I abandoned my career and I don't know what to do next.
November 6, 2017 3:02 PM   Subscribe

I used to have an amazing job and I gave it up. I don't know what to do with my life now.

I used to do IT help desk work for a large company in a large city. I was making a lot of money -- beyond what I ever expected to earn -- and had fantastic, amazing benefits.

My husband decided to move us across the country to a small city (about 70,000 people) so that he could continue to do work in his field. This was two years ago. (He works in a specialized field, and there are only a few places in the country where he can do the work he does.)

Reluctantly, I quit my job and followed him across the country.

I did not want to abandon my career. I had just gotten a promotion and a really good raise before my husband decided we were going to move to another city. If we weren't married, I might not have followed him, but, we are and I did. It was not an easy decision.

I thought that I would be able to take some time off work and just be a stay-at-home wife or something. However, soon after I moved out here, my husband made it clear that he expects me to work. Which is reasonable. He makes good money but is extremely frugal, and gets really stressed out at the thought of being the sole breadwinner.

I actually interviewed for and was offered an IT job here, but the pay was only about 60% of what I was making in my old gig. I turned it down. This was probably a mistake. I re-submitted my resume later when I saw the job re-posted, but they were no longer interested in having me work for them.

I then got a part-time job that has ideal working hours and pleasant working conditions. However, it's an entry-level type gig, the same kind of work I was doing 20 years ago, and doesn't pay well at all. I was embarrassed to tell people what I was doing for a living. I probably shouldn't have been embarrassed. I've been really depressed lately, and I recently put in my two-week notice. I thought quitting would make me feel better, but I feel a lot, lot worse. It feels like just another mistake I can't recover from.

To add to all this, I have mental health issues (bipolar disorder), and I've been working myself up into a frenzy of anxiety reading articles about climate change. I feel like any career development moves I might make are futile, since I have myself half-convinced that there is no future.

I just don't know what to do next. I have some money saved up. My husband is paying the rent and utilities. He gets resentful if I'm not working -- I'm resentful that I abandoned a good career that I loved (even though it was stressful and I complained a lot) during my peak earning years (I'm in my forties).

What should we do? I'm thinking marriage counseling would be a good idea. I love him and we mostly have a good relationship. I don't know what to do for a career and now that I'm facing unemployment I feel like I'm totally worthless. However, I feel like I can't face going back to work full-time knowing that I might never earn what I was earning at my old job back in the big city.

I've been thinking about doing volunteer work. I wouldn't be earning money, but it would make me feel less worthless and get me out of the house. There's a food shelf within walking distance of our house that I'd like to volunteer at, and I've also been wanting to volunteer at the independent movie theater. Maybe that would be a good way to buy time while I figure out what to do.
posted by spacewaitress to Work & Money (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This bit: "To add to all this, I have mental health issues (bipolar disorder), and I've been working myself up into a frenzy of anxiety reading articles about climate change. I feel like any career development moves I might make are futile, since I have myself half-convinced that there is no future" makes it unclear to me whether you are already involved in individual therapy. If not, I'd start there, though marriage therapy sounds like a good approach as well.

You said you recently put in your two-week notice and you think that was a mistake. Can you retract the notice and stay put for now?
posted by craven_morhead at 3:12 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Single person counseling, not couples. I think you sound amazing and in your shoes, I would not feel whole without getting my career on track. Your marriage can’t fuck up your career. This is the 21st century. You’re a powerful woman! Treatment now - both as a symbol that you’re going to put yourself first but also because bipolar requires management and this is one of those times.
posted by karmachameleon at 3:13 PM on November 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

Can you do any remote work for your previous large company? Even if it is contract work/not full time, it may provide more satisfaction and decent earning potential. If you were a good worker for them, it may not be such a stretch to get them to consider a remote arrangement.
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you'd be happier and healthier with a job in your field that without one -- unemployment can be very hard on mental health issues. A small town is always going to pay less than a big city, and you'll have better luck finding a more exciting job if you are working in the field ("I moved to this small town for my husband's job, took a junior job because that's what was available, but I am qualified to do more and really am looking for more serious work" is a great narrative to tell a recruiter; "I am not working because I quit my job because it was too junior for me" is harder to sell.)

If you can, I think retracting your notice and thinking of the job as a semi-downtime, for lower pay but also lower stress, might be the way to go.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:37 PM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Couples counseling too, though. Assuming that the husband did not simply move OP out to the new city to sandbag her (and I see a tiny red flag or two, but let's assume not), it is quite strange that there was a lack of communication concerning whether the husband expected that OP would be working or not. It's hard to imagine how a couple in which one partner was giving up her good job to move to a city where her employment opportunities would be limited in order to support the other's career could not have discussed plans for the first partner's work in that new city if there was even halfway decent communication in the marriage. That needs to be addressed.

