If I have to pull the trigger, I'd rather do it now.
January 11, 2018 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Please reassure me about breaking up with my long-term boyfriend.

This is me. I am a woman and I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend from age 27 to age 33. We met as PhD students in his European country (I am American; he is not). I am still working on my PhD but I have been back in the US for the last couple of years to write up my thesis (cheaper to live, plus easier for fieldwork trips). He finished his PhD a few years ago and he is living in his home country in which we met: he has a few book contracts and other writing/academic work that pays just enough to live on (but not enough to sponsor a fiancee visa), and he has been looking for the last few years, thus far unsuccessfully, for academic jobs and academic-adjacent jobs - mostly in my country, as the market is much larger, but also in his. (I am leaving academia and our idea is that I will be an at-home mom while retraining for another profession, but children are more important to me than any career that I might have or not have.) We have been in an international LDR for the last few/couple years, and have seen each other for a month in the summer each year when I have visited him (he has paid for those trips, which I add so it doesn't sound like I'm the only one with any investment in the relationship).

I have been clear with him through the entire relationship that marriage and children are extremely important to me, and he is in complete agreement. However I am 33 and we have been in a relationship for 6 years and I very much want to have multiple children. I feel that I cannot afford to wait any longer on him, especially given how indefinite the waiting is in nature (in other words, it would be one thing if there were an expiration date of this summer or something, and then we knew he would actually be coming over for a job: my main problem is that I don't know whether or not anything will ever pan out). It's also making me feel increasingly depressed and anxious, to feel trapped and powerless over such an important part of my future.

We had our first conversation about this subject 4.5 years ago, and have had several more conversations over the years. Each time, he persuaded me to stay - that he was committed to a future with me, and that I needed to be patient for us/him to be able to work it out. Our last conversation about this was last summer, when I was visiting him. He had a number of possibilities in play that he thought were real contenders for giving him a US visa and a job that could support a family. I gave myself an internal deadline of three months from that point, but nothing had panned out by then, so I added another final deadline for myself a month later, and still nothing. Obviously more time has elapsed since then. He thinks there is something he might get this spring. But I just don't think I can wait that long for something that may or may not pan out. He is an incredible person - intelligent, moral, kind, thoughtful, charitable, romantic - and I would love to be married to him. He is the best man I have ever known. And we have so much fun together, always can talk for hours, and have a real intellectual and spiritual kinship on everything that is important to me. But even so, I would rather be another man's wife in a year or two than still his girlfriend (as I told him last summer). It will be very painful to break up with him, but if I am going to have to start dating again etc., I'd prefer to do it sooner rather than later. I am also not willing to date him any longer without being engaged, with a wedding date set, with plans to start trying for children (and an income that can afford that). I think his intentions are good and that he plans to marry me, but that he doesn't feel the same urgency that I do (or the problem may just be that academic jobs are thin on the ground), and that in any case he is being deeply unfair to me by asking me to wait any longer indefinitely. After much thought, what I would like to do is break up with him and suggest that if he is able to get a visa/job in the US, he may propose to me at that point if he wants to, but that I will not wait for that to happen - in other words, I will date other people in the meantime with the goal of a serious relationship, as, I presume, will he. In many ways, I wish I had done this several years ago. Does this seem reasonable? Thoughts? Help?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Simply put, you two are NOT on the same page.
Heck, you might not even be reading the same book.
You want the Internet's permission to break up with him?
You have it.
Your priorities don't seem to be his priorities, and that's a big problem.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 4:35 AM on January 11, 2018 [10 favorites]

There's an awful lot of waiting on your part which does not strike me as particularly fair. The waiting to see what he wants appears to be a feature of this relationship, not a bug.

You seem to be taking agency by wanting to break up with him and moving on. You should do that.

What's your other option? Keep waiting until he feels ready to get onboard with the life you want? What I'm trying to say is taking the kids off the table, you're with someone who is not willing to consider what you want and make an effort to join Team Us and make a go of your partnership; there's what he wants and while he acknowledges what you want (big whoop), he's demonstrating that staying with him is going to be a lifetime of living with his plan. Sure, he'll ask you to be patient with him, but when all is said and done, you're going to be together on his terms.

