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September 7, 2009 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand/encourage my seemingly unambitious boyfriend.

Boy and I have been together for two years now. We are both in our mid-twenties. We have a very happy, mutually supportive relationship; I have helped him through some very difficult times in the past, and he is now helping me with living expenses while I complete a second bachelor's degree. We communicate well, and I think he is a good person with a fine brain.

He has his high school diploma (worth noting that his sister and half brother both failed to complete high school) and attended a couple semesters of junior college before he failed out because he stopped going to classes (this was when he was 19 or so). His life went off the rails for a while after that when he developed a chronic health condition and experienced economic hardship, but he now has a job in a distribution warehouse with a reasonable living wage and good benefits.

I have encouraged him to look into going back to school, but he seems very hesitant. I went with him to our local community college (where I've had good experiences myself) and walked him through the process of applying, financial aid, etc. I suggested he register for just one or two classes at first to build confidence, and offered my academic help (I work part-time as a tutor at the college level). The expenses are very affordable, he would be able to continue working full-time, and his employer even offers tuition reimbursement.

He still hasn't taken any action on it, though. He admits that he feels anxious and worries about letting me down. I have very little doubt that he would be successful, but I don't want to push him into it before he is emotionally ready. On the other hand, he tends to take a long time to get moving on things even when he wants to do them. This isn't a deal breaker for me, but I think some higher education would be good for Boy both economically and intellectually, and I find it hard to accept that manual labor and video games are his self-actualization. He says he wants more, but doesn't seem to have a clear plan or feel any urgency about making it happen.

Can you identify with him? Did you move on, and if so, what made it happen? Should I push, encourage, chill out and back off? Should I just accept that this is him? What would your advice be to him? To me?
posted by molybdenumblue to Human Relations (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
It looks as if you've done everything you can do. The rest of the drive needs to come from inside him. It appears as if he's admitting it's a good idea because a. further education would make his economic position more secure and b. it's important to you. These are external pressures. What he needs to do is say to himself: "I want to be a -----." That's the idea that he needs to have in order to go forward. What would he want to be; would he ever say that in the first place? You know that better than we do, and he knows it better than you.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:13 PM on September 7, 2009


Do you know what his ideal occupation would be? Higher education for its own sake is a fine thing, but I think the trick to motivation is to tie it to a goal. What does he love to do? What interests him? Generally speaking, "Go to class to reap the following benefits : " is a more compelling suggestion than simply "go to class." What moves him enough to make a serious go at studying it?

It's wonderful that you're being so supportive and encouraging. However, it may also be helpful for him to visit an information session on his own, to speak with a counselor, to speak with people in a field that interests him to get educational suggestions. You're on the right track, I feel, with all this encouragement, but he will stand a far greater chance of success if he feels as though he's going to school for himself and his own enrichment rather than feeling as though he must do so to please you.

(please note I'm not suggesting that you're pressuring him to go to class - you've said yourself this isn't a dealbreaker for you. I'm just taking a stab at what might be behind his reluctance and suggesting a possible solution.)
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:19 PM on September 7, 2009


I can I identify with him.

To me it sounds like it's working in a decent job with a living wage and benefits, and using them to support you through uni that's his self-actualisation. I can think of many worse things to do in life, personally.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:21 PM on September 7, 2009 [12 favorites]


I think some higher education would be good for Boy both economically and intellectually, and I find it hard to accept that manual labor and video games are his self-actualization.

You have clearly stated your thoughts here. Now, what are his?
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:27 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is going to sound harsh, but you're not his mother, and you're not his teacher, though at times you sound like both. Furthermore, he's paying your bills while you're still (or once more) a student. I'm guessing he hasn't asked you to go out and "get a real job". Could you be projecting a certain self-consciousness about your own position?

He'll do it if he feels that not doing it leads to a dead end. And then you can be a help. But you can't discount the possibility that he'd be happy doing that job.
posted by holgate at 5:29 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I too can identify with him. I've been in a similar situation, where I was working in a job that really didn't have much of a future, but I really enjoyed, and I was with someone who would have liked to have seen me do more.

In the start, she was gently suggesting that maybe I could do something else. But it turned into quite consistent prompting, and when I said I was happy with what I was doing I was faced with logical arguments about how I should be doing something else. I started to agree with those, seeing as I didn't really want to argue about it and I actually agreed with the logical arguments.

