Have you ever chosen love before career?
November 21, 2017 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I am a 32 year old gay guy from Argentina. I work for a big company and some weeks ago I was offered a temporary position in Europe for 9 months, with no extra pay as I would only cover a coworker during her maternity leave. Once I finished it, there was a chance they would want to keep me there or send me back to Argentina to a different city.

I am into a 2 year long serious relationship, the best I have had. We talked about it and he supported whatever I decided, although we both agreed long distance would be difficult. At the end they gave me just 3 days to made a decision I decided to stay.

At first I was pretty sure about my decision even when literally everybody told me hoe stupid I was. Some days later I started feeling deppressed, like I had thrown away the opportunity of my life. Now I can get it out of my head and I feel terrible.

I know that being as emotional as I am, I probably could not stand the risk of losing my relationship but I don't know why I am feeling regrets at the same time.

Is it normal?
posted by Nikolai2017 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Money is useless if you're not happy. Money is only useful inasmuch as it contributes to your peace of mind, wellbeing, or life satisfaction, or happiness in some way.

Love is important. Good relationships are important. Good relationships are usually harder to find than good jobs. And it's not even like you'd be paid more!

I'd have made exactly the same decision you have.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:07 AM on November 21, 2017 [22 favorites]

With no extra pay? You make an Argentinian salary and they wanted to send you to Europe with no extra pay?

I honestly don't see how you could have made any other decision than the one you made.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2017 [77 favorites]

Once you have a serious relationship, you're giving up on certain things - moving at the drop of a hat, for instance. That's normal and healthy. Lots of people have to be apart from their partners for work, but that doesn't mean it's desirable or that being together isn't worth prioritizing. I think you made the right decision - you were looking at long distance for nine months for sure, and then maybe long distance forever. If it were some kind of "this will uplift my career very substantially and then you can move to be with me", maybe it would have been worth considering, but just a standard "move around for no real advancement, no clear possibility for being together" situation doesn't seem worth it.
posted by Frowner at 10:13 AM on November 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think either choice here could have been entirely reasonable, depending on personal circumstances, temperament, etc. (Not to mention practicality - if not extra salary, were they at least going to give you some kind of room and board stipend? If not, I'd have been hard-pressed to say yes.)

Which is to say that you didn't do anything wrong and there's no "normal" here, there's only making the decision that you felt would work best for you, with the information you had at the time, knowing yourself as you do.

It sounds like your main worry is that you missed out on a big new experience, yes? If so, and if this feeling of regret doesn't go away soon, maybe you can combat it by actively working to give yourself a new big experience of your own choosing over the next year or so. Can you plan a vacation to somewhere new with your partner, take a class to learn a new skill, or something else that would let you have the "new experience" feeling in your current life?
posted by Stacey at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

I think after you turn 30--even after you turn 25 or so--this seems fairly normal. I've been considering trying to look for work outside my country recently, but I'm leaning now heavily in the direction of not, just because I'm not 21 anymore and stability is a thing that matters to me and it introduces a lot of things I don't want to deal with as far as leaving things behind--and that's mostly about my *cats*. I think it is totally normal to not want, on just a few days' notice, to make a decision to leave the country, and that's even before you introduce the fact that you're in a stable relationship with someone who wouldn't be able to go with you.

I think sometimes third parties can get kind of invested in these things because they want to live vicariously through someone else's adventures... for exactly the same risk-averse reasons about not wanting to do those things themselves! So probably more than a few people you know are now disappointed that they don't get to hear about your adventure in Europe, but they would not themselves have wanted to move to Europe for nine months with only a few days to make the decision. You're not responsible for keeping those people entertained with your life choices.
posted by Sequence at 10:17 AM on November 21, 2017 [15 favorites]

It is absolutely normal to feel regrets when choosing one path over another. I can't speak for everyone, but at least for me, that absolutely does not mean I made the wrong choice (or, obviously, that I made the right choice). It just means that there's some aspects of the other option that I did find appealing, which isn't really a news flash, since otherwise it wouldn't have been much of a choice in the first place.
posted by aubilenon at 10:21 AM on November 21, 2017 [11 favorites]

You might be romanticizing the choice you didn't take. Sure, 9 months in Europe sounds great, but you'll be working, and your money isn't going to go nearly as far in Europe as it does in Argentina. The people who are telling you how stupid you are are probably envisioning a 9 month vacation, not 9 months working and struggling to manage in a considerably more expensive environment. On the other hand, two years into a solid relationship is a seriously valuable commodity, and you were right to think that being absent for almost a year would be a considerable strain. Finally, by not taking the offered path, you really lost nothing. If you were happy with what you had before, why shouldn't you be happy with it now? Risk can be fun when you've nothing to lose, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
posted by ubiquity at 10:28 AM on November 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's common to feel some regret about a big decision. It sucks to have to choose between two important things, but that's life sometimes.

