SO offered job in another city. I'm not sold on it being a hot idea.
November 23, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Short version: My wife has been offered a two year position in another city. I want to support her and this may be a good opportunity for her, but my instinct says it would be a mistake for our future and our finances. For the many MeFites who have undoubtedly been in similarly sized shoes: aside from budgets and plus/minus lists, what do we need to be considering when making this decision and what is a good way to create consensus if it seems like we can't agree?

Full size version: When I met my wife, a key attribute that attracted me was her sincere ambition to help people. Her goals involved going back to school for an advanced professional degree and I supported her though it. We were older and more settled than many people who take something like this on (mid/late 30s), but we did it anyway. Soon after we got married we moved across the country for school. We did it again half way through. Eventually she graduated near the top of her class. The whole time through I have been paying living expenses, and student loans have funded tuition.

Throughout school and in the year since graduating, she has had many periods where she felt regret at taking on this career change and has said that she's not sure if it's really what she wants to do. Although that's scary to hear after investing so much support, I always encourage her to go with whatever will make her satisfied.

In the year since graduation, she has picked up a few odd jobs but has mostly been taking a breather. She has decided that if she does pursue her new career, she will specialize in the one area of her profession that she still feels a passion for and she is not flexible in this respect. Paid positions in the few places that have the same specialty do not seem to be available to her where we are now. She has been offered a two year paid associate position in another city and seems excited for it. It will be be back to 12 hour days and six day weeks, just like school. We need to decide. Given her history of uncertainty and the current state of the economy, I am not feeling that it is a good idea.

From my perspective the gambling risks are 1) Marital. School took a big chunk out of our marriage. Those folks who have been through medical or law school etc. know the tolls it takes. If we move and she decides again that this is not the right thing for her, I feel I will be out of gas with putting so much into her goals. I don't have much support energy left in me and if the move didn't pan out I don't know that I could continue. As it is now, things are just starting to get better for us where we are. 2) Financial. I earn a reliable salary (+ remarkable benefits) and am unlikely to lose my job during the economic downturn, at least not for a few years. We have some credit card debt and 100k in student loans to repay. If she does some odd jobs to chip in, we can make it and get ahead if we stay where we are. If we move, we will lose most benefits (her new position would offer much less) and need to get a car (less transit in the new city). She will earn a 5/8 of what I am making now at her new job. I will be unemployed upon arrival and expect some difficulty getting a job due to both the current economic climate and my not bad but non-career oriented resume. We will lose a rent controlled apartment that has already increased 33% in the last four years (based on what other units in the building are now renting at). 3) Personal. I'm in my 40s and this is the first time in my entire life I have ever been at one address for this long. I live and work in the most beautiful place imaginable and have a small but solid social network here. My gut says stay, though I'd be willing to subvert this for the greater good.

I've been completely supportive along the journey but really queasy about this particular move at this time. I want to continue to support her but it just seems like a huge risk. What else do we need to be considering when making this decision and what are some creative and/or practical ways to approach this if we can't agree?

Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How far away is the other city? Is it possible for her to take a small apartment and commute home on the weekends?

It sounds like you have been very supportive of her and that it's time for her to make a few sacrifices. The question is, is she willing to sacrifice her career goals for your sense of stability? That's something you'l have to determine together.
posted by sugarfish at 6:28 PM on November 23, 2008

The math seems pretty clear here:

Don't Move:

1 spouse has job they love
great apartment
good friends
More money


1 spouse has a job they love (maybe)
Less money

Either way one of you is pretty out of luck and staying gives you both the benefits of a better place to live, more money, and a network of friends.
posted by whoaali at 6:37 PM on November 23, 2008

I am your wife. After Ms. Steady and I were married, we moved so I could go to school and get a specialized degree. For several years our life was limited by my job prospects, and she willingly followed me to a city she really did not want to live in (turned out she was right, but still...). Due to difficulty finding a job in that field, I have been out of the field for some time. If I got a job offer in that field it would be hard to resist accepting it.

That said, as whooali explains, the math here is simple, but it is not always cold logic that wins these debates. The two of you need to sit down and hash out the pros and cons (Ms. Steady and I like to do these sorts of discussion over time -- breaking it up so it is not so emotional and draining, but for others it may be better to just get it all over with). If she still wants to accept the job, you owe it to her to be honest with her about your feelings and concerns, and make sure that she considers your needs and wants in this equation. You should not feel guilty about your feelings or desires, nor should she.

If you can't agree, well, you need to figure out what that means for your relationship. I know some couples who maintain "long-distance marriages", but I know I could never do that. You mention that her job is a two year offer -- can you talk to your bosses about taking an extended leave of absence from your job, so that at least you would know that you have something to come back to (you could sublet the apartment, maybe)?

MeFi mail me if you want to talk to someone who has been on the other side of your situation. Good luck.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:01 PM on November 23, 2008

I think it is her turn to support YOU.