OP, you need to be working, even if it's at a more junior position. There's simply no guarantee that your husband will be around to support you in five years. (Probably climate change won't have taken us all out by then.) It's one thing (though still risky) to step out of the workplace if you're ill, or to support other family priorities like caregiving, but simply deciding to rely on your husband's indefinite support is gratuitously throwing yourself at the mercy of the fates. Don't do it.
posted by praemunire at 3:45 PM on November 6, 2017 [13 favorites]

I am so angry on your behalf. While it's on both of you to hash this out and get on the same page before making these big decisions, avoiding these conversations kept him on his dream career path while you are struggling to find a Plan B with a lot of conditions and little support from him.

That's not an accident. Maybe it's unintentional, but even that is a whole host of societal expectations that support his well being at the cost of your own well being.

You need to be in treatment. You need a therapist who will put your well being first. You need an Eff You fund, which sadly means either going back to your current position or finding a full time IT position. You need to create space for your own needs, and it's concerning that didn't factor into his life goals.

Couples therapy is fine. But I was looking through your past questions, and it seems like you have an ongoing issue trying to assert your needs in relationships. That makes it extra important to have a resource that is 100% Team spacewaitress.
posted by politikitty at 4:24 PM on November 6, 2017 [37 favorites]

If it was me, I'd explore getting the kind of job I wanted and discussing the idea of having a commuter marriage or moving back to a location where you BOTH could get your employment needs met. It sounds as though the loss of your job is a hit you haven't been able to recover from.
posted by dancing_angel at 4:26 PM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Your husband needs to understand that when he screwed over your career and earning potential because his became the priority, that was when he assumed the responsibility for covering your financial short gap. Now clearly, you can and probably should work, but I wouldn't beat yourself up (or let him do it either!) that you're not making the same amount in a smaller place, that's just not realistic.

I would look for a job that makes you happy and brings in some cash and then divide bills (if this is how you two do it) by percentage of how much you earn. I would also open up a discussion with your husband about when your career will be supported. It's fine that right now his comes first, as long as at some point yours does too and it can't be in ten years when you no longer have one to go back to. In the meantime, work on getting qualifications, courses, whatever, to stay relevant.

Right now your husband is getting everything he needs, he should be extra supportive of you because you've taken the hit so he can become a success. It's now his turn to support you so that you can do the same, whether that's financially or in other ways. If he's not, it's time to ask both of you why.
posted by Jubey at 4:26 PM on November 6, 2017 [40 favorites]

Jubey, my feeling is that things have come to a head precisely because husband does not understand. It has become a situation of career versus marriage for OP where husband has the advantage because the status quo suits him. Were OP to leave and pursue a career at a different location, it is not unlikely he would follow, but OP may not want to take this step. Communication problems have likely forestalled an open discussion. Is this true, OP?
posted by karmachameleon at 4:43 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, I absolutely understand this, that's why they need to have a discussion about how this is going to get rectified. Other people have mentioned OP leaving her location but she hasn't floated this as a possibility yet, so while she's still in her marriage and small town, I guess it's therapy for them both. Assuming her husband agrees.
posted by Jubey at 5:42 PM on November 6, 2017

First, stop reading about climate change. It's not helping you, and your anxiety isn't doing anything to stop climate change.

I'm not sure I have much more advice, but I do have sympathy, if that helps.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:14 PM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

"My husband decided to move us across the country to a small city (about 70,000 people) so that he could continue to do work in his field."

"my husband decided we were going to move to another city"

You feel like crap because of this - and it's quite a crappy thing for him to do to you (clearly, he couldn't compromise on his career, but you could) as well as your relationship.

Yes, go volunteer for a bit - go meet new people and do new things - if your husband has an issue with you looking after yourself and your mental health (and your career in the longer term), he's just going to have to freaking deal with it.
posted by heyjude at 6:27 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

To everyone who mentioned communication; that has been a huge problem throughout our relationship. I suggested couples therapy to my husband early in our marriage (we've been married six years), and my husband rejected it because he thinks it's something for people who are about to get divorced. I still think counseling would help us.

2015 was a really chaotic, busy year for us. When my husband was interviewing for the job out here, I was in India for work. He and I didn't talk for close to 3 weeks while I was gone. The whole thing unfolded without us having much of a chance to discuss it. I was in India in early June of 2015, and he moved away in mid July. I felt abandoned and got depressed. I really questioned whether he wanted me to follow him out here. I finally moved in November of 2015.

He made the move that was best for him and his career. And honestly, I've had such a history of instability that I think, from a rational standpoint, he did the thing that made the most sense. But I really, really didn't want to make this move.

I was really angry at first about living in such a small city, but it's a college town. I've started making friends and have found some cool cultural things to get involved in. The problem is that wages here are really depressed.

