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How do I get over deep anger at my spouse over moving for his career?
July 11, 2014 6:17 AM   Subscribe

My husband finally got the tenure-track academic job at an awesome university he's been working towards his whole life. So how can I get myself to stop hating him for it? Lots of rambling inside.

I generally have a happy marriage (or I used to think so.) My husband and I (female) are compatible, we laugh, he's incredibly thoughtful about day to day things, etc. We're best friends. Our real problem now is his career choice -- an academic in the humanities. For the eight years of our relationship, where we lived and our lifestyle has basically boiled down to his career. (Some of that time in graduate school, others in jobs that were leading to his academic job.) Basically, each year we've moved in service of his dream job.

And now he's got it -- a tenure track academic job at an awesome university in a terrible year for the humanities. Which means we have to move AGAIN. With a new (6 months old) infant -- our first kid. I have a job I love (though a contract job -- it's not permanent and won't ever be, which is an issue he cites in favor of the move), in a city I adore, with lots of friends and a very strong community. We've been here for 2 years, the longest we've ever been anywhere.

And now we're moving -- again. To be fair to him, he offered to turn down the academic job and stay here (getting a non-academic job) and this suggestion was in earnest, but I wouldn't let him -- academia has just been his calling forever, it's an amazing offer, and it would've made all those moves in the past worthless. And he would have always wondered what academia would've been liked while he worked a regular job, which kills me, because well, I want him to be happy.

Now that we're actually moving, I'm miserable. We're squatting in other people's houses while we're between rentals, headed to even more temporary accommodation with an infant while we look for a permanent place, and I have no job. I'm bemoaning the fact that I don't really have a "career" like many of my friends and grad school colleagues. because we always moved so often and I just sort of found something to do in each place (sometimes awesome, often miserable.) He says that those friends I'm talking about (like consultants or law firm associates) are probably miserable being so static, and that our life in new X city is going to be better, flexible, etc. He'll have summers off and can be a 50-50 parent.

But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone. While I'll help him in every way with his career, he has never suggested anything for my career that would be remotely adverse to his. And while he's right that I've always agreed to each move (and encouraged others, when, for example, they would help him finish that damn dissertation), I now feel how selfish he was in never thinking about me, and letting me do this for him. Part of the problem was that he was always crystal clear on what he wanted to do job-wise, while I was always wishy-washy. Still -- why couldn't he ever suggest something in favor of my career to the detriment of his?

So, in short, I find myself in my mid thirties, a talented person (I think) with two graduate degrees, and a young infant, with all of my stuff fitting into a dozen boxes, moving -- again -- with him to a foreign city where I know no one and have no job leads. And only one job on my resume longer than a year (and that was only 2 years.) I find myself wondering why/how I ever got into this in the first place, and in my extreme, sad moments wishing that we'd never met. And I'm mad at myself for letting all of this happen.

How can I make the best of this situation? Has anyone else had these feelings before and mended the relationship? We argue over this all the time, which is difficult, because he's able to say that he did offer to turn down the job. I just want to punish him and I feel I've wasted so much time I'll never get back -- that I've given up my career for his. At the same time, I honestly don't think I could live with the guilt if he gives up the job he's worked so hard for and deserves -- and another one like it is not going to come around.

Help?

(In case it matters, finances are not a big issue for us -- we're not rich, but we have decent savings, and no debt.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (86 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you expressed this all to him? It sounds like it's time to tell him that you have no interest in living an itinerant lifestyle anymore, and that this move needs to be your last. It would really, really bother me if my husband was trying to spin my friends as miserable when I was really craving stability, because I'm not the kind of person who can move constantly, either. I find it really disruptive, almost traumatic. (Luckily my husband feels the same way). Regardless though, stuffing down your feelings is only going to breed resentment.

Also if you can't do this move, I think it's okay to say no, too. Thems the breaks in a long term relationship. You don't always get to do whatever you want.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:29 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

This is, I think, a totally normal feeling....and you have to remind yourself that you can have this feeling even though you chose this.

Still -- why couldn't he ever suggest something in favor of my career to the detriment of his?

You just acknowledged that you didn't have a strong career direction or drive.

Who is it you're actually angry with? It sounds like you're angry with yourself, mostly, and using him as the proxy. Even if that's not 100% the case, the place to take your feelings about this is therapy. You're allowed to have these feelings and you're allowed to express them, but you have to figure out what you want. You can't turn back the clock and make it so you never met him, and you can't retcon your past so you had an equally strong career trajectory that he could have accommodated, and you can't pretend that (as you say) you'd really be fine with him giving up the TT job so that you don't have to move.

So, concretely, what do you want? Work this out with a therapist. Don't blame your husband for taking you at your word 100%.
posted by rtha at 6:30 AM on July 11 [87 favorites]


But he offered to stay put to keep you happy, even though you have no career focus to sustain.

I think you're angry at yourself, really, not him.
posted by zadcat at 6:30 AM on July 11 [19 favorites]


1. You're a new mother, and a 6-month-old is going to take a toll on you no matter what your situation. Moving while getting used to motherhood for the first time? You're a saint.

2. If you are committed to this move and being with your husband (it sounds like you are), I think you have to make some rules going forward. This is the last move that you two make based on his career alone. It is time for you to set some roots down, career-wise, and for him to make some sacrifices for you, as well.

3. I think this type of imbalance is pretty common among highly educated couples, where one of the couple provides a ton of support for the other who has a "calling" while the other has a "job." I would suggest some couples counseling to see what you two can do to work this imbalance out.
posted by xingcat at 6:31 AM on July 11 [32 favorites]


Your logic is internally contradictory, and I think you should acknowledge that. If the two of you made a decision to move, then it is not him that is "making you" move, it is the two of you who mutually decided to move. It sounds like you are not at all willing to ask for what you want, and are entirely expecting him to derive what you want from smoke signals and unspoken frustrations. That's not going to work.

Nothing in your post indicates you've ever actually told your husband that you are frustrated with your situation. Until you do that, nothing is going to change, and you are going to get more and more angry.

Go tell him what you just posted. If it helps, just send him a link to this question. We can't help you here. This is a communication difference between you and your husband. Your husband is not "wrong" for asking for what he wants and you are not "wrong" for wanting your own career and stability. The problem is that the two of you are not discussing this as partners.
posted by saeculorum at 6:31 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


I don't know if this is helpful, but it sounds to me like you're in a point where you just need to be able to express your frustration and unhappyness for a little while. And instead of reminding you that you signed up for this, he needs to be sympathetic and appreciative of the great thing that you've done for him.

I do think that the new city will work out, because there are generally some awesome things about most places, at least most college towns, but that might be a while til you feel that way. (If finances aren't a big issue, can you make sure that you find a good babysitter, so you have the chance to get out and learn about good stuff/cool people in your new town?)

Finally, I think that it's easy to go down the "where am I in my career, in my 30s" rabbit hole (I say that because I'm doing it myself) but career wise, you have so much time still in front of you, I would try to reduce your anxiety about that.
posted by mercredi at 6:36 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


You have a six-month-old infant and are in the midst of massive upheaval. This is basically a recipe for post-partum depression. Talk to your husband, and think seriously about seeing someone.
posted by Etrigan at 6:36 AM on July 11 [33 favorites]


Has anyone else had these feelings before and mended the relationship?

Probably everyone in a relationship with an academic (or a diplomat, a military officer, or any other career that forces repeated moves to random places at inconvenient moments for inadequate pay) feels this way, honestly. It's straight up hard, and a lot of the difficulty and sacrifice gets carried by the non-academic partner (the "trailing spouse," as it is called, or the "second body problem" -- phrases that plainly capture the status and support issues).

The Chronicle has had articles about this -- it's a known issue, and a lot of marriages fragment over it. People can be fine with the first four moves, but then hit their limit with the fifth at the thought of starting over yet again and the reemphasis of their secondary status.

Of course there are benefits to it as well, and if you can make your peace and get through the really difficult next few months then I suspect you'll be in a happier place. I'm in the middle of one of these transitions right now, and keeping the entire situation framed as "us as a team" rather than what each person gains/loses separately really helps. It's also good to discuss what he is going to do to support you in the new place -- help negotiate something with the new university? Take on extra childcare while you look for work? -- rather than just have you in the support role only.

And I like the idea of therapy -- your anger and unhappiness is all the justification you need, and it sounds like a situation where this could help clarify the problem and open pathways to solutions.

that this move needs to be your last

That is the same as saying "get tenure or quit academia" (as compared to "get tenure or get a new job," which is the situation otherwise), which is ok to say, but it's good to be clear on that and how it raises the pressure for the husband.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


Look at it this way. He's finally in a tenured position and you'll have a permanent residence. Now you can find a more permanent job and settle down.
posted by WizKid at 6:39 AM on July 11 [21 favorites]


Short answer: Put your energy into raising your child. Make child raising your "career" and any source of income you find "just a job." You will also find a lot of other spouses of your academic husband's colleagues to be friends with.

Longer answer: I am you; my wife is your husband. The only situational difference is that we waited until she was tenured before we had a kid. The difference between you and me, though, is that while I have a "job", I focus on my kids and support my wife with every ounce of my soul. (Oh, it took me 9 months to get a job in our new tiny college town at the time, by the way, and we lived off credit cards, so at least you don't have that to worry about.)

Did you know what you were getting into as a tag-a-long spouse? (That is what we are called in the academic world.) My wife explained this to me as soon as our second date because she was already planning to move for her PhD despite actively dating and meeting me. I went along happily.

I, too, have career dreams, but they are on hold until the kids are older. Right now I am just working a "job" and, frankly, much happier than my wife.

I agree with others above to investigate with whom you are really angry with (yourself?). I would also investigate an attitude change. You knew your husband's career track and you acknowledge that you never had one, so think about the roots here, and see what else you can do with it.

I also have to admit that I feel badly for your husband. Academia is an insane amount of work and you sort of have to dream to do it while still an undergrad. If you don't go through with it, it's a very difficult path to change. I give him huge props for suggesting that you two stay put and he gets a non-academic job. That is him showing you his love for you in a very significant way, holy cow. Also, summers off for stay at home parenting and long vacations? My own academic wife doesn't even get that!
posted by TinWhistle at 6:40 AM on July 11 [19 favorites]


What you say in your fifth paragraph, that he has never made any suggestions to the detriment of his academic career does not fit with what you say in the previous paragraph about him offering to turn down the new academic position and stay where you are.

It seems like you have agreed you will do particular things as a couple and are now really frustrated with the down side of the decisions you have agreed to. This I think is really normal, living with things that makes our lives harder is difficult, even if we have agreed to them. I suspect this looks even worse due to your current position between homes with a young child (are you running a sleep deficit? is there any possibility of depression?). You sound stressed and losing your support network under these circumstances would be tough on anyone.

Two possibilities:

One: You reopen the conversation and discuss that you don't currently have the wherewithal to make the move away from your support network.

Two: It sounds like you feel you have already committed to him taking the job and cannot row back, in which case you need to figure out some ways to have proper support. Could you get help with childcare in the first year at least while you do something to develop your career? Could you come up with a plan to develop your own business so that you have real evidence of an investment in you by both of you? I am sure others will have better ideas.
If you go ahead it might be helpful to have a chat about the longer term career development for both of you. There is absolutely a non-zero chance that if you move it might not be the last move he will want to make to improve his career, as other opportunities open up later in his career. Have the talk now about what that might imply and whether you would be open to further moves or he will agree that this is not a possibility regardless of what comes up (or circumstances in between these two points)?
posted by biffa at 6:40 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm not trying to call you out. You say this :

he has never suggested anything for my career that would be remotely adverse to his.