The problem was that I was happy in the job I was doing, and to me, being happy is my measure of "how my life is going". To me, there was no problem to be fixed. The relentless pressure to fix something that, to my emotional mind, wasn't broken ended up ruining the relationship for me.

I moved out of the job, and that industry, of my own volition later on.

It sounds like you aren't the type to move from gentle suggestions to relentless pressure. Thats a Good Thing (tm) for your relationship in my view. If your boyfriend is a path of least resistance kind of guy (and it sounds like he might be from your post) then make sure the path of least resistance isn't ending the relationship.

But if, in his mind, there is no problem to be fixed, then just carry on!
posted by Admira at 5:45 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


This isn't a deal breaker for me, but I think some higher education would be good for Boy both economically and intellectually, and I find it hard to accept that manual labor and video games are his self-actualization

If it's not a deal breaker for you, you should work harder to accept it. It sounds like you're holding his hand through a lot of this, which doesn't bode well for his ability to, say, be self-motivated in studying--and whether one lives with an academic tutor or not, you need to be somewhat self-motivated to do well in college.

College isn't for everyone, and I'd say, for a good number of people, it's as good-as-useless unless they're independently motivated. Mr. WanKenobi flunked out of school twice before finally realizing that he had a real passion for history and genuinely wanted to study it--when he finally went back to school, he finished quickly and with high honors. I don't think that would have happened had I been the one pushing him to do it (as his mother pushed him into college the first time around). You should value him for what he is--a responsible, gainfully employed adult who is capable of supporting both of you. There's nothing wrong with finding self-actualization in that, at all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:45 PM on September 7, 2009


I can identify with him to some extent: having a simple job where you just put your head down and get through it can be pretty satisfying. For a while. Then it will be really boring and he'll want something else to do with his time and energy. Until then, you'll probably have to be patient and tell yourself that he will develop as he will, in his own time, because from my perspective nobody wants to be told, directly or indirectly, that they have to get their shit together in order to be good enough for you. Not saying that you're putting it that way, but you have to take responsibility for your own stuff, not anyone else's.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:50 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the helpful responses so far. This is the kind of insight I was hoping for. In answer to questions:

I'm guessing he hasn't asked you to go out and "get a real job". Could you be projecting a certain self-consciousness about your own position?

Without going into unnecessary detail about our history, I will say that no, this is not at all plausible to me.

You have clearly stated your thoughts here. Now, what are his?

He says that he would like to go back to school at some point. He says that he is interested in a career in network security, but I'm not sure how strongly he feels about that, and he doesn't seem to spend much of his leisure time learning about it, if any.
posted by molybdenumblue at 6:06 PM on September 7, 2009


The only you'll accomplish by badgering him to live out your vision of the future is the deepening of his alienation -- from you, from his own desires, from any sense of agency.

You should set aside your ideas about how he should live, and give him your attention. Encourage him to talk about his own feelings. Validate those feelings. Give him permission to act on them, even if you don't agree with his choices (physically perilous choices possibly excepted). He needs to know that mistakes are okay. He especially needs reminding and/or confirmation that his priorities matter. Your pressuring him to live as you'd like him to communicates just the opposite.
posted by jon1270 at 6:16 PM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


Here's what I wrote last time this came up.

And this.

Long story short, he has to want it. And you can't make him want it. And pushing, however well-intentioned, won't help unless he really wants it.

Until then, you must accept who he is. Do you want to be with him, or some magically self-actualized alternate-universe version of him? It's important that you figure that out, for both your sakes.
posted by limeonaire at 6:19 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, being in a university environment as you are now, around a lot of people who have gotten it together to the point where they can leave the workforce for a time and take classes (and/or who have simply never been in the workforce to begin with, and thus can't even begin to imagine life outside academia), may be coloring your vision of what you want for him. It's easy to imagine, in that sort of environment, that everyone should be doing what you're doing. Thinking that and feeling like you're part of the great flow of the educated helps you feel purposeful in your studies, and that's not a problem—until you start projecting that on other people.

If he's working 9–5 (or the equivalent) while you're studying for a degree, you're in completely different worlds when you're away from home. And that's bound to make a difference in the way you view what he's doing.
posted by limeonaire at 6:27 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Higher education won't necessarily be that great economically--a lot of people with BAs would be very happy to make a living wage with decent benefits.

I would completely back off and try to accept that he is how he is...enjoy your time with him that you wouldn't have if he were working AND going to school.
posted by kathrineg at 6:29 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


He says that he would like to go back to school at some point.

