I Have to Choose: My Boyfriend or My Career

I Have to Choose: My Boyfriend or My Career

Evan,

First, thanks for the advice you provide on this blog. I read it religiously, and it always gives me a lot to consider in my own relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together for five months, and are both in our late 20s. We’re a good match. I’m happier than I can ever remember being. We’ve met all of the usual checkpoints for a new relationship – we established exclusivity within the first month, have met each other’s parents (in fact, he’s meeting my family this weekend), and freely and sincerely express our love to one another. We talk about a future together. I believe this relationship could have a real future. My boyfriend is kind, loving, and devoted to me, and I see myself loving him more each day.

However, an issue has emerged. Over a year before my boyfriend and I began dating, I initiated a job search with the intent to relocate to my favorite city (Austin, TX), where I lived for a few years for graduate school. That search was unsuccessful, but the recruiter I was working with recently contacted me with an opportunity to move to Austin. Professionally, this is a great move for me, but personally, this is a disaster.

Last night, I told my boyfriend about the opportunity (since I have a final interview in Austin next week), and he told me that he loves me and he wants me to have a fulfilling career, but that if I move to Austin, it will be the end of our relationship. He refuses to take part in a long-distance relationship (I knew this about him from the time we first began dating), and he doesn’t want to move to Texas. He did say that he might be willing to relocate sometime in the future, but that any move would be “for the person he will spend the rest of his life with,” and that it’s still too early to know whether I’m that person. I understand his position, and I love him, but I also love myself and my career. I am willing to do long-distance, but he isn’t. Both of us could feasibly pursue our chosen careers in either location.

My question, Evan, is what would you do, and what should I do? I do have a great job in our current city, but Austin has always been in my plans. When in a relationship is it appropriate to choose a partner over a career move, and is that appropriate here? – Victoria

Dear Victoria,

Men want to choose. We don’t want to be sold.

Glad you enjoy the blog.

Glad the advice has helped you.

Glad you have an amazing boyfriend.

But you’ve already answered your own question, so I’m not quite sure I’m supposed to say.

“Austin has always been in my plans.”

Join our conversation (188 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 1
    David T

    It is all about choices. I think about what my possible futures will look like and then choose based on my priorities. I focus on what makes me happy in the path I choose, and work to let go of the things I am giving up or can’t have. For me that second part is the harder and slower part, but the first part makes that process less painful. 🙂

    Victoria’s choices are to be happy in Austin, and work to let go of *possibly* being married to this particular man, or be happy where she is and in her relationship and let go of living in Austin. If she stays _maybe_ she still makes it to Austin, but she would have to start thinking of that as a bonus rather than a necessity. Clouding her mind and judgement at this early stage in her relationship is her chemical attachment, but it sounds like she already knows Austin is more important to her than that.

    I don’t know where she lives now and what her job is vs. the one waiting for her. Unless it is pretty awful by her standards I would make a different choice than the one she is making, but my priorities are different than hers and each person needs to act on what works for them.

    Good job Evan, in distilling her dilemma to a *clear* set of the important choices before her. That clarity means less chance of her suffering from the paradox of choice (buyers remorse) later.

  2. 2
    Karl R

    Victoria asked: (original post)
    “When in a relationship is it appropriate to choose a partner over a career move, and is that appropriate here?”

    About four years ago I dated an amazing woman. One of the most amazing women I’ve ever dated. My career was just starting to take off locally. She was unhappy where she was and would have to move hundreds of miles away in order to keep her career moving forwards.

    She pursued her career, and I pursued mine. I have no regrets. (We don’t keep in touch, but I’ve heard that she is happy where she’s at.)

    I agree with Evan, you can meet a wonderful man in Austin. And from the way you’ve written your letter, I think you’ll have an easier time letting go of your boyfriend than your plans to live in Austin.

    There is no wrong decision in this case. Each choice comes with a benefit, each comes with a cost. This time, it’s pretty clear what you will get and what it will cost. Go with your gut.

  3. 3
    Goldie

    I wonder how the whole Austin thing managed to slip through the cracks during the initial phase of a relationship. Why did it never come up in a conversation that Victoria is currently looking for work in Austin (which, BTW, I’ve heard nothing but good things about)? My point is, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise a week before the final job interview. This should’ve been discussed earlier. Unfortunately, I really have no advice except maybe to flip a coin… Both options sound good.