Break up. Move on.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:39 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does he realise that you are at this stage - i.e., that this is an absolute deal-breaker right now, today, this moment?

> But even so, I would rather be another man's wife in a year or two than still his girlfriend (as I told him last summer).

You've had this conversation with him on numerous occasions. He might have heard you say that recently and think, yeah sure, I got time. He needs to know that you're about to leave and find other people to date. Forever. If he isn't prepared right then to (i) propose and (ii) start making plans for your life together and your babies together, then he ain't got time.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 4:40 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

If he wanted to marry you he would have done it by now. Being a grad student isn't a great excuse. I was married while my husband and I were grad students and it was an international situation for us (I in Europe, my partner in the US). Why does being a grad student preclude marriage? As far as kids go, if one of you is working you can afford a baby. I know several people who had kids in graduate school, and you will be finished with that soon anyway. I say if he's not on board now then move on and focus on meeting Mr. Right. Even if your current boyfriend does promise to marry you soon-ish, he sounds like he's not right for you.
posted by waving at 5:17 AM on January 11, 2018 [12 favorites]

I have made this decision. I do not regret it. In the two years since, I have not yet found a partner who shares my priorities, but being free to find that partner is liberating.

Live your life on your terms. Free yourself.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:19 AM on January 11, 2018 [25 favorites]

I had to have the "this is urgent" conversation with my now-husband five years into dating. Although we had talked about marriage and kids frequently and I thought I was being clear, he really did need me to tell him that it was urgent and give him a deadline. I had always been told NOT to issue ultimatums, but we were there. I'm glad I did it and I'm glad I married him. I'm looking at our 3.5 month old baby now (I had her at 35 and we had some fertility issues because of known health problems).

I started the conversation by telling him I wanted to have a baby by 35 and that if I didn't have one by 35 I was going to make alternate life plans. And then I walked back the steps that would need to happen before baby (it was his condition that we be married before a baby, not mine). Discussing the steps that it would take made it easy for me to say, hey so the deadline is basically now or ASAP.

It was initially hard for him to hear and he was upset. Within a day or two, he came back to me and told me his specific plan. This is what you need from your guy. What is his specific plan, with timelines, to make this happen for the two of you. It will probably mean changing his plans. If he's not willing to do that, I think you need to let him go.

One more thing: it actually took a long time for me to "heal" from having to basically demand that we get married. I felt really undervalued and it was a pattern in our relationship that we did things on his timeline. When we were having the baby, something happened where I insisted that we do it on my timeline and he said to me, in the midst of the argument, "Ok, I think I understand now how it felt all those times that you said we had to do things on my schedule." This wasn't to make me feel bad or to change my position, but an acknowledgment of all those years I waited and waited. It started the feelings of healing in me. So I just want to say, first, I'm so sorry; I know this hurts so much regardless of the outcome and I have been there. And second, if you decide to stay, give yourself time to heal from this hurt and talk with your guy about this hurt.
posted by CMcG at 5:30 AM on January 11, 2018 [46 favorites]

Is the other question that you linked to literally by you, or by someone else who described a situation similar to yours? In the first case: in that question you already described your relationship as being well and truly over. In the second case, the situation isn't much different: you're certain about wanting to break up and you have every right (and reason) to.

After much thought, what I would like to do is break up with him and suggest that if he is able to get a visa/job in the US, he may propose to me at that point if he wants to

Do not do this. A conditional breakup isn't healthy or fair for anyone.

I have been in a situation very similar to yours. I was working as a graduate student and the very long time it took me to finish my PhD led to my relationship being put on hold (we were engaged but without a concrete date planned, hadn't decided if we wanted kids even though she was your age,...). My long-time partner broke up with me, which was certainly the right decision for her, and it was actually the wake-up call that I needed, too.
posted by Desertshore at 5:31 AM on January 11, 2018

Oh honey it is 2018 now! You don't have to put up with this. Walk into freedom for 2018. It feels amazing.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:35 AM on January 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

Yes, I agree that sounds to me like he intellectually understands the situation, but he doesn't realize that things are at a crisis point. I know it can be absolutely exhausting to always be the one bringing the issue up, but I think you need to have one more conversation along the lines of "I need to be actively moving towards marriage and kids right now, today. I want those things to happen with you, but if you can't see yourself doing that now, I'm going to move on."