There are only a couple big employers in town. I'm not sure why I turned down the IT job I was offered last year, except that I was still so angry from the move. Anyway, that job was with one of the only big companies. The other IT jobs I've seen all have starting wages that are 1/3 to 1/2 of what I was making in our old city. And I'm not even sure if I want to go back into IT. There are some things about it that are just dispiriting.

I just feel so stuck. I still get headhunting calls from recruiters in my old city. I know if I moved I could find work in a second. But I don't know if I want to move. I don't really want to leave my husband, despite this whole mess.
posted by spacewaitress at 7:54 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The other IT jobs I've seen all have starting wages that are 1/3 to 1/2 of what I was making in our old city.

And I wouldn't be surprised if your cost of living is 1/2 to 2/3 of living in a big city, that big salary isn't better if it gets eaten up by expenses. Your worth as a human is not your salary (cynics like me might even say that it's an inverse function).
As to climate change, yes it would be highly desirable if we didn't wreck the environment (and I think a lot articles try prod people into action by stressing the worst outcomes in the models) - but Homo Sapiens have been around for 100-200,000 years, which means we've survived 5-10 ice ages with only stone tool technology.

And I'm not even sure if I want to go back into IT.

You said you're in college town, a lot of climate science is modeling (not just clouds and CO2 - respiration of soil bacteria, the release of chemicals by plants...), maybe your could see if anyone there is doing climate science and could use your help.
posted by 445supermag at 8:22 PM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Does the type of IT work you do lend itself to telecommuting? Could you float that idea with those recruiters? Even for a position on a part-time basis? It would keep your c.v. current, boost your self-esteem, and perhaps still leave you time to volunteer.

Your husband's actions and behavior are outrageous. Deciding to move out of town for this new gig with no (or precious little) discussion with his spouse, then resentment when said spouse (after ditching her own great job and pulling up stakes to join him) is not able to find a good job fit, plus ongoing refusal to do marriage counseling? That's... I don't even have the words; what are you supposed to do, when he's not even meeting you an eighth of the way? Please seek out individual therapy, as recommended by other posters, and be gentle with yourself.

On preview: I suggested couples therapy to my husband early in our marriage (we've been married six years), and my husband rejected it because he thinks it's something for people who are about to get divorced. Sorry -- not an ongoing balk, then. Suggest counseling again, and if he gives the same reason for not wanting to go (when he's had a few years to see how far apart you are on really important matters, and how unhappy you've been in the new digs), mildly agree with him, while stressing you're bringing it up again because you do love him and want to fight for your marriage?
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:22 PM on November 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

The whole thing unfolded without us having much of a chance to discuss it.

Whoa whoa whoa...what?

First of all, major life moves like this don't just "unfold." They occur as the result of specific choices by people. In this case, your husband's semi-unilateral choice to "move you" despite the cost to your career, and your choice to simply go along with it. Each of you is responsible for the situation in your own way; acting like the decisions were made by gravity or something is a way to avoid understanding how you got here.

Second, where did your husband get the impression he could make these kinds of decisions for the family without taking your needs into consideration? Look, people do sometimes find themselves in the situation of having to be a trailing spouse in an unfavorable environment for their own careers. The economy is tough. Marriage sometimes entails sacrifice. But the person whose career is benefiting then needs to be extra careful to look after the needs of the other partner, so that they're not just taking advantage. It sounds like your husband is taking your sacrifices for granted and hasn't thought about you at all, except insofar as you're apparently still not contributing enough economically for his taste. This is not acceptable. This is simply not loving. You two really need to address whatever has produced this messed-up power dynamic in your relationship.

It sounds like he's convinced you that, due to your mental illness, you're economically unstable, untrustworthy, and less deserving of mutual commitment than he is. But it also sounds like you've built a pretty good career for yourself regardless of disability! You both need to value you more.
posted by praemunire at 8:51 PM on November 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

When my husband was interviewing for the job out here, I was in India for work. He and I didn't talk for close to 3 weeks while I was gone. The whole thing unfolded without us having much of a chance to discuss it. I was in India in early June of 2015, and he moved away in mid July.

He made the move that was best for him and his career.
Yes, well, good for him.

I must say the lid just about flew off my head when I read this follow-up. Your husband more or less unilaterally decided that you both were moving to a new city, where his career prospects are great and yours are considerably reduced, and he did this while you were out of the country for work with limited communication? I can't fathom how that is acceptable. You are his partner, not his child or dependent. He shouldn't just get to choose for you.

