Taking a job away from spouse - looking for success/failure stories
May 31, 2016 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm out of work and after a 5+ month job search I have at last received an offer. It's a great company and interesting job - problem is that it's 9+ hr drive (1.5 hr flight) away from my spouse of 9 years in a small town that he will never be able to get a job. My previous job jumping means I need to stay at this job at least 3-4 years. Being apart seems workable to me, but he is strongly against my taking the job. I am looking for success or failure stories of people in similar long distance situations to help make a decision. Also - would you make the same decision again to take the job?

I would like to hear people's stories about their decision (or their spouse's decision) to take a job away from a spouse and how it worked out so I can potentially convince my spouse that this will be a workable situation (or maybe you will change my mind!).

Further context - for those of you thinking why not just keep on looking for a better located job: It's an option, but it could lead to not getting a job at all. My job function is at the executive level and is fairly specialized - only large companies need a person of my function and they typically have only 2-4 people in this function, so my job opportunity field is narrow and competitive. My previous position was eliminated for example when they decided they didn't need the function anymore. I have a strong resume and have applied to many, many jobs and had 5 jobs where I have gotten to the final round and been rejected (two of them after they reference checked the final 2 candidates). No matter what we will have to move, as there aren't any positions for me in our current location.

For those of you asking why I think I can manage this, but he does not - I am flexible and am very into my hobby which takes up all my evenings anyways. Even when living together I typically get home at 830 or 9 pm and then do work or fairly soon thereafter go to bed. We don't get quality time on weekdays anyway, so I feel like it's not a huge leap to just seeming him weekends twice a month. We don't have children (nor will we), just dogs. To him, being apart at all makes him lonely and weakens the relationship.

For those of you thinking negotiate the location with the company - They have made it clear that re-locating to the small down is very important to them. I am going to attempt to negotiate in work from home time, but it isn't likely to be meaningful.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I worked M-Th in another town for 3.5 years. We lived in a great town with great friends and relatively even cost of living.

We recently moved to the one of the most stressful, wild, expensive cities in the world so that we could reduce our travel burdens. People think this is kinda crazy, especially since we're not in our 20s and a family is going to be raised soon.

My wife said this weekend "I've finally felt like I have my husband."

I'd recommend to not do this, but neither of us have been out of work for more than a couple weeks ever before.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

To him, being apart at all makes him lonely and weakens the relationship.

Then the relationship is unlikely to survive. Even if it's just a few minutes of contact a day, most people need a little something all the time from their partner. Sleeping together (literally) is also important to many people; even though you're asleep, sharing that intimate space is a bonding thing.
posted by Candleman at 6:34 AM on May 31, 2016 [26 favorites]

You need to make a decision on what is more important to you - your job or your spouse. What you have proposed is essentially abandoning your spouse against their will. Long distance relationships can work (I have done it) but they need to be taken up with the FULL support of both parties or IT WILL NOT WORK. If he's going to feel lonely without you and doesn't want you to do it, it will not work.And it's not just the support of, you convince them that it will be ok, it needs to be full, I daresay enthusiastic support of both parties. Even better if it is just temporary (a year max) or intermittent (6 months away, six months at home, etc). Three to four years away is a doozy.

You need to open your horizons here. You say it's "impossible" for you to get a job in your current city - can you retrain in a different type of position? Can your spouse re-train in a different position in the new town? Can you both live off of your income in the new town and your spouse is semi-retired for a time?

If you do this when your spouse doesn't really want to, it is almost a guarantee that in a year you will be broken up, or one of you will be cheating on the other. If this job is more important to you, then make that choice, but it really is your choice and you need to look at your other options if this marriage is important to you.
posted by permiechickie at 6:42 AM on May 31, 2016 [31 favorites]

How do you feel about the relationship ending? From the very brief insight you've provided here, you already prioritise your hobby over 'quality time' with your spouse, and are happy to do so with your job, too... to me, this sounds like a relationship on the outs. This has definitely been the case for me in the past when I've thrown myself into hobbies/work at the expense of time at home. Maybe you two have just run your course. As things stand from what you've described it doesn't sound like this is going to work for you both.

