How do you motivate without being a nag?
February 18, 2007 10:15 PM   Subscribe

How much will my overambition clash with my fiancé's underambition? And is his underachieving a symptom of something larger? I firmly believe that it is possible to find a job that I love to do, while my fiancé seems to be more of the mindset that he is content to work a job he doesn't really care about in order to fund his recreational activities that he does care about. I'm worried that he is aspiring towards mediocrity, and I'm worried that I will quickly tire of that. How do I motivate him to achieve more, or how do I stop stressing about that, because it is none of my business?

Sorry this is so ridiculously long. I wanted to be thorough.

Further background is that we used to work in the same company. I had the exact same job title as him for awhile, and in fact, did his exact same job when he got laterally promoted. So I know exactly what he does at work, and I know the environment well. I eventually quit the job because it was boring, had stopped challenging me, was stultifying, and 80 more reasons I won't bother to list. Suffice to say, management was horrible, coworkers were really fun, but not too bright, and the job was meaningless.

Another problem was that we were a very very small money-losing company that was a part of a very large, very serious corporation. So we were never given a lot of support or resources from upper management, and were constantly under pressure to produce under pointless constraints. Since I quit about half a year ago, it's gotten even worse. Plus, there has been a lot of turnover, so basically there are new workers who were poorly trained (training was always a serious issue, given that we had no standards of operation, and every single person could give you a different method or procedure for any given task), who are then supposed to train brand new people.

All this, is to give background that the job sucks. It isn't interesting, it isn't creative, and people are fleeing for better, or at least more lucrative jobs. My fiancé is very creative, and complains on a daily basis about how dumb, ineffective, and paranoid his boss is. He is always complaining about the random and idiotic new things upper management decides to try out. He does not enjoy the job.

Furthermore, I know for a fact, because he tells me, and because I have observed and lived it, that he barely spends 20 hours a week really working. The rest of the time he is at work, he is playing online games, chatting on IM, watching videos on youtube, gossiping with coworkers, or even worse, throwing things at his coworkers. Throwing things like paperclips, or stressballs, or even shooting rubber bands at them. He tells me with great delight about making ricochet shots that hit them in the face.

Now here's the thing. He sits in an area right next to HR, and pretty close to his boss, and his boss' boss. One of these days, he's going to bound to get caught goofing off so visibly, if someone doesn't file a complaint about him. He keeps saying that with all these people quitting, they need him there, because he is almost the senior most person in the whole department. I keep telling him that it doesn't matter how important he is to the department - a corporate office will not allow an employee to continue working there if he continues to throw things at his workers. His defense to that is - he usually isn't the instigator. He is basically saying that someone else starts it. Now, he is the oldest out of the group of people he tends to have these throwing wars with. So, really, that is not that great of a defense. Sure he is only older by a couple of years (26 to their 23 or 24), but as he points out, he does have seniority. He should be setting an example, if not for the sake of his job, for the sake of being an adult.

Now, I have been sending him job descriptions of varying kinds for several months now. He has done nothing about any of them. He won't even update his resume. He left the company a couple of years ago for another, better paying job, and had the bad luck to be laid off because ironically, his new company was bought out by the old/current company. So the old company let him come back, at the salary he was making at the new company. So now, he has this "fear" that if he leaves again, he could be let go after 4 months again. He has this thing about job "security" now. And since he is making decent money, he has no money motives to seek out a different job.

He claims that even though he did like the new job he had briefly better, there were still things he didn't like, and he fears that idiot managers will be found wherever he goes. He also claims, because of his vast previous job experiences working at a movie theater and best buy, that he is pretty sure that all jobs are the same. So he is content to just rot at his current job for as long as he can.

I want him to be happy and fulfilled. Is it really possible that he gets enough joy out of his recreational time, that it doesn't matter that he is just stagnating during working hours? It is my belief that 8 hours is a long time to be sitting around all day, wasting time just to collect a paycheck. I'd rather be busy and happy, and not get paid as much, than being an overpaid hunchback in a cubicle. But is that just my thing, and should I not try to foist my beliefs on him? How can I encourage him to seek out greener pastures without being a nag? How do I encourage him to take a chance on something new in the possibility that it can be better?