    1. 3.1
      Lisa

      I think it should have been disclosed earlier as well. I suspect it was not as she feared his rejection of she told him.  I was dating a guy for 8 months who failed to tell me he always intended to move 3000 miles away and had been actively looking for jobs the whole time we dated.  He got one already and I felt bamboozled. He assumed we would do distance or I would move, ummm no.

  4. 4
    Helen

    Victoria, although nothing is set in stone yet as you haven’t heard a final decision from the Austin firm (at least, not by the time we’re reading this), my choice based on what you have written is Austin.

    Texan boys aren’t bad. Actually, they’re really cool. I know Texas gets a bad rap in other parts of the US (and even the world), but I have liked every single person I’ve met from there, and have traveled there many times too. Austin is a great city.

  5. 5
    Victoria

    Hi All,

    I am the culprit of the original question to Evan. Evan, your analysis is helpful (and the commenter’s analysis too). Most affecting to me was this part at the end of your advice: “But, to be very clear as you sort through your turmoil: it’s not your boyfriend who is choosing his current city over you; it’s you who is choosing Austin over him.”

    Here is a bit more information.

    The job offer in Austin is an offer for a job that is very similar to the one I have now, and for generally the same pay and benefits. In both cities, I have a good chance at promotion, but in Austin the promotions that are possible are more attractive to me.

    I am happy in my current city. I am even happier with this man in my life.

    As to why this didn’t come up in conversation between us earlier, I initiated the job search two years ago, and hadn’t been searching actively for Austin jobs for about a year before my boyfriend and I began dating (i.e., at this point it’s been 18 months since I actively looked for jobs in Austin), and this opportunity came up because an old contact looked me up when he heard of the opportunity. If left to my own devices, I would not have been looking for jobs now, and I wouldn’t have initiated a search in the next year or so without discussing it with my boyfriend.

    Truly, I am open to making a life in my current town, I just never had reason to consider doing so before – because the only factor in the equation was me. That’s not true anymore.

    Does that change any of the advice?

    Thank you to all of you for the thoughtful comments.

    1. 5.1
      Helene

      What’s so special about Austin??! A city is just a bunch of buildings – home is where the heart is. Finding a good boyfriend is much more difficult than finding a good city – cities stay where they are, you can go there any time. Why not see how things go with this man – if it all falls through Austin will still be there. Austin will wait for you – this boyfriend won’t.

  6. 6
    Ileana

    I’m sorry for Victoria’s predicament, but so is life. She should just follow her heart and do what’s best for her. Plus, she’s only been dating the guy for 5 months. It is impossible for him to have everything figured out so early.

    Evan, another great response! Cheers!

  7. 7
    Helen

    Victoria, even after you added more information in #5, that doesn’t change my advice about choosing Austin. There is no guarantee that if you stayed, you would be with him in the long haul. In fact, something he said in your original post didn’t sit very comfortably – it didn’t seem as though he was even considering the possibility of making things work out with you. He just drew his line in the sand. He has every right to do that, but that also means that you shouldn’t expect as much for the future of this relationship as you might be. I don’t think “meeting families” is as meaningful as you might think; I met the families of many ex-boyfriends (and they met mine).

    You are in your 20s; you have potentially great career options in a city that you love. If Austin has better possibilities for promotion, that will be very important throughout the whole of your career. I still say go for Austin.

    1. 7.1
      Cl

      Amen! Go live YOUR life Victoria.

  8. 8
    Birdlife

    A bit harsh Evan – would your advice have been the same if a man wrote to you with this dilemma?

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Birdlife: Harsh? I didn’t even offer my opinion. I just laid out her options. So yes, my advice would have been exactly the same if a man wrote the question. Why? Would your advice to him be any different?

      1. 8.1.1
        Lili

        If a guy wrote this dilemma, you’d definitely be more sympathetic with him.
        Her boyfriend said something vital:  that he would only move for for the person he will spend the rest of his life with.
        That is already a critical sign that he is not planning to spend the rest of his life with her. They dated for 5 months, it is high time for him to know if he truly wants her or not. He made his decision: he doesn’t take their relationship seriously. If he truly loved her, he would try to make it work through a long distance relationship. I know a guy who worked in Europe for half a year, maintaining a long distance relationship with his girlfriend in Korea, who eventually joined him. Now that’s love.
        If a girl said those words to a guy, you’d probably be saying how heartless she is, that she was a user, and now he would be better off without her.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Nope. 95% of advice is gender neutral. Carry yourself with confidence, treat your partner with empathy, attempt to understand the other person’s side of things, and if you still can’t make things work, move along.

