Should I stay or should I go? Halp!
June 7, 2008 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find a way to explain to my SO that while I absolutely adore him, it'll be hard for me to drop everything and leave to be with him in another country in a year's time. We've discussed this previously and I agreed, but I wasn't anticipating the sort of exciting workload I now have, and would loathe to leave behind. I'm a ball of confusion and anxiety.

(Anonymous because I worry about associating my regular nickname with this situation.)

My SO and I got together under less-than-ideal circumstances, when he had to take an assignment out of the US in several months' time. Both of us knew this and understood the long-distance difficulties we'd experience with the relationship, but were prepared to deal with them - and have done so exceedingly well so far. There are of course pangs of loneliness and the missing of warm arms, but we make sure to constantly stay in contact, so there are no complaints from either of us (aside wishing for more time to indulge in conversations without outside interruptions).

While both of us don't like getting ahead of ourselves and becoming entangled with fantastic details, we have begun planning the next few years with the goal of living together as soon as possible. For the remainder of this year and some of the next, he'll be busy alone out of the country. Afterwards however, he'll have one more year (and not longer, luckily) in another out-of-country location. We have the choice of waiting that other year for him to move back here to me, or moving me over to him as soon as next year. He can't get out of it or switch where he'll end up - not the sort of contract that allows such freedom, so it'll have to be me.

When this discussion took place and for a long time afterwards, I agreed that I would be willing to move. I did this after a lot of thought and consideration for what I'd have to leave behind - I'm not particularly close to any of my family, though I do love them, and I'm willing to accept my SO's help to get back on my feet financially if I go. (We have plans to tie the knot when we find that stability.) I would be done with my degree, and have a fair amount of experience in my field that I wouldn't flounder helplessly. Everything seemed without complications.

When I was offered one of my current internships that could potentially turn into a job, my stance remained unchanged, though my smile wavered as I began to have fun in what I do and grow professionally. Nonetheless, I told my SO that we can still look forward to being together next year. Then I got a second internship offer at an incredibly cool place, and the only thing preventing it from becoming a job this very minute is my remaining quarter of schooling. This is a job I have always wanted, would (potentially) kill to have, and where I have learned more in the two days I've been working there than I can recall in weeks. It's an absolute blast, and my head is an absolute mess.

Please help me sort this out. My SO would definitely be hurt to hear that I'm considering staying here for another year, especially after I have convinced him so many times that it wouldn't be the case. I just need to know what to say to minimize that blow. It would be impossible for me to make visits (financially and for other reasons), so I can't soothe him with such promises. It would have to be another year of waiting to be together. I know in the scheme of things it's almost nothing, but both of us were psyched to have an end so near - and on one hand I would hate to be the one to break that anticipation, while on the other I know I'd grow to resent the move (and things associated with it...) if I were pulled away at a time of such personal growth.

How do I deal with this situation? How do I smartly and diplomatically bring this up with my SO? I'd really appreciate input.

Other relevant information: We're in the younger 20's age group, have known each other for four years, and have become really serious about each other in the past half year.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total)
I will probably be in the minority, but I say screw the job, follow the romance. I can't imagine being 95 and on my deathbed and wishing "If only I had taken that job." But I sure can imagine regretting letting someone I loved slip away. (Yes, many people are more job-centered than am I, and will tell you the opposite. Take this as one perspective, but make sure you are listening most closely to the advice that fits your personality.)

Travel, and even more so long-term living in another country, generally gets harder and harder to do as you get older -- you have more financial entanglements, you own a house, you have pets, maybe you have to think about kids and schools and details like that, your elderly parents need more attention, etc. This is a chance that you likely won't have ten years from now, unless you follow a rather unusual trajectory.

So if you like the guy, then go live with him and see how things work out. Be at least somewhat practical -- make sure you are paying your student loan debts, and things like that. But if you have at least the most minimal of safety nets in place, take the adventure and see how the risk turns out with time. If nothing else, you'll get some good stories out of it, and it is a rare career that isn't helped by having seen more of the world and dealt with some difficulties.
posted by Forktine at 8:51 AM on June 7, 2008

Stay. This is, after all a job that your would (potentially) kill to have. Your relationship will probably make it through this.

