Help me not resent SO's success
August 15, 2010 12:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I avoid becoming resentful of SO's brilliant career when mine is failing to launch?

Seven months ago I packed up my bags and made a transatlantic move to be able to live with my SO. We both thought that finding a job would take me two months tops, I had multiple interviews lined up before I moved. Well, it didn't work out that way. I am still looking, and hating every minute of it. To make it sting more, I actually turned down three excellent job offers in the US before leaving. Am I kicking myself now? Yes, yes I am. Meanwhile, his career has been taking off like a rocket. Granted, he has been working his tail off, and deserves every bit of the success he is enjoying. We can still not discount the role that being-at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time is playing. He acknowledges the help of luck, and the support he receives from me.

He has been extremely supportive in my adjustment to our new home and has been frustrated right along with me for the job search. We communicate very well, and are generally very happy and comfortable with each other. However, I am feeling myself get increasingly (still at low level) resentful. I moved away from all of my friends, we live very far from my family and very close to his. I often don't understand the language here, he's a native speaker. All of my professional contacts are in the US, he is well connected here.

Is there any way to fix this before it becomes a large issue? I am starting to blame him for every small thing that goes wrong during my day, that does not bode well.
posted by copperbleu to Human Relations (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Don't lose hope but do leave the house. Go out and network, make cultural connections, start writing. Job hunting in a new place is always balls. But don't pack up, you'll regret it even more.
posted by parmanparman at 12:54 PM on August 15, 2010

You did everything you could to get a job when you first got here, and I assume you are still looking for work. If you are serious about staying here, work towards getting some more skills that could get you a job (I would bet that knowing the language better would help) or something else that is enriching.

Above all, remember that the job market is something of a random system. That your husband got a job and you do not have one might be affected by probability but it is still subject to chance. The kind of employment that you and your SO have does not reflect on your worth as human beings, but does reflect who got luckiest this round.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:55 PM on August 15, 2010

There are so many different ways this can go.

Identify exactly is driving this jealousy\resentment in a more specific manner. For example, when you become jealous are you angry at him, angry at yourself, angry at the situation, afraid of the situation, afraid of failing? All of the above?

When I'm jealous and I step back and allow myself to actually examine the true emotions behind the jealously it allows me to better communicate and correct the issue.

You could also use this as motivational fuel, while it lasts, to help get yourself where you want to be.

You say you communicate well, have you communicated your jealously to him? This might also help you "fix" the issue or take some stress off yourself and receive additional support. "Hey, I know this sounds silly but when I went to make tea today -- and we were out of tea bags -- I blamed you because I'm jealous of how easily your success has come along with your hard work. I really want that for myself too."

The easiest way for me though is to just tell myself I'm proud and happy of someones deserved success. If you truly like someone that isn't that hardest resolution to come to even if it seems miles away right now.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:01 PM on August 15, 2010

I moved away from all of my friends, we live very far from my family and very close to his. I often don't understand the language here, he's a native speaker. All of my professional contacts are in the US, he is well connected here.

Every single one of these points is obvious and was foreseeable. Before you moved did you not consider that you were leaving your friends and family behind? Did you not realize that you weren't fluent in the language? Did you not understand you'd have to re-network?

My guess is that you did understand all these things, but that the pros of being with the person you love outweighed the cons. Remember that.

Your resentment comes from you dwelling on all the things you don't have instead of appreciating all the things you do. Whenever you feel resentful towards your SO tell yourself "I'm not being fair" and move on. Being upset won't help you adjust or help you make the kind of life you want.

I understand why you're frustrated. You've gone through a lot of changes, disappointment, and frustration lately. It woud weigh heavily on anyone. But it's only temporary. You will learn the language. You will make new friends. And you will get a job. Being patient and positive is the best way to tackle these problems.
posted by sbutler at 1:07 PM on August 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

Hey, thank you all for responses so far. I wanted to add that I am definitely, and very sincerely proud of him. Also, we have openly talked about this brewing jealousy/resentment, and we are together looking for strategies to handle it well.

As far as getting more skills - I am actually overqualified for most jobs available, yuck. I am taking language courses and practicing like crazy all the time, though. It's coming along pretty well.
posted by copperbleu at 1:12 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been in what sounds like almost your exact situation and it was tough. After several months of searching, I realized that I needed to spend less time on figuring out my job situation and more on establishing an actual life -- like, you know, with friends and routines and all the trappings of the life you left behind! I found, as parmanparman noted above, that getting out of the house was key. Once I did that and found (or started doing) other things I was interested in, I encountered opportunities I hadn't even known existed and ended up doing a variety of different types of "work" that I'd never considered. Also, exercise!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:32 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think parmanparman nailed it, the key is to get out of the house and talk to people and build a new life for yourself. The more you give yourself the opportunity to feel resentment, the more resentful that you will feel.
posted by Theloupgarou at 1:39 PM on August 15, 2010

Listen, keep in mind the allegory of the tortoise and the hare. I think you're being naive to think that his early success will somehow equate to him having greater professional success than you in the long run. All other things being equal, that's just not the way professional success works in the real world.

