Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Who should move for whose career: The Armageddon of Newlywed Fights

Another title brought to you by the fabulously funny Robin.  We actually haven't had this fight, because rather than committing to jobs, we've committed to a place to live.  Or more specifically, I've committed.

Currently, I'm the one applying for jobs.  This has been the case for the last year.  And lawyers are a little bit lucky, in that we are limited to a particular state, so I know I'm not going to find my dream job in Oregon and pack up and move.  However, I've applied to jobs that would be an hour, or more, commute.  And I have applied to those jobs with the full knowledge that we will not move for my job.

This is for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we really really like living in Baltimore.  It's a great city, we have a fabulous apartment in a great location, and we are finding and building a community for ourselves.  And in the past couple of years, I've seen several friends make the decision to take great jobs in places that they don't like to live, and I think that geographic unhappiness can be almost as bad as career unhappiness.  This might seem silly, but plenty of people make the decision to move to a city like New York or LA to try to make their careers happen, so it seems to me like my family should be able to make the same choice. So I committed to only applying to jobs that are commutable.

The second reason is that my husband has a job already.  And if I were going to be getting a job that made more than twice what he does, we might consider moving wherever I have a job.  But it seems really unfair to make my husband leave the job where he has built up seniority and a reputation for himself, all because I found myself a job that pays the same and would require that both of us start over.

The third reason is that well, it's my turn.  When I started law school, even though I desperately wanted to live in the city, we moved in together at the halfway point (he had a 45 minute commute, mine was 30), and when my husband got laid off, two weeks after we signed our lease, I refused to even entertain the idea that he would take a job that wasn't as close to Baltimore as he could get.  I was kind of a jerk about it.  But he found a job that was outside of the city, and we moved into the city as soon as our lease was up, even though his commute actually got a little bit longer (his office was supposed to move into the city when we did, but they took another year.)

The fourth reason is that we only have one car.  So any job that I get would have to pay enough for us to buy a second car, if we were both going to have driving commutes.  The money we save by not needing another car almost makes up for the fact that I have yet to find full time, permanent employment.

But sometimes, it seems like all of these reasons aren't enough.  It seems like considering that I worked really hard for my degree, I shouldn't be holding myself back based on geography.  It seems like if we would be making similar money, it maybe makes sense for his career to take a backseat to mine for a little while.  It seems like if I want to really consider myself a feminist and a strong independent woman, I shouldn't be taking my husband's needs and wants and his desire to keep riding his bicycle to work into account quite so much.  But I think that if my husband is willing to get up and go to work every day and support me and generally keep quiet about how many pairs of shoes I buy and not pressure me to get a high-paying job, or take any job I'm offered, then I'm very very lucky and all I can offer him back is not asking him to quit his job and move somewhere else.

If we were both on the market right now though, man, this would be a constant fight.  I think if I really did want to take a job that wasn't commutable, we would end up with a commuter marriage (living in two separate places), which doesn't seem terribly cost efficient unless new job pays a lot more.

Have you had this fight?  How did you resolve it?


  1. I 100% agree with you that geographic dissatisfaction can be as bad as career dissatisfaction.

    I also admire that you've committed to a place. this is probably what I would do if Collin were on the same page. But he feels no emotional connection to Pittsburgh (even though he met his wife here!) and sees no future for himself in Pittsburgh.

    So this is a fight I have no chance of winning, because I don't have a steady job, and because I'm still not sure exactly what I want my career to be (I am like 90% done trying to be a lawyer).

    But until we do leave, to an undetermined place, at an undetermined time, I'm sort of in job limbo. And I keep telling myself we'll know after his committee meeting next month and then I'll have some information to make decisions with, but I said the same exact thing last year at this time and it didn't happen.

    And the worst part of it all is that after we DO move, Collin's ideal work situation has him leaving the country for months at a time. So I need to pull up my roots and go to an entirely new city all to be left alone.

    I'm sorry this is such a bummer of a comment. I need a doughnut.

