after getting married. I’ve had to work very hard at forgiving him for not being ready prior to that decision.

    • HK

      I had been searching for a new job, when my boyfriend received a post-doc opportunity. So I gave up my search, kept the job that I had big issues with (and then had to take a pay cut to telecommute), and moved from NYC to Nashville. Our mutual lack of ability to talk about what that did for both of us ended up in a six month separation, during which I ended up quitting my job. We worked on some stuff, and are back together, now in LA, due to a job he got. I’m still searching for a new job, and this ultimately isn’t the best city to find what I’m looking for. As the person who was the main breadwinner, and had a lot of my identity tied into my job (and working), it’s been really tough.

    • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

      Lisa, I can tell you EXACTLY what our contingency plan was… We would have moved apart again. Me to NYC and him to Canada (I love how I use “Canada” like it’s a city). The reasons we were willing to do this was that 1) we had lived apart before and it worked ok, though not ideal 2) the two cities are close enough for somewhat frequent visits and 3) most importantly to us, this would have an expiration date. That is, post-doc fellowships are 2-5 years which is unpleasant but tolerable, while if we were taking assistant professorships this would have been a deal-breaker.

      • I love how Americans use “Canada” like it’s a city, too. Considering Canada’s a bigger country, and has infinitely fewer cities…

    • Hmm, I sorta did this. When I first moved (to a town near my husband) 6 weeks before our marriage, I had a short-term career related project in that town, but that was only for 10 months. After that, I knew I would move to another new city (his hometown) where I wouldn’t have a job. Now I have been in the new city for over 2 years, and I am still working to re-start my career. I’m still in the middle of it all. I have a day job, but am working on developing my actual career in a new place, in a different language, where none of my previous experience in the field means anything. It’s harder than I expected, to be honest.

  • PA

    This is a lot to think over–I think it will be percolating in my head for the rest of the day!

    So, I have to say that oh, MAN, am I bad at dealing with changing plans. I’m getting better at it, mainly because life always seems to provide ample experience to run me headfirst into all of my hangups, but it’s still not in my comfort zone. I can only imagine that I would have freaked out, too, in your shoes.

    Regarding the part about being ashamed to admit that you were in any way structuring your job/career plans around your husband, I certainly empathize. I feel like as a single woman, I didn’t have the sort of scrutiny about my career. I could move or not, job search or not–but now that there’s a fiance involved, not only are there two people’s jobs involved, my job decisions are carefully scrutinized by my female family and friends. “Oh, no!” I imagine them shrieking, “She’s getting sucked into the web of an anti-feminist marriage! Run! Save yourselves!” (…this probably does not, actually, happen.)

    I guess my over-arching point is that there are so many intersecting emotional patterns (changing plans, moving, finishing PhDs, job searches, personal accomplishment and pride, feminism) that I’d be deeply surprised if we WEREN’T all having occasional emotional freakouts and trying to figure out which desires go with which social and emotional drivers. I’m glad you’ve reached a less stressed point, Carolyn, and I’m also thankful that I’ll have this article rattling around in my head if I ever start to freak out about my own career things–it will remind me to slow down and try to be very honest about what’s going on in my head!

    • KC

      Re: People going “an anti-feminist marriage! oh no!”, I was totally floored when someone I barely know (but who knew my husband in undergrad) expressed concern and pity and maybe-he’s-being-oppressive and how-will-you-be-fulfilled and “how do you *feel* about that?” regarding us moving for my husband’s grad school. So it can happen, at least in some environments. But in my experience, it’s been pretty rare, and has never actually mattered. :-)

  • I can totally top your ‘job bomb the day before the PhD thesis is due.’ At about 11 o’clock the night before my mother was set to defend her Master’s thesis in Brazil in the 70’s, my dad (then a Catholic Jesuit priest) came to tell her that a) he had feelings for her, but b) was set to move back to America shortly (this was not a surprise) and c) had had an affair with a Sacred Heart nun prior to meeting my mother and had feelings for her as well. This, of course, led to a discussion that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. My mom’s thesis defense was at 8am the next day.

    They’ve been married over 35 years and I think my mom is still mad about his timing.

    • meg


      I love your mom, because I, also, would still be pissed.

    • marbella

      We need a vintage weddings grad post from your parents!

    • Sian

      Oh my god Christina’s dad, YOU DID NOT OH MY GOD.

  • It’s so hard to implement a dual life. So much uncertainty in just one person’s possible future, add another and the concept of planning takes second place to caring. Has to, really, for both.

  • KB

    This post made me wonder why it is that the feminist internal thought is also so different depending on who is moving for whom. Being a part of any partnership, you have to take the other person into consideration. Period. And this same problem has to occur in same-sex partnerships, but there’s no sexual-political tension there – how could there be?? I find it interesting that there’s this internalized guilt of “moving for a MAN” versus making sacrifices for your partner.

    I’m not saying that it’s invalid, either, because I think people who say that they’re not at least a little bit sad/mad/upset at giving something up or changing plans for their boyfriends/husbands are totally full of it. But I just think it’s interesting that there’s this layer on top of what is already a stressful decision.

    • meg

      Seriously! Who wants to write a post about the internal negotiation that goes on in these sorts of issues with same sex partnerships???