I hear everything you're saying about him being a kind person and a good match, and I just want to reassure you that both things can be true - he can be a good man AND your impulses here are reasonable. He needs to know you're ready to walk out the door right now over this. I nearly guarantee you he doesn't realize things are at a breaking point. Think of it this way: you have information he doesn't have, namely that you're so miserable you're going to have to end the relationship, like, NOW if you don't get your needs met. The fairest and kindest thing for both of you is to give him that information so he can react accordingly.

I'm also a woman in my 30s. It is so, so, so hard to know when to wait a bit longer and when to move on when the clock is ticking - it can feel like there are no good options. If you need to vent, please memail anytime.
posted by superfluousm at 5:39 AM on January 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

I would rather be another man's wife in a year or two than still his girlfriend

This says a lot to me. This doesn't sound like a stable relationship to base a marriage on. Better to bail now than waste more time in a relationship you aren't that interested in.

I personally wouldn't string the relationship along with the idea that you might get back together. If you care about him, cut him loose. You will be looking to find a husband to have children with, not just dating around for a few years. Telling him that if he fixes his situation you can get back together is unfair. I know its nice to have a backup plan, but it sucks for the backup plan. It is kinder to make a clean break.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 5:42 AM on January 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

I am leaving academia and our idea is that I will be an at-home mom while retraining for another profession, but children are more important to me than any career that I might have or not have

You aren't unique in having this as a condition for having kids, but many, if not most, people may never be in a position of having one partner in a sufficiently stable and well-paid job to allow the other partner to stay at home. Academic salaries and work conditions are not doing great; jobs are more frequently short-term, low-paid, and require frequent moves.

Where I am going with this is based on what you are saying, I totally agree that he is failing to get with the program and give you the kind of commitment and timeline that you need, and based on that you are probably much better off starting over. But it also looks like you might be setting conditions and plans that make success really difficult and unlikely, as compared to first problem-solving the issue of the separation, and then problem-solving the kid.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on January 11, 2018 [24 favorites]

The red flag for me here is if you’re a US citizen living in the US, and he really wanted to be with you permanently, and he also is job hunting in the US, and he also has no job where he is and this has been true for years...maybe I’m missing a nuance but isn’t this where people usually apply for fiancé visas and get married?

I think he doesn’t want to marry you, or you two would be married.

For the record, I think your conditions - that he be primary wage earner full stop - are also pretty rigid and something to think about as you date.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2018 [17 favorites]

You should leave him because you are not going to get what you want from him.

However, I would like to caution you that you are unlikely to get what you appear to want from ANY man in this economy where dual income is oftentimes necessary to have a family. Retraining while being the sole childcare provider is also a challenging proposition.

The workable solution is for you to retrain now, change careers, and then have children free of the burden of having to have a partner who can support you financially and not just a good partner for child rearing.
posted by lydhre at 6:05 AM on January 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

I don't know how much your age is playing a role in your thought process but maybe it would be helpful if you take that out of the equation in your conversation with him, because in some ways, it's not relevant. Like if you've been saying to him that you're 33 and you want to have multiple children and you're running out of time to do that because it becomes more difficult to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy the older you are, I would leave that out and focus on the fact that you've been together for six years and this is something you want, now, and you have been clear about it. The line in the sand isn't age 35, it's that this is something you want and he's not working towards it.

That said, you have my permission to just say you're done. If you haven't already, I'd give some serious thought to single motherhood and how you would/could make that work. My sister is a single mom by choice (IVF). I think you'll feel less pressure about dating if you know that's something you can do.
posted by kat518 at 7:05 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

maybe I’m missing a nuance but isn’t this where people usually apply for fiancé visas and get married?
It says in the post that he doesn't make enough money for a fiance visa.