But earlier, you said this :

To be fair to him, he offered to turn down the academic job and stay here (getting a non-academic job) and this suggestion was in earnest, but I wouldn't let him.

I get that you are frustrated with the move - and as a military brat, I saw lots of spouses have similar fights - I think you might be misdirecting your anger and frustration on to him, somewhat unfairly. It's so common, Wikipedia even has a page on it.

Also, it should be the case that this is the last move you'll make for a while. If he's tenure track, it's what, 5-7 years at least. Dunno if that will help you get past this hump, but it is what kept my parents together in the late stages of my dad's stint.

All of that said, it might pay to engage with someone you can talk to about these things and just vent some frustration. New babies are hard, moving is hard, and... well, we all get rubbed raw from time to time.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:41 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Could you do a sort of thought experiment where you look ahead three years in the future and try to imagine how happy you'll be with each of the various options here? If you really think your most likely to be happy in New City, then maybe that thought can help you feel somewhat less resentful now. If you think you're likely to still be miserable in New City but both can be happy in Former City, that might be a cue to have a conversation with him about moving back. If you think you will be miserable either way, maybe that would point you toward some sort of tool like counseling or therapy or toward reassessing whether this relationship will still work. From the outside perspective of being a reader to your question it feels to me like the move is way harder on you than it is on him, and of course you'd be prone to feeling angry and resentful right now, but also that once life is less immediately stressful these feelings may recede.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:45 AM on July 11


Honestly, reading this, it sounds more like you're mad at yourself and you're externalizing it by lashing out at your husband. He knows what he wants in his career. You really don't know. So how should he know better than you about what to suggest to further the career you admit you're wishy-washy about?

You agreed to move. That's what you're pissed about. You're frustrated that you can't give him a better reason beyond "I don't want to go". But stop lying to yourself. HE'S NOT MAKING YOU MOVE. He did what he should and offered to stay in town and move away from what he wants to do for you. You declined. While you may be kicking yourself for saying it, he didn't force you into this situation.

But if you absolutely positively don't want to move now and it's possible to get out of it (like, he hasn't accepted the job), then tell him. Or come to some agreement that you won't be transient any longer after this move if it's something you can bear. But don't do something you absolutely cannot bear to do because your marriage won't survive the move if you do.
posted by inturnaround at 6:45 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


I now feel how selfish he was in never thinking about me, and letting me do this for him.

Why was he supposed to stop you from doing something that he wanted you to do, exactly? "Letting me do this for him"? You're a grown-ass woman. I think you're as mad at yourself as you are at him.

Every choice has a price. This was the price you chose to pay to see your husband happy, and this is what you get for it: a happy and fulfilled husband at the price of having a spotty resume yourself. There was another way to go --- less happy, unfulfilled husband and a more stable and happier life for you --- and you didn't want to pay that price.

You can regret your choices, I think everyone has a few they regret. You don't get them back.

What you do have is the future. You have what you bought --- a happier husband --- and you've taken the hit. But that's over now, no? Knock on wood and all that, but it's pretty darn reasonable to expect that now that your husband does have this job, you'll be in this new city for many years to come, quite possibly even the rest of your lives, if he gets tenure. Mid-30s isn't dead. Yeah, you'll be starting out behind some other people if you choose to launch a new career at this point. But plenty if people have switched or launched careers at your age and gone on to great success. And frankly, if you wanted to spend that time and really focus on your own career going forward, he'd owe you that.

But he has no magic wand to tap take you back and do all this over again. Neither do you. All you get in this life is to choose and know you chose. Sometimes it works out like you hope, sometimes it doesn't. There's always a price either way. All you can do is know you did the best you could at the time. You have a future. Use it.
posted by Diablevert at 6:46 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone...

I mean, it doesn't sound like this is for him alone: a flexible, tenure-track position offers your family both a serious level of financial security (assuming he gets tenure) and more time for him to spend with you and your kid than most working dads generally do. And his suggesting something to further your career in detriment to his (which he even did) would, in fact, be in detriment to the security of your entire family unit.
posted by griphus at 6:47 AM on July 11 [14 favorites]


I am really sympathetic to both of you; academia is hard as hell on marriages and it sounds like you're both trying to be supportive in various ways here, but running up against some difficult choices.

I agree with the posters above that it is completely reasonably for you to insist this be the last move for a very long time. You are totally reasonable to want to put down roots, make friends, have some stability for your young child, try to build a real career path if you want one.

It is also completely reasonable for you to be angry and hurt that much of what you want has been on the back burner for so long. Yes, you chose it, and yes, there has been very good reason for it, but it still hurts. You get to have feelings about that and to express them, and your husband needs to listen to and validate those feelings, not parry them with "But I offered [x]." Although for your part, it would probably be a really good idea if you could, in a less angry moment, specifically voice that you do realize and appreciate that he has made and been willing to stand by an offer to turn down the job. It's not a small thing, though it's also not as big a thing as what you have done.

You need a safe place to talk about this that isn't just your husband. And, moving to a new place, you probably aren't going to have the support network for it. Therapy sounds like a really good idea. And I think probably couples therapy too - that is one of the ways your husband can do his part to support you in what you need, while you're supporting him in what he needs for his career. I'd say start with your own therapy, get some of this out, and then move to couples therapy. Or if starting one more thing is just too much to deal with mid-move, maybe it's time to take up journalling, or going for long walks while your husband does the childcare, or something that doesn't have to be done on a specific schedule but can help you either emotionally or physically work out some of the frustration.

You've got a lot going on. No wonder you're so angry and overwhelmed. I absolutely would be too. I think this is salvageable but I think it is probably going to continue to be difficult for a while, you both need to be committed to working on it, and you need some additional non-husband outlets for support and venting.
posted by Stacey at 6:48 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

But it's not for him alone, it's for your family together and will benefit all of you.

Really, this kind of thing is hard as hell. It sucks when you are mad and maybe feel like you don't have a right to be. Maybe you feel that you signed away your right to be angry by agreeing to something.

But really half of what you are telling us doesn't match up with the other half. You're angry that you haven't had the opportunity for a career, but you also say you've been wishy washy about careers. You say he's never suggested anything that would be detrimental to his career, but you also say he offered to turn down this job.

It sounds like you are treating this kind of like a test for him, and that he has failed, but everything you tell us about your communication with him indicates that from his POV you supported and encouraged whatever he needed to do to advance his career. Are you angry at him for doing what his career needs, or angry at yourself for not standing up for what you wanted in the relationship?
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:48 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of annoying stuff in these answers about being logical. That's all well and fine, but we're not logical beings. You *know* this isn't the worst thing in the world on the face of it, and you KNOW you "agreed" to it and all, but WHO CARES? It feels like crap, you're living nowhere, the kiddo is probably frustrated, and everything is about Mr. Man. Of course you're going to be pissed and cranky and dejected and sorrowful. And you're starting to feel your age, too, and that's what starts to happen to us. It's new and weird, and it feels different.

Lean in to it. (LOL sorry!) But I mean, yeah. Wallow in it. GO ALL THE WAY IN. I made a difficult move for a spouse's career and half the time I was fine and the other half I was throwing myself down like a Victorian lady having a hissy fit. I needed to do that. It helped.

And honestly I feel like a session where you're like "Dude I need you to shut up and listen to me go ham on this topic. It will not be LOGICAL. I do not need you to FIX it. I need to let this shit out and see how I feel eventually on the other side of having unleashed it." He sounds like a fixer; when you say you "argue about it all the time," I feel like you guys are making stunted headway, or even going in reverse of where you need to go. This is bigger than that, emotionally. You need to have the experience of those emotions, and then they will begin to settle, and then, finally, you will find something to love in the move. Probably it'll be something you don't expect! Your adventure can begin soon in this move, but not till after you're done with the actual grieving you are doing.

Don't suppress; EXPRESS. And don't let him be an annoying reactive dude about it.

And all this advice about "well you made your choices" is so LOL. People grieve over their choices, even when they've made the right ones! It's fine, they're called FEELINGS.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:48 AM on July 11 [94 favorites]


Honestly, I read the offer to not take the job as a token one--he knows she won't stop him, she doesn't feel it's something she can really do (perhaps because of sunk costs). And again, increased pressure or not, is okay to say you are staying put for however long you need. There are other considerations now--your career, your community, and, more importantly, your child. I don't get the feeling that the appropriateness of your new city for your kid in terms of schools or resources (including, say, having family nearby) has been taken into consideration at all. He or she might be a baby now, but these are still important factors to discuss and is not clear that they have been.

Also I get why you have felt aimless, and I don't think it's your fault. It's impossible to build a career moving as often as you have. Hell, or takes me months just to unpack boxes! You need to start advocating for yourself better. Your kid now, too. Frequent moves are hard on them, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 AM on July 11 [11 favorites]


I'm in academia and my husband has been in your position, and your feelings are totally normal and to be expected, especially with a baby in the mix. One small thing I don't see mentioned upthread is that most universities really want their profs to be happy, and so have career offices specifically for trailing spouses. I'm in an academic but non-professor position and my school did a lot to help my husband. They may at least have some good advice or contacts. You don't have to do this on your own.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:53 AM on July 11 [16 favorites]


I don't think this is about the move. I think you knew what you were getting into as an academic's spouse and you understand how crucial this move is. I think you're upset because you are making a huge sacrifice, and it hasn't been acknowledged. When we do things for people we love, we do them willingly, but we want to be loved and thanked for it; it's only when our loving contributions aren't valued that they feel like a burden. I bet if he did special things for you and told everyone how lucky he felt to have you as his wife and that you're amazing and one in a million and the cornerstone of his success, you wouldn't have written this post.

He can't change the moving, until he has tenure. But he CAN change how he expresses gratitude for your sacrifices. That's what I'd focus on in your communication of this problem.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:54 AM on July 11 [43 favorites]


And I'm mad at myself for letting all of this happen.

This.

I think you need to shift responsibility for these issues back to your own choice not to stand up for your interests/desires (or failure to sufficiently define those interests/desires). There's an old saying "don't sign checks that your ass can't cash." You signed a check that said "It's ok to move for this job" and your husband even said "Are you sure you've got enough money in your emotional account to cover this? Because I can rip it up if you don't." And you replied "No, please, go ahead and take the check." And now you're mad at him that he did the thing that you told him he could do? In a word, not fair. (Ok, two words).

It's unrealistic to expect your husband to do a better job of protecting your interests at the expense of his own. Instead, you need to work on protecting your own interests rather than automatically sacrificing them for his. There may be some self-esteem issues at root here (perhaps you feel you don't "deserve" for people to make sacrifices for you) or maybe a lot of your self-identity is wrapped up in the idea of being self-sacrificing yourself. At any rate, the answer lies within.

Another old saying is "the best revenge is living well." In this case, I think you need to channel your desire to "punish" your husband into setting some goals for yourself and working on accomplishing them.
posted by drlith at 6:55 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Logically, you know that this is the right choice and makes sense for all of you. But it's SO HARD. And you're angry and frustrated, and in the middle of big life changes.

Give it some time. Acknowledge that things will suck for the next six months or so. Try to be kind to your husband -- this isn't really his fault, nor is it yours. Stop arguing with your husband about it. There's nothing to argue about. You're mad and neither of you can fix it, you just have to live with it until you can relax and breathe a little and feel more settled. Just get through it as easily as you can.