Since you mention that this is a college town I'm inferring that he is an academic of some sort, and that means he may have severely restricted options for job locations. Fair enough. But that's still something you should be discussing and working through together. He should be making a meaningful effort to help you get connected to work opportunities of your own, and you should be talking together about how to ensure that your career goals aren't left by the wayside.
I suggested couples therapy to my husband early in our marriage (we've been married six years), and my husband rejected it because he thinks it's something for people who are about to get divorced.
Couples who don't attend counseling also get divorced. Ask your husband again to attend counseling with you. If he still refuses, please consider seeing a counselor on your own.

I understand that stepping down to a lower salary and more entry-level work feels like a huge blow. If this move presents a natural and desirable opportunity to take a break and reflect on your own goals while doing some volunteer work, by all means go ahead and do it. That said, it sounds like you derive a lot of your sense of purpose and self-esteem from your (paid) career. I think you should hold on to that job if you can. It gives you an opportunity to stay current with your field, connect with a wider professional network, and maintain the security of an independent income.
posted by 4rtemis at 9:01 PM on November 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

Your husband took advantage of the fact that you were inaccessible to make a family decision on your behalf to force you into a move, like you were a Stepford wife. I don't want to stir the pot, but you have a great career and great opportunities - for now. You don't have to put up with this shit. If there is no partnership and you're not worth being consulted on something that affects your entire life and location of where you live, then he won't mind it when he's not consulted because you got a great new job in x city and you're moving out there - with or without him. Because that's just how things roll, right?

This partnership has devolved into both of you having to fight in your own corner for yourself, thanks to him. Be careful. This man is only in it for himself.
posted by Jubey at 9:22 PM on November 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I was also going to ask how local cost of living compared to your old city - whether the difference in pay levels is partly or wholly mitigated by a lower COL. (This doesn't mean you should resign yourself to junior work or anything, it just might make money in absolute terms less of a factor by which to measure self-esteem.)

I don't know, the combination of your husband basically not worrying about your input (if that's how things played out) and then losing your high-powered job seems rightly* to have done a number on your sense of self worth. You might be right that volunteering (on top of looking for new work) might be a good thing to do, just to remind yourself that what you're worth is independent of your husband and career (which it is).

* On preview, rightly as in understandably, definitely not as in correctly.
posted by trig at 9:53 PM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

data point, I volunteer a LOT and with only one exception - grant writing that I do occasionally for a friend's foundation - I do not find it to be buoying to the ol' self-esteem. Maybe because the work I do is mid-management level, so not quite important enough to feel indispensable yet senior enough to see how the sausage is made, which can be disheartening... still, in general I would caution you about thinking that a feel-good activity will substitute for paid professional achievement, if you're someone who really cares about professional achievement. It's not the same thing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:34 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

My lid also nearly blew off. I've had two cats for ten years now (the second cat's identity has changed due to sad circumstances) and you know, when I was transferred 580 miles (930km) from my previous city, I consulted my cats. I prepared them for it. My older cat is really smart and actually understands that sort of thing – when I tell him I'll be away for the night, he hangs his head and goes to hide under the bed. He never does that otherwise. I told them they'd be in their carriers on a train, a very fast train with a lot of strange people in it, but their carriers would protect them and I'd be nearby, they'd be able to see and smell me, they wouldn't want to pee for the few hours it took, and once we got there we'd be in a small room with a window for birdwatching. Once I'd found a bigger room with a balcony or patio, they'd be able to go outside again, but the first month or two wasn't going to be much fun in the small room (hotel).

I did this for my cats. Cats.

Regarding IT, to add another perspective. It sounds like you enjoyed your job, in spite of the dispiriting aspects of it. I grok ya. I've worked in IT for a decade now, after switching careers. Before my first career, I was a part-time professional musician to help pay for school. I gave up music because of the rampant, unquestioned misogyny. My first career was as a freelance translator – which had somewhat less rampant misogyny. When I got into IT, I recognized the rampant misogyny straight away, shrugged and said, "well, patriarchy, screw you, I'm here and this is my job." Is the rampant misogyny what dispirits you? Or is it the hit-and-miss management that can sometimes seem like they've decided to collect all the proven-worst practices and implemented them in a last-ditch effort to fill coffers while sucking workers dry? In either case, that's everywhere. The misogyny is everywhere. Bad management is everywhere.

Part of what keeps me going in a job I mostly love, but am also capable of ranting about vociferously, is a random thing I read twelve years ago during a stint of interest in Buddhism (the religion itself isn't so important to moral of the story, as you'll see). There was a guy who gave up everything to go to Japan to become a monk, and the monk he studied with one day asked him, "why did you come here?" The guy responded it was because he wanted to live Buddhism. The monk then asked him why he came to Japan for that. The guy was stumped by the question, and the monk told him, "Buddhism is not a place or a person. It is lived. You can't separate life from it. You can live Buddhism anywhere." The guy responded that his corporate life had been soulless. The monk smiled and said, "then bring your soul to it."