I don't think it's wrong or a mistake to choose love over career advancement. People tend to advise the opposite, I suppose because they feel that love may not last (as if career always does!). But that doesn't make them right or know what is really best for you. You should disregard the people who are making you feel stupid about your decision. It wasn't wrong.

I can tell you that I would much rather be--and much rather be with--the kind of person who would at least consider choosing love over career.
posted by mattu at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is a great opportunity for you! Figure out exactly what it was about the job you turned down that was so appealing. It could be a sense of adventure, the chance to travel, taking on new challenges at work, the idea of going to Europe, or any number of things for you personally. Once you think you have an understanding of exactly what you are regretting, sit down and figure out ways to introduce those things into your life in other ways. Maybe it is looking for a new job. Maybe taking a vacation to Europe. Maybe it is looking for long term jobs for you and your partner in Europe.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:40 AM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is it normal?
In my experience, regret is the inevitable consequence of any decision. Trying to minimize opportunity for regret and being willing to change your mind and avoid making future decisions based on a sunk cost fallacy are useful goals; however, every decision means giving up on alternative futures. You can't make a decision without giving something up, and you can't accomplish anything without making decisions.

For what it's worth, a nine month contract with no explicit promotion or the promise of overwhelmingly more engaging work doesn't sound like the opportunity of a lifetime. Giving up on your dream job for a relationship is usually a bad idea; this doesn't sound like a dream job.

Long ago I chose to move to a far away city and attend a college largely because of a romantic relationship. We broke up a few months later. But, it turned out, on reflection, to have been the best decision I could have possibly made. I'm grateful I turned my back on the more obvious choices. A few months ago, I committed to living hundreds of km away from my spouse for the next 7 years or so for career reasons, and it was so obviously the right choice that we didn't really even bother to discuss it aside from figuring out how to divvy up the kitchen tools. I'm pretty sure both were the right decision. We all make the best decisions we can at the moment. Revisiting them is mind-poison that keeps us from thinking about things that are actually useful.
posted by eotvos at 10:56 AM on November 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

I spent years of my life being a work nomad. In many, many ways it was great. I got to live in interesting places, work with incredible people, be part of amazing projects. But it meant that it took me longer to find a relationship, settle in, and establish roots. At some point I made the decision to prioritize those things and soon afterwards found a great relationship and partner. It's meant that some work opportunities are no longer possible for me, but the trade-offs have been totally worth it.

But I too have struggled with doubts, wondered about the what-ifs, and more. It's pretty much impossible to let go of thoughts about the road not taken. But then I remember all the good things that came out of my decision and I move on.
posted by brookeb at 2:02 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I made the same decision you did, some 18 years ago. To make a long story short, the woman I sacrificed the job opportunity for and I are divorced now. We spent 15 years together, maybe 12 of them were quite happy.

In retrospect, I could have made a different decision, and maybe I should have, but being in love is an important part of life. And my heart doesn't always make the most sensible decisions about what it wants.

And ... honestly, this doesn't even sound like the best career opportunity. Another one will come along, and hopefully that one won't require you to separate from your guy.
posted by Oso Mocoso at 2:16 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ha! I always chose love, and friendship, and adventure, and lost causes, and location over career. You can live any life you want to live. Every choice has costs but also has benefits. What kind of life do you want in 10 years? 30 years? What do you want to know you did when you're on your deathbed? You can choose any path you like, friend.
posted by latkes at 2:48 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think only you can ever know if you made the right decision for you and it sounds like you did.

To add another view, I am an archaeologist and an academic. Moving around is basically a part of the job-- several months on excavation in summer and, while I have a job and the equivalent of tenure so I'm now settled, a lot of academics have to change jobs for years before doing so. I have never picked a relationship over my career, because if I didn't travel and wasn't willing to move for work, I would have to have a totally different career. I have no regrets, but I also am 39 and have no partner, which is sometimes very lonely. That was my choice; I value my career, which for me is more of a calling and a huge part of my identity, over a relationship and love. But that's what works for ME.