And also, is his inability to seek out a new job, more responsibilities, and all of his office hijinks a symptom of immaturity? There are other things I won't go into for this question, but I kind of feel like all of the stuff I already described signals something weird. It feels like he doesn't want to grow up. Am I reading too much into it? I fear that this laziness and lack or drive will translate into other things that will effect our marriage.

Any advice, perspective, or whatever would be greatly appreciated. I'm sorry I had to post it anonymously. I just don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You cannot change him. He will get motivated someday only if he wants to.

I'm thinking that you know this, but you're posting this question hoping to be proven wrong.

If you can't accept who he is then the problem really lies in your view on the relationship, and not with him.

Some people feel that upward movement, etc is very important to a fulfilling life. Others are content to work in a job that lets them sustain the standard of living they're happy with, and don't need anything more. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just two different outlooks on what makes a life.

You should definitely not try to foist your beliefs on him as long as he makes enough money to be self sufficient, etc.
posted by twiggy at 10:31 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

You and he ahve different ideas about work.

It would seem that he works to live; he does something that's okay in order to provide him enough recreational time and living money in order to live.

You have different ideas.

How about accepting that he's comfortable with where he is? That he doesn't need what you need?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:31 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

He's not "unambitious"; he's just unambitious about his career. He probably doesn't think making money or advancing at work is as important as being happy in his home life.

He may think you're a workaholic who cares too much about your career and not enough about your private life. Would you appreciate if he tried to "change" you?
posted by watsondog at 10:40 PM on February 18, 2007 [4 favorites]

And also, is his inability to seek out a new job, more responsibilities...

Hmm. For all your detail I didn't hear anything about an inability to seek out either of those things. Definitely an unwillingness, but not an inability.

[Are] his office hijinks a symptom of immaturity?

Sure, but whoever told you that the office was supposed to be a bastion of mature behaviour apparently never worked in one.

How much will my overambition clash with my fiancé's underambition?

And now we come to the point. You are at least in touch enough to realize that you are overambitious. That's a good start. As for him, well... he's underambitious from your point of view, but to me it sounds like he's found a spot he's comfortable in (warts and all) and he's staying there. If that's his ambition, you aren't going to be able to change it.

The amount of clashing that takes place is entirely up to you. If you continue to want your fiance to be something other than what he is, you will most likely end up taking your discomfort out on him one way or another. If you are able to let him be who he is, you can be happy with him.

On the other hand, I have yet to meet a wife who didn't have an extensive laundry list of things she wished she could change about her husband. Comes with the territory I guess, so perhaps setting the bar at "accepting your fiancee for who he is" is unrealistic.
posted by tkolar at 10:52 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

What do you want for your partnership?

Plenty of men have married plenty of women who, through inclination or societal conditioning, did not want to make their careers the central focus of their lives. Family, volunteer work, or organizing the home was supposed to be their main creative outlet.

Do you want kids? Do you want to focus on your career to an extent that precludes full-time childcare or taking care of much of the housework or social planning for you as a couple? Is your fiance willing to take on these tasks, given that he's not expending much energy on his job?

If so, I think you need to look at the strengths and ease inherent in this partnership. Two career-ambitious partners seems a hard thing, truthfully. Rewarding in some ways, of course, but most of corporate (and academic) America is set up with the assumption that workers have a partner providing full-time support services, and, really, workers who do have that are probably at an advantage.

All that said... 26 is fairly young. I didn't know what would actually motivate me when I was 26 (or, at least, I wasn't sure how to get that in motion). He may snap together in a few years.
posted by occhiblu at 11:00 PM on February 18, 2007

Oh yeah, one more thing on maturity.

Not to start a men vs. women thing here, but in my experience men continue to act in ways that women consider immature well into their late nineties. After that they're dead.

Getting a good bankshot in the face of one of your buddies is a pleasure that never grows old. Same with poop jokes and virtually anything involving cows exploding. Okay, pretty much anything exploding.