For now, is there any way you can take a break from all this? I know it's tough with a baby. Maybe even a few hours to yourself to be totally selfish and do whatever you want?
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:00 AM on July 11


Of course you're angry and miserable - you're in the middle of a huge upheaval and can't see what you're getting out of it. At least your husband knows concretely what he's getting - that can be a huge emotional lift.

Look - you're a new mom, you've got a baby who probably isn't thrilled with the chaos, you're not in your own space, and you don't have anything to look forward to. It is absolutely normal to be pissed off and annoyed and hate everything right now. Your husband, by way of being happier than you are, is a prime target. I went through something similar last year, and all we were doing was remodeling our kitchen - but three months of no access to a stove/oven and living with a fridge in the living room pushed me to the brink. I can't imagine how whacked your emotional state must be right now. Every emotion must be magnified - including and especially your natural envy of your husband for moving toward something GREAT all the time while you're just -- moving.

But the thing is, you're moving. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. You'll be in a fixed spot soon, you'll be among your own things, you'll get more sleep -- you'll feel better. You'll stop hating him. You just have to hang in there. What you're feeling isn't about your husband, it's about your circumstances and your own lack of direction. You'll feel better when the circumstances change.

And when they do -- when you have your own space and you can be sure you're going to stay a while (that's what tenure means, you get to stay a while!) you'll be in a better place to sort out your own goals. Which you absolutely should have. Not having goals is a great way to get depressed about the state of your life, because you can't make progress if there's nothing to work forward, and you sound like someone who really needs to feel like she's making progress. In fact, I would guess that some of your "hate" for your husband stems from the fact that all along, your goals have been for him, and now he's reached the goalposts. That leaves you looking around saying, "Well, what do I get???"

So: Get through this transition. Get settled into your new home. And then get some ideas for what you want to do with your life, now that you have a stable base. I suspect getting your feelings about your own life in order will do wonders for your feelings toward your husband.
posted by kythuen at 7:02 AM on July 11 [8 favorites]


I agree with PhoB that it sounds like the offer was a token one. What are you supposed to do, say, "No, I refuse to move for the job that you've devoted your whole life to?" I think everyone who's saying, "Well, you agreed to it, so you can really only be mad at yourself" has a really different interpretation of the situation than I do. I too would be angry at my spouse if I felt like I had to say yes to something I didn't want, and he kept implying my agreement invalidated my feelings of unhappiness.

I don't have any great ideas, but could you talk to him about taking some proactive steps to make the move easier for you? At least make him do a lot of the logistical work, or ask him to help you with the job search? I'm sorry that you're going through this.
posted by ferret branca at 7:03 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


My remarks may strike as snippy but: he got job.You encouraged him. He said he would turn it down for you but you said no. Now you are angry because you gave him to green light to move? In sum: you put him in a catch 22 position and now are angry. Get over it. He will flourish and help you get on your feet and both will be in safer place for the infant.
posted by Postroad at 7:04 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Look, what you're doing is hard. Really hard. Really really hard. Moving is horrible, being in temporary living spaces is horrible, changing jobs is awful, and having a 6-month-old is also really hard, especially if you're providing most of the care. (I have an 8-month-old.)

I would try really hard to separate the awfulness of your circumstances right now from your feelings toward your husband and his career, because it sounds like you're super stressed by all the upheaval. I'm the same way whenever I move, even when it's my job that we moved for. It also sounds like you're expressing all this stress to your husband by making it about his job, who is then feeling guilty and trying to make himself feel less guilty by arguing you out of it, and the conflict is spiraling.

Try to separate it out and take some concrete steps to mitigate the stress you're feeling. Do you need additional childcare so that you can have some time to yourself? Is there a way you can get into permanent housing sooner? Can you find a way to explore the new area sans child so that you feel a little more embedded in the new city? In a few months, you'll have much more stability and at least 5 years to be in the same place--would it make you feel better to do some thinking about how you can use that to develop your own career, or would that make things more stressful?
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:04 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


There are lots of studies detailing the most stressful things we face in life, and somewhere near the top (after death and divorce and illness) are moving, job insecurity, and new babies. You managed to hit the trifecta right now - no wonder you are beside yourself. As others have said, the baby alone is enough to cause these emotions: it is so hard to get a kid just to sleep through the night when all the circumstances are ideal, and now half of those ideal circumstances are in boxes and the others are in flux. 6 months is also around the time most babies start settling into a kind of pattern where you are finally off the roller coaster and get to take a sigh of relief - shaking things up now may seem impossibly awful. If it helps any, in another 2-3 months teething kicks in, and all the ground you gained generally goes to hell anyway, until baby gets his/her groove again.

But if you're currently packing boxes, you are literally at the worst point right now. You're in the middle of upheaval plus uncertainty. Once you arrive and get settled, this really could be the "it" that each previous move was preparing you for. Try to find the fortitude and optimism you must have had to make it through the other (non-baby) moves, and if it helps, make a commitment with your husband to stay in this new location for at least X years, no matter what: that way you can settle in, make new friends and find baby-related support, and get yourself into a career you can be proud of. You can agree to a number of years, or make it about no leaving until you're established well enough in a field or path that you also can travel with.

The good news is, he got to his destination. His wanderlust and ambition should be off the table for the forseeable future. What happens next is literally up to you.
posted by Mchelly at 7:17 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


How angry were you about all the moves for your husband's career before your baby was born? I know it might seem infuriatingly dismissive to suggest that maybe the anger is just due to hormones, but I'm going to suggest it anyway, because I remember how angry I was at my husband all the time during the first year after my first baby was born. The things I got angry about were genuinely annoying things, but the degree of anger I felt was unreasonable. Maybe the same thing is happening to you. After all, this isn't a new thing. You've made similar moves in the past, but it sounds like you're feeling way more resentment about this one, even though it should lead to more stability and a better income for your family. Of course it's going to suck moving to yet another new place with a young baby. But you know the move makes sense and you don't know yet just how much it's going to suck in the long run. If the last move resulted in a job you love and some good new friends, isn't there a fairly good chance this one will, too? I think it's fine to go into this expecting it will be hard and you will be angry, but I'd suggest waiting another year before deciding how angry you really are and what you want to do about it. A year from now you should have a better idea how much of your anger is due to the reality of your situation and how much is due to postpartum stress and hormone changes.
posted by Redstart at 7:17 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm bemoaning the fact that I don't really have a "career" like many of my friends and grad school colleagues.

I practice law. That is just my job. My career is my family. Your career is your family.

But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

I would be very surprised to find out he thinks this is all for him alone. He probably has security and providing for and your infant child on his mind. I know that every job and finance decision (and just about any other decision) I make is based on the fact that I have a duty to feed four mouths, not one. As Gus Fring remarked, your husband probably feels the duty to obtain this security for you whether he is appreciated, or respected, or even loved. I think he's feeling that quite a bit right now.

FWIW, I've had two six-month-olds. They don't know what's going on and are too busy focusing on trying to sit up unassisted. Having the infant to care for increases your stress in this time, but it is very unlikely the infant thinks he is enduring anything.

I understand that moving about between temporary housing and crashing with friends is frustrating. I've been there. But, do not think this is all about him. He is doing this because it's all about you and your child.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:21 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


It sounds like his trump card is "But I offered not to take it!" Like if you agreed to the move, you have no right to be upset with him about it. But the thing is, he made that offer knowing that you were very likely not to take him up on it. He didn't make the sacrifice -- he OFFERED to make it, under circumstances where he knew that having to do so would be unlikely. Not the same thing at all.

It sounds like you're willing to make this sacrifice, but you need him to acknowledge that it IS a sacrifice (and it is). Right now it sounds like he's not willing to acknowledge that. Can you ask him to acknowledge that? Because that is where I would start.

He says that those friends I'm talking about (like consultants or law firm associates) are probably miserable being so static, and that our life in new X city is going to be better, flexible, etc.

I am a consultant and I've been in the same place around 10 years. I'm very happy here. Being static has a lot of advantages. I don't think his argument here is in good faith.

It sounds like he's focusing on whether you SHOULD feel upset, whether you have the RIGHT to feel upset, and frankly that's not helpful to you right now. Saying "I'm upset!" and having someone say "Well, you chose this, soooooo..." actively makes your being upset worse. I think if he could just say "I know, and I appreciate that you did this for me, and I will do anything I can to help you" would help a hell of a lot more than "Well, your friends are probably unhappy! Moving is so much better!"

As far as your career goes: Can you look at flexible options that might be available to you? I mentioned that I'm in consulting; in my part of the field, I could move pretty much anywhere and still be employed (several of my coworkers have been trailing spouses and have moved across the country while still employed here). I have another friend whose spouse is a pediatric nurse, which is a career in high demand, and made it easy for her to find a place when they moved cross-country. There are definitely careers where relocating is easier, whether because of high demand or because the job can be done remotely.

When you think about jobs, I would also think about things where the day-to-day would feel valuable to you. I think when your husband has this CAREER, it's easy to feel like you should also have your own CAREER to match him. But some people are happier working in phlebotomy, or freelance grantwriting, or some other field, where their contributions are valued but they leave the job at work at the end of the day and keep regular hours.

Anyway. I also agree with all the suggestions upthread to get yourself checked out, ideally by a doctor -- post-partum depression, post-partum thyroiditis, and so forth can make something feel SO MUCH WORSE than it normally would.
posted by pie ninja at 7:21 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


All of the above, but it boils down to this:
- You were a willing party.
- You didn't know what you wanted career-wise, and he did, so following through with his known career path made the most sense for your family, and at this moment, still does.
- You now have a child, and he has a stable job. This new place is the place to put down roots and stay put.
- Facebook, therapy, plus start new connections. Join playgroups in the new place - these benefit you and baby. Choose a hobby you enjoy that you can do and connect with people that way, preferably on a weekly basis. Sounds like he'll be around enough to allow that without needing childcare.

I understand the anger. I've actually encountering a lot of anger and frustration that on the surface, would appear to be at my children, but is really at myself. I look back now, and I KNOW I made the right decisions, because it was absolutely the best choices for them - and I truly wouldn't change them - but I find myself in my late 30s and some days I feel like I've lost ME.

It's a "What happened to MY dreams, MY desires, MY goals... I've always put someone else first." I'm at a place now where I can stop and evaluate and choose how to move forward from here - some of the pressure and need for the focus to be on the kids is gone - not all, but enough. And it's time to, and I'm trying - but it's SCARY. Because now I have to actually make that decision... and some of that anger, I suspect, is really fear.

Anger and frustration, because if my wants had been met first, I wouldn't have to make these decisions at this time, because they'd have already fallen into place. And I wouldn't have to adjust to change the "now" that, even though I'm not happy with it, I'm safe and comfortable in, which makes me resist.
posted by stormyteal at 7:23 AM on July 11


I read your whole post, and there is a lot of great advice other people have given. One line stood out to me SO much, and I think it's not helping to color every interaction in your life right now.

We're squatting in other people's houses while we're between rentals, headed to even more temporary accommodation with an infant while we look for a permanent place, and I have no job.

I unexpectedly find myself in this same position for the month of July, and it's awful. I have never been so angry at the world as being in upheaval than I have been since finding out I had to move. It doesn't matter that I'm moving to a place that's a better fit for me, the cruelty of not having my own space has made me feel so completely and utterly destabilized I can't even believe it. I was the child of academics, and I've moved consistently every few years. Never has a move hit me so hard as the one where I didn't have a place to land that felt permanent on the other end.

