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Got the man now switch to the job?
April 23, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Switching careers... to the same one as my new boyfriend? How weird is this, and how to navigate?

I'm in kind of a weird spot and would like advice from the hive mind. I started dating someone a few months ago. Things moved fast and we're very much in love. We've talked about spending our lives together. But there are a few issues to navigate...

He's just finishing graduate school in a hard science field that I have never before considered, but the more that I learn about it, the more interested I become. I am currently in graduate school for social science, but might be able to transition to his field (not sure how yet) because some of the research methods overlap. I am fascinated by the prospects in his field, and it seems much more meaningful to me.

Since way before I met him, I've been struggling in my graduate program because I am disillusioned about the kinds of questions my field addresses, and have been searching for something more substantial and with greater potential for social impact for a long time. Learning more about the work he does has really inspired me that I might find something professionally satisfying in a way that I've never before imagined.

We've talked about it, and he will be supportive of whatever I choose. I just want to know what kinds of issues we might face as I pursue this.

- In my family, almost all of the long-term couples work together in one form or another. I've sort of taken this for granted as normal, and has been an ideal for which I strive. He'd be open to this, but it's not the default for him. Does anyone else have this background and how do you handle the clash of assumptions with someone who does not?

- We're a bit competitive since we're both in graduate school and working on side projects as well. He usually bests me because the stuff he works on is just so cool and in the beginning this really bothered me. How do I tone down the competitiveness in the relationship so that it doesn't get worse if I switch into his field?

- Switching into this field will likely require that I take a couple of steps back. He advises that I just stay in my field and take on outside projects that will have an impact in his field, instead of, for example, switching into a new graduate program. I'm not sure about this and might want to add a masters in his field to my current program. How do I handle the sense of being behind that I feel if I have to take a big step back to re-calibrate my career?

- How would you approach this in your relationship? What kinds of issues are likely to come up? What else should I be thinking about?

Keep in mind that I come from a very dysfunctional family, have had a lot of bad relationships, and this is the best relationship I've ever been in. So if I'm missing something really obvious, please feel free to point it out!
Thank you, hive mind!
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
He advises that I just stay in my field and take on outside projects that will have an impact in his field, instead of, for example, switching into a new graduate program.

This. Y'all have just been together a few months -- limerence is still an issue here. Especially if you have a history of being in crappy relationships, being with someone who's normal and awesome and well-adjusted is going to be So Much Awesomer for the new-relationship-energy you're feeling right now.

That could be extending to your honey's field of study as well -- of course it looks new and shiny, and you admire him and his work, and all of that means you're maybe not in the best position right now to make a major career decision.

I'd say, keep on with your field of study. It's great that there can be intersections between yours and his. Working in the same field can work for some couples, but I think it's usually more of a coincidence -- you meet because you're in the same programs or working on the same problem -- and less that one person switches disciplines. See what you can do to stay in your program and let it be enriched by the love you share and motivated by y'all's ability to take bits from each other's research. There's got to be a love you had for that field in the first place, to go into graduate study of it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:59 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


He advises that I just stay in my field and take on outside projects that will have an impact in his field, instead of, for example, switching into a new graduate program.

He's giving you very good advice.

How do I handle the sense of being behind that I feel if I have to take a big step back to re-calibrate my career?

Being behind what? You will necessarily be "behind" your boyfriend (against whom you admit to competing) if you change course mid-stream. And you will be "behind" the schedule you're currently on as well. To handle those things you have to change the timetable to reflect your new start/end dates, and make sure it's only your own personal timetable, not one that includes someone else's goals and milestones as well.

In general it's not a good idea to make decisions when you're under the influence of mind-altering drugs, and the heady chemical rush that accompanies new love can be profoundly mind-altering.
posted by headnsouth at 9:14 AM on April 23, 2012


Remember that you likely once felt this optimistic about the program you're in now. And I'm sure that a mixture of overload and boredom set in after awhile. It's easy to be in love with a hypothetical because you don't anticipate the variables as much.
posted by inturnaround at 9:23 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few months is not, in my opinion, enough time to have a full understanding of your interest in a particular subject, especially one that involves switching to a different grad program. It's not the same as just changing your major in undergrad. You might want to check out this piece from The Hairpin last week.

And: what if you break up with him, will you switch fields again?
posted by troika at 9:24 AM on April 23, 2012


Keep in mind that talking about any topic with someone who's passionate about it will make that topic sound very sexy and interesting. They can't help it - their passion just rubs off and imparts that "This Is So Cool!" glow.