      • I don’t know if I have a whole post in me, but I think sometimes gender roles are assigned to same-sex partners by others (I’ve had older people ask which of us is the husband) to help them figure out the dynamics of a relationship. And sometimes we’re guilty of it, too. I currently have a full time, salary & benefits job, while my wife has (the also full time job) of launching her business. Our hope is that when kids enter the picture, she’ll be able to work from home, mitigating day care costs. I’ve been realizing that I might be the worker of the relationship, having a 9-5 day and then getting just nights and weekends with them. My job doesn’t do paid maternity leave (!!!!!!), so any I take will have to be brief.

        And I must admit, I’m struggling with it. I’ve never particularly had an idea of what my future self will be, but I had always assumed I’d get a lot of time with my children while my husband was at the office, because that’s the model I had growing up and because that’s what moms do. (Clearly, there are quite a few differences between that vision and reality)

        The idea of what a family is “supposed to be” has shifted significantly over the past 20 years and I think a lot of us in the Jordan Catalano generation (love that term!) are struggling to craft what our families are, not what they’re supposed to be.

        • meg

          Wait, are you SURE you don’t have a full post in you? Because I want to read that post right NOW.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            And I’m jealous that Meg will get to read that post before the rest of us. (Thank you for editing, Meg. I know it’s important. But Jealous.)

    • Alyssa

      I’d also definitely be interested in hearing from the non-hetero perspective. All I know is that the guilt of seemingly giving in to traditional non feminist values runs deep within women like myself, who hold equality dear and deeply appreciate the changes won by the feminist movement. Thank goodness for APW, because it allows us to take what would be an internal battle that quietly eats at us and turn it into a valuable discussion to learn from.

  • B

    There was a Penelope Trunk post a while ago which made the point that who you marry is the most important career choice you’ll make. My initial reaction was “uh, no,” but upon further thought, I think she’s right. What we’re able to do about our own dreams is shaped by the people in our lives who need us and what we want for them.

    I haven’t had to relocate for my husband’s work (although we’ve discussed the possibility and he knows I am not keen on the idea). I did move to a different part of our metro area for him, which has made my commute hellish to the point that I’ve thought about shifting my career track so I can work closer to home. Still sorting that one out.

    I do think if I suddenly got a fantastic job offer somewhere far away, he’d be willing to move. But I do wonder if, in smaller ways, he wouldn’t really support my career if it conflicted with his. Like if we had kids, would I always be the one to take off work if they’re sick or need something? (And that’s why we don’t have kids yet. Need to work that stuff out!)

    • meg

      Sheryl Sandberg makes the same point about choice of partner being the single most important career choice you’ll make, and interestingly, given yesterday’s discussion about if getting married holds back your career, I could not agree more strongly.

      And it’s not just the big things. As you point out, and as someone facing this down, knowing that my partner doesn’t expect kids to impact my career any more than they impact his, and is willing to totally split that load (even if it means fighting with an employer for the right to do it) is a HUGE DEAL. The small things also matter without kids, no question about it. Feminism only really fully comes into fruition in reality when the partners (and men) in your life are feminists too.

      • B

        I think Trunk quoted Sandberg, actually.

        It’s interesting to read what someone like Trunk or Sandberg has to say, and the whole recent kerfuffle (of many kerfuffles) starting with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about women having it all vis a vis balancing a job in a position of power with family life.

        But personally I’m not interested in power, or a “big” career. Yes, I want to make a difference in my field and all that jazz, but mostly I just want to be engaged and interested day to day. I don’t have a drive to be the best or most important the way that my husband does. I’m not going to claim this is a universal male/female divide (it’s obviously not!) but probably a common enough dynamic that influences our choices, perhaps overtly, perhaps subtly.

        • meg

          Ohhhhh Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article (which while agreeing with the rather obvious points on needed policy change, I roundly disliked, by the by).

          But I’d like to contest that it’s a “common enough” dynamic. I think sometimes it divides that way along male/ female lines, but I think we’re TAUGHT that it’s more common than not, I don’t think it’s actually true. In our partnership both of us really want to be successful, but the male half of the duo is the one who really wants to be engaged and interested in the day to day. The female half of the duo is the one who wants to run the world…

          …And always has, by the way. I used to announce in my very conservative elementary and middle schools things like, “I don’t have to worry about marrying a rich husband, since he’s more likely to marry a rich wife.” (Ha. I think that point was less about finances and more about success and influence). And “No need to marry someone who’s going to be the president if you’re going to be the president.” I bring up amusing tiny Meg only to prove that this sort of personality is inborn, and I think it has f*ck all do to with our gender.

          • B

            Oh, I totally agree. By “common enough,” I just mean I have seen the dynamic quite a bit amongst people I know. And I say this as someone who grew up with a total kick-ass bread-winning mom in a very feminist area where I always was told girls could do anything they wanted. It never occurred to me as a child that I would ever temper what I wanted to do because of someone else. If anything, I’ve dealt with some guilt for not wanting to be big and important. So I do think it’s just my personality in my case, not some gender politics BS. I would hazard to guess that more women feel like I do than men, but I’m not claiming any kind of universality. Obviously, a lot of women are still taught that this is how they should feel.

            I’m sure Tiny B would be *shocked* that her older self doesn’t want to run the world, and will shape her career in part because of her husband. But Older B assures her that the husband knows damn well it is 50% his job to make their life together work.