The only way for you to take him at his word for this -- which I think you should -- is to talk in sort of broad terms about what "at some point" means and then leave him alone and let him work this out on his own. Check back in with him later. See where you stand. See how you both feel about that. Basically if it's not a dealbreaker for you, then I agree, you need to work on acceptance.

I find it hard to accept that manual labor and video games are his self-actualization. He says he wants more, but doesn't seem to have a clear plan or feel any urgency about making it happen.

Part of this may have to do with personal goals and timelines. Chronic health problems can be scary and can put people into a real "no better time than the present" mindset. I have no idea whether this is what he's thinking about, or whether he's trying to free up psychic/emotional energy while you're in school, or if taking on [more] debt is just not in his personal comfort zone at the moment but all of these are possibilities for why he may be balking. Add to that that it's clear, crystal clear, what you think the right answer is and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a hard time figuring out exactly what he wants in that sort of setting. It's easy to tell your partner "oh, those things that you want, I want them too... sort of" because part of what you want, often, is to please your partner.

For a lot of people, their twenties are screw-around time and if it turns out he's a late bloomer and doesn't go back to school until he's in his thirties, would that be okay with you? I get the feeling you're trying to ascertain whether you and he are mismatched in the ambition department and whether that matters. Seems too soon to tell but the $20,000 question is when will you be able to tell by?
posted by jessamyn at 6:36 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I went through your question separating your perspective from his.

To me, it comes down to you wanting more for him than he is willing to pursue right now. I have a feeling that he didn't fundamentally want to pursue college in the first place (at least based on what you have shared.) And since it didn't end well, he's probably scared of confronting a failed academic past. Not going to class usually feels awful--there's a lot of anxiety and depression in it, normally, for anyone at all concerned about doing well. What starts as a single missed class/day/week snowballs into "but if I go back now, I'm going to have to deal with ___", and the blank gets filled with more and more threatening things over time. From my time as an RA I understand it is an awful feeling. The student doesn't feel comfortable around campus anymore because he doesn't want to be asked what happened by fellow students--or, God forbid, the teacher who will fail him. Your significant other almost certainly does not want to mentally revisit this scenario.

This is the kind of stuff recurring nightmares are made of. Even I sometimes have the dream that I missed a month of classes and I'm sitting there when the professor calls for everyone to turn in their big project...and that's not a situation I've been in. I can say if I were in his position, I would be afraid of going back because I wouldn't want it to happen again. It can come down to trusting yourself to go somewhere you don't want to be and that you are paying to go to. Things like playing video games and doing manual/physical work are generally reassuring--you are in control, in sharp contrast to the classroom environment where your grade lies in someone else's hands. Also, physical work makes procrastination less of an issue; you get into it and work until it's done, unlike cerebral tasks such as writing an essay or reading a book where you can just not be there mentally enough to do the task at hand.

He is hesitant, anxious, and worried according to you. The absolute last thing you want to do is push him back to college in that state of mind. And to be honest, in his position (as I understand it) I would probably wait for you to finish up your degree and find employment before I would pursue anything else. So I say be supportive of him, don't be afraid to gently discuss it with him, but never pressure him.
posted by Phyltre at 6:37 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


enjoy your time with him that you wouldn't have if he were working AND going to school.

This is right on. And you know, some of his hesitance may well stem from a realization to this effect. He may see what you can't—that you're currently part of something that's important to you, so important to you that you want him to also be part of it—but that if he were, the whole thing might be unsustainable.

Maybe he has thought it all the way through. Because here's one possible scenario: You both start classes. You never see each other. When you do see each other, you're both tired from classes/studying. His work would suffer. His health—already questionable?—might suffer. Money (and emotions) would be tight, and that would jeopardize your degree—and quite possibly the relationship.

To me, it sounds like he's been there before, and doesn't want to end up in a bad situation again.

You think you're waiting for him to realize something, but maybe he's waiting for you.
posted by limeonaire at 6:42 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do this: Tell your boyfriend to take a sheet of paper every single day and write 15 times "I will graduate from college," and hand it to you. If he does this daily, then in about six months, if he is not enrolled somewhere and acing classes left and right, then I will eat my hat.

Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, I asked myself the question, Why is it that many people want things, but so few take action? We all know the answer, of course. Like you said, the main reason that people don't take action is because of picturing myriad fears and anxieties about anything and everything... letting other people down, or not being good enough, or you name it, there's a fear of it.

The real question then becomes something like, How is it that some people can take action in the face of fear?