My parents, among others, always said "do not work directly with your SO." I've found this to be good advice. While my husband and I work fantastically together, I get to come home at the end of the day happy to see him. Work is seldom a topic of conversation (nice break). For example, if I have a work problem, he approaches it from my perspective, not by arguing with the fundamentals ("No, I thought he meant blah blah when he said doobly-doo") of what happened or by having his own interpretation/side.

If you're already competitive with him, expect that to ramp up if you're in the same field. He also has a different background from you, and one that (I'm guessing) better prepared him for Field Y, plus his long-term interest in it. So, you may get to a point where no matter what you do, he "always" does better than you (or vice versa). I grew to hate hearing "But we studied together! Why did you do X% better than me!?" from an ex.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:33 AM on April 23, 2012


Just to clarify - I was never really passionate about the field I'm in. I got a Masters in a related field and then switched departments to one with better funding. I've been trying to find my way ever since. But good points, everyone! Please keep them coming.
posted by 3491again at 9:55 AM on April 23, 2012


My wife and I work in the same field, but in different parts of it. This works out pretty well -- we can emphatize with each other and understand the jargon and issues in each others' work stories, but we're not in direct competition. We don't work for the same employer, or even do the same tasks day-to-day -- the relationship would be quite a bit different if either of those things changed. I think we could handle being in the same part of the field, but same employer would not work at all.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012


Beware, your new passion is co-mingled, therfore not purely sourced in academics. Consider the switch to the new field only if you're willing to live with the following:

- he will best you on everything related to the new field i.e. you will lose all the time, with no 'save face' oppty to hide behind

- if you grow bored with the new field, or find the grass is not so brilliantly green, switching back will likely cost you this relationship.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2012


- In my family, almost all of the long-term couples work together in one form or another. I've sort of taken this for granted as normal, and has been an ideal for which I strive. He'd be open to this, but it's not the default for him. Does anyone else have this background and how do you handle the clash of assumptions with someone who does not?

I know of a couple that works together, and I emphatically do not want that sort of relationship. I think it's important to have outside work colleagues, friends, etc. to maintain an varied life. This couple is very co-dependent on each other, and I think they'd be much less so if they didn't work in the same company in the same(ish) employment.

If I were going to do it (which I would really try to avoid), I'd try extra-hard to not become co-dependent and to have an escape/private hobbies.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:51 AM on April 23, 2012


This sounds to me like the equivalent of getting a very large, expensive tattoo in his honor. If all goes well, his influence on your choice of schooling and career will be a permanent reminder of him in your life.

If it goes badly, his influence on your choice of schooling and career will be a permanent reminder of him in your life.

Would you tell someone to get a large tattoo in honor of their boyfriend of two months?

I'd find something else to be passionate about, if you are unsatisfied with the passion you have for your current career path. Years later, you may come to resent how you did not make your own, independent career choice. Sounds like a recipe for passive aggressive strife to me.
posted by griselda at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Krueger5 - Why would switching back if I don't like the field cost me the relationship? I understand why it would cost me professionally -- but why the relationship?

Also, I'd love to hear from people that have had a similar experience of switching fields in this circumstance. (It's unlikely that he and I would work directly together for a while, since we're at different nearby universities and approaching the field from different backgrounds.)
posted by 3491again at 12:15 PM on April 23, 2012


First you say...

- In my family, almost all of the long-term couples work together in one form or another. I've sort of taken this for granted as normal

And then you say...

Keep in mind that I come from a very dysfunctional family, have had a lot of bad relationships, and this is the best relationship I've ever been in.

So what is "normal" to you is not necessarily a healthy or positive way of doing things. I would be very, very wary of commingling your personal and professional life this way, especially this early on in your relationship.
posted by headnsouth at 1:10 PM on April 23, 2012


- In my family, almost all of the long-term couples work together in one form or another. I've sort of taken this for granted as normal, and has been an ideal for which I strive. He'd be open to this, but it's not the default for him. Does anyone else have this background and how do you handle the clash of assumptions with someone who does not?

It sounds to me like the above is probably a very significant, if perhaps unconscious, reason for wanting to switch. All good relationships have both couples in the same field -> I want this to be a good relationship -> I should switch into his field.

I think he is making a good argument that you should stay in your current field and take projects that approach/apply to his field.
posted by jacalata at 2:08 PM on April 23, 2012


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