          • Granola

            Two things: 1. It just hit me that “Oh, maybe I can relax about marrying someone ‘really successful’ — whatever that means — because *I* will be really successful, and then he can do other stuff that will be good for our family.”

            2. The data about single women doing better than men at the same age really hit home. My partner and I make a similar salary, but he’s got 5 more years of experience than me. There’s a really unfortunate double standard where women are encouraged to be really successful, but still marry a more successful partner who can take care of them. So either they may “dumb down” their success, or look down on a partner because that is less successful than the awesome standards they hold themselves to. Can we talk about how trying to break traditional stereotypes on one hand and reaffirming them on the other never really works?

      • David’s (Australian owned) giant engineering company is, in fact, even more family friendly that my (Canadian owned) large oil and gas company. Employers CAN run huge corporation in a family friendly way and still make profits. In fact, they probably run better, when ALL their employees can achieve some form of work/life balance.

        It is absolutely a change worth fighting for.

    • Audrey

      This is really interesting to me. While it was partially happenstance (although it probably affected our relationship positively) — the fact that my husband is very firmly rooted in a part of the country that has plenty of jobs in both the career he has had for a decade and my relatively newfound career has been really useful (I’ve only been in the field for a year but it draws on a lot of my past experiences and I’ve been thinking about the field for ages). It’s also a place that I like a lot (totally fell in love with the area when I first moved out for a job), so when I did end up moving in with him without a job in sight it didn’t feel like a terrible compromise because I knew it was where I wanted to be.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      The right (or wrong) partner at home can influence work in so many ways. I dated an emotionally unstable man who would have held me back in subtle ways (many calls per day interrupting work) and not-subtle ways (fear he wouldn’t be able to cope if left alone while I went away on business).

      The professions have mores, and partners need to understand that. For example, my future husband understands that too many slow days at the office mean reduced billed hours, mean decreased job security, and can be appropriately supportive. “How was your day?” “Really quiet.” “Oh, that’s nice,” would not work for me. I understand that those cocktail parties he attends are not him “having fun” and “spending every night out with buddies.” They’re part of his work managing investments (and getting clients with money to invest).

      Meanwhile, we both benefit from sharing the cooking. Having someone to go home to makes me manage my time better at the office. As we’re in related industries, we can actually give each other career advice.

      All that said, he’s in a national job search, and I really need to switch firms, but I’m not going to find a new job just to quit to follow him across the country in 2 months. [For bunches of reasons, we’ve decided his employment is the priority right now.] There has been tons of resentment that I’m stuck in my job (and stalled in my career), until he works out his employment issues. We’ve (mostly) talked through it.

    • Tory

      I often find myself agreeing with some of the “scandalous” things that Penelope Trunk says and then wondering if it makes me a bad woman/feminist/etc. Like the time she asserted that it was better for the career driven woman to marry and have children early. I would never have actually been ready to get married earlier than I did, nor do I think marriage should be a business decision, but dude, I see her point.

  • Raakel

    Agh, yes, it is hard to change plans and the academic job market is such that these things can happen very suddenly. But didn’t you at least know ahead of time that he was applying for or interested in an opportunity in Canada? If you didn’t, then your initial reaction seems quite reasonable to me. Regardless, it’s fantastic that the two of you were able to carve out a plan that works for both of you in the end. Hurrah and well done! And congrats on finishing your PhD and on getting a job!

    My fiance will finish his PhD in May, exactly a year before I do, and navigating this next step has rocked my ego boat a bit, too. Since he’s applying for post docs now, I will be the one following him to wherever he ends up. But the part I found frustrating was that he just haphazardly started applying to post docs without considering what I would be doing if I had to move to those places. That made me upset! After much discussion, he came to realize that it’s not that I’m not happy for him, but we are a unit now and this is my life he’s making decisions about, too, so I want to at least be a part of the process! And it was just hard to let go of my dreams (my ideal post doc is not in a place that would work for him) and to have him be so initially clueless of the compromises he was asking me to make.

    We’ve now settled on a few places where there are (likely) going to be opportunities for both of us, which is great, and now we are both eagerly and excitedly waiting for him to hear back about positions. Fingers crossed!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      You had every right to be upset he was making efforts to presumably move both of you far away without consulting you about where. I had such a hard time in law school, I went into sobs for hours the first time I seriously considered having to move back to that region for his work. If he were focusing on that area without consulting me, I’m not sure I could have forgiven him.

      • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

        I should be clear, he wasn’t plotting behind my back. He was cold-emailed by a professor who received a career award which came with money for a post-doc and he wanted my husband specifically (speaking of ego, unsolicited job offer FTW!). It was absurd, unexpected and an amazing opportunity.

  • I needed this. In the past couple weeks (I got married last Tuesday) I’ve been really taking an introspective microscope to the parts of my feminism that are genuine and those which are Tamekaism in disguise. Good food for thought.

    Oh and how I chortled at the realization that the moon was Canada! I can so relate–another borough in NYC had the same effect on me many years ago.

    • meg

      “I’ve been really taking an introspective microscope to the parts of my feminism that are genuine and those which are Tamekaism in disguise.”

      Ha. Totally.