We live in a time in which the importance of our individual souls is indeed being crushed. A lot of what you wrote echos that. Plus you're with a man who showed little regard for your soul. If you're dis-spirited by IT in part because it too is contributing to lack of soul, remember you're not actually alone, and you can bring your soul to it. (Which doesn't mean baring it open to be taken advantage of, but caring for it.)
posted by fraula at 5:24 AM on November 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

Three years ago I left a horrible but high paying job. I had a great career in medical research for 25 years and ended up needing to go into an industry position after being in acadamia--not easy to adapt to such a different culture. My husband also makes very good money and can support us but at the time he was frustrated that I wasn't working. I had been seeing a therapist and she recommended my husband see one, too. It was her opinion that it isn't at all appropriate for my husband to be so concerned about me working when it isn't necessary and I need time to settle into a new career direction. After a few months of therapy he came to the realization that we are a team and that he cannot view his money as his money. He took on a new attitude of being a team and no longer talks about it. Three years later I'm still not employed. We have a 9 year old (from my previous relationship), and in the meantime I work with him at his business occasionally and have been taking certification classes online in order to add an attractive skill set to my CV. Your husband desperately needs therapy!
posted by waving at 5:40 AM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was (still kind of am) in a very similar situation to yours. A year ago, my partner took a job in a city that I knew from the start would be career suicide for me. We were leaving a fairly progressive area where I had close friends and a job that I adored. I found a job in this new place that paid similar to what I was making, but the environment and the structure of it were so terrible that staying there for more than 6 months used every last bit of my mental and emotional resources. I quit that job, thinking I could find something else, and found nothing.

Six months followed of feeling isolated, depression, lots of streaming television, giving up my financial independence, and growing resentful towards him for not only bringing me here, but for the travelling he gets to do for his job that allows him an escape that I don't get. I didn't have friends, family, or any sort of support network. Add to that the anxiety of simply existing in this administration. I can honestly say this has been the worst year of my life.

What has helped me:
-Friends. I have weekly phone calls with four of my best friends. They are all 10+ hours away from me, but they deserve trophies for picking up the phone when I call, for reassuring me that everything has not been wasted, for listening to me rant or cry about how much I hate where we are, for believing that things will get better.
-Projects. I joked for a while that I had to find some sort of niche hobby and blog about it because the internet has taught me that when women move to a place for someone else and have to give up their careers, they get some sort of esoteric hobby that eventually leads them to their true meaning in life. I never found that, but I did learn how to make marshmallows, made a cookbook for my sister, helped another friend with research. It helped give some sort of structure to my days.
-Not being too hard on myself. On bad days, I would get very upset that all of the years I put into the field I was in had been wasted. When I was looking at going back to entry level jobs because that was all that was available, one of my friends told me that I was allowed to feel like it was beneath me, because it was. Just because that was all I could get didn't mean that was a true reflection of what I was capable of.
-Be honest with yourself. Is it just the job piece of your life that you are unhappy with, or is it more than that? How much unhappiness can you tolerate? Where do you see yourself in six months, one year, or more? How financially dangerous are you being? How much of your identity hinges on the work you do? What are the best and worst case scenarios? Looking at pieces of the problem specifically instead of just generally helped me come up with my time frame for how urgent I needed to be about the situation.
-Having an exit strategy. My partner had a lot of trouble recognizing the depth of my misery, even though I tried explaining it over and over again. He has never experienced depression and I think he just thought I was being dramatic about my inability to get off the couch, or bathe, or fix a meal. He agreed to start looking for another job in a better area, but the time line he gave for that kept getting longer and longer, and his standards of what he wanted in a new job got higher and higher. While we worked on that together, I was also working on a back-up plan of moving to where one of my friends lives and where he had a job lined up and waiting for me.

I am actually going with my back up plan. I'm moving out this week. I love my partner, but I know that it's not possible to have an equal partnership without him finding a new job in a new place. He has been kind and supportive, but he's not enough to make me okay with everything I have given up. It was a hard and terrible choice, but the other options I had in this situation were harder and worse.

Figure out what works for you, what you find joy or fulfillment in. If that's volunteering, go for it. If it's activities or friendships, cultivate those. Recognize that your happiness and having a sense of purpose are important things. But also recognize when the costs far out weigh the benefits and be kind to yourself.
posted by August Fury at 7:34 AM on November 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

+1 on being quite upset on your behalf

my husband made it clear that he expects me to work.
Should have made it clear BEFORE the move. See also the old "Jump" and "How high?"

Which is reasonable.
What, unilaterally making super-unfair decisions and springing surprise terms and conditions?

[He] gets really stressed out at the thought of being the sole breadwinner.
Should have thought about that before he tried being sole shot-caller.