Puzzled about why you say this:

We can still not discount the role that being-at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time is playing. He acknowledges the help of luck, and the support he receives from me.

Maybe I'm misreading what you are saying here, but it sounds almost as though you are given to reminding your SO of the role that luck (and you) played in his success. If so, that's not very cool, IMHO; it seems rather petty for you to maintain a running accounting of how much of his success is attributable to his hard work, and how much to other factors.
posted by jayder at 1:39 PM on August 15, 2010

Is there any way you could allow yourself a little more time? I mean, could you and he agree that for the next six months your priorities are adjusting to the area, language, culture, etc. and making friends and networking contacts (rather than a full speed ahead job hunt)?

You hit the ground running, thought things would go one way, and then they didn't and, moreover, the cultural and social impacts of your move were bigger than you expected. I suspect you might benefit from some extra time to adapt to these unexpected challenges without pressuring yourself to get a job right away. I'm picturing you trying in vain to get jobs now that you might more easily get later if you choose to focus on other things for now (making friends, learning the language and culture better, etc.).
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:01 PM on August 15, 2010

In my experience, the only cure for resentment is sunlight. You and your partner sit down and brainstorm some things that he can do, or that you can do, or that the two of you can do together, to help reduce your feelings of resentment. Then, whenever the resentment starts to creep in, you have to pipe up and say "Hey, I know it's totally unfair and unfounded, but I'm feeling that way again, help a person out?" You might need to nip it in the bud over and over and over again, but if you can keep it from spiralling, it will help. Plus, the mere fact that he's willing to do something to help you not feel resentful -- even though it's totally not his fault that you DO feel resentful -- will likely help inoculate you against resenting him further.

Yeah, it's not fair. It's not his fault, or yours, it's just a thing; both the asymmetry in career progress, and your resentment about that asymmetry. Trying to pretend you don't feel it just because you have no reason to feel it is doomed, ime.
posted by KathrynT at 2:04 PM on August 15, 2010

I personally don't understand how you can be jealous of your own SO.

You and him are one and his successes are yours and vice versa.

There is no competition.

If I was looking for a job, I would spend a good chunk of time not only searching but expanding my skillset as required for the job market. Maybe take a course or two and socialize.

That's more fun than a full time job in my opinion.

With any leftover time, spend it making your relationship with your husband the best it can be.

I highly doubt that you will look back on your life and say, 'wow, I had a great job' unless it is something highly personal and you make a real difference in the lives of other people.

At least most jobs are not like that. I worked in IT for 12 years and I don't feel much for the job or people I worked with even though I like working with technology itself.

You are frustrated because you had high expectations that you would get a job. Now that you don't, you see that as a failure. What if you had low expectations before you came there?

This time 'off' that you have is special. Unless you really need the money, use that time for the benefit of you and your SO.

Work is overrated.

I stopped working for 3 years once due to illness.....I learned a lot about myself. I wouldn't trade that time for 3 years of work even though financially I would have been better off.

Enjoy the blessing you have been given.

Also, maybe the feeling of jealousy is not really under your control. I've felt jealous sometimes when it was really silly. I just acknowledge the feeling and move on.

Its like when a friend comes back from a fancy vacation and tells you about it. You might feel envy/jealousy but its only because you want that too. You wish your friend the best and move on knowing that you'll have vacations too and that your friend wishes you to have great vacations as well.

So I say this with kindness - stop whining and get over it.
posted by simpleton at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2010

I personally don't understand how you can be jealous of your own SO.

I think you must have been very fortunate.

I've been on both sides, OP. The only thing that really helps is time. Life is long and if your relationship is strong and lasts, you'll find yourself at some point experiencing bewildering role reversal. Life's just that way. Being unemployed or underemployed sucks. (I did it for two and a half nightmarish years with a 45 minute commute each way. It was the pits.)

But you know -- the pendulum swings, it really does, and when it does it gives you perspective on both sides and you grow and la la la all that stuff that doesn't really matter when you're going through it. Just know it'll get better.

In the meantime, what everyone one else suggested -- form friendships, network, leave the house, and make connections to your new home that aren't solely through him.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:18 PM on August 15, 2010

I don't agree that you are whining, copperbleu.

I would like to expand on this idea: sbutler: "Your resentment comes from you dwelling on all the things you don't have instead of appreciating all the things you do."

A while back, I made a cold move like you did. I left a promising professional situation and my entire social network to join my then-fiancé across the state. Granted, not the same language barrier—but similar in that I purposely went from having everything to having nothing, for love.

After about six months when I had settled in and the novelty had worn off the new surroundings, I looked around and realized I was *miserable*. And I grew very resentful of my partner. He still has all his friends, his career opportunities, his network... and I had nothing.