I don't ALSO have a 6 month old, but I'm also in a weird position where I'm changing careers, and my husband is just really coming into his own in his, and it's been really hard for me to divorce my feelings of frustration at choices I made (in many cases well before I met him) while I watch him have success after success and I've had a weird string of crazy awful setbacks. You are in an incredibly hard spot, and I've had to let myself be frustrated at the fact that I feel like I have no control over my own life for a bit. You seem to be in a similar position. Do you have anyone you can talk to? Be kind to yourself. My current mantra is "this is merely temporary."
posted by Nimmie Amee at 7:26 AM on July 11 [22 favorites]


I'm not trying to minimise your completely valid feelings, but rather focusing on the practical. This new relocation sounds like it will give you the stability that has made the past two years so great for you. I think it is is more than fair to declare that it is now your turn to focus on your own career development. Train or go back to school or do whatever you want.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:27 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I think a lot of people familiar with this situation feel their stomach turn as they read this, both as the academic partner and as the "trailing" spouse; my wife could have written this post two years ago on the cusp of our cross-country move for my job except our daughter was three months old, not six. We fought more that first year than we have ever before and we're still both on edge about work-life balance issues to this day. It's hard. There's no easy answer but a lot of communication and remembering that you love each other and are in this together for the long-haul.

I would suggest that you both try to reorient yourself to the idea that you're partners and you've made these decisions as a unit for the betterment of your family. From my perspective as the academic spouse, it seems a bit unfair to him to (together) make a series of choices over many years and then try to suddenly undo it all at the end when (miraculously, with respect to the humanities) it somehow all works out exactly as you planned. That doesn't mean your feelings are wrong -- just that they're a consequence of the decisions you've made and have to be dealt with accordingly. As others have said, from an objective standpoint you guys are now in a very good spot: you're settled permanently, your partner will have a permanent job with a lot of flex time and be able to be very active with the kids. Now the two of you can focus on making sure you're fulfilled in this situation and have the things you want as well. That's something you should both be focused on together and it shouldn't be approached from a zero-sum one-must-win-one-must-lose perspective. Ask yourself what you want in your new situation and try to work towards it together.
posted by gerryblog at 7:27 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


You can be angry at your situation, while being excited and happy for your husband that he's finally achieved the pinnacle of his profession!

Married couples usually do this for each other. My Mom supported my father while he went to grad school and made the moves etc. My sister and I were very young when my Dad returned to grad school. My mother's help made it possible for him to have the career in Social Work he had dreamed of.

A weird thing happend after that though. My mother wanted something for herself. So she quit HER job and went to grad school. Then SHE got a job.

They spent the next 25 years switching off, who moved for what and where, with the other spouse tagging along to support the other.

They celebrated their 50th Anniversary a couple of years ago and are very happy together.

Once you're settled at your new location, you'll find other young parents to hang out with, you can assess the job situation, you'll find housing you like, things will fall into place. I promise they will.

Once the dust has settled, it will be YOUR turn to decide how you want your work-life to be. See a career counselor or coach to determine the best way to use your work experience and education to find YOUR dream job.

So you have a work history that's here and there. So's mine. If anyone asks, you can say, "I've been supporting my husband in his career for the past six years, and now that he's settled, we've agreed that it's my turn to pursue my career goals."

Give yourself some slack right now, and cut some of that slack for your husband. It's exhausting being a new parent, it's hard to move, and frankly I totally get why you feel how you feel.

To be fair though, this was what you decided to do when you married. He didn't pull a bait and switch on you. Now he should be down on his knees kissing your feet for doing all of this, so tell him that.

"Look, I'm allowed to be angry, even though I know that this is what we've both worked so hard for. I've sacrificed a lot to support you and I'd like you to acknowledge it and to be grateful to me. I don't want to hear about how other people may not be happy. I don't really care about how those other people think about their choices. Right now, in the dust and clamber of our situation I'm annoyed, resentful, cheesed off and piqued. So every day I want you to tell me, 'Sophie, I realize that this is really hard for you, and I appreciate you and everything you do for me.' I want to hear it when I wake up in the morning, and I want to hear it before we go to sleep at night. I'll let you know when you can stop."

Seriously, I would say that to Husbunny if that's what I felt.

Hang in there, it may suck now, but it will get better and you'll feel less and less angry as things fall into place.

I'm in Atlanta, and if there's ANYTHING I can do for you, let me know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:33 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Oh, I can't speak to the moving multiple times angle, but I can speak to the being furious, mostly at myself but also at my partner for not thinking of me (or, to be honest, for me). My partner is a musician. He went on tour for the first half of our relationship, then moved 300 miles away so that he wouldn't have to pay rent. Our relationship did not really factor in as a priority in either of those decisions.

We then decided to move to New York and move in together. He set the timeline and was unwilling to wait an extra few months for me because he did not want to be job hunting in winter. I ended up paying the bills and managing the logistics of the move. He didn't make much of an effort to find a job and needed a lot of attention.

As you might have guessed, I was pretty mad at him for the better part of a year. Winter sucked,trying to have both of us live on my salary alone in NYC sucked, having no close friends (he has plenty in the area) around sucked. We moved two times and had no privacy and less than 30 sq feet of space to live in each time. My new commute sucked and my job environment went from "modern startup with people who get me" to "claustrophobic and awkward with a side of realizing that I was massively underpaid and overworked". It didn't really matter that it was "my" choice; I hated that being in a relationship with him meant that all my choices pretty much sucked.

What really turned things around was a huge, nasty, fight where I threw things and realized that my anger was negating all the sacrifices I was making. It was making me blind to all the benefits of being in the city. I realized that I'd made all those choices because I wanted to be with him more than I wanted things to always be fair. I'm not saying this was a magical realization that made everything better; I'm just saying that at one point I just decided to grit my teeth, cut my losses, and just make it work.

I was still mad at him for months after, but I forced myself to smile and be engaged and basically let things go. I started working out and stopped letting myself dwell on the choices I couldn't change. I told myself that if it wasn't better after six months, I'd revisit the problem then.

I still got angry every day for months after that, but it made me focus harder on the things I could do: get a better paying job with a better environment, improve my living situation, spend more time on my own hobbies. All of it did get much better, and I did eventually forgive him through acting like I had. It also helped that he's acknowledged many, many times how much I've done for us and apologizing for the way he handled everything. I don't think he would have been able to admit that so often if I had continued with attacking him for making the choices he did. He's become a lot more considerate and thoughtful. We have a really good relationship now. Forgiveness has paid off.

Ultimately, I learned that my happiness is in my own hands. Like you, I'm a bit more wishy-washy and that played into my lack of pushback early on in my relationship with my partner. Like you, I was really mad at myself for not prioritizing my own career, and mad at myself for not speaking up when it really mattered. I feel like I've gotten much less easy to push around in the past year; owning my stupider choices has, uh, sucked, but it has also made me less willing to settle for less than I want. I'm now a lot more satisfied with my life than I was before I moved.

Moving for someone is really hard. You're a really good, loving, person for giving up so much for him. If I were to give you advice from my own experience, I'd say: table your anger and just deal with the move for now. Focus on figuring out what you want, given your new circumstances. When the dust finally settles, check back in with yourself and see where you're at with the anger.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:37 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


you put him in a catch 22 position and now are angry.

I see a lot of people saying this sort of thing in this thread, or that she made the decision willingly, but that's really ignoring the larger context, where wives are so often expected to sacrifice for their husband's careers. She's the one in the catch 22 position: make a move she doesn't want, or ruin her husband's shot at his dream career.

Suppose she had said "You know what? We have a new baby, and we have a lot of support in this city, and I don't want you to take that dream job you've been offered." Now how angry and resentful is he going to be about that? Was it even a real offer? Would he actually do it, or would he say "You know what, I've been working my whole life towards this goal, and I'm taking the job regardless"? Does she really want to find out if this person she loves and trusts and has sacrificed for is "that guy"? And on the other hand, if he agrees to stay, are all his friends and family going to think of her as That Harridan Who Made Him Give Up His Dream? These aren't two perfectly logical Vulcans debating this move in a vacuum.

Ruthless Bunny's advice is great.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:44 AM on July 11 [42 favorites]


Lots of good insight in the prior comments. This is a complicated and really, really hard situation. Your feelings about your husband and about yourself are all over the place. So many huge changes all converging all at once.

Having been in a crunch that bad myself, though with different specifics-- recognizing that white-hot anger-- and having moved past it with a lot of work on his part, mine, and together, let me suggest the single best book I can for you, out of a whole library full of marriage books. Love Without Hurt by Stosny. I know you have a zillion things going on right now so reading the whole book may be too much, but I tell you, the Core Value Bank and the HEALS practice are concrete and effective coping techniques that can help defuse that massive anger. For your benefit as well as his. I'm on my phone and can't google but you may be able to find this stuff online too... It has worked wonders for me, my husband, our marriage and I think it can help you too.

Good luck, you are in a really challenging situation.
posted by Sublimity at 7:46 AM on July 11


Well if he considers him moving to be some kind of wonderful favor to you and/or not in any way a sacrifice, of course you're pissed.

1) Get a job in your previous city
2) Move back
3) Enjoy your life and stop sacrificing for someone who doesn't appreciate it

That's my suggestion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:47 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Having once been a trailing spouse who worked drudge jobs and moved every year or two for many years, I really sympathize with your frustration -- and with the no-win situation of wanting to be supportive but privately wishing for more opportunities for oneself. I imagine having a small child, with the stress and sleep-deprivation that entails, must seriously exacerbate your feelings of being in the process of wasting your (professional) life.

However, it seems to me from your own description that you're actually on the threshold of a much more stable situation than you've ever had before, where your spouse actually can take up some of the parenting slack and where you may be able to develop a community of friends and professional contacts over a longer term. So this doesn't seem like the moment to have a freak out -- it seems like you should hang in there a little longer until things stabilize and see how things improve, particular into the fall semester when you'll have a sense of how your husband will be able to juggle his new tenure-track position with your home life.
posted by aught at 7:47 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


The promise of the tenure-track job was held out as the goal that would solve ALL your problems over the many years of instability (well, not really, when you look at it logically, but EMOTIONALLY it felt it was going to be the panacea). So now the job is here and there are MORE problems! I can understand your frustration and it sounds like your husband has not been validating your feelings. His offer to give up the job was insulting, both of you knew you would not take him up on it (or, if you did, his resentment would have poisoned your marriage). He needs to drop that argument and be honest with you both. The lack of permanent housing is the biggest problem. Both of you need focus on getting permanent housing with all your resources going towards it, even if he would rather be spending time on his job. Why not give yourself permission to not work until your baby is over one year old? This gives you time to settle in and think about your next move career-wise.
posted by saucysault at 7:48 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


OP, aside from the tangle of marriage, career, and baby issues you've got going on, you also sound awfully isolated. Would you consider having a mod post your location? Someone may know of a fun meetup or moms' group in your area. I can only imagine that your stresses would be easier to handle if you had more people to lean on.

And knowing Ask, someone local might offer to drop by and bring you cookies. If you're local to me, I will.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:01 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I am with those who say that maybe this is a reaction to a new scary reality: tenure means all the moving is done. In fact, it means you're stuck there.

I think the way you feel is reasonable, but that you need to find a way to vent and soothe your anxiety - probably in a more temporary manner right now with the final tasks of moving still ahead of you, and then maybe an ongoing set of activities once you're settled.