The key to evaluating a man's maturity is not whether he likes these things, but rather whether he is able to function as a mature adult: to hold a stable job, to have a solid relationship, to avoid telling fart jokes (unless they're really good ones) at your aunt's funeral.

I dunno about the fart jokes, but the man you are describing seems like a good bloke. A bit young yet, but not one of life's perpetual losers. Perhaps he's not the super-high achiever you want (and again, be honest with yourself about that) but nothing you've written about him sends up any warning signals.
posted by tkolar at 11:07 PM on February 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

And also, is his inability to seek out a new job, more responsibilities, and all of his office hijinks a symptom of immaturity? There are other things I won't go into for this question, but I kind of feel like all of the stuff I already described signals something weird. It feels like he doesn't want to grow up.

Well, look how much fun the grown ups are having.

λάθε βιώσας
posted by phrontist at 11:13 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd suspect that your activities are likely to make it difficult for him to make any changes he might want to make. The human machine is built to resent being forced to do anything. Understanding of this principle is a key to human relations successes.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 PM on February 18, 2007

This is what my own personal experience says. I wish I had know this before I got married. (Not that I wouldn't do it again, just that it could have been so much easier)

a) you can't change him, if he doesn't think it's a problem.
b) it's not as easy as you think to not worry about it.

This is one of those things that's going to be just a minor annoyance right now, but grow and grow and grow until you can't stand it any more. Every time you have a heated argument (and you will have from time to time), you're going to bring it up. He'll resent that you do that, and furthermore resent that you can't accept the way he is. You will both end up hating each other.

You can't get married like that. If this is a big deal to you, you have to address it first. Either he changes, and I mean truly, willfully, and happily changes (not just to humor you, which will make you happy, but him resent you), or you accept it. Again, really accept it, not pretend.

I suggest living together longer to see what happens first. Sorry to be such a downer. Doesn't mean he's a bad guy or a loser, it just may be that he's not Mr. Right for you. But then, only you can know that.
posted by ctmf at 11:22 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with what a couple of people said up thread: It's good for workaholics to find laid-back partners.

I'm more career-minded than my husband. We've moved for my job twice. If he was as career-oriented in his ambition, I'd either have to sacrifice my own career goals for his or I'd feel like he was sacrificing for me. Instead, he's happy to make enough money to pay the bills and have some cash left over for fun and savings. Because he's less caught up in the career game, he has good perspective that helps me stay grounded.

You're not going to be able to enjoy your fiancé for who he is unless you accept him. And you're not going to change him. People don't change for other people, they change for themselves. He seems pretty happy being who he is.

If you want your relationship to work, you really need to work on yourself and your perceptions. In your post, you even reveal how slanted your perspective is.

I'd rather be busy and happy, and not get paid as much, than being an overpaid hunchback in a cubicle.

It doesn't sound like that's what's happening:

he barely spends 20 hours a week really working. The rest of the time he is at work, he is playing online games, chatting on IM, watching videos on youtube, gossiping with coworkers, or even worse, throwing things at his coworkers. Throwing things like paperclips, or stressballs, or even shooting rubber bands at them. He tells me with great delight about making ricochet shots that hit them in the face.

It sounds like he's having a good time.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:32 PM on February 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think you are too familiar with the situation because you worked at the same company and in the same position. It's allowing you to make these apples-to-apples comparisons that I don't think any partner wants to hear from their sig other. It's a tangential issue, but you may want to stop assuming you know everything about what is going on at his work. A person likes to think they are an expert at what is happening in their lives, and just in describing the problem you are giving off this "I know better than he does" vibe that has to be coloring the way you talk about this with him. Even if you know all about his work, pretend you don't, or at least accept that you don't know everything about the way he does his job and how he feels about it right now.

If he is making decent money and is content, then you can hint that maybe there should be more to his working life, but you can't graduate to nagging. [no more sending jobs, no more!] Eventually he'll look around and realize that he's completely bored, or he'll get laid off again, or he'll get called into HR. Something will happen that will spur him into action of some sort. Or he won't, and he'll be one of those people we used to hear about 20 years ago that worked at the same company and kept getting promoted because they didn't do anything too stupid and sometimes things sucked and sometimes they were OK.