In this economic climate it would be foolish for you to move and give up your job. Add her having twelve hour days and six hour weeks to this mix-again, for only a two year job-and....well, I think if she insists on this at this point in time she is being selfish.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:39 PM on November 23, 2008

Is this the sort of two year job that will lead to a great job in almost any city, when it is over? If for example, it's a prestigious law internship that will open doors to prestigious and well paid jobs in almost any law firm in the country, then it might be worth the effort. If after two years she would merely be in-line for other, but not better, jobs in her field, then it seems hard to justify.
posted by oddman at 7:46 PM on November 23, 2008

In a recent episode of How I Met Your Mother (spoiler alert if you aren't reasonably current I guess), Marshall decides to take a job at Goliath National Bank even though what he really wants is to be an environmental lawyer. He reasons that while environmental law is his dream, there is also a reality that needs to be faced - dude needs to get off his ass and get to work. Maybe in the future he can become an environmental lawyer, but at present he'll just have to make do with being a lawyer and take it from there.

Maybe you should watch the episode with her and see if it'll get a reaction (a la Hamlet). Hopefully with better results.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:20 PM on November 23, 2008

I have to rather agree with St Alia, to be honest; in your position I'd be quite concerned by her track record, as well - this time she's going to find something she'll stick with? Really? Not like all the casual jobs, or the expensive, time-consuming degree? How sure are you that she won't simply decide she's burned out on the new city of the new career in a year?

I know couples where one person is always dissatisfied with the current thing, and vaulting onto the next big thing, new city, new career, whatever. It's OK if the "support" partner who keeps restricting their own career and life choices to fund the other partner is OK with it, but otherwise it seems to me to be a recipie for misery.
posted by rodgerd at 8:35 PM on November 23, 2008

I can't really tell from your question if you've actually laid all this out for her. It sounds like you may be holding back from expressing your concerns due to a desire to be supportive, but that's just not good for either of you. Your objections seem more than reasonable to me, and it may be that she just hasn't considered some of this stuff, including your personal feelings (which, by the way, she ought to support in you as much as you support them in her).
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:10 PM on November 23, 2008

To me marriage is teamwork. Both side have to make sacrifices for the best of the team. Which you have, admirably. I just don't see how the advantages (for her - getting an overworked, underpaid job) out weigh the disadvantages (pretty much everything else). Maybe the two of you would have an easier time discussing this with a couples counsellor for a session or two. If she honestly believes this is the best decision for both of you then maybe an impartial person will be able to help her see both sides. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 9:17 PM on November 23, 2008

Consider this: She wants to use that expensive, time consuming degree for something. That was the prep, this is the opportunity.

Specifics, like where the two cities in question are, and what's beyond that 2 year job for her, are very important. Your individual personalities and the dynamic of your relationship is also important, because it really sounds like the most logical thing is a long distance marriage.

Alright, that suggestion brings up a lot of other issues like income and standards of living, but it is a compromise that lets her pursue the dream career and lets you keep your creature comfort stability and something to fall back on if she "flakes out".

I may be superbly biased in favor of attempting a long distance situation because I'm in the process of becoming a military wife as my husband pursues his dreams (which will mean at least a year apart, and possibly putting my life on hold for another 4 years, depending on where we end up).

Almost everything in the post is focused on you. Your reasons for not going, your reasons for staying. That's a human way to approach things, but be aware that you're not offering the internet enough information about the other people involved to develop good opinions on the subject. Marriage is about teamwork on both sides, cooperation and sacrifice on both sides. And (in my opinion), not keeping score. Did you support her through her degree program so she would owe you, and now you're going to cash in?

Yes, there seems to be a consensus that you're better off staying, but that doesn't have to preclude her going, and spending time in different cities doesn't have to mean the dissolution of your marriage.

In any case, when you discuss things with her, try to bring up some of her desires and goals that she would be sacrificing by taking the job, like missing local festivals or not having time to write that novel or the trip to Venice she's been dreaming about that would have to be postponed even farther, or all the births in her social circle she'll miss, whatever is applicable.
posted by itesser at 10:40 PM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Consider quality of life issues consider where your support system is - friends and family.
Consider the weather. Consider the job market for you in the city. Any chance that she could go, and you could stay, and do the three month thing - in three months she figures out if it's working for her and you start applying for jobs, but don't move til you've got something that works for you?

Also consider the three year plan. Many associateship-like positions are 1-3 year deals. They position you for X. Does she have an X? A clear understanding of how this position gets her to X? Because right now it sounds like she has a job, but not a plan. That associateship is like a residency and a residency is not a plan - It's a job. Or it's a training that gets you to the next step of the job. An understanding of how people have used that job to get to whatever position she wants to do shows she's ready. No plan means she's not ready to go.
posted by anitanita at 11:27 PM on November 23, 2008

that doesn't have to preclude her going, and spending time in different cities doesn't have to mean the dissolution of your marriage

There's one fundamental problem with the two-cities, two-lives approach: it means two-rents. If she's unable to find enough work to cover her expenses, you're going to be covering the loss. It's going to be just like being single, except it will cost you more. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

She has decided that if she does pursue her new career, she will specialize in the one area of her profession that she still feels a passion for and she is not flexible in this respect.