Let's look at fear more closely. We can perhaps make fear less threatening by looking at it as uncertainty. Uncertainty? Yes. For example, your boyfriend, let's say, lifts boxes at work. He's pretty certain that he can do this job, and he has no anxieties about letting his supervisor down or fears of going in to work tomorrow. Agreed?

Now, certainty is really just a mental state. It's an opinion -- it's what you think that you can do for sure. Let me give you a few more examples. Before the Wright Brothers came along, everybody was certain that powered flight was impossible. And before Roger Bannister came along, everybody was certain that it was not possible for a man to run a mile in under four minutes.

Cut to today, and millions of people now fly around the world every year, and four minute miles are standard.

What changed?? Well, when these groundbreaking people came along, people everywhere were suddenly able to see that something that once seemed so uncertain that it would every be achieved... was possible. Within no time of these achievements, they started being surpassed. Bannister's record was broken just 46 days later. And today, just about 100 years after the Wright Brothers' feat, we have jet airplanes and rockets and space stations.

Again, what changed? Something in the mind is what changed. The vision of what seemed possible to achieve changed.

When Roger Bannister set his goal to break the four minute barrier, he became certain that he could do it because, in his mind, he saw himself doing it. His experience one day in running a mile in 4 minutes and 3 seconds showed him that it was possible to take it under 4, and indeed he did, running it in 3 minutes and 59 seconds.

What the affirmation exercise I wrote about at the top can help your boyfriend do is to visualize himself achieving his goal, every single day, which will make him WANT his goal, which will make him take action... and action is a beautiful thing, which will slowly but surely change his opinion about what he can do. And that is what can change his life.

posted by Theloupgarou at 6:52 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whoa!!

I have encouraged him....
I went with him....
I suggested....
I don't want to push....


I don't identify with him -- I identify with YOU. I've spent (wasted) literal years of my life on men who refuse to or cannot or don't want to take responsibility and better themselves. Why should they, when they've got me right there to do it for them? I have been in your exact situation several times before -- you positively cannot and will not win. He will not do it if he doesn't want to.

It's not up to you. He can't do it for you -- he must do it for himself. If he wanted it, he'd do it. There's not much more than that to understand. PLEASE listen to me -- you cannot and should not take responsibility for him.

I have finally been able to recognize myself & my former relationships as codependent. This situation is clearly bothering you, or you wouldn't have posted a question about it. Please, please -- his willingness to do something for himself should not bother you so much. May I suggest the book "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie? You don't have to cut and run (athough, cynically, it's my suggestion), but there are ways to recognize what you're doing and back off for your own sake (and that will help your relationship, too, if you stay).

I've been there. It sucks to be so wound up with other people's problems. Please don't let it pull you under. MeFi mail me if you want to hear my story -- although from what you've posted, I could have written yours. Good luck.
posted by motsque at 6:55 PM on September 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


It sucks to be so wound up with other people's problems.

What problems? He has a job, pays his bills, supports his girlfriend, and finds that satisfactory.

If said girlfriend is dissatisfied, that's her problem.

There is all the difference in the world between supporting someone you love while they do what they need to do, and trying to "help" someone you love to be what you want them to be, or think they ought to be. He's an adult. Unless he asks for help, let him find his own way, in his own time. If you don't love him for his own way, then yeah, do him and yourself a favor and move on. It will never work out in the long run anyway.
posted by bricoleur at 7:14 PM on September 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


"Waste" feels like a strong word, motsque. Different people want different things out of life, and this takes time to discover for each person. This time is no more wasted than any other time in our lives in my opinion. We all die eventually--it's not as though there's any agreed-upon scorecard for how someone lives their life. Most of what externally happens to a person--where they are born, the kind of culture, family status, their health--are the results of chance or providence, depending on one's belief system. I am not saying people don't control their own lives--if anyone does, they do--but in my humble opinion it is off-putting to say that you have wasted years of your life on a relationship. Relationships are generally agreed upon by two people. Sometimes things don't work out--does that really make the situation a waste?

I don't think molybdenumblue is trying to take "responsibility" for her significant other. I think she does have a decision to make about how comfortable she is with her partner's level of ambition, but I don't see anything from her question that would suggest she is trying to be responsible for his actions. Being concerned and taking responsibility are two rather different things in my experience. My perception is they are in fact being supportive of each other, at least from the presentation of the question.
posted by Phyltre at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2009


The ninth word in your post reveals a great deal about how you feel about this mid-twenties man. I mean, come on.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:46 PM on September 7, 2009


Can you identify with him? Did you move on, and if so, what made it happen?