I think a lot of people are being unfair to him here. There's no magic job fairy, if he's applying for jobs, I'm not sure what more you want from him? Given how clear and adamant you are about the direction you want your life to take, it would be unfair of him to propose when he doesn't have a job or even the ability to live and work in the same country as you.

I don't think he's being unfair to you at all, you chose to be in a relationship with a non-US citizen, you made that choice, knowing what you wanted, and you've stayed in that relationship for 6 years. You need to take responsibility for the choices you've made and not put all this on his head. He's trying to make things work but he's not a wizard, he can't make a suitable job offer appear out of thin air - and honestly, a job paying enough to support the both of you and several children is not going to be easy to come by - for any man, not just this one.

I think you need to accept that the future you want is highly unlikely regardless of whether you stay with your current boyfriend. The chances of you finding another man, with sufficient income and job security, who also wants multiple children, falling in love and getting married within 2 years - especially coming off the back of a 6 year relationship - are pretty slim.

I think whatever you decide to do, you need to learn to be more flexible. Even if you do break up with your current boyfriend and find the perfect man, have a whirlwind romance and are married within a year - he could lose his job and be unable to afford kids, he could be infertile, you could be infertile, he could get in an accident. Nothing in the future is certain or secure and things seldom work out the way we plan. In my opinion, your rigid ideal future is no more likely to happen with a new guy than with the one you've got.

Your plan of starting to date while leaving the door open for your current boyfriend to propose when/if he gets a job in the US is very practical but matters of the heart rarely are. I don't know your boyfriend so I can't tell you how he might react to such a proposal but I know a lot of people would not be OK with it, no matter how practical it is on paper.

Its not wrong to want what you want and its not wrong to want to do everything you can to get it but you can't always get what you want. I have a friend who was in a similar situation, she had a plan, in 2-3 years she wanted to start trying for a family then move back home to be near her family but she decided her husband was a giant man child and not father material so she left him and started dating. 2 years on, she's still single, really single. She's glad to be free of her husband but she's not even managed to find a boyfriend, let alone a husband who wants kids (and she's smoking hot, intelligent and employed) and she doesn't have the limitation of needing a man who can support the whole family himself
posted by missmagenta at 7:10 AM on January 11, 2018 [33 favorites]

Do you love him and want to be with him forever? Then ask him to have a baby with you, now. Not as an ultimatum, just My dearest, its time. We've talked about this, and I don't want to wait any more. Let's have a baby. I'd prefer to be married and have a baby, but I'm really ready. Then, listen to his actions. Unless he's on board, it's over, because he can't commit to you. It took me many years to learn to listen to actions as much as words, but has been a very important lesson.
posted by theora55 at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

So he is having difficulty getting an academic job. You are writing a thesis. Why don't you both get corporate jobs and decide who wants to support the family? I know you'd like to be a stay at home mom, but why can't he be a stay at home dad, at least for a while? You seem tied down by these traditional roles. If you love him and your situation is impossible, change the situation.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

That said, you don't seem to want to be with him. You certainly have my permission to leave him.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

maybe I’m missing a nuance but isn’t this where people usually apply for fiancé visas and get married?
It says in the post that he doesn't make enough money for a fiance visa.

Having gone through the process of sponsoring my ex-husband for a K-1 (fiancé) visa, I feel like I can speak to this.

My ex-husband did not need to show any income for the visa — *I* was the one who needed to both show income and eventually sign an affidavit of support, promising the federal government that I would be responsible for him financially. So your fiancé doesn't need to show income when he applies — the government will be far, far more concerned with proving it's a legitimate relationship. The affidavit of support isn't submitted until the fiancé applies for permanent residence status. There was no point in the process where my ex-husband had to show sufficient means; it was all on me, as the US citizen. I'm not a USCIS interviewer, and maybe they've gotten better about this, but given my experience with the interview, this idea that you're going to be a stay-at-home mom is not going to go over too well with the government, if you're supposed to be able to support him. You're going to have to have a rough time of it at the adjustment of status interview, after you're married.