  • Jashshea

    This is a comment I started to type out yesterday, but didn’t fit the groove of the conversation – I’m so pleased with today’s post so I can include some of this…

    Plan A for single me was very different from what our Team Plan A is – and that’s only tangentially related to career. We’d been together for about 5 years when I decided that I wanted to take a career break and a) travel the world and/or b) live for a few months in another country. I would have done this alone or with him (though I imagine he’d probably have joined me, since being an expat is one of his/our big life goals). My job is flexible enough that I would have been able to take unpaid time off (or work part time? Maybe?) for 3-6 months with a job promised on return and I work in a specialized industry and have enough experience where a few months off wouldn’t have been a death knell for my career.

    I never got very far pursuing the career break (other than naming the blog I was going to have, obvs), because my company asked me to transfer to London for an undetermined amount of time. That was really PLAN AWESOME – keep the same job, get paid and get to be an expat and travel.

    I’ve said this before: PLAN AWESOME fell through, but I ended up engaged. Which is a crazy-amazing Plan B, to be sure, though that means that Single Gal Plan A isn’t going to happen and we’ve had to work really hard on Team Plans A, B, & C.

    Team Plans are hard, dudes. My teammate is as stubborn as I am and is always pointing out where I’m being illogical – I mean, why doesn’t it make perfect sense to go live in a yurt in Mongolia for a few months? So what if I don’t like to camp? – but is often less practical than me at the same time – You want to have babies right away, but move to another city in America, away from the free child care that your family would provide?

    Luckily I’m super comfortable having a sketchy life plan and letting things shake out from there. And we’re really good at making things happen, even if goal setting isn’t our strongest talent. Our main goal right now (beyond getting married and not losing my effing mind in the process) is finding a larger home for us.

    Does anyone know if yurts can be larger than 700 sq feet?

  • EmEm

    This is a really honest post–thank you for it. I recently got engaged, and I’m also contemplating applying to PhD programs, and I’ve realized that all discussions that we have about our future require that I question why I’m doing something–because it’s best for me and my baby family? Because society says it should be this way? Because feminism says it should be this way?

    It’s complicated because my fiance has a complicated relationship with feminism too, and it’s hard for us (for everyone, I think!) to figure out where our desires, resistances, and fears come from.

    Again, I’m really grateful to see such an honest and reflective post. It makes me feel better and less alone when I think about how we’re addressing future-planning!

    (Also, you elicited my first comment on this site ever. Weeee!)

  • Leslie

    Oh, this this this.

    I recently completed my master’s degree, and while the night before my defense was uneventful, I have been sailing away in my own little (unemployed) ego boat ever since. Every interview is for “the perfect job” and sure devastation awaits after every rejection. If I so much as find an open position out of the range I am willing/able to commute, it’s his freaking fault for getting a good job where we are now. (after he complied so we could move halfway across the country to go to grad school.) amirite?!

    Since our engagement, this has been the thing I’ve struggled with the most. If I’m not the one with THE JOB and making the money, I’m letting down the collective womanhood. Time to recognize it has little to do with feminism and everything to do with doing what is best for our baby family.

    • Job hunting is crazypants hard and there are so many emotions with it. Before I got my current job, I spent around a year looking at job listings, crying because there wasn’t anything I could do or anything that could fit my skills, applying for things and never getting interviews, while having that same guilt – that while I had a job, it wasn’t good enough and didn’t bring in enough money.

      So, you’re not alone and it gets better? Kind of? You will get a job!

  • lorna

    I’ve just moved to LA from Edinburgh for my husband’s amazing postdoc opportunity. I’m not allowed to work for another few months under the terms nf the visa and my hard-won degree and career is not transferable. The ego has been a massive part of this- I’ve gone from being a part of an active team to being someone who sits by the pool and watches Tv. It’s tough and it’s lonely since Iknow no-one but it was the right thing to do for him. Next time, we do what’s right for me.

    • Jashshea

      My heart goes out to you, Lorna. The move, not having a job, and the just plain culture shock of LA. Yikes. My brother moved to LA 15 years ago and after years of visits I’ve finally begun to enjoy the landscape a little tiny bit. Before that it was always terrifying and sprawling and just. too. much.

      Internet hugs & good luck.

    • B

      Oh, that’s a rotten situation. I have a friend who is in much the same boat (though without the visa issue), and when I talk to her I just think “I could literally not do that. I would go insane.” I’m glad you’ve got your “next time” in sight.

      Not that you want advice from internet strangers, but I always figured I would join a book group if forced to move somewhere new. Since you are coming from Scotland it would be like the reverse of The Book Group TV series ( (No idea if anyone but me has seen that.)

      • lorna

        Thanks for the support. Today is a low day. I’ve been told to ‘just volunteer’ or something similar, but I don’t really know how to go about. I knew this was going to be culturally very different from home, but it’s been harder than I thought. Where do you find book clubs? Quite a few voluntary organisations won’t take me because they can’t run an American background check on me. I can’t even join the library because nothing is in my name since I’m ‘just’ the dependent (that’s what it says on the visa). I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. Thanks for the lovely comments though, internet hugs are very much appreciated.