OP, you say you love him but this obviously does not sound like a fair or equal partnership. Others have suggested practical ways of addressing your current situation (counseling, various job options, leaving, and so on). I add this: FWIW, I have personally known couples who stayed married but spent time geographically apart for career or family circumstances. So you could move back to your career city, or just try it temporarily. It may not sound feasible at first but ask yourself if it's any less sustainable than the current situation. A good career is hard to come by as it is and your options back in your old city sound wonderful.

Rooting for you.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

my husband rejected it because he thinks it's something for people who are about to get divorced

I had an uncle that refused marriage counseling because, "Catholics don't get divorced." Surprise, they do. Therapy doesn't cause divorces, it just correlates with them because most people seeking it out are close to the breaking point already. Refusing to see a therapist doesn't make the problems go away.

And maybe you should be considering making an exit. It's a deeply problematic relationship and it sounds like staying in it is going to be years or decades of unhappiness and limited prospects for you. If he's not willing to make an effort to correct things, it might be best for everyone if you go your own way.
posted by Candleman at 11:59 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

He expects you to work. He expects you to do this in a new city with limited opportunities in your field... how, exactly? Finding a good job isn't something you just decide to do and it happens.

You don't get to not be the sole breadwinner AND move wherever you need to for your career without consulting your spouse. That's just not how this works.
posted by Anne Neville at 1:14 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah I wouldn't even go look at an apartment four blocks away without getting my partner's (and probably my cat's!) take on the idea. Holy shit.

I have some sympathy for your husband's position, I really do. If he's in academia, jobs are ultra rare and they don't tolerate dilly-dallying because there's like 80 people lined up to take your place. Heck I got beat up on AskMe just last week for dragging my feet on a job offer, and jobs aren't nearly as rare and competitive in my field as they are for academia. So I get that he might not have felt that he could say "sure, just give me almost a month, until my wife gets back from India."

But he should have said it anyway. Because you're his wife.

As to your current situation. It is hard, psychologically, to take a pay cut, always. But if that pay cut is commensurate with a reduced cost of living I strongly encourage you to take a job at the lower salary first, and give your mind some time to come to terms with it. Salaries are not absolute, as I have to remind myself constantly when friends get jobs in NYC and SF at 2x or 3x my current level. They're also paying many many times more rent.

my husband rejected it because he thinks it's something for people who are about to get divorced

Well lucky for him, it sounds like unless something changes y'all are about to get divorced, so he should be way the fuck more open to it now, huh?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:03 PM on November 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I feel like I should defend my spouse to some extent. He's pretty great in a lot of ways. We're both just ordinary people with problems.

He's not in academia, but it is a similarly geographically-dependent job.

I think I would like to take this time to make a career switch. I think I might like to do technical writing or be a copyeditor. I was thinking of going back to school - there's a good university here, and I could get resident tuition, but my husband seemed totally shocked and appalled by that. He sees me as being really impulsive and flighty, and so he basically thinks that going back to school is just another whim.

Part of why this move has been so hard for me is that I have big-time impostor syndrome. My sweet IT job was won through a combination of 25% hard work and 75% sheer great good luck. I have a B.A. in French, I'm not that young any more, and I just don't feel all that credible. At my old job, I had a really great woman boss who was very supportive and nurturing of my career. I don't have confidence in my ability to land another similar position.

To everyone who pointed out that I seem to derive a sense of identity from my career: yes, very much so! I was very proud of my career achievements.

I'm really feeling kind of awful right now, like I no longer trust my ability to make good decisions. I should probably go into therapy, but I dread taking the time and expense, and also going through the ordeal of finding somebody with whom I have a good rapport.
posted by spacewaitress at 3:54 PM on November 7, 2017

Also, COL is not commensurate with wages here. Houses are just as expensive as they were in the big metropolis, but wages are much, much lower. It's a pretty college town nestled in the mountains, and people pay for the privilege of living here.
posted by spacewaitress at 3:56 PM on November 7, 2017

His seeing you as impulsive and flighty is... not good news for your marriage. Does he respect you? (I wouldn't describe someone I respected in those terms) Does he feel contempt for you? One spouse feeling contempt for the other is an excellent predictor of divorce.

He doesn't feel entitled to tell you what to do in terms of your job/career, does he? He does NOT have the right to do that.
posted by Anne Neville at 4:09 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please at least tell us that the job your husband took is one that is fairly secure and that pays well. If that's not the case, I'm not sure you're the one who's impulsive and flighty here...
posted by Anne Neville at 5:21 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm really feeling kind of awful right now, like I no longer trust my ability to make good decisions.