Here's more information on the K-1 process.

All that said, it's not something to be undertaken lightly. It's a huge hassle, a massive intrusion into your private life, and a bureaucratic nightmare of epic proportions if anything goes wrong or gets misfiled at any point in the complicated process. And it takes TIME.

Let's say you have the come-to-Jesus talk with your boyfriend, he decides to be with you and gets on board with your plan, and you two get engaged and begin the K-1 process tomorrow. Great! Let's say he even magically gets all the paperwork together to document your relationship history for his 129-F, to apply for the visa, and he pulls it all together in a week. It's still an average of 150 days for the government to process the paperwork. That's after he manages to get an appointment at the US consulate or embassy in his country to go be interviewed, gets the special medical clearance, etc. Maybe the process has sped up, but you're looking at six months to a year before he can come to the US as your fiancé. And that's IF he's on board, motivated, and makes this his top priority.
posted by culfinglin at 7:54 AM on January 11, 2018 [12 favorites]

I don't know what you should do exactly, but the one thing that strikes me as a bit of problem in how you've set up this decision is that you're comparing a real situation to an idea of "being someone else's wife." That person doesn't exist at the moment. The decision you actually have is to be with your boyfriend and either try to push him or become okay with a slower or unknown timeline, or be single and in the dating pool. It is not a guarantee that you will be able to leave your boyfriend, enter the dating pool, and find someone to marry within 1 to 2 years. That's a tall order, maybe impossible, and perhaps not super fair to a possible future partner, who you might make perpetually feel that you were settling for by leaving "the best man you've ever known" simply because you wanted to be married at whatever cost. Being married is a not an idea, it's sharing a life with an actual other person, and it's generally not something you can just decide it's time to do and then go do.

If you don't want to be with him, leave him of course; but it's important to also manage your expectations about the next step as well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:05 AM on January 11, 2018 [27 favorites]

If you want to get married and start having a family, tell him that, and if he is on board, begin doing that. Our daughter was born when I was a month out of grad school, with an assortment of mini jobs. My wife and I both worked half-ish time for the first few years to make childcare expenses work. Eventually, it was clear that I would have to sacrifice my career to support us, so I did. People start families in much worse circumstances than you are currently in. I kind of agree with Dip Flash that it's worth it for you to examine the conditions you are placing on the situation and reconsider them.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Having looked at the post again, it says he doesn't make enough to sponsor a fiancee visa so it possible they've considered the possibility of the OP moving to his country rather than the other way around. Its almost certain that a PhD student isn't going to meet the income requirements to sponsor him to come to the US.

A lot of people are suggesting that if you want to get married and have kids you should just do it, or that if he really wanted to be married to you he already would be, but it seems from your question that neither of you have the right to live/work in the other's country so while you could get married, and even pregnant, you're still going to be separated by an ocean until you resolve the visa issue.
posted by missmagenta at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

How realistic is he about the academic job market? You note, parenthetically, that "academic jobs are thin on the ground," but, and of course this depends on your field, this is a massive understatement. Academic jobs are vanishing at a really alarming rate, and I wouldn't hold out hope that he'll ever get one, especially if he's a few years out and hasn't been working in US academia since then. Has he considered alternate career paths at any point? Unless you're otherwise unhappy, it seems like this is an obvious first step.

I know (firsthand) how grad school can convince a person that to accept any other career is a form of failure, but it sounds like you've gotten over that particular ideology. Has he? Would he rather be your husband in two years or a professor maybe someday but also possibly never? And, perhaps more importantly, are you interested in being married to and raising children with someone who can't let go of that dream?
posted by dizziest at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Break up, if he wanted a job to earn enough money to get you to his country on a visa he'd have it by now. He's more focused on his "career" as it is than on you, not something you want if your'e giving up your education/earning potential by stopping training to be with him & raise kids. I immigrated to the US, when we got to the financial bit of hubby sponsoring me he offered to change lines of work if needed to make more money & give up his area of interest (luckily it wasn't we scraped in).
posted by wwax at 8:17 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

But it also looks like you might be setting conditions and plans that make success really difficult and unlikely, as compared to first problem-solving the issue of the separation, and then problem-solving the kid.