I asked a therapist about this, who wisely pointed out that while making this big life change, I was still in limbo from the move. To use a car metaphor, I could clearly see in my rearview all the wonderful things I'd left behind, but I couldn't yet appreciate all the beautiful new things I had left them behind for. Those were still a gray foggy apparition through the windshield in front of me, not yet formed and materialized.

Those things hadn't quite come to pass yet, of course, because I was still in transition. It took some time to make the new friends, get the new job offers, develop relationships with the new colleagues, find my new way. And during that limbo, I had hit "pause" on my personal and professional development so I could make the move, and I hadn't quite hit "play" again yet. It was the limbo that was frustrating me, and I tended to take it out on my partner, both for reasons of safety and of proximity.

What I did to cure it was try to start catching myself at the point of thinking, "Was this all worth it? Did I make an enormous mistake?" Because, simply, there wasn't enough data in the set yet. I couldn't accurately judge the success of something that was still a work in progress.

So I would say that your resentment is coming from dwelling on all the things you don't have because you don't have enough information yet to appreciate the great future that is coming.

And it will come. You just have to keep working for it and being patient and positive. I know it's difficult—but you surely must know that you are capable of making this new life as great as the old one, or else you'd probably not have made the leap. You just need to give it more time.

"Is there any way to fix this before it becomes a large issue?"

I would recommend that, when you start to get frustrated at your partner, you remind yourself that he wants you to be successful. This delay in your career isn't his fault. He wants you to be happy, and fulfilled, and to feel like you made the right decision in moving to be with him. If he could snap his fingers and get you a great job right now, he certainly would.

Taking your job frustrations out on the one person that you know is solidly in your corner isn't helping your work situation or your home situation. As crappy as it sounds (because it's not an action item and you can't really affect it), Meg_Murry is right that the answer is time.

That being said...

The one caveat I would offer to all this: you said you are kicking yourself now. Are you only unhappy because you are unemployed and hating the job search? (which is totally reasonable, this economy is depressing, job hunting sucks, being unemployed sucks)

Or is it something else? Just make sure that "I hate job hunting in a foreign country and it's affecting my relationship and happiness" isn't a symptom that is merely masking "Wait, I hate all of this and want to go home, full stop."

(But fwiw you sound well-adjusted and self-aware and you would probably know if that was the scenario.)

Good luck with it all. Give us a follow-up when you land the great new gig.
posted by pineapple at 5:19 PM on August 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

I did it for two and a half nightmarish years with a 45 minute commute each way.

Just wanted to add I live in an economic dinosaur sanctuary and this is in no way what will happen to you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:34 PM on August 15, 2010

It takes 3 years to establish yourself professionally in a new market. 3 years.

For more senior or specialized positions, it can take a year to find the next big thing after changing jobs. While I'm not particular high-powered, after getting laid off from my job in November 2009 I only just starting to get traction, more than nine months later.

Even though it can take a year for someone like you to find suitable employment, if things are not picking up (interviews, etc) at around the six-month mark of your job search, you may have to change tactics.

In my case, after getting laid off I swore it would never ever happen again, so I have worked hard to develop multiple income streams, and I got my first short contract about 3 months after getting the boot.

I know have about 4-5 contracts, which was my goal. I'm not sure of the business culture where you are, but consulting and project management may be options to help kick-start you job hunt.

Good luck!!!

And bear in mind that your SO has had years and years to build up his contacts.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 PM on August 15, 2010

I agree with those that are stating that your expectations (wrt the time it would take to find a job you want) are aggressive. It's not clear where you live now but even in the US, a job search is taking well over 6 months for many and if you're in a new country, you should expect that long or perhaps years as KokuRyu mentioned.

How about starting a weblog or website where you can start sharing information about your area of expertise? If you have time and the inclination you could have an influential blog about your area of expertise in half-a-year or more, depending on your industry. It can also be a way to showcase your experience to future employers.
posted by gen at 10:18 PM on August 15, 2010

I moved extremely unwillingly to the UK 10 years ago and faced this problem. I stopped looking locally and widened my search to the big cities as salaries were way under what I was used to and also I looked at areas that were adjacent to my own career. I eventually found a remote working situation where I only need to be in London 2 days a week approx. and even though it is a completely different type of job to the ones I had before, that makes it interesting.

I also had to allow myself to like where I am now. My move was complicated by the fact that it was enforced by my husband's job problems and I really resented what I'd left behind.
It took family and friends coming to visit and me showing them round to see that actually, yes, there are lots of lovely advantages to where I'm living now. When I finally started looking for new things to do to show the visitors I realised that I literally had not yet allowed myself to like this place.

So fantastic advice above but my 2 cents worth, don't stick to your career comfort area, try other areas. Try to find something each week to do in either your home or the location that is new or different.
Good luck
posted by Wilder at 5:02 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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