        2. Melody

          Five months are nothing… certainly not long enough for him to know he wants to be be with her for the long haul, including a move to another state.

  9. 9
    Samara

    Evan – I am curious how you would advise other women in a similar situation but with less obvious priorities? For instance, if Victoria had been less attached to Austin, how could she have brought up the conversation with her boyfriend in a way that wasn’t giving him an ultimatum? How could she have “let him choose” whether or not to keep her in his life?

  10. 10
    Fusee

    @ Victoria #5:

    Evan made your choices very clear (as he always does!), and now you have an interesting choice to make. Both will bring some immediate happiness (either staying in a satisfying relationship or moving to your dream city) and the potential for long-term satisfaction (potential happy marriage + a decent career, or potential valuable promotion in your dream city + a potential new decent boyfriend). Both will involve a sacrifice (renouncing to your dream city at least for now, or renouncing to a satisfying relationship at least for now). At the end of the day we can all tell you what you should do, but beside making you think about your situation from different angles, your decision must only depend upon your current priorities, your personality, and how you deal with life (do you see the glass half-full or half-empty and how do you deal with regrets?).

    I can somewhat relate to your situation. I met my boyfriend in my city, where he was employed temporarily. From the get go I knew he was going to go back to his city in another state where he was committed for at least another 3-4 years. I did not wait until later than date #3 to look that city up and decide whether I would agree to move there if the relationship was going to develop to something serious. Of course I then let these considerations go until the time came to decide whether or not we were going to do the long-distance thing. The difference with you and your boyfriend is that prior to meeting him I had already prioritized my love life over anythting else. I was looking at dating from a very serious perspective.

    In the first six weeks of dating, I had discovered his interest for marriage as well as a basic compatibility of values and goals. The next step was going to be growing our bound, assessing our deeper compatibility, and well… letting time do its magic. So when he left town and we both agreed that we were going use our long-distance time to grow our relationship with the goal of marriage in mind, it was “easier” for us to make the sacrifices of flying to meet up for week-end visits and for me to imagine the possiblity of giving up everything I love about my current situation in order to be with him in the long-term. As long as it was going to be for marriage, not for being a live-in girlfriend. There are some sacrifices that you make for a husband, not for a boyfriend.

    BUT! All of this is because I am a 33 year-old woman who have dated enough to know what’s out there (and what is not). I know how frustrating the dating game is in the long-run and how rare it is to have a chance to develop a true “10” relationship with someone of great character + love and respect + compatibility of values and goals + yummy physical attraction. I was ready to give up A LOT for the right person and the right relationship before even meeting him. Ready to give up superficial stuff such as physical features, income level, common hobbies, location, etc. Ready to give up a good job, great city, and local friends. Because I wanted to build a solid and happy marriage, and if I met the right partner who wanted the same, I was decided that it was going to be my new adventure, and a priority over anything else.

    You and your boyfriend may be at a different life stage than me. You may not be ready to prioritize love over your career and other local benefits. For that you might need much more frustration and pain, unfortunately. We grow from mistakes and pain, not from happiness. No amount of convincing from commenters who have a different personality than yours, who are at different life stages, or have had different experiences is going to change anything. We all have to go through each step of our own path. I have a younger female friend who totally understand my choices but who would never be able to make such choices now. And yet I can already see her in the same situation as mine in a few years…

    Enough rambling! Good luck with your decision! No one is bad since there is so much to gain with each choice you are presented with. My advice: once you make your decision, do not look back. Only forward.

    1. 10.1
      Sj

      I think this is a brilliant answer!!!… I am also turning 30 this year and although I feel my priorities are different. In the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder if the choices I’m making are the right ones!!…

      i too too met my boyfriend 5/6 months ago… things weren’t perfect at first, but our live grew. The only problem is that I am progressing in my career and he is in and out of rubbish jobs… I have just got a job in london, which means leaving him in Manchester and although he said he eventually wants to come with me. I’m scared that he won’t find a job and ill end up missing him and being lonely!!

      i just hope he can go back to college and study then get a good job, but he is clueless with what to do and feels like it’s too late for him at the age of 33, especially since had messed up his grades in school.