Alternatively, can spouse compromise and look for work in a place nearer to small town? 2-3 hours' drive is a lot more workable than 9+ hours and makes spontaneous visits or time together every weekend more possible.
posted by corvine at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2016 [19 favorites]

We have done this a couple of times, though not for such a long period of time. It worked for us, but I don't recommend it. It is surprisingly expensive to run two households, the travel is both expensive and incredibly tiring, and it means you won't have a social life in either place.

There's also can be a tension between job expectations ("uh oh, last minute deliverable just got added, everyone is going to be working this weekend") and your travel, no matter what you negotiate on the front end. Either your travel gets interrupted, or people will be unhappy that you are getting a special arrangement while they are stuck working, and either way you lose.

I'd say it's maybe worth doing if a) both of you are supportive, b) there is a very clear end point, c) the financial numbers are strongly in favor, and d) the company is strongly supportive in terms of things like flexible work arrangements, resettlement support, etc. Outside of those criteria, or with any of them being marginal, I would argue for one of you adjusting your career instead.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:51 AM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

My anecdote: My husband (then-boyfriend of more than ten years) was laid off during the recession. After 18 months of job hunting in our city, he’d found a job that was slightly out of his field and far from the path he’d want to be on, at a firm that seemed unstable and had an unpleasant work environment. When he found a job with a reputable firm that was right in his line, we agreed he had to grab it even though it was 90 minutes away in a small town where I was unlikely to find work. We took turns driving to the other’s apartment every weekend. Before a year was up, we couldn’t take it any more and he quit to move back, the first time he’d ever given notice without another job lined up.

I’m more like you; I’m an introvert who doesn’t have a hard time keeping busy. He’s more like your spouse, needs the contact and does not enjoy alone time in quantity. We phoned or video chatted every evening. We decided to get married 6 months in to strengthen our bond. It was tough and living apart didn’t work for us.

A few months after he quit and moved back, he found a job in Boston where it was no problem for me to also find work. We didn’t enjoy living there, but we were happy to be back together. After a few years there and the economy’s continued improvement, we’ve moved again to an area where we’re more comfortable AND both employed.

I’m not going to second guess the way we did it. The economy was so bad then that I’m not sure what other options we had, and I’m not sure my husband would have gotten the subsequent job offers if he hadn’t gotten back in the workforce when he did. But if we were in that situation again, I think we’d go to pretty great lengths not to be separated again. Maybe it’s worth a try for you guys, but if your spouse is not on board to begin with, I don’t think it’s going to get easier as you go along.
posted by Kriesa at 6:56 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

My partner and I did a semi-long-distance thing for work for about a year and a half; he worked a couple of hours' drive away, came home most but not all weekends, sometimes made it home for a night or two mid-week but it wasn't anything reliable.

The first six months were honestly kind of fun/great, as I am a hardcore introvert and hadn't lived alone for years - I had a lot of fun eating exactly what I wanted, watching exactly what I wanted, taking over the entire bed, etc. After that fun wore off, it got to be increasingly difficult on us both. When he ended up leaving that job, it was for a variety of reasons, including the fact that keeping two households and the costs of all the travel pretty much ate up his entire paycheck. But one of the big reasons was our relationship wouldn't have survived that job much longer. It turns out that a relationship, our at least ours, isn't built so much in the "quality time" as in the little bits of less-quality time sprinkled through even the days when we barely see each other. Phone calls and instant messaging only go so far to make up the difference.

We were in some ways the ideal candidates to make this work - both supportive of the idea, both fairly independent with independent hobbies and not joined at the hip by any means - and we still couldn't make it work for the long term without seriously weakening our relationship. If I had it to do again, and couldn't restrict the time limit of the situation to a year, I would have encouraged my partner to keep looking for something more local, even if it meant I were the sole breadwinner longer.