I've seen this kind of upheaval and unhappiness a lot in my academic friends, and even the single ones have deep-seated trauma issues over the constant uncertainty of the adjunct years and the realization that they don't actually get to pick where they live out the rest of their working lives. (The only thing worse is when academics marry, because that is basically the definition of a no-win situation.) It always surprised me that it surprised them, but I think it may be a forest/trees problem.

I think this might be one of those times where marriage counseling sooner can prevent this from becoming a disaster later. If he can't hear you and validate you, he's not going to learn to do it spontaneously now, so you might as well go find someone to impart those skills.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:14 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


It's all fine and dandy to make "family" your career if that's what you want to do. It's patronizing to suggest that it's what you should want.

You're committed to this move. You are angry about it. That's totally normal.

Make a deal with yourself. You'll be in a new city, with new opportunities. You are going to try to find your calling now. Tell your husband this. "Husband, you made it. Congrats! Now it's your turn to emotionally support me while I work towards my goals and my goal currently is to figure out what my goals actually are."

You are not too late. It's okay to want a career. Your husband owes you one and it's okay to feel resentful about that. Talk it through and don't let him use the "but you agreeeeeeed" as a trump card. Yes, you agreed, now you need something in return, starting with him sincerely acknowledging your sacrifices.
posted by lydhre at 8:26 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


I think it is is more than fair to declare that it is now your turn to focus on your own career development. Train or go back to school or do whatever you want.

This, a thousand times.

Being married to an academic is a pain in the ass. Among other things, they have a built-in social group where academia is the summit of human endeavor, and anyone who's not an academic just doesn't understand. At least it'll seem that way when you go to parties. You're going to need a really strong sense of self. But the upsides, in terms of benefits, flexibility of your spouse's schedule, and so on, are really very cool. So make the most of it. What you don't want is to wind up in seven years, when he either gets tenure or you have to move again, in exactly this same situation.
posted by BibiRose at 8:28 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Being the other in an academic relationship is much harder than most people think because it becomes so easy to devalue yourself for your spouse's career.

I'd recommend focusing on letting yourself feel angry and acknowledging that you are frustrated and pissed off. Whether it's writing in a journal, talking to a psychologist, or a friend, you need to recognize that you are upset and angry and take care of yourself. It may be helpful to get a better sense through talking to psychologist of what is triggering your more intense emotions. Eventually, you want to get to the point where, when anger is about to erupt, you can tell in advance and have a coping mechanism you can turn to like taking a deep breadth, going for a walk, etc.

Like others have said, dwelling over how the decision went down isn't going to help because your husband has accepted the job. The next step should be figuring out what makes you happy career-wise, if you want to work outside the home, and feeling confident that you can advocate for what you want the next time you are at an academic job crossroads. I can attest that it's really hard to figure that out when you are partnered with someone who is a bright shiny star and has been working toward something for 10+ years. Just because you are not an academic does not mean that you do not have value and a chance at a rewarding career.

You can get through this! To answer your questions:

1. How can I make the best of this situation. Has anyone else had these feelings before and mended the relationship?
Acknowledge that you are pissed off and come up with some coping mechanisms while you process your anger - cry, scream, throw rocks. Ideally, wait until you've come to grips with your feelings a bit before sharing your frustration more with your spouse. Whenever possible, take a step back and try to figure out how you can treat yourself with love and care in a difficult time. The combination of a big move, support system loss, and six month old sounds super stressful. Can you take a night off, go to a hotel or friend's house, and have your husband watch the kid? Can you have a night each week where you go out with friends on your own? If you'd like to talk to someone who has been in a similar situation, please message me. There aren't a lot of people in the world who have been in this situation and we should stick together.

2. The Career Stuff
Make a plan to figure out what you want and have confidence in whatever path you choose. You didn't give up your career, you have a chance to create a career you love. If you are in your mid-30s, you have another 30+ years of doing work you find rewarding. Remember that you are valued and important and that academics (while contributing to the world) are no more important than teachers, policemen, etc. One thing I found really helpful in a similar time was to think of my academic spouse as an actor who had been struggling for 15 years and now was getting close to landing a big part. This really helped me get past the mystique of having an academic spouse and devaluing my own career choices. The most important thing for you to remember once you feel a little better is that you can find something you love and enjoy. The path doesn't matter as much as the destination.
posted by JuliaKM at 8:38 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


This is actually REALLY REALLY REALLY common for spouses of academics. I actually don't know a SINGLE relationship where an academic is partnered with a non-academic who hasn't gone through exactly this situation.

It feels like you're supporting him (and the family) until you look around and 10 years has passed, and you're financially stable (barely) but have sort of put your life on hold to make it work. Now he's getting all of the accolades, and prestige, and you're just the trailing spouse who is supposed to make it all work without a peep. It's a really common feeling. Like - unless the academic gets a tenure-track job right out of graduate school (exceedingly uncommon) the trailing spouse has to do this for years, and it's often right when things take a turn for the better that all of the sacrifices are "worth it" for the academic and really intangible for the non-academic spouse.

It's also common right before any big move, let alone in the summer heat, and having a 6 month old (who is newly interested in moving and being a bit more independent and having Feelings).

Tell yourself it's ok to have conflicted feelings about it all. All of it. And that you'll put one foot in front of the other until you get to the new location. Talk to your husband about what you need: is it a scheduled, solid 3 days a week where YOU aren't in charge of the baby? If that means he takes the baby for 2 days and you get a sitter for the 3rd, so be it. Figure out what would enable you to get a sense of yourself back, and start to put baby steps of that plan into action.

I've totally been there. It sucks. Know that this is the worst part. You'll get to the new place, figure out a new plan, and start to build your own path forward. Make it very very clear to your spouse that you'll need a concrete plan TOGETHER to cover childcare, household care and other daily chores. They're not on you to ask HIM to do, they're on you together. Together you've made his 100% happen. Now it's time for both of you to make YOUR 100% happen.

Being partnered to an academic can be a royal pain in the ass in so many ways. They get the moral high ground and you're supposed to suck it up and make it happen. And you've got gender stuff going on too (so much emotional/invisible labor is done by the woman in most heterosexual partnerships). It's hot, it's summer, you are now dealing with ANOTHER move but this time with a baby, and it's not your dream location. No wonder you're annoyed.

I'm totally up for commiserating anytime you need. I'm an academic married to another academic, but I see this happen in virtually every other academic-nonacademic partnership. It's not you having a childish temper tantrum, this is A THING that almost everyone goes through. Hang in there.
posted by barnone at 8:41 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


I'm frankly surprised that so many of the comments upthread emphasize that the OP had a choice all these years and that she chose to continue to move and support her husband's career trajectory.

You were a willing party.
I sooooo disagree.

Our culture socializes and downright encourages women and men to expect that a woman's career is second to her husband's. I don't think it's fair to see the choices that women are compelled to make outside of that heavily patriarchal structure--love or no love, dream or no dream.

On a more practical note (because I also agree that his offer to not take the position was not a genuine offer with no emotional strings attached), I would ask that he pay for childcare so that your career does not default to "your family." Family should not be dismissed as work or career, but it's appalling that we are for the most part are suggesting that the OP make it her "career" when that is not how she has chosen to identify herself. She wants career, friends, social circles, an identity outside of what is defaulted to her.

Full childcare so that you may have the freedom (or what's left of it) to rebuild your identity and your work. That's the least that is due to you.

While I'll help him in every way with his career, he has never suggested anything for my career that would be remotely adverse to his.

Some comments want to emphasize that the OP did not have a clear career interest as a reason why husband would not have made this suggestion to support her instead. My response to this was so on the other end of the spectrum. My response was, "Yes, why didn't he initiate a conversation that began with, "Look, you don't seem to have a clear idea of what you'd like to do, but us moving around like this isn't going to help you identify your passion. This pattern of moving will eventually be to your detriment, even if it may financially reap benefits for my career and our family. I believe in you, too. And I believe that if we stay put and not automatically chase my dreams (because academia is just a dream until it happens), you'll be the star if we just let you."

My god. Then OP may have really had a "choice" to move or not move all those years.

(I say the above not because I disparage women and men who focus on family, but because it is clearly such a gendered pattern, even when women "choose" to go along with it.)
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 8:50 AM on July 11 [30 favorites]


While I'm not an academic spouse, I've had a history of sacrificing myself for the sake of making other people happy only to end up feeling frustrated and resentful, so I can at some level relate to what you're going through.

The part of your question, anon, that struck me the most, was:

Part of the problem was that he was always crystal clear on what he wanted to do job-wise, while I was always wishy-washy.

Would it be possible that, perhaps, you were so focused on helping your husband succeed in his career in academia and gone through so many moves that you never had any kind of opportunity to properly sit down and examine what is it that you'd like to do?

And taking care of a little baby doesn't help either, and on top of feeling resentful and angry with your husband, you also feel as if you've made your bed and you need to lie in it.

I'm here to let you know: It's never too late to be kind to yourself.

As some of the other answerers have mentioned, in the short term, you can express to your husband that you'd all of you to be staying put for longer than before now that he has a tenure-track job, and to let him know that your feelings about having to move and lose your support network with every move.
Then look for new meetup groups in your new town.
And seriously look into daycare arrangements so that you can give yourself more time to explore what you want to do career-wise - what career is the most meaningful and rewarding to you, whether you want to go to school, etc.
While you're exploring your career options, ask your husband to support you.

Hang in there, anon - take care of yourself!
posted by Tsukushi at 8:55 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'm an academic spouse (baggage is a term I've heard used and used myself) and have been for about 20 years. Unless you are both brilliant, and sometimes even then, someone has got to make the sacrifice to provide the flexibility to live in the same city. I'm on my third country now. My career is retarded because of the moves (particularly due to being H4 at the moment in America's byzantine system). I don't really have a circle of friends anymore because they are all over the place and it gets progressively harder to find new circles (because I grow pickier and people have more and more established social circles as they age).

Also tenure-track is different from actual tenure. It means a three to five year intense probation period where he will have to get a lot done. This is the rough ride portion of academia. In some ways things are going to get worse for you. Prepare for this. Understand what is coming. Also don't bank on this being the last move. Build a portable friend network and life plan. I think of academia as a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

These are costs. Nothing anybody does or says can make those costs go away.

On the other hand a good relationship is something the majority of the people in the world don't get and the lifestyle flexibility of an academic and potential job security of tenure are amazing rewards for both of you.

I think you know that you made a correct choice but you are probably exhausted and very emotionally thin-skinned or raw at the moment - I find looking after my cat exhausting so a baby is probably worse. You check the boxes for several of life's greatest stressors right now. This is almost as bad as it ever gets (hopefully nobody close to you dies in the near future!) and if you understand that you can possibly power through.

It is important to try and develop some emotional self-insight to survive this kind of stress. Understand when you are depleted and lashing out (my wife and I refer it to as being 'low-lemoned' as in "I don't have the lemons to deal with this right now' - she picked the expression up from a post-doc supervisor who used it in a lemon-battery way I think). I'll often realize when I am stressed and irritable and just say "I'm cranky today" to my wife and suddenly the situation is just better. No fighting. No additional stress. Just an expression and recognition that these feels are there and I have them for whatever reason and then I move on (It is probably also healthy to give your partner the heads-up).
posted by srboisvert at 8:59 AM on July 11 [7 favorites]


First of all, I think you need to realize, if you don't already, that your husband's tenure-track job is not guaranteed position. While it may seem like the fulfillment of his academic dream, in reality it's a trial period, of probably 6-7 years, after which, either your husband will be granted tenure, or he won't, and you will likely have to move again..