These plans have a whiff of unreality to them. OP, you are going from writing a thesis/seeking a job in academia to "nothing is more important to me than having kids" and "being someone else's wife." This is a pretty radical shift in priorities. You are, of course, entitled to such a shift. But the relative abstraction and impracticality of this plan (for the reasons set forth above) make me wonder if you aren't at least partially experiencing a backlash against academia that has you pining for an unattainable ideal in another sphere.

Which is not to say that you should stay with someone who doesn't share an important life goal like kids. But you should be aware that if you narrow that life goal to finding a man who wants several kids and both wants to and can be the sole income-provider in your household, it's going to be arduous. It sounds like this particular guy is not in sync with you enough even to do the two-income thing, so breaking up isn't unreasonable. But your expectations of the next guy may need a little tempering.
posted by praemunire at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

The affidavit of support isn't submitted until the fiancé applies for permanent residence status. There was no point in the process where my ex-husband had to show sufficient means; it was all on me, as the US citizen.
This is all true. The idea is that the US citizen ("citizen fiance(e)" or "citizen spouse") is bringing this person from abroad, and taking personal financial accountability for their support in the USA, given that there are intrinsic time periods in the process where the foreign fiancee/spouse is legally unable to work in the USA.

Bringing her non-US-citizen fiancee / spouse from abroad to the USA means that OP herself would be taking on the responsibility of support.
posted by theorique at 9:11 AM on January 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

maybe I’m missing a nuance but isn’t this where people usually apply for fiancé visas and get married?
It says in the post that he doesn't make enough money for a fiance visa.

I took that as being in his country, not in the US.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sometimes it helps me to just list out the various facts or obstacles. If we have this right:

- he doesn't make enough $$ to support you moving to his country

- you could maybe sponsor him to move to yours, BUT
-you'd have to support him until he can find work
- you might have to wait until he can find enough work to support you to get pregnant
- or you might have to keep working through/after your pregnancy to support all of you

So then your options look more like:
- he has to make more money in his country to sponsor you. This hasn't worked and maybe your deadline for hoping this will happen has already passed.

- you both have to agree to sponsor his visa to your country asap, even if it means moving without a job,
- if so, you both need to realistically consider how and for how long you can support him

When I list these out, what strikes me is that he is actually assuming a lot of risk - the fastest way to get him to the US is if you sponsor him, but then he's moving internationally, without a job, with the clock ticking to find a job. In his shoes.... well, I'd be kind of afraid you'd dump me if I didn't find one fast enough, and then I'd be in a new country with no job and no spouse. I'm not saying you would dump him or putting anything onto your character. I'm just saying he's assuming a lot of risk and you need to have a really honest conversation about what happens if you would end up supporting him in the same job situation in the US, with no end in sight, and what that would mean for your children plans.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:30 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

You have a relationship with a man who is the best one you've known, except that he isn't rich. You have to decide what's more important, having children with someone who is the best man you've known and both working and raising a family modestly, or having a wealthy husband who can support you and children but who may not have the qualities you've found in your boyfriend. I don't think that there's middle ground between you reorganizing your priorities to fit the relationship you're in and you leaving immediately to get onto the path that corresponds with your current priorities.

Being a stay at home parent puts you at incredible financial risk should the marriage fall apart at some point. If you choose to be a SAHM, you should know and trust your spouse implicitly and also set-up a legally binding financial safety net with your spouse should the worst case scenario happen. I can't tell you how many woman friends of mine have been plunged into terrible financial instability (sometimes permanent) because they didn't stay in the workforce and got divorced. It's extra terrible if they also happened to develop a very serious illness along with the rest of it.