He does not enjoy the job.

This is one observation you are allowed to make if you can demonstrate a way it is effecting your home life. Is he bringing the job dissatisfaction home? Is he grumpy, cranky stressed? My husband has had jobs or bosses where I've done an intervention and said "your job is making both our lives miserable, there has to be something you can do to change that." Most people don't enjoy their jobs all the time, but sometimes it gets toxic and those who love us are the only ones who can see it. But if he's happy once he gets home, then count your blessings and leave it alone.

There might be ways to nudge him to at least think about a career path more than he is, but I just think you have to make peace about this. You might, over time find that you do influence him, not by nagging but by finding joy in the choices you make in your career and sharing that joy with him. You might have other friends who influence him. Maybe he could be encouraged to take a class that is offered by his employer or get them to pay for a certification that would expand his mind and be secure while boosting the resume and just putting him in touch with more people.

I fear that this laziness and lack or drive will translate into other things that will effect our marriage.

It could just be that this is one of the ways that he is balancing you. Is he really lazy? Does he not know how to clean up after himself? Does he not seem invested in your future together? Has he navigated obstacles that have been thrown his way in life? You should look at the whole picture. This is just a small part of life.

If he's gazing into a future of more of the same and is content with it, that's perhaps the most adult thing a person can do. If he just isn't gazing into the future at all, I can see how that would be worrisome, and you have every right to draw him into a conversation about the future. But no one's future should only involve work.

It's natural to use the engagement period to examine your life and your partner's. It's also normal to use getting married as a graduation into full adulthood. Driven people like milestones. But it's also sort of an illusion. Don't think that he has to pass a final exam to graduate with you.

This disconnect is not going to go away though, and it will probably bother you throughout your marriage if you guys are really as different as you say. You might try taking that to it's natural conclusion: write down what your fears are about this and be specific about the outcomes you see. It might be that you worry that he'll be fired because of how he treats his job. It might be that you are afraid that he will reflect badly on you as time goes by. It might be that you are afraid you will always nag him about this and he will hate you and you will turn into cranky people who don't love each other anymore. But get it out on paper, every worst-case scenario you can think of and then maybe talk to him about your fears and see what his take is.
posted by Mozzie at 12:18 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it really possible that he gets enough joy out of his recreational time, that it doesn't matter that he is just stagnating during working hours?

Not everyone goes to work to get "joy". I go to work because we've come to an agreement that, in return for services rendered, they will give me money. As far as I know, there is nothing in that agreement about joy or any other synonyms for it, although most days, it's not bad.

But is [OP's overambition/belief in The Job For You] just my thing, and should I not try to foist my beliefs on him?
Yes, and probably. There are worse/more worrisome things for you two to have differing opinions on than this, with regards to your relationship. My girlfriend pushes her beliefs on me in many ways, and not all of them are successful. Most are ignored, and she understands that is part of the deal. It doesn't sound like your boyfriend has rejected the very idea that you are forwarding opportunities, but his lack of attention should be a pretty good indicator that he isn't looking to jump ship anytime soon at work.

How can I encourage him to seek out greener pastures without being a nag?

Part of the tacit agreement between men and women is that it is easier to express a less favorable position by remaining silent. Apparently he doesn't consider you a nag yet, since he hasn't said much about it, but you should take a hint. You know him better than we do, so you should know whether his inaction means "not just now" or "not anytime soon".

How do I encourage him to take a chance on something new in the possibility that it can be better?

This question is worded in the most positive way possible, and I think that's a good thing. Another way to write this question is, "How do I get him to do something he doesn't have any interest in doing?" I think we've established that he isn't interested. I think you've established that you don't want to be a nag. The writing is on the wall.

And also, is his inability to seek out a new job... a symptom of immaturity?