      I just feel sad sad and scared I will have to live without him, but I’m putting my career first! 
       

  11. 11
    amy

    Hi there!
    I don’t agree with the posters who say Austin. Perhaps if, as Evan suggest, you have a conversation with him, instead of setting down an ultimatum, it might turn out differently.
    It’s true, you are young. But do you want to settle down soon? If you do, then give this relationship a chance. This is not the last job offer. But if you don’t want to settle down, then by all means move on.
    I want to tell you that I met someone in NY while I was on a three-month trip from LA. I was set to go back to LA at the end of the month but had just met him and thought it was too good of a chance to pass up. So i decided to stay in nyc.
    The guy, though, wanted to be sure “I wasn’t doing it for him.” Guys hate that kind of pressure, it really is an ultimatum. Because if i was unhappy in nyc it would be his fault.
    I assured him that I wasn’t doing it for him, I really did want to be in nyc. That wasn’t exactly true — but I did want to be in nyc WITH HIM. I also vowed to make my life work in nyc, regardless of him and our relationship, because there’s nothing worse than a whole life resting on a relationship.
    So – if you want to settle down, and you can be happy in your current city, then you should stay.
    PS I’m married and in nyc now. (Maybe i’d be married to him or someone else and living in LA now if I’d moved back to LA, so who knows!)

  12. 12
    Suheil

    My boyfriend made it clear to me once… he said, if you’re changing the conditions by which this relationship has grown, why would you expect me to change? Well, if I’m the one who wants to move to another city, why should he be ok with it? It kind of makes sense, and if he were to do the same… I surely wouldn’t want him to just “expect” me to move and be ok with it. If I decided to do so it would be fine, but I wouldn’t want him to just expect that.

  13. 13
    Trenia

    I think Victoria might have regrets either way, but we have to make choices and that’s just life on life’s terms. Now would be a good time to get quiet and really listen to yourself. What do you want?

    I also agree with Helen #7, there was something about her boyfriend’s response that didn’t sit well with me, it just didn’t sound hopeful at all, but that’s just me. I wish her luck.

  14. 14
    Karl S

    If they did do long-distance, she could also fly over to see him as well, no?

    I knew a girl who lived in Hawaii and her boyfriend moved to Japan to study. They managed to keep it going even though they could only visit each other every once in a while. Of course, she planned to eventually move over there with him so it’s different in that way.

  15. 15
    DinaStrange

    Once again, what i hear are commoditized view of relationships. Neither of the people want to give in, everyone is only thinking of themselves and as a result we are back to machines instead of humans. Victoria looks at her relationship as what’s more convenient for her, her guy is not willing to even think about giving it a chance, long distance because it’s not convenient for him and in the end we are having 50% rate of divorce that is only going higher. Just awesome.

  16. 16
    Desdenova

    Victoria –

    Evan is right. In your initial letter you said: “Austin has always been in my plans.” How has this not come up? Even if not job related, when asked, “Do you Miss Texas?” or “Ever think of going back?” how did you respond?

    It seemed pretty clear to me that the long-distance relationship that is on the table is not the type which means that at some point in the future either party would relocate. Rather, it sounds like it would be a preliminary measure for before your current BF moves to Austin.

    As for what you should do, that depends on how you feel about him. I think some above posters are not being fair in saying something about his response doesn’t sit right. If this didn’t come up before, you just dropped a bomb on him. You know your romantic options and how you feel about him (and vice-versa) better than we do. If you’ll miss him more than Austin, then you should stay. If you think you can get what he provides you without much difficulty in Austin, then it’s clear you’ll miss Austin more than him.

  17. 17
    Victoria

    Hi All,

    Victoria here again. Thank you all again for your thoughts.

    DinaStrange, to your point, my boyfriend and I are very much in the “discussion” stage of this process. I only received the job offer today. Although you may see my initial description of the situation as commoditized and unyielding, the actual question I posed to Evan was, “When in a relationship is it appropriate to choose a partner over a career move, and is that appropriate here?” I’m really hoping that my boyfriend and I can find a mutually agreeable solution – like maybe we wait a few years and look to move later, or I try out settling here, but if I’m unhappy in a few years we’ll think about relocating together, or maybe after my boyfriend visits Austin a few times he may come to love it as I do. I sincerely love him, and I believe in compromise (when called for).