So all that said, if I had been in your shoes, I think unless this temp Europe job was career-making for me, I would have made the same decision you did, especially as you might not return to the same city in Argentina (if it were just 9 months and then back to the old job, I might be more likely to do it). There is no shame in doing what makes YOU happy. Literally everybody who is telling you that you made a mistake is wrong, because it's not their life, nor their decision. You made the choice that felt best to you and you didn't doubt it until other people told you that you should.

Enjoy your love. Plan a trip to Europe together. Don't listen to those other people. I agree with everyone in this thread telling you to figure out what it is about the job that you feel is a 'missed opportunity' and find a different way to incorporate that into your life while still including your partner.
posted by thatminx at 5:10 PM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are about a dozen European countries with a lower average wage than Argentina (including Greece, Hungary and Croatia) plus cost of living often varies greatly within countries, so without further information it's hard to factor in the financial issues.

Coincidentally, I was once working in Europe and turned down the chance to work in Argentina because of a serious relationship. The relationship turned out to be a disaster which I now wish I'd got out of sooner. But if I'd travelled, I would have arrived a few months before the start of the economic crisis and possibly been made redundant. Maybe my life would be happier if I'd gone, maybe I'd be miserable. It's unknowable.

When I look back at the big decisions I made in my life, most of them were guesses. I didn't know how I'd cope with my degree, what would happen to the housing market, who I'd meet in a new country or city, what my new boss would be like or how my relationships would develop.

So yes, you could have made a terrible decision. Or you could have made a great decision. You'll never know. What you can know is that, based on what you've told us, the people telling you that you made a stupid choice are not worth listening to. You chose your relationship, so enjoy that and take the rest of the great advice above.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 1:52 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone on MeFi linked this a couple of days ago, and it seems like it might be relevant to you.

Zen Buddhist Story: "Maybe So, Maybe Not"

We don't know the future. We can only make decisions based on what we know now. It sounds like you wanted to prioritize your relationship, because right now, it's more important than working in Europe. You can't beat yourself up over "what ifs" because no one has the power to know those.

It's normal to feel regrets, because you have closed one door. But, if you had gone to Europe, you would have been closing a different door--and you would still be feeling regrets.

I also suspect that there might be a little bit of cultural pressure re: professional ambition at play. It can be hard for men to step back and say, "No, I'm going to prioritize my relationships over work." Men's investment in their personal lives is not given as much value as their investment in their work. I think it's kind of a trick we play, and that our world would be better off if more men could step back.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:56 AM on November 22, 2017

Whenever I ask myself whether I regret a decision, the question reaches a dead-end because we'll never know what would have happened with the other path. Who knows? The other path could have been disastrous, and we're just naively going about finding fault with the path we did choose.

The best we can do is make decisions based on what we know. You chose because of what you know. So it's the right decision. (This thought process keeps me from truly regretting things. I don't regret even some of my worst-in-hindsight choices because it was the best option at that time and in those circumstances, and we'll never be able to say for sure that the alternative would have worked out.) And if you later conclude it was the wrong decision? As my friend says, as long as you're alive, you have the chance to change paths or redo.

Now go and enjoy the path you chose!
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:09 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

After several years of dealing with very hard decisions, I have come to a realization: second-guessing myself is not helpful. I've made the best decision I could at that particular time with the information I had, and it turned out the way it turned out, for better or worse. Had I made another choice, it may well have turned out poorly, and there is absolutely no way of knowing. I think the tendency is to re-examine our choices with the idea that the one we did not choose would have worked out terrifically, but this is far from guaranteed.

You had a really tough choice, and yes, it will impact you going forward, forever. But it is far from the last choice you will ever make; nothing is certain except change. I've had to let go of my certainty that the other path would have been better or smoother. I cannot possibly know that. I have always done the best I could with what I knew, and realizing that has become to be a source of solace for me. I hope the same can be true for you.
posted by thebrokedown at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2017

I want to thank you all for your kind responses.
Somehow every one of your comments seemed to fit what I have been through making this decision.
Being a gay guy in a Latin american country where same sex relationships are not fully welcomed, society, family and friends expect you to put your career first at all times as if you were single with nothing to lose, no matter if you are into a serious relationship.
I guess what have troubled me the most is not the job opportunity itself, but what other people expected of me. I am sure the company will not be very happy to start with.
Again, thank you very much for your time and words.
posted by Nikolai2017 at 6:14 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

« Older Seeking eerie tales of the icy sea   |   Is there an app that tracks how much time each... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.