No. To again turn the question around, is your inability to see that he doesn't mind a mediocre job a symptom of your stubbornness? My intention isn't to be rude, but just know that this question itself might be a sign that you are probably jumping to conclusions here/reading too much into this.

It feels like he doesn't want to grow up. Am I reading too much into it?

I think I accidentally answered this above. Yes. Being happy at work and happy in life are different things. It is incredibly common that people have shitty jobs - by my definition, anyway - and get along just fine. Feel free to keep making suggestions, provided you don't mind his continued inaction. It's clear you care, so just take cues from him when you need to back off a little.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 12:18 AM on February 19, 2007

Lots of good advice above. I will just add that I'm not of the "oh it's not such a big deal" school of thought. It seems to me that driven partner + slacker partner = trouble -- because it all comes down to money, and you know how married people love to fight about money.

A possible future scenario: him perpetually working a job you consider crappy, making less than you think he should be, and you resenting him for it because you're pulling more than your half of the sled.

The only times I've seen this work is when the slacker partner contributes more to the partnership in some other area, i.e. caring for kids, keeping house, etc. Or when the slacker partner has some artistic or scholarly interest that both value and are willing to support.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:33 AM on February 19, 2007

Not everyone thinks that work should be the most fulfilling aspect of your life. In fact, I went to school with a woman who got the same masters' degree as I did and has the same type of job. She's very talented at it, but while I identify myself by my work and see it as very important to my overall happiness, she views it as just a way to fund her personal life. And she's one of the most level-headed, responsible people I know. Everyone just has different values.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:58 AM on February 19, 2007

He sounds like Tim from the Office (the British version).

If you're worried that you'll tire of his approach to his career, that's your problem, not his. Don't try to change his attitudes to fit your version of career happiness.

how do I stop stressing about that, because it is none of my business?

That's the better question. If your fiancé is doing what he wants to do with his career, and if doing what he wants satisfies his contribution to your household (because for some, work is nothing more than a way to earn money to support a household and leisure), then you don't have to stress out -- he's figured out what he wants for now and he's got it. Be happy for him, just like I'm sure he's happy that you're pursuing your career goals.

This change in your attitude won't happen overnight. It'll require effort. Why do you have to change your attitude but he doesn't? Because that's how it works, you can only change yourself in a relationship, as much as the other one changing would be oh so much easier. If it's so important to you that changing your attitude about his choices is too much of a compromise, that's what they call a dealbreaker. Which is the third thing -- maybe this is a dealbreaker. That would suck, but luckily you're engaged and have time to decide whether marriage and life together is right for you two.

If deep down it's about more than just career, then obviously the work thing isn't a problem, it's probably just a symptom of a broader problem and an easy target since the consequences aren't as dire as if it were relationship-wide. But don't assume that he will later on treat your relationship with the same "aspiring towards mediocrity" attitude if he's not doing it now. Give him credit for what he actually does. He might be a generally unmotivated person who tries hard in his relationship because it means a lot to him, but doesn't try hard in work because it's less important.

If people have a choice, they don't stay in situations that on the balance of things are what they don't want. You may think that aiming higher would make him happier and a part of him may agree with you. But for now, this is his choice and you've got to respect it or move on.
posted by teem at 5:02 AM on February 19, 2007

Anon, I can relate to you in many ways.

My fiance has a job which requires him to work 12 hours shifts at a time. These 12 hour shifts do not usually call for him to do substantial work. So he spends his days playing Sudoku and then taking home a paycheck. He doesn't like his boss, he doesn't like his job and the job is nowhere near related to his degree, yet he doesn't have any motivation to find a new job.

While I'm not necessarily career-minded, I do believe that most people can find a job that they can enjoy and do well at. So, I simply cannot wrap my head around my fiance's attitude. He disagrees, saying that the perfect job is just not out there for everyone. While that is true, I dare to ask him--how do you know it's not out there for YOU?

I think what it boils down to is that he either enjoys his slack job or that he's scared of rejection and false hopes with other jobs. It sounds the same way with your fiance. A lot of it, at least in my situation, has to do with low self-esteem, I think.

