Decision paralysis
November 30, 2017 7:26 AM   Subscribe

I need to choose between a job I have been offered, which meets a long held goal, and fairly new, but cherished relationship, which can't coexist right now (because of location).

Both are long-held quality of life goals for me, and both have uncertainties but great potential. (I've been in over-analysis overdrive about the possible consequences of the decision but I'll spare you).

Either scenario will bring me happiness but also intense regret for the path not chosen.

So, I'm looking for big picture philosophies, meditations, writings, or poetry about making life altering decisions. Not pop psychology articles (I've read them) but something more profound.

My goal in making this decision is to honor my past (hard work and sacrifice for my career path) and future (quality of life, personal and career fulfillment) selves and not make a decision out of fear or a mentality of scarcity.

posted by the offing to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would actually look at it as two different relationships:

A job that is offered to you by a boss has been, in my experience, only as good as the duration of that boss' presence. There's basically a number of factors that can make a plush or promising job opportunity sour in a few years. It's still possible to make the most of that opportunity and advance further in your career, but it's equally possible, in a few years time to find yourself stymied or blocked or disappointed by something as out of your control as a boss quitting or the company being acquired or your position being transferred to another team.

A romantic relationship can have its own potential to start off lovely and rewarding in the first few years, but founder or collapse afterwards because circumstances change or the person that you fell for is not the same as who the person actually is. But, at least with a relationship, there's really only one variable that you have to account for: your partner.

A question to ask yourself is: which relationship do you trust more?

As for dealing with possible regret: no matter what you choose, you need to commit to the choice and recognize that you only have one life and one truth based on the experiences and choices that you've made. If you made the other choice, your life would've been different. It wouldn't necessarily have been better or worse. it would just have been different. But you need to focus on and make the most of the choices that you have made.
posted by bl1nk at 8:15 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

How confident are you in the romantic connection's long term potential? I know it can feel hard to judge, but objectively. Really. Looking at everything else about them. Is this a person you can see yourself trusting for the long term? Because if it is, that's rarer than a great job offer, and a job offer is more likely to come to you again because of your qualifications, whereas finding love is - to my mind - more of a stroke of luck.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

A personal anecdote, which isn't what you're asking for, but I'll offer it anyway.

Many years ago I turned down an offer to go to a prestigious grad program because I was crazy in love with someone, and moving together wasn't an option. For years, I told that story as a case of dodging a bullet, because I later realized that academia wasn't for me. So in some sense things worked out. But the relationship with the guy was doomed, and deep down I knew it at the time. And more recently I've seen that episode as a case of me selling myself out. One of the things i liked about the movie La La Land was how it made a case for personal work/life dream over relationship. Movies usually end with the couple deciding to be together. Happily ever after. The end. But in La La Land, they loved each other, but their work/life dream took precedence. Yes, there were regrets, but I didn't have the sense that it was searing unbearable regret, but just the regret that happens in life when one has to make a choice and can't have it all.

I'm all for love! In fact I recently put up a question on askme about finding love, so I'm not anti-romantic one bit. But I also think that having work or some occupation that is deeply fulfilling is a valuable asset to bring to a relationship. To me, a good life is one consisting of engaging work and loving relationships. If you decide to pass up the job and stay for the person, be sure this isn't your only chance to achieve what you call a "long-held goal."
posted by swheatie at 9:07 AM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Well, here's some pop psychology from me. I find it helps to acknowledge how limited my info is -- that I don't and can't know the "right" answer -- and kind of pre-forgive myself if the decision turns out wrong.

And it's been helpful to consider the pros and cons, not just of the situations as I believe they are most likely to be, but also of the worse (if not worst) scenarios of either option. Once, when a big decision went wrong for me, it was comforting to look back and remember myself thinking "I'd rather live in Option A Gone Wrong than even some of the better versions of Option B." It kept me from feeling like I'd gotten myself into the Option A mess via foolish optimism and made me look on the bright side.

More to your question, the book When Things Fall Apart talks about what happens when the rug gets pulled out from under you and you realize that the narrative you were living in about career or romance was a complete fiction. It's not about how to make a decision, but it might help you pull out of analysis mode into a more philosophical detachment.
posted by salvia at 9:26 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Choose the job. The relationship can wait or accommodate.
posted by jbenben at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Does taking this job move your career trajectory to the one you want?
Is this person reasonably likely "the one"?

If you can answer one of these questions yes and the other one no, the problem's easy. If you can answer both yes, we need more information.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2017

You've been working towards the job. The relationship is new.

I'd choose job.
posted by Polychrome at 12:42 PM on November 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thought 1: One dynamic here is that choosing the relationship raises the stakes of the relationship. Both of you will now know that you gave up the job for the relationship. That puts pressure on both you to make it work, even when it's not really working.

If you go through a difficult time in the relationship, you may want to yell, "but I gave up job x for you!" But this isn't fair to partner unless they have been a party to this decision. (And even if they were, this us your call, not partner's)

Sometimes this can be a good thing. It's not easy to commit, and this is the sort of prompt that may let you know that you have a good thing going. But it's also somewhat stressful, and makes things more complex.

If the relationship doesn't meet your expectations in the future, would you start to feel resentful to partner because of what you gave up?

Thought 2: If Sliding Doors is on Netflix where you are, watch it.

Thought 3: Asking yourself, 'do I like partner enough to sacrifice job for them' is a tough question. Super subjective. Could change from moment to moment based on whether you've just argued, or had a great night together. Another way to approach this is a bit more mercenary. Ask yourself which of these two is more replaceable. Is it the job? Are there are a great number of firms and positions and your qualifications mean you're a desirable candidate? If so, keep the partner - another job will be along in a reasonable amount of time. Is the partner replaceable? Is your dating pool in the new job location full of potential partners with the traits you're looking for? Or is this a job somewhere you're unlikely to find someone great to be with?

There are an enormous number of future paths in a life. This is just one of a series of big decisions you have to make. Good luck.
posted by thenormshow at 12:51 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

What does your partner say about all of this? What does your gut say?

Two worst case scenarios that might help you consider things: Would you feel less resentful / more OK if you 1) ended the relationship, then moved for the job only to have the job not work out or 2) kept your current job and stayed for the relationship only to have the relationship not work out?
posted by smorgasbord at 1:18 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd say take the job and (assuming the partner is into it) try a long-distance romance. People do make that work sometimes. Skype is a thing!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ask your partner if you can take the job for a year and have a long distance relationship. ( I would frame it to your partner as taking the job for a year). Then you will have a better feel for both the job and the relationship and you will have honored your own past efforts. It seems like there are too many unknowns at this time.
posted by gt2 at 4:47 PM on November 30, 2017

A good job can have long-term effects on your career trajectory and consequently, your earning potential. I personally would not give up the opportunity for future career advancement (and the financial independence, freedom, and security that comes with that) for any relationship, let alone a new one.

I suspect you're a woman -- and if not, feel free to ignore this -- but: women still make significantly less money than men for the same work, get promoted less frequently, have a more difficult time getting hired, deal with "pink tax", etc., meaning they are forced to get by with fewer resources, and higher expenses, than men have. Sacrificing potential career advancement is a much more serious decision for a woman than it is for a man, because she could be giving up her future financial independence in so doing. Therefore, I would especially urge you to choose career if you are a woman.
posted by a strong female character at 6:30 PM on November 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

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