Yes, I barely passed high school and completely failed out of my first quarter at community college. Took time off from school and went back when I was ready and consistently made the Dean's list, A's & B's, blah blah, then go bored and took time off. People pestered me about going back, didn't work, just pissed me off. Eventually figured out what I wanted to study and then went back and got A's and B's, blah blah.

You can't push him. If you do, he'll resent you and it'll destroy the relationship. Let him be who his and love him for that or move and let him find the person who will.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on September 7, 2009


Maybe he just doesn't deal well with school. I know a lot of people who are put off higher education by the nature of the compulsory education they're exposed to as kids and teenagers, and many more people who just don't fit in well with large institutions like colleges and universities. A higher education can be a wonderful, empowering, enlightening experience - if that's what you're really interested in. But it's not the only road to a happy, fulfilling life.

It's possible that your boyfriend does want to go back to school, but would prefer to wait until you're done with it so that at least one of you is grounded in a non-academic world, and the two of you will collectively have more time to be together.

You also say that it's financially doable, but if he's the one taking care of the money end of things right now, he may be feeling pressure to be financially prepared for emergencies, etc that you aren't.

Or it's possible that he just doesn't feel confident enough in his own academic ability. There are a million reasons why he could be hesitating. What IS clear is that you've shown him that if/when he chooses to go back to school, he has your support, you've been encouraging, and now it's up to him. Choosing to push him harder is only going to demonstrate that you don't have any respect for his personal choices re: what to do with his life at this time, and that's kind of a shit message to send. Let him know you support him and then back off. If he really wants to go back to school, he'll go in his own time, not yours.
posted by ellehumour at 7:52 PM on September 7, 2009


You don't mention his current health. My husband had to leave school the first time due to a chronic health condition. Although he seems normal now he simply doesn't have the stamina that healthy people take for granted. There is no way he could have worked AND gone to school for example. Even the thought of expending that much energy would exhaust him. Is your boyfriend perhaps not as healthy as you think? Maybe his illness has made him realise what is really important to him and he would rather have a low-stress job that he doesn't think about when off the clock so he can focus on you. Why not finish your degree and when you are working offer to support him if he wants to go back to school. And nthing a lot of people don't get serious about education and careers until closer to their thirties, especially if their social group doesn't prioritise it.
posted by saucysault at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2009


Thanks especially to the people who have helped me better see his point of view. I realize now that I need to focus on enjoying our relationship and have faith in him to find his way. That's what I would want him to do for me, after all.
posted by molybdenumblue at 8:13 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This previous question may be useful.
posted by Weng at 8:54 PM on September 7, 2009


My sister has an M.D., her husband has an A.S., i.e. a community college degree. They've been together happily for 37 years.
posted by mareli at 8:21 AM on September 8, 2009


College is not for everyone.

I come from a working class family and went to college and got a BA. I got very very high grades in high school and took all the AP classes I was able. Big Brains, right here. I hated it and never want to go back to academics again. To me it was pointless and involved a lot of hand holding to read a fictitious novel that I could have read myself and not need to squeeze out 15 pages of writing about it.

I am the type of person that needs to see a purpose. I should have majored in something like Accounting, where upon graduation I would get a job as an accountant, but I was young and silly and the quickest way out of school (again, I hated it) was a humanities degree. I am now going to tech school to learn something that directly translates to a career.

Your boyfriend may feel similarly - he may not want to start school until he starts it for some definite defined career that he can pursue with his degree. Some people are just not into taking Anthropology 101 for self betterment. I would rather better myself by learning how to fix a car (manual labor!!! the horror!!!) or something where I get to do something.

Also, don't look down on manual labor. Many manual labor fields involved knowledge that your average academic has never heard of (does a bachelor's degree teach you how to wire your house?) and is actually well compensated and unionized, adding job security and benefits.

I don't mean to be that harsh, but this is really a case of "different strokes for different folks" and you need to understand that what makes you feel better , enlightened, successful, whatever may not make others feel the same way. Your boy will probably go to some sort of school when he finds it necessary to do something in his life that he wants to do. If he thought the idea of school was total bs, he probably wouldn't be footing the bill for you.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:55 AM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, don't look down on manual labor. Many manual labor fields involved knowledge that your average academic has never heard of (does a bachelor's degree teach you how to wire your house?) and is actually well compensated and unionized, adding job security and benefits.