My advice is going to be contrary to most of the other above. I say, try not to nag, but rather encourage. Try to help him find a niche. Keep sending him job listings, but try to be selective and pick ones that might really catch his eye and get him excited. If he gets irritated, tell him you care a lot about him and that you hate to see him unhappy in an environment where he spends 40+ hours a week. Remind him of his potential. Try not to let the issue of money come up.

You are not necessarily trying to CHANGE someone by encouraging them to find their niche in the world/workforce. I would compare it more to counseling them. And I believe it IS your business because you are preparing to enter a life-long partnership with this person and his job WILL effect you financially and emotionally. And perhaps he should be reminded of that.

That said, I still haven't had much of an impact on my fiance. Granted, we are living halfway across the country from each other currently so talking about such serious things is dificult.

If all the above fails? My secret weapon is getting his mom on my side. He always listens to his mom.
posted by bristolcat at 5:09 AM on February 19, 2007

Just a personal anecdote: my mom is more ambitious than my dad. My dad has a PhD, my mom does not. My mom had a better position than my dad, so my dad decided to stay at home and raise the kids when they came along. After more than 35 years, they're going strong.
Why can't your man play the traditional "female" role? I am a female myself, but I don't like the fact that women can "get away" with having lower ambitions while the male must work really hard and advance. It sounds like you have the ambition in this situation, so put on the pants of the family and enjoy the ride. And, best of all, if he turns out to be Mr. Wrong, then you have a support system already in place for yourself. It's win-win.
posted by nursegracer at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know someone else said this, but I'll just repeat it anyway, because you need to understand it:

One ambitious member per couple works very good.

My life revolves around my partner's career. This works very well for us. I gave up ambition decades ago. He loves his career, and I enjoy his career a bit, too. We're moving this year, no idea where, yet. LOL! Doesn't matter to me, I just get to veto places.
posted by Goofyy at 5:51 AM on February 19, 2007

If you want your partner to be more like you are, reconsider getting married. No, seriously. I hate to be so blunt, but if you want your spouse to change because you believe that you have a better approach to life, then this will be about more than just work and career. And you have the potential for a lot of disagreement and unhappiness for both of you.

If you can accept that you are more career-oriented and might possibly end up being the breadwinner, and that he will be less career-oriented and he might possibly be the "house spouse", then, okay. I have more than a few friends where the husband has a more laid-back, less ambitious career and the wife is a real powerhouse at work. In the circumstances where the less ambitious spouse really pitches in more with home and family, this works really well. (Although, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the wife/work spouse didn't struggle a little at first with letting go of her initial concepts of marriage roles and identity.) In one of the situations, the house spouse also doesn't pitch in at home, but spends time playing in a rock band and doing their own thing. That relationship has seen some rough, rough times.

This is less about him and more about you at this point. Can you love and respect and appreciate him for the way that he is now? Can you let go of holding him to your standards without resentment?
posted by jeanmari at 6:41 AM on February 19, 2007

He tells me with great delight about making ricochet shots that hit them in the face.

your fiancé is cool. you may be underappreciative of such a man. ambition, career and money are not for everybody -- indeed, many people quite openly mock and despise those who are obsessed by their careers thus sacrificing their families, their hobbies, their life on the altar of work. thay may even post on askmefi an anonymous question asking, "my fiancé is obsessed by work, has no hobbies, only talks about work. I'm bored now".

you guys are just different -- not better or worse, different. you may have discovered that you and your fiancè disagree on a key point of your respective vision for the future. you may be able to resolve that, or it may turn out to be the proverbial "dealbreaker". good luck.

(and my personal kudos to your fiancé mad rubberband throwing skillz, but that's just me)
posted by matteo at 7:47 AM on February 19, 2007

You cannot change him. You need to accept him has he changes (and vice-versa), but don't expect that you will change him out of habits, behavior and attitudes that you'e not too fond of. Instead, appreciate him for what he is, love him for the person you fell in love with.

To me, it sounds like the two of you complement each other very well. Most successful marriages I've seen are made up of two very different people that blend in a balanced oneness. Two identical people will drive each other nuts eventually.