That said, if you're ready to assume the risks in all areas so that you can have several children and stay at home with them, it's time to end this relationship and start looking for a husband who can provide what you're looking for. As other posters have mentioned, finding a wealthy man to date who is interested in being a sole-provider isn't the easiest thing either. It could be easier if you're a member of a more conservative religious community or from a sub-culture where this is still an expected path for women. If this is what you want, get started on it now.
posted by quince at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

On re-reading your question, I would not give him the option of resuming the relationship if he gets a job. You have an actual relationship and if you get pregnant and get married, shouldn't be become visa-eligible? I know it's complicated, but I don't see how you can sort-of break up and have it work.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2018

Thinking about the practicalities first.

You haven't said which country he lives, so I'm just going to proceed as if it's the UK because we have the kind of income restrictions you describe.

For him to sponsor you to move to the UK he would need to earn £18,600 which should not be unachievable with a graduate degree, provided he either gets a full-time academic contract, or any graduate level corporate job. So that's one option.

The second alternative is that he gets an academic job in the US which would mean he could get a visa in his own right. This is probably your preferred option.

The third option is for you to sponsor him into the US. You'd need to have an income of $16,240. This seems eminently achievable in a number of fields. But of course, he'd be moving to live in the US with no job, and your chances of starting a family and being a SAHM would remain continue to be uncertain despite the marriage as he would need to find a decent job without US qualifications or experience. This is probably your least favoured option.

In real life, he's now not hugely likely to get the academic job he wants in either country regardless of whether he's in a LTR with you or not. They are hard to come by, and if he's a few years beyond finishing his PhD my understanding is that he is getting past his sell-by date as an early career academic. So your preferred option is just unlikely to happen. What I think you're asking him to do in practice is admit that he needs to give up his dream so that you get yours. Which might well be where the sticking point is.

But ignoring all of that, it honestly sounds like while you both love each other, you don't love each other enough to prioritise your relationship above your own personal dreams, and circumstances are conspiring against you. This isn't a personal failing. The practicalities of visas are a barrier that is not of your making, and without them you would probably be already living in the same place and the issue would come to a head more easily as you spent more time together. Split up and move on. You have time to find someone else who at least lives in the same city as you already who is also lovely. And maybe you will have children and spend some time as a SAHM. And maybe you won't, but at least you'll have given it a good shot.
posted by plonkee at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

If babies and SAHM-hood are what matter most to you, then yes, obviously break up with this guy.

But: I know some women who did what you're considering. They are now ten years in. They love their kids, they hate their husbands (men they married for money and good timing), and they are 100% trapped. From the outside, it looks like it sucks. If your plan is to marry the first dude who shows up and can support you (which may or may not happen at all), you really might be better off just having kids by yourself.

I also know people who married their spouses, even across international borders, despite being broke grad students. I know middle-class people who work and raise their kids together, because that's real life in 2018. And I know single people -- a bunch of 'em, all smart and fun and attractive and employed -- who definitely wouldn't trade in the "best man they've ever known" for a fantasy and a person who might not even exist.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I'm confused as to why you're still working on your PhD when it seems like it's consuming years of your life and you're planning on retraining for another career anyway. If you actually put that effort into retraining right away, you'd be well placed to work sooner and perhaps sponsor your boyfriends visa yourself, or at the very least be able to support yourself so you don't have to rely on this fictional wealthy husband. (And finding him may not be as cut and dried as you think, keeping in mind that a lot of men, quite rightly, are wary of women whose agenda is solely to get a man to support them.)

A lot of your problems seem to relate to both of your abilities to be able to afford to be together. You being able to work might help solve that issue. I would ditch the PhD, which seems to hold no practical work opportunities, and move forward and focus on developing a new career path. Then, regardless of what happens, you're fine financially.

I get that you want to be a SAHM. At the moment, he isn't able to offer this to you as an option, which is probably why you're not engaged. Most likely, he'll never be able to because he doesn't make enough for a visa and you're not prepared to wait anymore. So it sounds like you've made your decision. This isn't his fault - or yours - your ticking clock is a real thing and his financial situation is also a real thing. I just thing your timing and what both of you want is off.

I think it's time to walk away. Offering him an ultimatum won't change his ability to give you want you want, it will just make both of you feel extra bad before you pull the pin.
posted by Jubey at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

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