There were definitely some factors specific to us, and you'll have some specific to you, so maybe you'll work it out. But if your partner is strongly against it, I think you should at least go into it with your eyes open about that, and realize that saying "oh, I don't really care if I only see you every other weekend" isn't likely to improve his feelings about time apart weakening your relationship.
posted by Stacey at 7:22 AM on May 31, 2016 [8 favorites]

What about negotiating with your company to get him a job? I agree with everyone else here--the relationship is just not tenable in your situation. 9+ hours is too much. Does he love his job? Have you asked him if he'd be ok with either not working, or changing jobs? If your job brings in the most income in your relationship, you should potentially both move to somewhere near your new small town, and he can find a job doing something, anything.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:44 AM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Anyway you can work it out so that either/both of you have long weekends every weekend or every other? That helped my partner and I through two years of long distance - we were a plane ride away, but we both had the same long weekend every other weekend because we could work 9 out of 10 days. Also, we both made enough money that we could afford plane tickets back and forth. This also requires that you be able to be present with him when you're there though, not working on hobbies or doing more work.

Or can he telecommute from where you are going to work? Can you?

It sounds like maybe he isn't getting what he needs out of your relationship NOW, moving away seems unlikely to help. Have you thought about maybe going to a counselor just to talk through/mediate this particular issue?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:48 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

To him, being apart at all makes him lonely and weakens the relationship.

This isn't a 50/50 opinion split. Your moving is a dealbreaker for your husband.

My job function is at the executive level and is fairly specialized - only large companies need a person of my function and they typically have only 2-4 people in this function, so my job opportunity field is narrow and competitive.

Take a job that's not at the executive level, then.

Right now you are choosing to be inflexible about your job and flexible about your relationship. As a result you have a single offer 9 hours away in a location where you're not otherwise interested in living, and accepting that offer could jeopardize your marriage.

If you choose to prioritize your relationship and add some flexibility to your job search, you may find that you have more opportunities closer to home, as well as a stronger marriage.
posted by headnsouth at 8:14 AM on May 31, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'm a consultant and my work can take me out of town for 4 days a week. Before I even applied Husbunny and I discussed it and he agreed that he's be just dandy having a few weekdays to himself to play Xbox, watch WNBA Basketball and to fiddlefart around like he does. Therefore it works for us.

If your husband isn't onboard, then it's not going to work. He'll resent your merrily flying away to your job, and he has to stay home and deal with the house all on his own.

Honestly, keep looking. At least to places where there are opportunities for him as well. He has told you this won't work for him. He knows this.

Unless you want to break up. In which case, just do that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2016 [7 favorites]

3 to 4 years of very long distance separation? In a marriage? And he's not 100% on board? In fact, rather not on board?

I think you know this can't possibly work for your relationship as it is. Something has to give.
posted by Keter at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2016 [7 favorites]

Not quite your situation, but my partner (like Ruthless Bunny) is out of town 2-5 days every. single. week. We've been living together for about a decade, and it's been like this the entire time. It sucks, and I'm saying that as someone who loves alone time. Why does it suck? Because one's partner doesn't materialize when the desire for them to be around wells up. I don't just mean that in a utilitarian sense, like when I'm sick or injured or have too many things on the to-do list for one person to manage. I mean that sometimes my heart aches at his absence, and that's a burden that feels heavier when I remember that I won't see him for days.

That said, we've made it work. He's at the peak of his career, so I've never considered it reasonable to insist that he abandon a career he was already rising in when we met. I travel for work a great deal (nowhere near as much as he does), so we occasionally get to join up work trips and have a weekend together in one of the three cities where our work overlaps. He's two-ish years away from being able to dial back his travel, and that feels good to write (considering it's been a countdown from ten-ish years).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:50 AM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

You say there isn't a possibility of your husband getting a job in the same small town as yours... could he look at getting a job somewhat nearer to where you'll be? I understand why you don't want to stay out of work and why you don't want this opportunity to pass you by, but maybe there's a compromise? I don't have direct experience- I was in school 7 hours away from my boyfriend for two years several years ago, but we saw each other once / month, and were together all summer, and hadn't lived together beforehand, which isn't your situation. If you can work from home, a "three" day weekend will definitely improve things since the flight is short. Good luck.
posted by serenity_now at 9:39 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

My ex and I did the long-distance thing for...probably a year? Maybe a little longer. Like you, my partner really didn't feel as though there was a meaningful choice; I could not leave my job, and he could not find one here, and I could not realistically support him, and it did not seem wise to drain down his savings to zero in the attempt to support himself.