My partner and I have a relationship much likes yours except that while my partner is out of the country, he only brings a few bags with him, and when he comes home, he shares my apartment with me. He has been gone since February. I miss him terribly, and I can't wait until he comes home for a few weeks in July, but we make it work.

I think the difficult thing here is that you initially planned to move abroad with him, and agreed - so he will feel let-down and disappointed. But if he loves you, he will see the excitement and the pleasure you're experiencing with these new internship qua jobs and understand that the best thing for you is to stay where you are. He wants the best for you, and while it will be disappointing, he'll also feel pretty excited for you.

This is, however, something you should consider in terms of long-term issues. Will he work abroad for all of his career? Will the job that you would kill for force you to stay in the States for all of yours? I know for my partner and I, both of us have somewhat flexible professions that will, we believe, allow us to follow each other to various contracts and job opportunities, wherever they might be. (E.g. I'm a scientist but also a freelance writer - he's a musician but also successfully writes music - so if I get a contract science job in, say, Africa, he can come along and write music for a few months) We think it will work for us because both of our professions have that flexibility. But not every job is that flexible and that's something you might need to think about.

Perhaps since he cannot come back, you might make the concession of offering to visit him frequently over the next year? One of the things that keeps me sane is knowing that I'll see my partner frequently. Our rule is that we'll see each other every month, but I'm getting ready for orals and getting to him involves a full day of traveling. But we agreed that I would come as much as I could, and we split (or he wholly subsidizes, he having the revenue-producing job) the tickets. Try to visit him as much as possible, even if it ends up feeling like you spend more time on the plane than with your boyfriend. Those few short hours are wholly worth it in the relationship benefits.
posted by arnicae at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2008

PS - in terms of the "screw the job, take the romance" argument - that is appealing, but how much better would it be for you to carve out your own place with the job of your dreams that still allows you and your boyfriend to (eventually) be together?

I know for me, part of the appeal of the relationship I'm in is that my partner actively energizes me to do exciting work-related things I've always wanted to do, supporting me every step of the way. How great is it to be in a relationship that you cherish while doing the work you love?
posted by arnicae at 9:53 AM on June 7, 2008

You are young, and apparently doing well in your career. While people in their early 20s change their minds a lot about romantic feelings, they're also making very real, important advances in their career that forever change the paths of their lives. I'm unclear about how much time you've spent with the boyfriend in real life, but it sounds like you rather enjoy the emotional support of this relationship without sacrificing the time and effort of a real relationship. If that's the case, analyze how necessary it is to drop your professional dreams for a long distance relationship.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:56 AM on June 7, 2008

Give yourself some more time at the job before you make any real decisions. Just because the last two days have been great and things look promising, there is no telling what might be around the corner. Wait a month or 3 and then weigh your options. Oh, and I say, follow the romance!! Best of luck!!
posted by pearlybob at 10:01 AM on June 7, 2008

What, roughly, is your field? What countries are we talking about here?

Do you have a relationship with your supervisor that you could bring up your dilemma over lunch or something? This may not have to be an either/or situation. If you're as good a fit as you make it sound they might be just as happy to have you in a year or so. Or maybe you could do occasional freelance projects for them.

You'll also get the experience of living in these other countries, which can have both a personal experience benefit and might give you other useful skills (most obviously, depending on the country, skill with another language).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:34 AM on June 7, 2008

Don't follow the romance. If it's a marriage, it can wait a year. After all, what's a year compared to forever?
posted by sondrialiac at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2008

Oh, and resentment kills love. It really, really does.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2008

I will probably be in the minority, but I say screw the job, follow the romance. I can't imagine being 95 and on my deathbed and wishing "If only I had taken that job." But I sure can imagine regretting letting someone I loved slip away.