        • rys

          Yikes, it’s sad that bureaucracies are stuck in the 1950s (if that). On a very practical level, assuming you can drive, an American driver’s license may help a lot. At the very least, it should help get you a library card. And depending what fields of work you’re interested in, perhaps unpaid internships might provide an opening? Craigslist job/volunteer postings may be a place to start.

        • B

          That is so crazy you can’t get a library card! Why do they freaking care that you’re a “dependent,” you’re a resident of the city. If you haven’t yet, I would try to talk to a different employee at the library, and if they’re not helpful, ask to speak to a manager.

          If you can make things work with the LA library, it does look like they have many book clubs. Otherwise I would just google. For instance, I found this list:

          As for volunteering, there have to be some activities that don’t require a background check. I’ve definitely tagged along with friends on projects without every submitting any paperwork. I would just try to cast as wide a net as possible. I’m sure there are organizations that would love to have you!

        • Taylor B

          How rough, hang in there! And LA is, even for those of us who were born and raised in other parts of California, enormous and generally overwhelming. Another idea for ways to pass the time/possibilities for meeting people may be to check out nearby college campuses for free lectures & performances. I just finished 3 years of grad school at a big public university and I couldn’t believe how much was going on everyday (that I didn’t have time to participate in). Also, a newly-single friend of mine up here in Northern CA has been checking out and getting involved with lots of outdoor-activity related groups, like a hiking group and a running group. Maybe there are groups like this for activities or hobbies you are interested in? Though I’m not sure how to search them out, local community centers? Facebook? The community board at the local Starbucks?

          One possibility for volunteering may be to contact a volunteer center directly and explain your situation. A volunteer coordinator should be able to give you the right guidance and match you up with an opportunity that interests you.

          good luck and take care of yourself!

          • meg

            If it makes you feel better, I *love* LA. Proper LA, not the random sprawl people call LA, to clarify. It’s among my favorite of american cities. NYC first, LA second. But it’s a place that takes time to get to know. It’s soul is not on the surface.

            Moving to New York was TERRIBLE for me for two years, and then the best thing that ever happened to me. So it’s going to take time, but the best I can say is you are actually in a great great city, just one that is a puzzle to get to know.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          If you’re really in LA County (and not one of the suburban counties) you can get a library card by showing your UK passport and a postcard the library will mail to you or a bank statement with your name on it (or a utility statement, or a rent receipt, or a cheque). Links here:

          You and your husband can have your name added to any of these documents with the right phone calls and/or visits to the bank, etc.

          In my county, you just have to show the utility statement, vel cetera, nothing with a photo.

    • HK

      Lorna – Having been through the move for the partner’s post-doc, and dealing with trying to find a job, and feeling stuck in LA. Want to commiserate over coffee?

      • lorna

        That would be amazing, thank you. Do you want to add me on Facebook (Lorna mclean-Thomas) and we can do it that way? Sorry if I seem a bit keen, but my only conversations are with jack the doorman. I’m a bit starved of company! x

        • B

          Hey, there must be an LA contingent on APW. You guys should have a happy hour! (And maybe start a book group…)

        • Cleo

          Hi Lorna and HK…could I join?

          (I’m working, so my schedule isn’t that flexible but a lot of friends have moved away lately, so I’m also feeling a bit lonely)

          • lorna

            Yes, the more the merrier! Try and find me on Facebook and we can arrange something? I’m in west la but willing to travel! x

        • BSW

          LA here, as well! A happy hour would be fun.

          Also, you could try–some of it looks promising!

          • HK

            Just creating a post in the Forum on the APW Facebook page to see if we can organize something.

          • Ashleyn

            I also just moved to L.A. and am starved for company! Can I jump in on this?!

        • HK

          I think I found you on Facebook and sent a request – cover photo of palm trees/ocean?

          • lorna

            That’s me! Shall add you.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            Not anywhere near LA. But wanted to say this thread makes me oh so happy. Yay community!

    • marbella

      I hear you. I moved to the US 6 years ago and couldn’t work for the first 4 years. It was hard and ego deflating. It gets better! And don’t forget, ‘what’s right for him’ in a baby family isn’t necessarily the opposite of ‘what’s right for me’. You are both working on things together, and you going with him and being there for him is enabling him to do what he is doing.
      Having said this, I am now about to move to Arizona (from DC) for his job, a place we never in a million years imagined living. I’m a Brit, the desert is a foreign concept for me. I am not meant to live in a place that is going to be hot as balls. Luckily when I was finally able to work, I decided to work for myself and built a business I can take with me wherever – I know not everyone is able to do that and I am very grateful.

      • lorna

        Ha, hot as balls… Always nice to hear from a fellow brit abroad. I’m a paediatric nurse by training, so self employment would be a challenge, but I’m ready for anything! Good luck in the heat!

  • AMS

    Greetings from the moon! Welcome!

  • Stephanie

    What a great story. I totally relate and I’m still dealing with feelings from the move. I moved to the middle of nowhere for a great job opp for my husband, and I went through feelings of resentment and “Because of this move, __(insert shitty episode here)__” and we were not in a great place for a while. I think once I changed my attitude and realized that adapting is part of every life situation, whether you are in a relationship or just on your own, staying put or moving, helped me tremendously. Seeing the silver lining in the situation (helloooo, found out I have passions and hobbies) has really helped and while I still feel resentment bubble up every onece in a while, all in all, I’m glad I’m on this adventure, and I’m glad that my husband is taking advantage of an awesome opportunity for him.

    thanks for sharing!