Ironically, although I was the one who argued against him leaving, who cried and cried and cried when he left...I was the one who ended up enjoying the time and space to myself. He did not, not at all. He was miserable, bored, depressed, and still struggling (he found a job but not a good one, you know?). After a while it was just clear that I was building a separate life, because we had no concrete plans to be back in the same city. I got increasingly guilty while he got increasingly depressed, and eventually I just had to break it off, because we were stuck, and I didn't know how else to unstick us.

It suuuuuuuucked. It was a terrible breakup, it broke my heart. It might have broken his? In hindsight I wonder about whether there was a way to try harder, should I have given up my career, etc (and not too long after, i found a remote working position which would have made it possible to relocate--too late!). I don't know if he would, knowing what we know now, still decide to take the job.

I don't think that I would make a different decision. Possibly I would now choose to break up rather than try to stay long-distance. We would probably have stayed friends, and who knows, maybe if he'd come back we'd have been able to try again. But instead we have bad blood and don't speak. So that's how that happened, since you're asking for anecdotes.

For those of you asking why I think I can manage this, but he does not - I am flexible and am very into my hobby which takes up all my evenings anyways. Even when living together I typically get home at 830 or 9 pm and then do work or fairly soon thereafter go to bed. We don't get quality time on weekdays anyway, so I feel like it's not a huge leap to just seeming him weekends twice a month. We don't have children (nor will we), just dogs. To him, being apart at all makes him lonely and weakens the relationship.

Even by your own calculations you are cutting your husband's quality time with you in half. That's a huge percentage. And the calculation assumes that he gets nothing at all out of the incidental contact the other 26-ish days of the month--from your description of him, that doesn't sound like the case.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

I may be wrong, but I think If the situation were reversed (that is if your spouse was the one posting a question about you wanting to do this) I think most of us would be inclined to say "DTMFA, your spouse is being selfish and obviously cares more about a job than you".

Something to think about.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

My husband and I were long-distance for a year when he got transferred in the military to a town 8 hours away from our old city. As I'm an engineer, I had zero luck finding something nearby. About 6 months in I proposed he leave the military since he didn't like it much anyway, and we both moved to a third city - I got a job transfer and he changed careers to a firefighter.

During that year we saw each other on weekends twice a month, and talked/texted daily, but it was still tough on us. We were in a relationship together because we wanted to BE together, after all. The physical contact and in-person companionship is important. I could tell things were slowly drifting apart between us, until we figured out an end-game. Having a goal in sight was critical. There's no way we'd still be together if we'd just left things as long-distance.

I have known other people for whom long-distance has worked out long-term, but they still tended to see each other more frequently than weekends twice monthly. But I don't think it matters if you find a few success stories on here, because they're different people than your husband, and it's your husband's ability to handle things that matters.

Your husband is being upfront with you on how he thinks he'll handle this, and he doesn't think it's doable. If you take the job, you're not choosing him, and it won't last. It will crush him.
posted by lizbunny at 12:00 PM on May 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

due to a combination of graduate school and strange, but extremely important to seize-in-the-moment jobs, I have lived mostly apart from my partner of 15 years for the last 5.5. I mean cross-country or transatlantic.

It's sucked, we've had some very very rough patches and low points. We're stronger than ever now though and I'm about to move back to his city and live together again.

the ONLY way to make it work, for us is 1) an end date and 2) he's super super super supportive of my work that has been 3) very geographically limited (to be at pursuing opportunities to set me up for more flexibility later, I've had to live in places where there's no work for him)

on top of that, there is calling/emailing/texting several times a day, religiously watching movies over skype on weekends, the limited local social life that goes along with those things.

But without 1) an end in sight and 2) him totally onboard for 3) once in a lifetime opportunities for me, all those other things are band-aids.