As others have noted, you really need to stop blaming your husband. He offered to stay put. I would consider, if I were you, why you rejected that offer. I don't buy your arguments that turning down the job would have meant he would have wasted his past opportunities or that the prior moves would have been worthless. Other things have happened in the years since you've been together. It doesn't all boil down to his career. You've been building a life together, starting a family. It would have been a totally valid decision for him to put aside his career goals and settle down with you in a town that you love with a community of friends that supports your family. If you had been honest with yourself and him about your true feelings over the move, then he might have decided that your family's stability and your happiness were more important than pursuing this academic dream.

Is it too late for him to turn down the offer at this point? If not, I would seriously consider revisiting the decision. In any case, you need to be honest with him about your misgivings.

If you have to move, then I would think about what he can do -- if anything -- to support you in a way that will address some of your most important concerns. You've got to deal with the baby, making new friends, figuring out your career. Is he willing or able to do anything that will really sweeten the deal for you and make this move a plus for you both?
posted by Gray Skies at 9:00 AM on July 11


If you're upset about what's happening, consider the alternative. Which is that he turns down a great job so you can stay in a temp job and then not have a job. And the have to move again, probably. How is that going to help your career? He's done having to move now, so you can focus on your career now.

That's obviously a better situation. What you're agreed to do is obviously best for your family. People will tell you how important feelings are, but they're not more important than facts. If you're not happy doing what's best for your family, maybe your problem is with the family itself?
posted by spaltavian at 9:00 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Sounds like this is more a case of regret. I'm particular, regret that you never figured things out with your career or found a great permanent job. Regret that you don't have a permanent home and place that is your home.

These aren't things that are his fault. And the moving process blows, but you just have to get through and not let the annoyance of moving or your jealousy over your husband's job keep you from giving your new city a fair shake. You may love living there. You may find your dream job there. In life, people make decisions all the time that they won't know how they will turn out. Maybe you'd rather keep what you had than venture off into the unknown. But this may end up even better.

Stop focusing on how much you hate it and focus on how you're going to get the most out of it. Make it work.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:02 AM on July 11


As others have noted, you really need to stop blaming your husband. He offered to stay put. I would consider, if I were you, why you rejected that offer. I don't buy your arguments that turning down the job would have meant he would have wasted his past opportunities or that the prior moves would have been worthless. Other things have happened in the years since you've been together. It doesn't all boil down to his career. You've been building a life together, starting a family. It would have been a totally valid decision for him to put aside his career goals and settle down with you in a town that you love with a community of friends that supports your family. If you had been honest with yourself and him about your true feelings over the move, then he might have decided that your family's stability and your happiness were more important than pursuing this academic dream.

This is so wrong and so awful. HE had a choice to advocate for her for 8 years.


Sounds like this is more a case of regret. I'm particular, regret that you never figured things out with your career or found a great permanent job. Regret that you don't have a permanent home and place that is your home. These aren't things that are his fault.

Fault isn't the question here. The question is how do women, and in particular the OP, make choices in the service of others (family/husband/friends) without those choices then being used to blame them for a culture that socializes all of us to expect those choices from them (women). Maybe this isn't her husband's fault per se (I don't know him; he's probably a swell lad), but when along the way did he ever advocate for a different situation? He remained silent. Culturally speaking, it was to his benefit to accept her choices as her choices.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 9:08 AM on July 11 [20 favorites]


I'm an academic spouse! I live in a city I wouldn't normally want to be in, surrounded with mostly other spouses of academics I wouldn't normally hang out with and only a few would I call friends. It's tough, but I will say this: you need to figure out if the moving around is worth it and if you are ok being in strange cities because it doesn't really end until tenure happens.

If I held onto my resentment about where I am, I wouldn't be married today. I can't underscore how big of a thing this is -- do whatever is necessary to solve this problem before it festers into something much bigger. See a therapist, see a couples therapist, have a few serious sit down conversations with your spouse.

I came to terms with it because at one point in our relationship, I had to move us both to a new city in the direction of my career, and later on my spouse's needs to be in a certain college town outweighed my own telecommuting type work, and I agreed and we've been that way ever since.

I have had times where I've felt down about this, but I've found an extended network of friends that live within an hour's drive of me that I try to see regularly (in Adult Mode with the kids left behind). I also embraced the aspects of the place I'm at, I have great food and restaurants around me, wonderful roads for running and biking, etc. Ideally, I'd love to be in San Francisco, or Portland, or even NYC, but I knew marrying an academic came with some caveats and I'm lucky enough to be in a position where I can work from anywhere, so I defer location to my spouse's needs.

It's not easy, especially with kids involved, but I'd say it's a showstopper bug in the relationship and one worth working on and working out as soon as you can.
posted by mathowie at 9:08 AM on July 11 [11 favorites]


I've felt some similar resentment in my relationship, and my partner is an academic. This is so hard, I really sympathize.

Sometimes you make sacrifices that don't seem like such a big deal until you look back ten years later and what felt like just little moves at the time look like a steady path away from a strong career. At one point I was very "wishy-washy" about my career, and this made it easier to make choices that favored my partner's career development. Looking back, I feel like I was making a choice that favored him over me, but I didn't feel that way at the time.

The thing that helped for me is that my partner has also been very willing to make sacrifices for me. And that both of us look at these choices, be they as small as what time I come home from the office or as large as moving across the country, as real sacrifices that really impact our lives. Your husband's career is *not* more important than yours. Do you think his offer to stay was genuine? Do you think he would have stayed without punishing you with his resentment?

Your own life is important. So how can your husband show you that he believes that with all his heart? What things can he do for you this year to show that you are just as much of a star as he is? Can you plan a trip back to visit your friends? Can he commit to taking full child-care responsibility certain days so you can focus on your projects?

What would make you feel like he is as invested in you as you are in him?
posted by ewok_academy at 9:39 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


My take is that you are, understandably, ridiculously frustrated with your current situation.
Leaving a city, job, and friends you love, living as a favor in other ppl's house, with a 6-month old? Oh, dear, I'd not be happy! But, this is hopefully the last move.
Is your husband just shrugging it off since you agreed to it? If so, heck yeah, you two need to have a talk because: NOT COOL. You need to tell him that he needs to acknowledge this and be more supportive and understanding. After all, what kind of a choice did you have. "I've supported you towards X for years, now that you've been offered X, well F you".
Communicate with him. Tell him:
I've supported you thus far and I don't regret it because I want you to be happy. But this move has been much more painful than any other move. I need you to acknowledge this and give me emotional support. Please don't shrug off my unhappiness. What if our roles were reversed and you were miserable because we didn't move for this job? What if I didn't even acknowledge it because you offered to stay? I put your happiness above my own and you act like you don't care.
posted by Neekee at 10:14 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Lots of good thoughts above. One more: were you brought up, either explicitly or implicitly, to regard sacrificing yourself (and your needs, and your desires) as the purest form of love?

This is definitely a big theme in my family. My (immigrant, decidedly working-class, etc.) parents gave up a lot and went through a lot for me and my brother and it's been a really awkward transition to adulthood while we sort out what it means for me to show love without making equal-scope upheaval self-flagelating sacrifices "for" them. There's been a lot of "I gave so much for you" and expectations that, therefore, I need to give up something that means as much to me, or I don't really love them.

I don't mean to imply that your relationship has any kind of parent-child dynamics to it, or anything like that. But I am getting a sense that you feel that you gave up a lot of things that you would, if left to your own devices, preferred to keep, and that you did it as a way of showing love to your husband. Your husband, you feel, does not recognize these sacrifices as the big deals they are and is not giving up anything that means as much to him to show love to you. Logically, you don't even want him to; but emotionally, you feel the unbalance.

There's probably also a lot of Ask vs. Guess stuff going on, where the unexamined assumptions of both of you don't quite match up (he probably figures that if it really bothered you, you'd say something; you probably feel that you *can't* say something, especially not 'no,' and can't see why he doesn't see that). It's OK for your feelings and your logic to not match up--that's not how it works. But it is probably important to concentrate on moving forward together constructively, and not let resentment over unmet expectations in the past keep you from making things better in the future.
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:30 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Oh, and, yes, girl, he needs to step UP and help you feel loved! It's a tough time with a new baby and a sense of despair over wasted opportunities and facing the prospect of giving everything you've carefully built up up AGAIN and what could I have been or done with myself if not for this millstone around my neck and maybe staring down the barrel of a midlife crisis and wishing something, anything were different. The desperation is obvious in your question and if he wants to keep his wife, some things are going to have to change for both of you.

Another part: is there any way that the both of you can figure out to reframe 'his' career as, to some degree, belonging to both of you? Because that's what it's been, realistically. You've made tons of sacrifices to help get him where he is now and will be in the future and who gets the accolades? Him alone, as if he did it all himself. No! Could he have done it nearly so well, or maybe at all, without you in his corner? I doubt it.

It would probably go a long way if there were some recognition of that. Through moving around and letting your resume get spotty so his can go unbroken and probably taking on the bulk of the childcare and housekeeping and downfalls of a temporary life, you've put a lot into this job and it's not just his, as if it has nothing to do with you. I don't know what you would like him to do to show that you are a valued, equal partner and satisfy your own ambitions, but give the question some thought.
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:42 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


It might be helpful to think about how the sacrifices you're making in your life for your new child (even if you're theoretically happy to be making them) might be amplifying the resentment you're feeling about the sacrifices you're making in your life for your husband. It's likely that it's not just that both "new baby" and "move" are stressful things (though they are), it's also that in this instance, they can both be stressful in similar ways that pretty much put your needs and your life on the backburner in favor of someone else's.

That can be a pretty angering situation, even if logically you could look at it and realize that it's temporarily necessary in order for things to get better long-term.

Dance of Anger is a pretty good book about women and anger, and has some good concrete ideas about how to learn to figure out what you want and express it in ways that people will listen to (there's an audio version, too). Reading or listening to it might help you start to think about how you want to make sure your voice gets heard in your family going forward.
posted by jaguar at 10:43 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


He says that those friends I'm talking about (like consultants or law firm associates) are probably miserable being so static, and that our life in new X city is going to be better, flexible, etc. He'll have summers off and can be a 50-50 parent.

This isn't helping -- it's not what you need. He probably also says, "I offered to stay here. You said no," seeming to imply that you're trying to have I both ways. You need empathy and support, and to feel as if he's your ally.

I suggest that you tell him very simply what you want from him regarding one particular thing, and I know this is going to sound goofy -- but it can really work. Example: "I'm looking for some sympathy. I'm feeling sad because I don't know anybody." He'll try to make it better by saying you'll make new friends, blah blah. Just say, "I will make friends, but feel sad about it now. It's not easy. What I want to hear is, 'I'm sorry you feel sad. Leaving friends is hard.'" Calmly keep making that request until he says it. He might object, but just sincerely ask him to say it. If he feels uncomfortable and ends up saying it in a stilted or rote way, you could say your sad feelings again and he can answer more naturally. When he does it, give a hug, thank him... whatever you would have done if he'd done it without coaxing.

This is how he'll learn to quit explaining, using "logic," and trying to get you to look on the so-called bright side. When he figures out that all he has to do is listen and empathize, he might do the logical thing and change his approach.