  • This is an idea I’ve been dealing with A LOT since getting engaged to my military doctor fiance. I initially moved to DC to be near him, but also because I just really wanted to live in DC again and was able to get a great job there. And I like that he’s in the military because I like to live different places (single me lived in five different states post-college), always wanted to live overseas, and love that the military will move our stuff. As a teacher, I can work anywhere. It wasn’t until the first move happened, to the Moon South (i.e., Pensacola, FL) that my inner feminist started feeling ashamed that I was following a man. And we’re only here until February, so I wasn’t able to get a full-time teaching job. We knew that going in and he agreed that I could take the time we’re here to try writing full-time, which is a dream come true for me. But it’s been harder than I expected, feeling like I’m not contributing to society and knowing that I’m not contributing financially to our household. And feeling like it looks to other people like I’m a housewife and a freeloader, which is just my ego boat talking. In reality, feminism gave me the choice of what life to pursue. I’m not marrying my fiance out of lack of other options or ability to support myself; I freely chose this. So, knowing that, I need to just get over worrying about what other people might think.

    • You are singing my song. My husband is Army, I’m a teacher, and we just moved to Germany a month ago. Jobs here are few and far between, so I’ve become a housewife. Except I’m not very good at it since I don’t cook or clean really.

      I’m struggling with (a) not contributing to society (I was a teacher! I molded young minds!), (b) being at home all day (there’s nothing to do), (c) accepting that this was the best choice for us even though right now it doesn’t feel like the best choice for me.*

  • When my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I graduated college, he wanted to go to grad school in a specific city and I wanted to “work for a nonprofit in the US”, so I was elated at the chance to narrow my job search to St. Louis instead of jabbing in the dark at anything anywhere. It just made sense. It wasn’t actually until a year or so later as I told my “how I ended up here” story that I had the knee-jerk reaction of “oh my god I just blindly followed a guy”. As much as it’s hilarious that I had a delayed reaction, I am glad, because the deed had been done and my rational side could calm that emotional reaction down instead of battling it out to make a decision.

  • I understand this struggle entirely. My now-husband and I were itching for an adventure and both looking for jobs prior to and into our engagement. I am, frankly, the more ambitious one, and I knew he would happily follow me for a job, so I assumed it would go that way. I was so excited to show the world (or at least our circles in it) what it looks like for a man to follow a woman for her career. What a model we’d be! However, he was the one who landed a job first, in a place that was on our list of cities-in-which-we-would-live. And so now we’re here, and I’m the one looking for a job, and completing traditionally feminine domestic tasks in the meantime. I certainly had to struggle with my ego, and the inevitable fact that some people DID speak as though “of course” I’d quit my very good job to follow him across the country. But we’re the same people, with the same values. And we have the opportunity to frame this experience ourselves by how we speak of it. It’s OUR adventure — a collective, and still feminist, choice.

  • Wonderful post!!

    I think I’m coming at this issue from the opposite end as a natural follower. While I haven’t followed anyone to a new place, I can easily see myself following my husband if he got a dream job somewhere else – in part because my own career path at the moment is nebulous and unformed, but also because I am just very comfortable in the role I play as follower in this regard.

    However, I have this guilt monkey on my back that tells me I’m being a “terrible feminist” for so readily following a man around (even if I’m married to him? Wtf brain?) and taking his last name, etc etc etc.

    So I work constantly at separating the guilt that has evolved from making traditional choices from how I view myself as a feminist.

  • Alice

    This post really resonated with me. My husband moved to Louisiana to pursue his dream and get educated in his field. I have been at home in DC where we were living (but now living with my parents to save money) for nine months without him. It sucks. Really bad. We cannot afford to fly in-between or even drive for frequent visits and see eachother every 1-2 months. I had to finish my Master’s degree (yay! it’s done!) and then look for a new job in Louisiana. I have tailored my entire life and career to staying in DC and I worked hard at my great job while finishing my degree. Then he moved. So, I searched and searched there and finally got an offer for a job that furthers my career and moves me to his city.

    But before that happened, I was riddled with anger and resentment and “how could he choose that school over me?!” This wasn’t what I had planned. Then I had to learn that plans change. Being rigid wasn’t going to help me.

    But at the same time I wasn’t going to throw my wants and needs out the window. I would be damned if that happened and angry at myself for shooting my career in the foot. I wasn’t about to give up on my career and take a random boring job because we would be in a new place. But I hated the idea of living here pursuing my career and him there pursuing his. There has to be compromise. I also hated the idea that I was going to sacrifice my good job and great city to be with my man. I could stick to my selfish demands for ego-stroking and “success” and “oh, what would people think of me?”, but that would be at the expense of my marriage. F it. I am making my own decisions. I married him. I love him. I’m smart and capable and can land a great job wherever the wind blows us. That’s why I’m doing this.

  • Laura

    Arrgh the two-body problem. I feel lucky not to have a partner also in academia, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to navigate future career plans as a pair.

    I also do not believe it is egoistic to want to go to the best possible place for your career. Every move you make impacts your future trajectory, and there is practically no such thing as academic upward mobility. If you want a secure future for you and your baby family, and the ability to be able to be choosier job- and location-wise in the future, you are probably doing yourself and your family a disservice by taking anything other than the best possible offer you get.