You're not even being met half of halfway. Frankly, I would tell her that it would be financial suicide to leave your job in this market. That it is worse than selfishness on her part, it is the irresponsibility of the suggestion that is so galling.

I would suggest the two-cities approach only after letting her know that you will be looking for a smaller apartment to move into as well. No point paying for a place that fits two when it's just the one of you, right?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:09 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you let financial concerns and income disparities be the deciding factor, then know that you perpetuate the stereotypical decision that leads to the outcome that wives (not husbands) cut back on their career, wives follow husbands (not the other way around), and wives take more time off to stay with children (while husbands invest in their careers), further reducing their income and pension money (while the initial income differences get larger over time) and in many cases end up economically very disadvantaged in case of divorce, with very reduced chances to pick up where they left initially in terms of professional standing and income.

Two years go by quickly, even if you need to live in different places and visit each other instead of living together. When both people in a couple have a profession, there are some inconveniences, but also consider the reward of both having a fulfilled work-life. In her shoes, any regret of not taking this chance might eat away at her for a long, long time.
posted by meijusa at 5:26 AM on November 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

oh, and another thought: What is painted in some comments (and a little bit in the question) as flaky sounds to me more like burnout after a big effort (e.g. medical school), so if she shows some enthusiasm, I'd take this as a good sign of getting back on track and not automatically assume she's playing with you and acting on whims.
posted by meijusa at 5:59 AM on November 24, 2008

know that you perpetuate the stereotypical decision that leads to the outcome that...

There's another stereotype you might want to avoid: the stereotype where one disillusioned member of the household decides around the halfway point in their lives to use family funds to find themselves, to the financial detriment of everyone (including themselves).

Some people are simply not good with money, and should not be making decisions that could put others in the poor house. It doesn't matter if that person is a husband with a gambling addiction, or an alcohol abuse problem, or a wife who likes to shop... pick your stereotype. The central truth still holds. It sounds like the OP has done everything they can to accommodate his spouse's desire to self-actualize. But there are bills that have to be paid.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:33 AM on November 24, 2008

Don't do what I did and say "Sure, I'll support you" while gritting your teeth. If you cannot in good faith be excited about her new job and happy about the move, do not agree to move. Personally, I couldn't do the two-cities thing, but I know if I had been bluntly honest before I'd said those fateful words, we would have stayed where we were. (I'm not claiming to be miserable now; we have a wonderful marriage. But the first year of living here was difficult for us, as his job wasn't what he'd hoped, and as I missed my familiar environs.)

You need to be really upfront with her about the costs - personal and financial - of moving. It's not about a math equation - love doesn't work so logically - and it's not about who's right or wrong. It's about finding something that works for both of you, and your needs are just as valid. In our case, we got our of the miserable period by discussing long-term plans, which made the short-term much more palatable for me. You seem worried about the short term, which is understandable because your world is potentially about to change (again). Where do you two see yourself in 10 years? Where do you want to end up, and in what careers? I'm assuming you don't yet have kids because you didn't mention them - are they in the plans? Is there some kind of future you can create together that you can look forward to?
posted by desjardins at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't mention your wife's attitude toward your life goals. It would be concerning if she isn't factoring your desires into her decision. Of course it's hard to tell from an AskMe question, but your thought process seems to be reduced to a dichotomy of supporting her vs. not supporting her. Where's her head in this? Does she feel the same responsibility to support your dreams as you do hers? If you don't know, you should work hard to find out.

Make sure you've expressed your goals, too. Settling down & nurturing your connections to friends is just as valid a life goal as making a career change or chasing an ambitious job. Perhaps your queasiness is due to a fear that her career will always trump your desire to put down some roots. That shouldn't be the case in a well-balanced marriage though.

Finally, one important question is whether this job is your wife's only chance to break into her chosen field. In some fields it's professional death if you don't have a job/residency/etc. shortly after you graduate. In others it's OK to do odd jobs for a while and hit the career track later. If it's the latter situation, I think you guys should seriously consider chilling in your current city for a while. You'll recover some emotional energy, you'll both benefit from riding out the financial downturn and she can keep pursuing jobs that might involve a more mutually beneficial living situation.
posted by rhiannon at 8:21 PM on November 24, 2008

Could she "defer" acceptance (might work if it were in a big hospital or something with a lot of staff) for, say, a year while she works really hard to find something where you live now (might something open up? could she get her foot in the door by volunteering?), and while you work to find something where she wants to go. If you're queasy about doing this now, is there a way to slow down or defer the decision?

In discussions, can you start by focusing on the shared goals (not just financial, but also social, and in the way that one person's happiness affects the other's) and come up with a set of shared goals and a set of approaches for deciding? (Read Getting To Yes and Difficult Conversations if what I just said doesn't make sense.) I think that might be an easier way to shift a conversation that sounds like it could break into polarization.
posted by salvia at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2008

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