Well, you do have some responsibility for where you are right now (I mean in the literal, geographic sense), but it's not exactly fair to accuse yourself of terrible judgment because you went along with a plan to further your husband's career, especially when he pressured you to do it, didn't give you much time to think it over, and didn't make all his expectations for the new environment clear. You were trying to support your husband, and he conveniently failed to address some of the concomitant difficulties in advance. I'd far more question his judgment: he doesn't like being the sole breadwinner, but he hustles you away from your good job into a town where your career prospects are more limited, and then gets mad at you!

It's clear even from the little you've posted here that your husband is very good at mashing your self-doubt buttons to get his own way. (Also that he doesn't respect you very much.) This is no way to live. I'm not jumping straight to "divorce him," but a spouse should be building you up and encouraging you, not constantly trying to make you feel less capable.
posted by praemunire at 6:28 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

my husband seemed totally shocked and appalled by that. He sees me as being really impulsive and flighty, and so he basically thinks that going back to school is just another whim.

What an heck? the guy who picked up and moved y'all with barely so much as a by-your-leave thinks YOU are "impulsive and flighty" for trying to fix the fuckup HE created in your career?

Methinks the gentleman doth project too much.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:39 PM on November 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

With gentleness, and respect for the difficult and unhappy position you're in: I feel, strongly, that if you really were "impulsive and flighty," you'd've left your husband by now.

Marriage counseling is a good idea. Individual counseling is a good idea. Volunteering is a good idea. Your question is full of good ideas, you know. You've done high-quality work you took pride in, you've made good decisions before, and you're trying very hard right now to do the right thing. Try decoupling yourself from the idea that what you do professionally, and how much you're paid for doing that, equals your actual worth as a person.

praemunire: ... a spouse should be building you up and encouraging you, not constantly trying to make you feel less capable.

This, a thousand times. You're a team, you and your husband. At least, you're meant to be a team. If it seems likes we're piling on a bit, that's the reason -- he hasn't been acting like it, and you've been suffering for it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:52 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel like I should defend my spouse to some extent. He's pretty great in a lot of ways. We're both just ordinary people with problems.

I get that we're getting only a part of the picture here, but just going by the details of what your husband has done and said so far, it's a pretty major problem. Lack of respect for SO's life/career choices would be a dealbreaker for a lot of people. Look how miserable it's made you! We get worked up here on your behalf because we're seeing someone's life and career get railroaded.

It's watching injustice and inequality play out in real life, and we shouldn't brush it aside just because it's "ordinary."

I'm really feeling kind of awful right now, like I no longer trust my ability to make good decisions.

This is also a reason I was suggesting temporarily moving back on your own--maybe the solo time would give you more space to think to yourself and regain a sense of balance. If money is an issue you could look for paid short-term contract work or something like that?
To me you actually seem to have a good grasp on what you want or don't want, sense of what drives your identity, and so on, and it's just getting muddled because of externally-imposed changes and opinions. (Does your husband do put-downs only or does he give you positive encouragement or ideas as well? Given the limited options, what would be something that both of you would approve?)

I should probably go into therapy, but I dread taking the time and expense, and also going through the ordeal of finding somebody with whom I have a good rapport.

Any reliable friends or family or colleagues you can talk with? There also must be support groups for folks in similar situations (like for spouses for people in academia or other geography-restricted career tracks) for practical advice and experiences. IME some of the best career advice and pep-talks have come from former teachers or school career counselors.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 10:17 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry this has been so hard for you. I really feel for you. I'm going to play a little bit of devil's advocate, but I want to start by saying that this sounds really tough, and I can relate to a lot of what you say -- I'd be feeling similarly, and I've struggled with depression when I was between jobs. Everything you say makes a lot of sense.

But here's where I keep landing: You can get a job that pays 1/3 to 1/2 of your old job. So why not just do it? You'll sharpen up your skills, prove to yourself that you're not an imposter who got her last job by luck, add structure to your day, meet people, get out of the house, add to your family's financial security and/or your own savings (if necessary for moving), and give your husband the peace of mind of not being the sole earner. It doesn't sound like you're enjoying your time off, so why not do this?

The answer to that seems to be a combination of anger, depression, and wanting to go back in time (to the previous job, or to the job offer that would pay 60% of your old salary). All of that is really understandable and needs to receive the loving attention, supportive listening, and constructive troubleshooting that it deserves. But setting that aside, I don't see a single reason to not just take that imperfect job for now.

I do think couples therapy would be a really great idea. There is a lot of baggage and unexplored stuff here: an understandable resentment, a sense that he did this partially due to your instability (which tells me you guys need more strategies; unilateral decision-making is not the solution), his understandable but maybe also unnecessary financial anxiety... It seems quite possible that what's blocking you from getting a job is anger at him (on a re-read, you basically say as much). Also, you sound super unhappy in a way that makes me worry about the future of your marriage. And you sound disempowered (or oppressed) in this relationship, which is why everyone is piling on your husband.