Fair enough. Let me clarify that I meant unskilled labor. I wouldn't see anything wrong with his going into a trade, and in fact I've asked him about it in the past, but he's more interested in careers that require a degree.
posted by molybdenumblue at 11:14 AM on September 8, 2009


He has his high school diploma (worth noting that his sister and half brother both failed to complete high school) and attended a couple semesters of junior college before he failed out because he stopped going to classes (this was when he was 19 or so). His life went off the rails for a while after that when he developed a chronic health condition and experienced economic hardship, but he now has a job in a distribution warehouse with a reasonable living wage and good benefits.

This completely describes my husband. We've been together for almost fifteen years.

I'm over-educated, and have a good-paying job in a field I love that offers zero in the way of benefits. He makes a low hourly wage in a warehouse, but has been working for the same company for 20+ years and has a killer benefits package. He's happy doing what he's doing, and has no ambitions to go to college, get a degree, or go into debt for said degree.

Twice since we've been together, his job security and stellar benefits have been our lifeline in tough times. He's a wonderful, loving father, and the nature of his "low-skilled" job means that he doesn't bring his work home with him ... that he can be fully "present" for our son in ways I often cannot.

You want him to be like you. He's not like you. He's himself, and either you love him fully for himself or you will constantly try to change him. If he wants to go to school badly enough, he will, in his own time (and while you're in school is probably not the best time, FYI). In the meantime, accept him for who he is and let him know that you love him just the way he is.

And frankly, don't knock the security of his position. Many days I envy my husband the simplicity of having simply a "job" rather than a "career".
posted by anastasiav at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


molybdenumblue, I totally identify with you. Mr. Future went to university for a semester almost two decades ago and has zero intention of returning to school ever, for any reason. He works as a cook in two different restaurants. The pay isn't great, but he has solid employers and coworkers and has a blast at work every day. He has zero debt. Meanwhile, my overeducated ass comes home from a better (but not much) paying nonprofit gig with $20,000 in student loan debt staring me in the face. Which one of us do you think is more stressed out?

At first it bugged me. But he's sooooo smart! And he spends most of his spare time reading! He's so levelheaded, responsible, sensible! If only he had some ambition.

But guess what?

He's not avoiding school and working in kitchens because he's afraid of failure or doesn't think he can do any better. He does it because it makes him happy - and it shows in every aspect of our home life and our relationship.

Your partner will decide what he wants to do with his life. Back off. There's nothing worse than somebody reminding you how much better you could be at living your life.

FWIW, the guy I went out with for three years in my mid-twenties couldn't even keep a job for more than two months, and now he's finished trade school and making awesome cash.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:04 PM on September 8, 2009


He says that he would like to go back to school at some point. He says that he is interested in a career in network security

Fair enough. Let me clarify that I meant unskilled labor. I wouldn't see anything wrong with his going into a trade, and in fact I've asked him about it in the past, but he's more interested in careers that require a degree.


In addition to your local community college, look into your local vacational / tech school. These would be the same schools that some kids opt to go to for high school, but most offer adult post secondary education programs. Some counties / localities divide up subjects like IT and network security so that the adult education division of the tech school handles it more in depth than the community college. Some of these tech / vocational adult programs are certificate programs, some are dual enrollment A.S. with teh local community college, some offer work study or apprenticeships. In any case, if he approaches you for help or advice on schooling for a network security type career, it wouldn't hurt to have the vocational / tech school options already handy.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:45 PM on September 8, 2009


I second motsque. Been there, done this. If he wants to go to school, he will get off his ass and do it, regardless of how you feel about it. Right now he doesn't sound motivated to do it, so dragging the horse to water probably won't get him a degree. He may make noises about school periodically, but most people do at one point or another and that doesn't necessarily mean that they will do it. They might "know" they have to go back to school for a better job, but can't get up the nerve/will/desire to do the 4+ years of school, or they might just be saying that because it's more socially acceptable to claim that you are interested in college.

The thing you need to think about is, if this is as high as the guy ever gets in employment--working manual labor and playing video games for self-actualization, and imagine him doing this at age 45 still-- can you deal with it?

At this point, I'd say to be happy that he's at least employed. The one thing I'd be worried about with him is having a chronic health condition and how that might affect his future employment in manual labor if it gets worse and makes him unable to do his job any more. But in the end, that's gonna be his problem to deal with.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:59 PM on September 8, 2009


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