But a lot of people, in their elder years, regret that their lives didn't turn out the way they had hoped, and I suspect that is often because they didn't follow the career path for which they were suited.

Similarly, I suspect a lot of marriages end in divorce as a result of frustration and unhappiness caused by career regrets.
posted by jayder at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Folks, Anonymous didn't ask whether she should stay or go. She wants to know how to bring it up to her SO without hurting his feelings too badly.

My advice is to say to him "You know I said I would come to live with you. But since I said that, the situation has changed. I love you, you're still very important to me, and I really want you in my life, but now there's something here that's also very important to me. We need to discuss how to make this work."

He will understand and, despite some inevitable disappointment and confusion, be able to discuss it rationally and understand that you love him, but that this job is very important to you. If he can't do that, or doesn't understand, he's not the right person for you anyway, is he?
posted by cerebus19 at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2008

Seconding that it's only been two days -- you might become somewhat disillusioned with the job after more time. Also seconding the value of living abroad, though you have to judge that for yourself. Have you considered telling your SO how excited you are about the job and that you're having second thoughts about moving?

Assuming that you finish out the internship as originally agreed, you could explain to your supervisors that you're moving back in a year and would loooove to work for them and see what the reaction is like.

Whichever option you choose, try not to let doubts and regret keep you from making the most of it.
posted by ecsh at 11:22 AM on June 7, 2008

Seconding Kid Charlemagne - it might not have to be an either/or situation. You said you'd be moving out sometime next year, which is about 6 months at the earliest. That gives you time both to establish yourself at your job and to evaluate it more objectively. If you can build a strong relationship with your employer you might be able to work something out with them - maybe they'd agree to hire you in a year, maybe they'd let you take a 6-month leave, maybe they wouldn't be able to help but would give you a strong recommendation or connections that would strengthen the chances of getting this sort of job again. Either way it seems like communication would be important with both the employer and your boyfriend. To him, be upfront about how much you like the job and tell him you're trying to figure out a way to keep it even after you move. That at least lays a foundation for whatever ends up happening and keeps him in the loop.

By the way, the fact that you could get two great internships means you've got something. It's hard to say without knowing what your field is but it sounds like you're qualified enough that more opportunities may show up.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 11:40 AM on June 7, 2008

Folks, Anonymous didn't ask whether she should stay or go. She wants to know how to bring it up to her SO without hurting his feelings too badly.

You are right; I misread the question. (But I still think romance outweighs a job by a mile, knowing that there are many pragmatic reasons for choosing the opposite.)

How do I deal with this situation? How do I smartly and diplomatically bring this up with my SO?

I think you should do so honestly, and in the spirit of "how can we make this work," rather than laying down ultimatums or trying to force a choice immediately. There is some point in time by which a firm decision must be made -- maybe he needs to choose an apartment, or you need a visa, or whatever. Before that point in time, it can remain undecided as to whether you are going or not. But at the same time, it's not fair to him for you to drop this on him late in the process. You should tell him now that things are complicated and depending on how things work out you may or may not be able to join him for that year; but you should also be open to things changing -- you may end up hating your job, or you will get offered such a high salary that you can afford to go and visit him every month, or whatever.

So I'm saying raise the issue with him, but don't feel the need for an immediate solution, until closer to whatever the deadline is. Explore creative options. And see how things turn out -- maybe things are different if his job moves him to a nearby country (or a cheap country) rather than a far-off expensive place.
posted by Forktine at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2008

I also say screw the job (to not answer the question), because I was in the exact same position five years ago - we'd been together for a tumultuous, heady five months, I had the best job in the world, he was offered a position 16 000km away, I decided to screw the job and go with him, and three months' after we left my team in the best job in the world was made redundant, and I had an even better job.
You never know what the future brings, and it's generally harder to travel when you're older. From the details you've provided here (pretty minimal - which field are you in? Which country is he in?), I would say stay if he is in a country in which there are absolutely no opportunities for you, but go otherwise. Have an adventure.
posted by goo at 11:50 AM on June 7, 2008

I would work at the job for three months, explain the dilemma to them and see if you can work remotely from your SO's location or do freelance jobs. You think that the romance will just work out or you may find someone else, but you never know that's case and in fact it may not.