Don't wait for him to do the right thing...tell him what the right thing is. Even when I have to tell my husband what to say, I still feel better when he says it.
posted by wryly at 10:58 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'm in a dual-career academic couple, so not exactly your situation but we've faced some similar challenges and hard, hard choices. It's really, really hard. Very hard. I want to validate that it sucks and is just hard.

But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

Of course you are. This makes sense. You just went through pregnancy and now have a young child, which for many people is a time of intense nesting. The last thing you want to do is another move. And leaving a place where you have support when you have a baby is BRUTAL for many people. Having a baby transformed me from a serious introvert who didn't want to be around people most of the time to feeling anxious to be alone with the kid for more than an hour or two. I wonder if there is a biological instinct for help and support and having people near you that kicks in when you have a baby. It feels like your husband might as well be abandoning you with the baby in a wide-open savannah prowled by lions. This feeling gets better.

How can I make the best of this situation? Has anyone else had these feelings before and mended the relationship?

Answer to the second question: Yes, I've been there and yes, we worked it out. Honestly, like everything else about this, it's hard. I strongly strongly strongly recommend couples therapy if you're serious about wanting to get your relationship back on a solid foundation. Couples therapy can also help you answer your first question about how to make the best of it. You and your husband can work together to make a plan to make you feel better about the move. To start, think about what you want and how to work toward getting that. Do you want to have your career be the priority for the next few years? How could you do that? Do you want setting down roots and having a strong social network in your new home to be the priority? Or maybe there's something else that you want to work on first. How could your husband help with getting toward your goals? The answer though is couples therapy.

If you want to discuss with someone who's been in a similar place, memail me. Also did I mention that it's hard?
posted by medusa at 11:08 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I wish you hadn't posted anonymously because you and I, we should talk. We're about the same age, and our situations are so similar. We've just moved (again) for my husband's job. We didn't have a house when we got here, rentals, etc. We've never been anywhere longer than two years. My career has also come second to his, in part because he's been super clear and I've been the wishy washy one. We have a great marriage and we have six month old twins, our first kids. All of this to say - I feel you!!

There's a lot of great advice here but I'll just add my two cents, things I have done that have helped.

1) This is not forever. If you're not dead, then it's not forever. I tell myself that I have to give it at least 12 months before making any decisions about if it truly isn't working for me, what might need to change etc. Putting a moratorium on changing anything helps keep me from obsessing over what I'm missing, what our next step might be, when will I feel settled, etc, etc. So, maybe just try to focus on being where you are for a year. Then see how you feel.

2) Reframe! I get angry sometimes too - I don't like where we live (I'm trying!) I miss all of my friends, especially now that I'm home with the kids (my job didn't travel with us) and I'm lonely a lot of the time. He's so happy, he has exactly what he wants in terms of his career and personal life (though he'd also say he wants me to be happy) and sometimes I just hate that I never stood up and said, "No. I'm not moving again, we're not doing this anymore." I, like you, didn't think it was right for me to stand in the way of his long held dream, especially when I don't have a similar singular focus for my own career. Whenever I start to feel resentful I just remind myself that no one forced me to do this, that we both CHOSE to do this and I try and remember number 1, this is not forever, we are not dead.

I haven't figured it all out either, but those are things that help me keep perspective and keep my cool. Also - just to reiterate, 6 month old babies are great but they are also HARD, and when your social support system gets yanked out from under you it's even harder. We moved when the babies were 6 weeks old and it was so difficult. Anyway - feel free to memail me if you want to chat/commiserate.

I hope you start to feel better soon.
posted by blue_bicycle at 11:10 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


he offered to turn down the academic job and stay here (getting a non-academic job) and this suggestion was in earnest, but I wouldn't let him

Then ... why are you angry at him?

I'm bemoaning the fact that I don't really have a "career" like many of my friends and grad school colleagues

That's your responsibility, not his.

But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

It's not for him alone. You'll finally be settling in one place for at least several years, you'll have better financial stability, he'll be able to co-parent more. All of you benefit.

why couldn't he ever suggest something in favor of my career to the detriment of his?

What? Instead of expecting him to read your mind and wait around for him to "suggest" things, why don't you take the initiative? Also, why do you want him to suggest things that are specifically detrimental to him? This sounds like tit-for-tat score-keeping.

So how can I get myself to stop hating him for it?

Grow up and acknowledge that you're being unreasonable here. You married an academic; you knew that frequent moves would happen. Moving sucks, but it's the way academia works, and with the extreme dearth of good tenure-track jobs available (as a fellow academic, I sympathize with him), he can't afford to pass this up. Know that the suckiness will be over soon, and enjoy your new home.
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:10 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I sense more contempt than anger in your question.

"But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone."

It isn't fun living life as an extension of someone else. It is soul-killing and as many up-thread suggest, it is strongly reinforced by our culture.

But, you have a choice. You can stop "letting him" do things and stop trying to derive a sense of self-worth from managing his life. If he were an alcoholic your attitude would seem more familiar. But co-dependency can occur in any context.
posted by macinchik at 11:16 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm bemoaning the fact that I don't really have a "career" like many of my friends and grad school colleagues. because we always moved so often and I just sort of found something to do in each place (sometimes awesome, often miserable.)

Do you own the fact that you made decisions that did not include prioritizing or defining a career? You need to reclaim some of your own agency.

why couldn't he ever suggest something in favor of my career to the detriment of his?

Like what? How could your spouse suggest things for your career if you didn't have clear goals? And didn't you just say you don't really have a career? I agree with saeculorum - there are contradictory elements in what you've written.

I feel like there's something you're not sharing here that would make this all make more sense. Did you have a dream or a plan for a possible career that you gave up or put aside way back when? Did you ever tell your husband about those career goals? Or were your plans always diffuse and ill-defined? Maybe it would help if you take responsibility for figuring out what it is you want to do and take some concrete steps toward doing it - rather than using this move as occasion to bemoan what you have not done.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:03 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I was in a similar situation (husband moving for dream job, me not wanting to move to that location but agreeing anyway) and I was really angry with myself, not him, for not taking what I wanted seriously. It's your job to figure out what you want, it's your job to go get it.

Still -- why couldn't he ever suggest something in favor of my career to the detriment of his?

Did you suggest something in favor of your career? Seriously suggest it? Ask for his support? (If you're thinking "but I shouldn't have to," he is not a mind-reader, and after you've said yes 5 or 10 times to moving, it's reasonable for him to think that you are not serious about your career and staying in one place. It's like that one friend who never shows up when you invite them to parties, so you stop inviting them.)

Anyway, I stopped being mad at myself (and him) about moving when I owned my decision and forgave him for not reading my mind. If you move with him, then embrace it fully, without anger. If you decide not to, then embrace that fully, without guilt.
posted by desjardins at 12:06 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I have felt like this (in fact, I asked a question about it). It took me a while to figure out how much of my reaction was anger (at my husband and/or myself) and how much was simple fear of change. Turns out most of it was fear, manifesting as anger, and talking about the fear took away a lot of the anger.

Some of my fear/anger was justified, and some was not. I was worried about my own career path, and I took more than one hit in that regard, and will have to figure out what that means for me longterm. I was worried about living close to his family and having equitable time with my own, but I love his family and am so glad we live near them and not mine. And my family likes where I live now, so they come visit me a lot more often than they did before. I felt like I was a tag-along and that my position in our relationship was not as equal as his, because we would never move somewhere that would benefit my career and not his.

Much of the advice I got in my thread was about looking past the immediate move to a few years down the road - would my fears about moving outweigh any regret about staying put? That helped me a lot. I also talked with my husband (talked, not fought) about what moving meant to me and what I was worried about - and I talked to other people (friends, therapist) about my anger and frustration with our career situations and how unfair it was that he got such a peach of a job so quickly and my fears that it wouldn't work that way for me. Sorting out the hard things about my own decisions with impartial third parties was really important to maintaining a good relationship with my husband. We also made some plans to have the first few months in the new city be a bit of a holiday for me, so that I had something more to look forward to than a job search. (Hard with a new baby, but not impossible.)

In the end, the move we made was the best choice for both of us, and at least once a week we mention how glad we are to have done it (and it's been more than three years already!).
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:10 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


There are lots of good answers here. My family followed a very similar trajectory to yours, in terms of academic job nomadry, followed by a tenure track appointment, with two kids born during that multi-year, multi-move, multi-time-zone process. It's really hard. Crazy hard. I have two cents to add-- advice to your husband especially. MeMail if you're interested.
posted by u2604ab at 12:44 PM on July 11


I think this is more about your career than his. You seem like you have been yanked around moving place to place and you have had to make the sacrifices. Now, if you are not working then it could be jealously also, the fact that he is successful or has got the break he always wanted. This could be career envy and may have nothing to do with him

Are you in a happy career and doing all that you want to do with it? If you are not working, how have you handled that, do you feel like a failure and are sometimes sick of being at home and being the one taking care of the house, the kid, whilst his merry butt is out there wheeling and dealing and making big career moves? Well if that is one of the case then its YOU not him.

Find a way to fulfill yourself before you erupt and destroy the peace of your marriage. best.
posted by jellyjam at 3:00 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I don't think you're being unreasonable at all. It's hard to be the trailing spouse, Person B in the two-body problem. It's easy for a couple of one or more academics to end up in a pattern where Person A gets a jump on their career, and suddenly Person B finds themselves dragged along to wherever the next stage of Person A's career will take place. Then Person B tries to make a career in the wake of Person A, along with being the primary person responsible for any kids. It is not easy and it's frustrating whether you navigate it with grace and self-determination or not.

Three years ago we moved from graduate school in a mid-sized city, across the country to a college town in the midwest, for a tenure-track position for my husband. I was also pregnant, and I was miserable, and I didn't really get any happier until I finished my own dissertation and got a part-time job teaching at a community college (you know it's saying something when teaching at a CC makes you happier.) It's still very rough on both of us figuring out how to balance child-raising and his career and my career, but we've adjusted to our new lives in a lot of ways and things are looking up.

But, what if we were to move for his career again? I'd have to start all over finding a job and a childcare support network, not to mention making friends and the hassle of moving. It would be a real hardship and a blow to my own tenuous career, not about any attitude problem or lack of focus on MY part. And it's HARD to build up any enthusiasm for a job with no security, or for a project that could be derailed at any time by a move to another town. Within academia, it's hard to make friends knowing they'll be finishing graduate degrees or getting job offers and moving away, or that you might be moving in a year or two years yourself. And if I object, then am I undermining my whole family's well-being for...what? A shot at a one-year vacancy position for myself? Or more adjuncting? And I don't consider myself to be unambitious, untalented, or unfocused. Nor do I blame my husband, who has by and large been very supportive. It's mostly luck, and luck has a tendency to keep rolling for Person A.

So I say go ahead and be mad, at him (whether it's entirely reasonable or not) and at the unfairness that the right thing to do for your family never happens to be an awesome thing for you personally. I think you will figure things out and they will get better -- you sound like someone who does have the resources to adjust -- but I would also make a point of calmly expressing your unhappiness about this to your husband. Lots of people will sniffily remind you that you're responsible for your happiness, but within a marriage OF COURSE there's a burden of caring between spouses, including caring about the other's feelings, rational or irrational. Please don't think you have to play the silent suffering academic wife! (if such creatures exist) And everything is harder with a baby, including feeling-having. If you can go visit parents or friends who would give you some childcare breaks, I would go do it. Or have them come to you.