    That said, what constitutes “best possible” is not set in stone. If you have had it in your mind to do a postdoc at University A, and that no other place will be good enough, that is probably a figment of your imagination. Universities B-F are also probably equally great, just maybe for different reasons. But if the choice is between University A without your partner and University Q with them – that is a really, really tough choice. I would probably pick A, and cry about it daily.

  • I am so totally living this right now. Six weeks ago I started an awesome job that I love (and am still shocked that I’m lucky enough to have). My partner has been wanting to go to graduate school for creative writing years and years. This will likely happen out of state, where the funding is, and I’ve been his biggest cheerleader all along.

    He will be applying this year, and the other night he shared with me his tentative list of schools, including many of the expected out-of-state programs, and my immediate response? Tears! Lots of tears!

    I don’t think sadness or even anger (when properly channeled) are necessarily bad, though. This is really complicated stuff, and I think having our feelings fully and adequately addressed is probably the most important way to head off secret, building resentment. And you need to air out that resentment, or like laundry at the bottom of the pile, it starts to smell.

  • Granola

    I keep being struck by how often in these comments we feel ashamed or embarrassed that we “moved for a man.” This once came up when I was talking to my guy and I said that I’d have never picked a college because my boyfriend went there – which was solid successful-girl advice from my parents that I thought everyone was on the same page about.

    Imagine my surprise when he said “Well that seems stupid. Why not? If you want to be with them, you should go.”

    I can still hardly wrap my head around the idea of “be with the person who makes you happy and other people’s viewpoints be damned.”

    • This is something I’ve thought about a lot. I had the same advice from my parents (and all of society, it felt like), and my partner and I were long-distance for six years because of it. Now, we’ve decided to stick it out and stay together through grad school, no matter how hard that gets, and I feel equally happy with both choices. I went to college thinking, “If it’s meant to last, it can last with some space,” and it did, and I really think being at two different places allowed us to grow and have great college experiences (and visit each other on two different continents when we were studying abroad!). I truly do believe that if two people are meant to be together, they should be able to spend some time apart, too. That said, enough was enough (and six years certainly was enough), and now is a good time for us to be growing together.

    • It’s interesting that you bring up following a bf to college. I totally did that. (He had his heart set on going there, and I could get a teaching degree anywhere.) I didn’t bat an eyelash or think a thing of it.

      Fast forward 7 years and we just moved to a new country where he is working and I have no job and I feel such a mix of emotions. (I gave up a good job to come here, I’m bored all day, I miss my family, I can’t believe I did this for a man.) Hello! He’s my husband. Of course I was going to come with him. Why am I beating myself up? Younger me had it right.*

  • Kess

    Ha, ha! I love how Canada is “the moon”. I’d move to Canada without much thought, but if you asked me to move to Alabama for example, I’d also be putting in cries of “but it might as well be the moon!” I am never, ever going to move anywhere south of the mason dixon. Waaaay too hot. I would melt and die!

    This is something that will be happening relatively soon in our relationship though. We’re currently long distance while I finish school but who knows what’s going to happen then? We’ve talked through a few possibilities and the common thing seems to be that he will follow me. I feel just as awful about that as if I had followed him. I just feel like there’s no way to win.

    • I know what you mean about the guilt.

      A few years ago, my partner followed me for a job. We weren’t that far away from our home city, which meant we mostly kept our social network, but his commute (by train) was just shy of 2 hours each way. I felt unbearably guilty. I was always asking “are you sure you’re okay with this?” and saying “I’m so sorry I made you move here” etc, etc. This constant stream of questioning and reassessing actually caused some serious fights; guilt does crazy things to the brain.

      Finally I realized that I had to trust him at his word. He wanted to live with more more than he wanted a short commute, and who was I to challenge the validity of that desire? I was actually insisting that there was no way I was worth that kind of commute, which means that what was really at stake (in my head) was certain negative voices about self-worth. And conversely, I think moving for someone else’s career/schooling is anxiety-inducing because we fear that we are diminishing our own hard-earned identity and self-worth.

      That’s some pretty loaded stuff, that intersects profoundly with how we see ourselves and how others see us. But I think it’s important to remember that none of this makes us better or worse feminists. Feminism is all about giving women choices, and choosing to “follow” a partner or be followed are equally valid and equally feminist! It’s when we let these decisions encroach on our sense of value that we are working against the forces of good/feminism in our lives.

  • Carrie

    I think it is feminist to place some importance on what you want with regards to your career and lifestyle. It doesn’t mean it has to trump everything all the time — but it’s equally as important as what your husband wants.

    I obviously don’t know the whole story, but it seemed like his taking this job was non-negotiable. Did he consider not taking the opportunity so he could be with you and you could pursue your good opportunities, like you agonized over not taking your opportunities so he could pursue his? If so, how did he react to that idea?

    I don’t think it’s bad or selfish to have some sadness and anger at the idea of giving up something you’d worked for, planned for, and hoped for. I also don’t think it’s necessarily bad to struggle with the idea that others might perceive you as lesser, because of sexism in the way the world works. I think it’s normal and human to feel upset at that situation.