It sounds like you don't have those things in your situation. The multiplication property of workable for you and not workable for him is, unfortunately, not workable.
posted by zingiberene at 12:21 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

My wife and I got married in summer 1995 and then immediately spent the following year living a 12-hour train ride apart from one another (we couldn't afford to fly), with 1-2 week visits every 6 weeks or so. This was in two different countries (she was in Paris, I was in Berlin), before telephone deregulation, so phone calls were very expensive. We emailed a lot, talked every 3-4 days, and spent a lot of time together during those visits. However, we knew it was temporary and necessary for our careers (we were grad students doing dissertation research for a year). We also knew that it was likely we would have a long-distance relationship at least for a few years, since the academic job market is national and we're both in the same field (though with different specialties).

And indeed, we did spend four and a half years living apart: first a 6-7 hour trip (1-hour drive, two short flights, then another 1-hour drive), which we did every few weeks for about 5 months, and then a 3-hour drive, which was short enough that we saw one another every weekend but too long to do on a daily basis.

However, we both knew we wanted academic careers and that this was the price we had to pay. Our schedules were flexible enough that most of the time I could drive down to my job on Monday evening or Tuesday morning, and come back Thursday night or Friday afternoon. And we were both applying for jobs elsewhere, every year, until my employer hired her as part of a retention deal. And I have to say that after four years of doing that commute, I was considering whether I should change careers and try to find a job near her. I even considered giving up tenure and starting over. I can't imagine that it would have worked had one of us been convinced that the time apart would undermine the relationship.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:34 PM on May 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

My story: My husband and I got married in October, and right before the wedding, he got a fellowship offer in San Francisco. We lived in New York and I am in graduate school, so I was not going to be coming. (I also don't actually like SF that much, so would have refused to relocate anyways, in all likelihood.) But I told him to take it. It was only a year! I have tons of schoolwork and am not much fun anyways during the semester! It was a dream job! We had friends in SF, from when we lived there before! He was concerned about us being apart, and weakening our relationship. I scoffed. I am independent! I believe in love! We should be a team who supports one another! And the fellowship agreed to let him spend a week each month back in New York.

And so now, here I sit, in a shitty apartment in SF, where I will be living for the summer because being apart was harder and worse than I thought, and it did make staying close really difficult. I am missing and have missed out on opportunities because we were flying back and forth, and let me tell you what paying rent in two places and transcontinental plane tickets cost.

This was for a year and I think the sacrifice will have been worth it, but it sucked, it sucks. And really, we were only apart for seven months, with a month-long reunion over winter break. But the long stretches apart, the short interludes that are more like vacation than living together — for me that turns out to be an impediment to the life I want to have with the husband. I would very much suggest some job flexibility on your part.
posted by dame at 12:45 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Honestly, it doesn't really matter if we say it's possible. He's saying for him, it's not possible and given he's the one in the relationship, that's really all that matters. It sounds like you'll either have to choose between your husband and the job or hold out for a different job (which is what I would do). I'm sorry, this sucks.
posted by Jubey at 3:01 PM on May 31, 2016 [5 favorites]

I don't think I have ever really seen this work out over the long term for anyone I know. I have seen similar circumstances end relationships, including a couple of marriages that seemed (from outside appearances) to be on solid ground.
posted by brennen at 4:50 PM on May 31, 2016

I've done this, but not married. Right now, I'm in an LDR with someone across the country, and it takes a LOT of work to maintain. We are both on the same page about it, though, and it's a time-limited plan.

I also have a friend who has been married to his wife for 10 years, and for the last 5 years, he's lived a 10 hour drive or 2 hour flight+90 minute drive away from his wife/farm/animals.

It actually worked out for them, though this year he gave up an amazing job in a field/location where he's well-connected and respected in order to move to a place that's less than 2 hours driving distance.

He did that because they just couldn't deal with it anymore. It did work for them for a long time though. They were both introverts and had hobbies that kept them busy, but they also talk constantly on the phone/texting/email/etc. They also entered into the arrangement by choice.