Anyway, people in this thread are just full of telling-you-what-to-do already (focus on the kid! get new career ideas! refuse to move! suck it up! you signed up for this somehow!) so I just add that yes you ARE a smart and career-worthy person, and it will probably get better but how and how long I don't know, no one knows, and if you're in my town shoot me a MeMail.
posted by daisystomper at 3:38 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


1. Your anger is real, but it doesn't necessarily follow that your husband is at fault. Feelings aren't always rational. There's delicate balance between acknowledging your feelings and letting them run your life.

2. Your friends and grad school colleagues who have careers made choices and sacrifices that led to these careers. You have a husband and a baby - I bet many of them don't. I'm in something of an opposite situation, and whenever I bemoan the fact that I may never have kids and what the fuck am I doing with my life, I remember that I made choices that I wanted to make. I made my bed, now I lie in it, alone. You made choices that were important to you, and now you have a life that is the result of those choices. If you were truly a striving career person before, you wouldn't be in the situation that you're in right now.

I disagree with the idea that there are incredibly strong, social forces urging you to do what you did. Lots of single career focussed women would also beg to differ.

3. Once you get settled in, things will be much better. And this will be the last move for awhile. Your life sounds lovely. Take a chill pill. Go to therapy.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:01 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


First, you are individually and collectively taking on a mammoth challenge. Wow! Acknowledge that! Appreciate it! Be tender with yourself because of it.

Second, you're sleep deprived and exhausted, this appears to be the natural course of things with an infant. Did you know that being sleep deprived can cause the same symptoms as being intoxicated? So, to whatever degree you are able, acknowledge the fact that neither of you is operating at peak efficiency.

I think you should focus on the small things you can do every day to take care of you, and you and baby, and you and baby and husband. Is this getting out of the temporary digs to explore new bakeries or have coffee? Only you can say, but you need to spend some energy doing self-love and self-soothing.

Beyond that, I would acknowledge and vocalize your feelings "Wow, I'm feeling really upset and like there is a lot of upheaval in my life right now because of this move that we both chose* for your job" (*this is key, you both have ownership in the move that is complicating your life right now). Ask him for what I believe you know that you'll get: that there not be any more moves for X years. He will confirm this to you (because with this dream job, he is now going to be moving towards tenure, etc., and really wanting to put down roots).

For the rest of it, I would consciously remind yourself that you are not operating at peak efficiency right now. Don't guilt or blame yourself for anything about career, etc., just give yourself some time to work this through. Maybe set up a calendar alert for 6 months after you move to start thinking about what YOU would like to do next.

But please, for now, love yourself and your little family. You'll get through this but you need to give it some time.
posted by arnicae at 4:52 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Your husband has a shot, finally and somewhat amazingly in a brutal market, at a solid job in a nice place *for life.* (The next five years are still gonna suck.) I'd think of what that kind of security is worth to a family with a child before saying he's only taking care of his own needs.
posted by spitbull at 7:14 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


OP, you are right to be ANGRY. Millions of women are angry about the same thing, all over the world. They sacrifice for others and get nothing in return. And now you are being asked to give up any hope for your career and focus solely on your family, which is exactly what you said you didn't want at all.

Just to push back against everyone here who says, "But you agreeeeed to it!":

Have you ever heard of male privilege, patriarchy, the socialization of women to lower status roles? The feminine mystique?

This is less about academia (which is only the current circumstance -- this happens in many professional couples where one partner has to move for grad school, residency, work, etc.) and more about women being stepped on and then asked to stuff their feelings about it. This is insult to injury.

Here is a discussion you should have before you move: the TOP priority for both of you going forward will be YOUR career. He will care for the child as much as he can, you both will sacrifice to spend money on daycare, and you will get what you need. You can go to grad school (maybe at the university where he will teach?) or work on a dream career (writing, etc.) or get a job in a field you love and it is HIS responsibility to support you. You have supported him in his dreams and it is now your turn.

I would see what he thinks about this. If he isn't willing to do the same for you as you did for him, then your relationship is not equal and his proposed sacrifice (which is not in anyone's best interest) was not a real one. The best solution would give him what he wants and for you to get what you want too.

See if he'll go for that. If not, then you should go to counseling because this is very one-sided.
posted by 3491again at 8:10 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Thinking about the career piece of this puzzle:

I want to reassure you that you haven't missed the boat. You are at an excellent age to begin developing a professional life for yourself. It's not too late at all. Many people do multiple careers over the course of a lifetime, reinventing themselves periodically. Some don't get started till they are much longer in the tooth -- my mom began her career outside the home in her 70s, and is rockin' it. But you don't have to wait that long -- your time is coming up very soon.

It sounds like you will be staying put in your next city for a longer stint, while the tenure process unfolds, so you will have an opportunity to put down roots, build a support system, and shift focus from early motherhood to career development.

Not sure if personal anecdotes are helpful, but here's one just in case: at your age, I was in grad school, making baby steps toward a career in the arts after a lifetime of shit jobs. While I was in grad school, technology (computer stuff) took off, and a whole new line of work that didn't even exist a few years prior was now an exciting new profession. So, I jumped ship on the arts, and shifted gears to enter the tech sector. Ten years later, yet ANOTHER field emerged that I liked better than pure tech, so I learned some new skills, networked, and hopped on that gravy train. I only now consider my career to be hitting any sort of stride, and I'm in my 50s. Some of us just take a while to find our place in the world.

My point being: you have time. You have time to re-design the rest of your life to be full of all sorts of interesting work. And during that time, the world will change in ways that will open up possibilities that may not even exist today, and one of those might turn out to be your dream career.

Be of good cheer.

(Which is not to say, suppress your anger and slap a smile on your face -- I think fire in the belly is a good thing. But maybe just let optimism and belief in yourself co-exist alongside the GRARRR.)
posted by nacho fries at 8:55 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


But I'm SO ANGRY with him now for making me and our kid go through all of this for him alone.

This is not for him alone. This is for job security (because of the tenure track and because he will presumably enjoy his work), which benefits you and your child. You are a family, a team, and he's not just doing this for himself.
posted by Dansaman at 10:23 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I think you need to work on being 'selfish' for a while, as much as you can, in the context of your relationship. This doesn't mean bagging out on the relationship, instead trying to focus on things that *you want*, from big to small, and making steps to get them. For example, you've agreed to move for your spouse and his job. Maybe he can let you pick the neighborhood and house you live in. Get into therapy and think about what you want to do with your career. Mid-thirties isn't too late to start something, if there's really something you want to start. Or maybe there isn't, and that's okay too. Try to get some of your old friends to come visit you. Try to make new friends in the new place.

How far is your new city from your old city? I'm wondering whether there's something you can do to keep a foot on the ground in your old community there. Traveling there for a week, every now and then? Keeping an apartment? You might feel more comfortable in your relationship if you felt that you had some degree of freedom to come and go. I mean, I don't know. I suppose there's a fine line between avoiding each other/leading parallel lives, and being free, but for me, a breath of freedom can help to remind me that a relationship I am in is a choice that I am making, not a situation I am stuck in.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 11:45 AM on July 12


Is CHARGING a temporary living situation a possibility? I cannot think of a situation more likely to enrage me than having to couch surf WITH AN INFANT in a new town (let alone new country) without an emotional support network in the middle of all the rest of the upheaval. That's what you do when you're a refugee and you have no agency in your life whatsoever.

You have savings. Rent a place until you find your permanent one- use airbnb or homeaway or something. It will be expensive but not as expensive as the emotional damage you're sustaining now. Get massages. Eat nice food. Find other ex-pats (I used church for this when I was overseas, even though I'm not religious) Be as nice to yourself as you can possibly manage.

Do this on your own with a minimum of help from your husband, as much as you can. In my experience it's useful for reminding myself how competent I am and how many choices really ARE in my power.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:55 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I'm chiming in with the couple of other posters who've mentioned that the being home-less, without a home, even if you have a place to stay temporarily, is so stressful.
I don't mean 'So Stressful'.
I don't even mean SO STRESSFUL.

I mean, you won't realise until you're out of it, and finally have a place to call your own again and possibly break down in tears - even if you don't cry, look, it's that kind of catharsis, and then realise that you you were only feeling and noticing a fraction of the overwhelm you were facing, at having no permanent home.

Many people haven't been in this situation. And travelling? Not the same. They'll underestimate how uncertain and unrelaxing it is.

We're mammals, and not having a place of your own, is something that will hit you hard and deeply in the SURVIVE! part of your brain. You have a baby. What more can I say?
Anything that has caused this situation of unsettlement with your infant, is going to be facing some really justifiable ire from most maternal instincts you have.
If there is anything that will make the temporary accomodation phase shorter, or the temporary accomodation more permanent and settled, so that you know what is happening, and when, will help.
If there's anything you can do to make your room feel more stable, do it. I know this may sound stupid, but if you have a throw blanket you like, put that on any bed you're staying in, and plug your own lamp in, and your own music (or headphones), and keep and put out those few things that really make it feel like your territory even though the room keeps changing (perfume?), because you need that. You'll get used to setting up the baby gear in the same (or slightly varied) ways in different spaces. Close the door to the bedroom and think, it's mine. For now, it's mine, and it's my place to retreat.



Anyway, overall I'm just saying: Yes. Your situation feels like it sucks because it sucks.
Suck has existed before, and it will exist again, but it essentially all passes.

Well, unless the universe does eventually contract into a singular point again, which could be thought of as sucking.
posted by Elysum at 12:24 AM on July 14


I just want to point out that my mom started a new phase of her career at age 45ish, after a period of staying home, and had tremendous success.
posted by mai at 10:12 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I think to a point yes, he is not at fault actively, but he did lack the interest in your personal development to say hey, we have been focusing on my career for a disproportionate amount of time. This does not mean he should have rejected the job, but he should have acknowledged that this was a sacrifice for you, and he should actively try to work on making up for the disparity.

My husband went to school while I worked full time for several years, and even though I fully supported the idea, I also felt like I was cheating myself at times. We talked about this and he suggested that we focus on my career and possibly my going back to school. He proposed a specific date for me to quit my job and go to school full time.

You are supposed to look out for each other. Not in a patronizing "I will provide for you" way, but in a "I want you to have the chance to be the happiest you can be" way.
posted by Tarumba at 6:11 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


He'll have summers off and can be a 50-50 parent.

I think this would make me angry. Now, after you've put his needs and wants and his career front and center for years and arranged your life and your child's life around him, now he'll be 50-50 parent? Like otherwise he wouldn't be but you've 'earned' him doing his actual parenting?

He needs to commit to being a 100% parent. That's what being a parent means. And in terms of actual logistical and emotional work, it would be fair for him to plan to do more than half specifically to support you on the logistical and emotional work you'll be doing to build your family and yourself a life around his career. Yes, it's hard and he'll have plenty of work responsibilities as well. That's what being a parent is and what single parents (and plenty of partnered women, sadly) take on on their own ALL the time. You made sacrifices for his career. I agree that it wouldn't have made sense for you to ask him to sacrifice this job opportunity. But it is certainly more than fair to expect him to make serious compromises, and at times sacrifices, for his child and his family.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:10 PM on July 15


He needs to commit to being a 100% parent.

Sometimes that includes working long, difficult hours to provide for your children. It seems odd to get mad at him now, when the problem is about to substantially fixed, rather then when he first entered his career.

"Make less money and have an uncertain future for the family to satisfy a complaint that is about to far less relevant" is not being the best parent either.
posted by spaltavian at 10:33 AM on July 16


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