  2. I would also love a donut. Just seconding Robin up there.

    In serious comment-land though, we've had this discussion but for us it's really fraught. I love the city, but my husband is a rancher so the city wouldn't be an option for us unless he turns his life upside down. He has offered to do this, to become a mailman or a garbage man or "whatever" so that he could have a city job. So if I really desperately needed to live in the city we'd make it work. At the moment though I'm not "really desperate" plus my job (which I do not love) means I live in the city part time anyway.

    I haven't had coffee yet, so this might be vaguely incoherent but the point being that moving (for one of us) is definitely on the horizon, but it is so huge and terrifying we haven't fully leapt into it yet. In addition to health insurance part of the reason I stay at my job is because a) there are no jobs in our tiny farm town and b) I like being in the city still. I can't bear to leave quite yet.

  3. Being in a relationship with someone who has lived in the same state his entire life and has never lived farther than driving distance from his family, makes our conversations interesting when it comes to moving. I have a completely different perspective because I have lived in many different states and a few different countries so I know that I can build a life wherever I end up. He says that he is willing to move, but how would he handle such a big change. I really would like to eventually move to someplace cheaper and potentially closer to my family, but I am not sure what path we will take to get there.

    In terms of making moves for careers, I think (like everything in a relationship) it is all about compromise. If you or your partner has a killer opportunity, but it would mean moving across the country, you have to decide if it is the right move for you to make as a family. It helps when one person has a 'portable' job, but there also needs to be a conversation about whether the other person is willing to make a sacrifice for the benefit of the other's career. I have seen couples where one person draws a line and refuses to move or consider living in certain places and it causes a lot of resentment by the other person, especially if they have to constantly give up opportunities or feel like their needs are not being met.

  4. I absolutely agree with you (and Robin): geographic unhappiness can poison even a really great job. Like you, we're sort of tied to a location. It wasn't always this way; I think both of us thought--when we were in our late teens/early twenties--that we'd be happy living wherever. I entertained ideas about moving to London or NYC. B applied to jobs all over the country and was close to moving to TX.

    And now we've kind of slowly realized that... we're really attached to our families, and it's important to both of us to live within driving distance of them (they thankfully all live in the same city). To us, about 6 hrs. away is as far as we'll hopefully ever be. I NEVER would've thought I'd pin myself down, geographically, at such a young age, but my priorities have shifted and I've found I'm happier when I stop trying to be someone I'm not (someone "cool" who prioritizes her glamorous and important career over everything else ;)) and just acknowledge this fact.

    The career thing is weird for us. I *sort of* moved for him first, but was in denial of that at the time, and it WAS mutually beneficial. And then he was sort of "stuck" in the same job for longer than he planned, because I had to finish grad school. We both realized we wanted to get back to our home state (and tossed around the idea of moving even if neither of us had jobs), so when B got an offer here, it made a lot of sense to move. Sometimes I do wonder if I'm following him too much, in a passive housewife-y way. But the harsh truth is... I'm not 100% sold on the theatre thing (in fact, I'm getting further and further away from it in my mind - not easy, as it used to be a large part of my identity), whereas he really enjoys the career he's set up for himself (and invested just as much time in as I did). So I don't really feel like I'm sacrificing much. I know it looks that way to my former professors and classmates, though, and that irks me. I know they probably think I should be living in NYC or LA. But instead of resentment, I feel incredibly grateful that B isn't pushing me to take just any job, that he uncomplainingly supports us while I figure out what the heck I want to do/who will take me on.

    And I've also told him many times that I don't want him to feel responsible for moving us here--if he decides he doesn't like his job, if the weather's bad, whatever. It was a choice we made together, as a team.

  5. This definitely hit home, since I'm currently contemplating a huge career change in order to accommodate my husband's (awesome) job. The job market in my field is really awful right now and even if I weren't married I would probably have to consider a career change, but I do feel funny about the idea of giving up something I've worked so hard on because of my husband.

    It helps to know that my husband would move for me if I got a tenure-track job. But I feel like it would have to be a really incredible job to justify pulling him away from the excellent school where he works.