If you just can't respect him for being who he is, you might want to reconsider your engagement.
posted by Doohickie at 8:31 AM on February 19, 2007

What do you care more about: his profession or his level of happiness? What if he was the world's happiest garbageman? Or cable installer? If his career and level of success matters more to you than his level of happiness, he's probably not the one.

Granted, he's not happy now, but if he's not settin' the world on fire or at least trying to make a change by this point (and he knows that it's important to you)...
posted by DonnieSticks at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2007

This will only effect your marriage if you make it.

For gods sake the guy is happy!

Think long and hard about why you would want to change that.

If his behavior was actually destructive then I would say get him some help, but it's not. He seems stable, happy and willing to share his stability and happiness with you.

I can't find anything to complain about. Except I'm sure he'd rather have someone who's more appreciative of his life. You trust this guy, right? Then trust that he can make the right choices and doesn't need your nagging.

I hate to pile on with everyone else, but if you can't be comfortable with his idea of happiness, then you should get to couples therapy where you should do all of the listening and none of the complaining. And/or postpone the wedding.
posted by Ookseer at 8:40 AM on February 19, 2007

Wow, talk about gender reversal! Everyone has covered "laziness" vs. "workaholicness", so I'll point out that you probably want to work on your communication, too.... You seem to be the type of person who wants to *FIX SOMETHING*, and he seems like the type who wants to bitch about things occasionally.

Maybe an example is better. My grandfather is a doer and my grandmother is a bitcher, so my grandmother will complain about the weather and how her feet get cold and before you can blink my grandfather will have expanded the heating system to include a nice hole in the floor blowing warm air at her feet. Did my grandmother really want to change the heating system, or add a hole in the floor? Definitely not. She just wanted to let off a little steam about the weather.

Happily you two sound like you're not having that many problems (no holes in the floor) so you can probably get away with just A) practicing listening and consciously deciding if he is just complaining to complain or really wants to do something/your help in doing something, and B) tell him that sometimes you can't decide if he wants to act on something or not, ask him to help you compensate and just tell you in simple, easy to understand terms ("Honey, I need to complain about x for a bit." or "Darling, I really wish we could do something about x.")

And hopefully having a clear difference between complaint and expectation of doing something will help you come to terms with "my sweetheart is complaining about his job and sounds miserable and I really want to help him".
posted by anaelith at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I want to make a comment here. I'm an employer, and I've been one for quite a long time now.

The person you described is not necessarily an underachiever. There are any number of people who simply do not want to bother climbing the ladder. They are perfectly content to have a lower stress job, fewer responsibilities, and (yes) less money.

The goofing around isn't fantastic, but it's hard to know the extent of it, the nature of it, or how much work is really being done.

My experience is that more than half of my employees had no real desire to get any significant promotion. Certainly nothing more than the word Senior before their title. Not because they were underachievers, but because they liked having a job that they could do well, with plenty of time left over for friends, family and life.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:46 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's unlikely that he'll change. If you're not willing to be with him as he is, you should not get married. If I were your fiance I'd feel (correctly, I think) like you didn't respect me. I'd hate to be married to someone who didn't respect me.

I was in a serious relationship with an ambitious woman who didn't respect me for my lack of career ambitions and it was a big problem for both of us. Life's too short. If you want an eager beaver, go find one.
posted by callmejay at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2007

While it's clear your fiancé is caught in a job rut, what concerns me the most is the incredible tone of judgment and condescension that is coming through your posting. You honestly don't sound like you care for him at all, and furthermore what you are describing (and exhibiting obvious irritation, incomprehension and scorn for) go way beyond lack of ambition. It sounds like your own history with the employer is seriously tied up with your feelings about his job, it sounds like you are judgmental of the amount he slacks on the job, find his horsing around immature, are worried he's going to get fired for his behavior, and you sound frankly contemptuous of his quote-unquote fear of insecurity. You say you want him to be happy and fulfilled but everything else you say sounds like "I want him to grow up and be a serious career minded fellow" to me. I would be absolutely heartbroken if I found my wife talking about me the way you are talking about him.