I also think your depression might be having a big impact? Rereading, again, I guess you say as much. And it is really understandable You sound like someone with a lot of discipline who is just barely managing to hang in there. Depression is dangerous. Honestly, maybe get into therapy while you can still muster the energy and hope to do so? I really do get the sense that either your mental health or marriage are nearing a breaking point (not at one, but perhaps closer than you think) and that now is the time to make that challenging step of starting couples therapy, individual therapy, or both.

I'm kind of appalled and angry to hear that your husband won't support your career change. On the other hand, I can imagine being him and thinking "why not just get a job in your existing field even if it isn't perfect?" and feeling frustrated by your yearning to return to an idealized former job and refusing to accept the different payscale of your current place.

So my advice is, just get a basic job making 40% of your old salary. It won't be the perfect pay and it's not the perfect field, but it's just a job, for now. It doesn't prevent you from moving back or changing fields -- it just helps you get unstuck and gives you more money and independence for your next steps. Then you can use that money to get therapy, maybe make your career transition, maybe save up for a move back.

Good luck, and I'm so sorry. I guess the last thing is that I'm also feeling like maybe you need to grieve the loss of your old life -- your job, your mentor... to get released and move on (even if you choose to move on by moving back). It just sounds like you're really sad. If you haven't really let that out, maybe it'd help... But then I'm feeling worried for you falling into a pit of sadness, so maybe get a therapist's support in this.

I don't mean to say that you should do those steps in that order. In fact, I think getting your depression under control would really help with the job hunt. Maybe start with finding a therapist to help with that. Bipolar can be dangerous. You sound like you have a lot of insight and self-awareness and poise and self-control, and I'm concerned that maybe all of that is making it seem like you can handle this yourself when you really could use some help. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 10:18 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

You haven't made a mistake you can't recover from. If such a thing exists, it's something like joining a pyramid scheme, investing your life savings in Beanie Babies, or quitting your job to start a restaurant when you have no experience in the restaurant industry. It's not something mundane like not accepting the job offer you should have.

Is working part time and going back to school part time an option? That might even work a little better if you're underemployed.

Remember, being underemployed doesn't mean you're worthless or not intelligent or capable. Einstein worked as a patent clerk before he came up with the special theory of relativity.
posted by Anne Neville at 4:10 AM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Going back to school, especially with cheaper tuition, sounds like an interesting and viable idea. (I don't know that you'd necessarily need to do that to switch to technical writing, though, or how great the job market is for copyediting specifically. These are things to investigate.)

If you're worried about your decision-making process, you can do things like draw up a budget, figure out how the local job market is in the fields you're interested in and how well they would pay, try to meet some local people involved in those fields or academic programs, etc. You can never guarantee that the decisions you make will be the right ones, but you can get to the point where you have a good idea going in of the different possible outcomes and how you feel about them.

It's also a good thing, I think, that you're thinking broadly about options. One you haven't mentioned is looking for work at the local college - jobs like that can be hard to find but have a lot of benefits, sometimes including reduced tuition.

It's interesting that you said your husband sees you as flighty. Reading your question I was thinking almost the opposite: that maybe you were too hung up on finding the perfect Goldilocks-type job, rather than taking a step, giving it a chance, evaluating after a while, and changing if necessary. Those things aren't mutually exclusive, of course, because sometimes a person can spend forever trying to optimize their decision and ultimately just get fed up and choose at random. I think that kind of impulsive choice is usually a result of feeling trapped or exhausted. If you think that might be the case with you, make sure to give yourself the space and low pressure you need to not feel that way. And if you feel that your husband responds in ways that raise the pressure and pen you in, then he needs to get on board with backing way off. In theory you can compromise: you could take a random job or temp work while figuring out a path you'd like to try, with no pressure to stay at that temporary job; you could agree to give whatever path you take a serious chance but also agree that if it's not a good fit you're allowed to find ways to change it.

Ultimately, you're still pretty young, you could change fields a number of times yet and still be fine, and no given job or career path has to be a life sentence. Try to make a well-reasoned decision, and neither you nor your husband should let yourselves get too stressed out about the potential possibility of it turning out not to be the very best one.

(Just for perspective, when your husband was figuring out his own career path he either knowingly or unknowingly chose one that came with real geographic constraints on his own life and that of any potential partner. Was it the best possible choice? Did he at some level make the choice out of interest or love rather than strict cost-benefit analysis? Is that okay?)
posted by trig at 9:26 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

University extension programs have certificates in technical writing. UC Berkeley Extension has one that I think you can do online, as does UCSC Extension. It's not cheap, but it probably is cheap by comparison with regular college tuition. This might also be something that a community college might offer.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

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