    I think a lot of times, women are quick to label themselves selfish or egoistic when they’re not immediately, perfectly, and happily self-sacrificing. I think making space for a woman to have a little bit of an ego — to be imperfect, to not be a saint, to want what she wants just as a man does — is feminist. Sometimes really being equal partners means there is some temporary tension, and it’s okay not to instantly make things easy and happy and smooth again. To say “I’m happy for you, but to be honest I’m bummed out too, because I was really excited about these possibilities in New York and I’m worried that I won’t be able to pursue my own career if I follow you to Canada and my career is really important to me,” and let him deal with the fact that you have those feelings, let that be part of the discussion and the decision, even if in the end you decide it’s best to move to Canada with him.

    Does this make sense?

  • I related so much to this post. I also moved to be closer to then-boyfriend, now-husband. And it was something we fought about for a solid year before I gave in. The main reason I fought so hard was “feminist principles” that I eventually recognized as my own pride.
    The situation was different in some important ways, though.
    1) I wasn’t moving because my boyfriend had a great opportunity somewhere. I was moving because he wasn’t able to get a job in my hometown. I thought my opportunities were better where I was, but I had more flexibility than he did, so if we were going to be together, I was going to have to be the one to move. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I was the one who worked hard in school while he played video games and got a graduate degree while he worked a dead-end job. In any other calculus, it would really seem like he should be the one moving for me. But he just was not willing or able to do that. You can see why that would be a big blow to my pride, right? And you can also see how me having this horrible attitude would cause a lot of fights, right?
    2) We were not committed, and the main thing I wanted was more commitment before I would move to his town. Fair, right? Specifically, I wanted him to promise that down the road, we would eventually move back to MY hometown. He just didn’t feel ok doing that, and his uncertainty was less about our relationship than about his confidence in his ability to find a job in that place. Eventually I was able to let go of the need for that promise and move without any guarantees, because those don’t exist in life anyway.
    The silver lining is that I’m happier here than I thought I’d be. Incidentally, my husband is now more open to the idea of moving to my hometown than he was then, now that we have done some real estate research and he can see how much more house we can afford there! Hard facts convert them every time!

  • tenya

    Craptastic timing, dude!
    My relationship’s trajectory with academia is odd, to say the least.. When we met, my husband was a history PhD student and I was six weeks away from moving out of the state for a job. So while obviously into each other, we kept up a “this isn’t anything serious, he’s going to be working on his PhD another couple of years, we’re about to be a couple hundred miles apart, blah blah.” Yet kept talking to each other. Then he failed his PhD comps, then found an adjunct job about 30 minutes away from City I Moved To. I’d encouraged him to apply everywhere, but I don’t think he really did too much. Anyway, we moved in together, now a year into our ‘this isn’t really anything serious’ relationship, a year later got engaged, married 6 months later. I hated the distance, I was also in the “ate a lot of cereal” kind of loneliness and my husband erm.. doesn’t see what is wrong with not saying anything for two days, then only saying “hey. can’t talk, maybe tomorrow” then tomorrow “sooo wanna have skype sex?” I’d hate it, because when I’d see him for a weekend every other month we were all about talking and interacting and loving and stuff, then distance/online it’d be like pulling teeth to get a LOLcat. I remember thinking that if the long-distance wasn’t temporary we needed to break up, because I hated it so.

    I’m in a master’s program now and it is a relatively “in demand” job, but if Dream Opportunity for him opened up I’d rather take a Not Quite Dreams but Viable job for me, because his field has so many less opportunities period. Sure, I’d love it if we both had Dream Opportunities in the same place, but I’d take something for him. Although he keeps saying the same thing, so we’ll see. But ugh, really rooting for no more distance.

  • Moz

    OK, I don’t have time to read all the comments on this post, but I am willing to bet a lot of people will say what I am about to say.

    Which is THAT OF COURSE YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED! You were about to hand in your PhD! And those of us who embark on the academic life especially understand how hard this is. You were completely entitled to a few days of disappointment and everything else, and yes maybe you could have had a better reaction to your husband’s news but as long as you didn’t lay into him I don’t think you should be beating yourself up so badly for this. And I am sure he understands too, although of course he is also entitled to feel a little disappointed you weren’t able to be excited for him the way he would have liked.

    I do, however, question why this post is about us confusing things for feminism. I am not sure it is a natural fit for this week’s agenda. I get what you’re saying at the beginning of the last paragraph, but were you really hurt as a feminist/hiding behind feminism in your sadness, or were you just disappointed because he got offered a dream job first?

    In any case, I am glad you have found a job where you’re headed – as a fellow aspiring academic, I know this is a lucky break (anyone who doesn’t admit there is a modicum of luck involved in this particular field and job hunting is flat out lying/fooling themselves). I really hope it turns out to be good for both of you.

    All the best xx

  • Tory

    “The moon is really just Canada” is totally going to be my new mantra.

  • doctornotmrs

    i understand this…. except I’m kind of at peace with letting my ego go. FH is decidedly NOT ok with those sacrifices and wants me to succeed in the loud flashy way that he will, to USE my PhD etc etc. i think it’s just him trying to be supportive and adhering to what he sees as his feminist ideals. it feels to me like i risk losing his love and admiration if I don’t live up to these plans (which look like a miserable existence right now)…

  • Pretoria

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