The fact that your husband has a job he complains about a lot and once cared enough to seek a replacement for but is no longer willing to is a genuine problem, but the way you are reacting to it is also a problem. Getting stalled out in some dick-around, dead end job for a few years at 26 is hardly unusual or the end of the world. You need to decide if you believe in and accept the person he is and if you really want to be with someone who is obviously of a less career-minded disposition than you. If so you need to get off his back, quit trying to jump start the career search he clearly doesn't want right now, and quit being his boss at home about his work behavior. You can't motivate a person who isn't ready to change, period, you can only nag them, which does no good.
posted by nanojath at 11:11 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I might be off base here, but it seems as though your question reflects an attitude that there is something "wrong" with enjoying recreational time, or perhaps a dissaproval of the way fiancé spends his recreational time. You might examine your feelings towards that.

As far you feeling he is aspiring towards mediocrity, take a look at what he does in his off time -- is he wanting to spend money for recreation on a big TV and a couch, or does he have some sort of drive away from work, something he wants to put his energies and abilities toward? How do you feel about what he does for recreation -- this is going to be a bigger part of your life together than his job.

He has a fairly good job compared to a lot of the population. There are a lot of people out there standing all day in hot, cold, uncomfortable, dangerous, dirty, or toxic conditions just to get a paycheck that's probably less than his.
posted by yohko at 11:41 AM on February 19, 2007

I also want to mention that he may have really been shaped by his upbringing. My dad was absolutely miserable in his job (and my mom stayed at home) for several of my most formative years, and then his company dicked him over in a pretty undeniably evil way. As a consequence, I picked up some pretty cynical ideas about what work does for a person at a pretty young age and they're very hard to shake. My mother has openly admitted that she thinks between the two of them, they raised us girls with pretty un-American ideas about the value of working hard in a career and she worries it'll get us in trouble at some point.

There's also a lot to be said for avoiding job interviews, my gosh.
posted by crinklebat at 12:02 PM on February 19, 2007

Your tone is pretty disapproving. That's not likely to change. You might want to set a time, go out for coffee, and have a serious talk, with serious listening. Ask him about his goals, his plan to reach his goals, and where you fit in. Also look at his family. Maybe he has a good reason to be cautious. He may or may not change; your desire for him to change is not productive, and may be counter-productive. Read your posting again, and think what advice you'd give.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on February 19, 2007

He doesn't sound lazy, he sounds afraid of change (which you pretty much point out yourself). Maybe getting fired would be a good thing.
posted by cali at 12:49 PM on February 19, 2007

I used to be an overambitious workaholic in a "meaningful" job that consumed my every waking hour. Now I'm in a "boring" job that allows me to have a life outside the office. It was a major adjustment, but I learned an important life lesson.

I couldn't tell from your question what your fiancé's life outside work is like, but having been on both ends of the career ambition spectrum, I think you need to back off on the judgment just a tad.

Is it really possible that he gets enough joy out of his recreational time, that it doesn't matter that he is just stagnating during working hours?


And also, is his inability to seek out a new job, more responsibilities, and all of his office hijinks a symptom of immaturity?

Maybe. Maybe not. But I can tell you that I had to muster up every ounce of maturity I had in me to decide to leave my "meaningful" job. Ambition does not equal maturity.
posted by somanyamys at 7:15 AM on February 20, 2007

Get a book about codependency. His happiness, or perceived lack thereof, need not stress you out one iota. How exactly is this situation affecting you, besides your own thoughts about it that you are yourself creating? (Notice that he is nowhere to be found in this question.) If he's leaving his dirty socks on the floor for you to trip on, then address that. If he can't pay his share of the rent, address that. But your thoughts-feelings-fears-whatevers about his happiness or lack thereof are yours alone to address.

Also - as someone partnered with a 35 y/o male - 26 is way too young to expect the office hijinks to end. In my experience, guys don't "mature" in the way women want them to until their 40s.
posted by desjardins at 7:58 AM on February 20, 2007

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