Obviously YMMV.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:31 PM on May 31, 2016

I feel a bit uncomfortable with the answers that appear to suggest that OP just give up on their career. I think that could create its own set of issues (resentment, sense of imbalance in the relationship, financial troubles, etc.) that could severely undermine the relationship.

The possibility of being apart for career reasons has always been present in my relationship. In our case I made this clear from the beginning and my (now) husband accepted it. He's said he would feel terrible if he were to limit my career. We fully understand that some locales just don't have the jobs for the both of us.

I also have several friends and acquaintances in academia who have managed periods of separation - sometimes with young children - because staying together in one location would have meant one person essentially giving up their career or at the least greatly diminishing their career prospects. In all these cases eventually the couples did manage to find a place to live together, but it took time and several moves as they moved towards positions and seniority that gave them more control of where to go next. For many of them there was no pre-defined endpoint, as in "We'll only do this for one year" or such. What there was was deep mutual respect for the partner's life goals and aspirations. So I don't think living separately is a dealbreaker for some couples, as long as they are in mutual agreement over what the end goal is.
posted by needled at 4:40 AM on June 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The way you've described your relationship makes me think your spouse may be lonely right now and thinking that a LDR might be the nail in the coffin of your relationship. If I barely saw my spouse during the week because they were too busy for me, then they announced they wanted to move away and only see me twice a month and were perfectly happy with that, well, I'd be scared for my marriage too. You don't seem very invested in them and your husband may feel you moving emotionally and literally away from him and be panicking about this.

You spend paragraphs talking about the job, a few sentences talking about how he feels (which is apparently what the question is all about) and are completely blasé about being apart from him. There is no way he wouldn't pick up on that. To answer your question, if I was trying to convince my spouse to let me move away, I would be talking about the strength of our relationship to be able to survive it and what we would do while we were apart to keep it strong. It doesn't appear from what you've told us that you have this to build upon.
posted by Jubey at 5:18 AM on June 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

mrs_goldfish and I lived together for 6 years, and then lived long-distance, in a variety of situations, for 7 years. For the first 3 years, we spent every weekend together. For the last 2 years, we each lived in Portland: Maine in her case, Oregon in mine. So once a month we each flew to Chicago and spent the weekend together in a hotel. The situation only worked because we were academics and spent long holidays together as well. It also helped that our very first year as a couple had been long-distance, so we already had that confidence.

Then her job ended unexpectedly, so she came and lived with me for a year while being on the job market. We found we REALLY liked living together again. When she got a (tenure-track) job in a small city two hours from the nearest major airport, I quit my (beloved and highly paid, but temporary) job and moved here with her. I've been unemployed or underemployed ever since, and have instead thrown myself into various interesting projects.

Your husband is being pretty clear that what you are describing will not work for him. The other option is for one of you to quit your job/career. The trouble is, this requires a LOT of faith in the marriage.

Other people have noted that your description of your marriage does not instill confidence in the reader. HOWEVER, only you and your husband know whether our doubts are justified. Maybe the way you two live works really well for you two.

If so, maybe you two should talk about what it might look like for one or the other of you to quit work indefinitely. My worthless hunch as an ignorant outsider is that you would pick your career over your marriage, and that he would not want to live in a small town without a social network of co-workers and be ignored by his spouse on weekdays. But: it is a logically possible option. And in the situation as you've constructed it for us, options are in short supply.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:33 PM on June 2, 2016

I was in a long-distance relationship once, for about a year, with definite plans for it to be over at the end of that year. We made it, but almost didn't, and that was with us both buying in.

Your husband is not buying in. He doesn't want to do this, and doesn't think he can do this. I'd be shocked if it works.

If that's right, you either need to choose your marriage or your job -- unless you can find another option. Are you sure he can't get a job, any job, in your new town? Are you sure you can't get a job, any job, in a city where your husband can get a job? If you're saying "I need to have this specific kind of job and that outweighs my marriage," or if he's saying "I need to have the specific kind of job I have now and that outweighs my marriage," then that's critical information. If you just don't see other options about how to make it work, maybe you're not trying hard enough or are being too pessimistic.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:21 AM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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