So don't screw the job, but don't put the job ahead of the romance. Best of luck.
posted by zia at 12:55 PM on June 7, 2008

Folks, Anonymous didn't ask whether she should stay or go.

Uh, the title of the question is "Should I stay or should I go?".

You had every chance to say "unless I get a great job, I'll be there in a year". You've told him over and over that you're going to move to be with him, even after you got these internships and after you started to really like this one and hope that you could make a job of it. Whether you used the words or not, that's a commitment and a promise. Who knows what decisions he's made - or what depth of feeling he's indulged for you - based on the commitment you made?

I think the real question is what kind of person you want to be, and what you want your word to be worth in that relationship or eventual marriage.
posted by nicwolff at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's June and you've had this job for two days. Not everything needs to be decided by Tuesday.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 PM on June 7, 2008

Nicwolff said: Who knows what decisions he's made - or what depth of feeling he's indulged for you - based on the commitment you made?

I think this is an important consideration and would affect my decision, at least, if I were in that position. If I had known that he had given up a lot for me based on the promise I had made, I would not want to be the kind of person to back down on it. So if he has made decisions based on the promise, I think it should be considered carefully. Aside from the personal integrity thing, if he's made sacrifices based on your promise I could see him being very irritated and feeling like he puts more into the relationship than he gets out. Could potentially be a break-up scenario, although you know him better. Note that I'm not saying you should do it purely because you might owe him, regardless of your feelings; I am going on the idea that you probably would feel mostly okay if you moved like you promised.

Another important thing to consider is that you might not end up liking the job as much as you've anticipated. You might even end up hating it. When I got the job I would have killed for, it ended up being the worst job I ever had. I was miserable for a few months and then quit. So basically, I would not make a decision so early.

Personally, I'm like Forktine where I would much rather follow a person rather than a career. It's arguably as difficult to find a good career as a good relationship, though, with arguments skewing either way, so it's basically going to boil down to personal preference. I'm not sure if you (the OP) are the same or not. Either way, hopefully it's not something that needs to turn into a breaking-up point. I like to think he'll be understanding if you're honest and say you just got this great job that you always wanted, and is it okay if you have some more time than you'd previously agreed upon.

Depending on what exactly you're doing and what fields are related and what other interests you have, you could end up happier in whatever country you move to. I just recently moved with my fiance to a state I thought I wouldn't like (for his work) and I'm the happiest I've ever been; I've never liked living anywhere so much, and I LOVED where we lived before. With moving and jobs, so far I've learned that expectations are sometimes irrelevant. You can guess at how you'll feel about something, but you'll never know for certain until you've tried it. I say this so you consider the possibility that you might end up happier in another country than you are at the job; if he is upset and feels like he's already put a lot into the relationship and you're backing out on your promise, I think it is possible you don't need to feel miserable about leaving your job behind. If you decide to move, there is a lot you can try to look forward to!
posted by Nattie at 2:18 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is an older question, but I still feel a need to chime in. Nth-ing the 'romance over job' angle - jobs can be found in quite a few fields across the world - you can do anything in computers almost anywhere in the world, for example, with little more than an internet connection and a working laptop. The person that's made you happy for this long, however, is something you're not likely to come across again.

So how to tell your SO? First, decide what you want to happen. Tell him about what's changed - you probably didn't anticipate finding something you really liked - and that your feelings for him haven't changed.

Is there a compromise somewhere in-between? Would the really cool job still be out there for you to get in 6 months or a year? Would it be available where he lives? Yes, I know, I offer more questions than answers, but the beauty of querying the hive mind is that you learn more about yourself from your own answers :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 8:25 PM on August 8, 2008

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