    Further, if my boyfriend and I cannot come to a middle ground, there’s nothing “convenient” about either of these options (those options being staying for love or leaving for long-held dream). One option involves packing up my life and taking a risk in a new city (alone), and the other involves sacrificing the “big picture” plan I’ve had for the better part of a decade (for the man I love). As other commenters have noted, neither decision should be made lightly.

    Trenia and Helen (#7), I agree with you. My boyfriend’s initial stance didn’t sit well with me either. When I brought this up initially, I thought he might be up for some creative problem solving, or maybe an adventure (He’s lived in several states, so I thought he might be open to a move), or at least an open conversation about what to do together. My boyfriend can be firm – bordering on stubborn – sometimes. With that said, I did ask him to move for my job, to a city he’s never considered, and I knew his position on long distance, so I knew I was asking a lot from him. One thing I’ve learned from Evan is that we need to take our partners as they are, without thinking we can change them. My partner is a man who takes a firm position. I may have to decide whether that characteristic is one I can live with or not, and I have to decide earlier than I would like.

    1. 17.1
      John

      I am faced with a very similar situation.  I am feeling my personal career self wanting to go, but my loving heart says stay . I know it will hurt to move and especially to lose her . She says she wants a future with me but will not move. . Her life is here with her family and home. I have family here also .
           I feel I am in a win -win situation though. If I stay I keep my job and girlfriend . If I go I get the city I have dreamed of and a career boost.  Moving is never easy . Whatever I do I will do it 100%! 

  18. 18
    Fusee

    Something that is starting to be tiresome to me is the over-use of the word “ultimatum”.

    From Wikipedia: “An ultimatum (Latin: the last one) is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up by a threat to be followed through in case of noncompliance. An ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. As such, the time allotted is usually short, and the request is understood not to be open to further negotiation.”

    So, in an ultimatum, there is a “demand”, a “specified period of time”, a “threat”, and the idea of a “final demand after a series of requests”.

    While I do acknowledge that some demands are ultimatums (the stereotypical threat of a woman who after 3+ years of dating states to her man “marry me or I’m gone”), I do not agree with the idea that each time a woman clarifies a priority, a need, or a boundary, that could conflict with a man’s priority, need, or bounday, that it is called “ultimatum”.

    Personally I have specific needs on what kind of relationship I want to build, the conditions for kissing/sex to happen in a new relationship, how much time I’m willing to dedicate to growing the relationship until marriage, etc. These are legitimate needs and boundaries (with some flexibility of course) that for sure will not be compatible with everyone’s. And that’s okay. A relationship is a process of discovering if two people can create a team and it involves negotiations. If I explain my needs to someone new at an adequate time, in an adequate tone, with the adequate words, with the adequate intentions in order to precisely avoid having to make “demands”, “threats”, and a “final plea after a series of requests” later on, this is NOT an ultimatum. This is simply starting the process of assessing compatibility of needs and negotiating on flexible aspects of these needs, and allowing each other to opt out if we are not in agreement.

    From Victoria’s letter, I’m not under the impression that there was any ultimatum. She obviously would like to have the best of both worlds: her boyfriend and her dream city. Nothing wrong with trying to have it all. If after talking to him about it and coming up with two ideas, he does not feel like any of them, she is left with the two choices we are talking about. This is not an ultimatum to ask her boyfriend to come with her or keep growing their relationship over long-distance. This is simply stating her preferences (both moving to Austin), see if they can find a middle ground (temporary long-distance), and then making a decision based on her top priority (staying there with him or moving alone).

    If this is not an ultimatum, do not call it an ultimatum. Some women make ultimatums (usually because they hoped that things would fall into place or because they were not in touch with their legitimate needs early on), and other women simply honor their needs and boundaries by making reasonnable requests and walking out when no middle ground can be found.

  19. 19
    KTR

    I’m with the other commentators – something about the initial response doesn’t seem right. I certainly don’t mean he wasn’t allowed to say it or want to devalue your interaction so far. But in terms of the future of your relationship even if the Austin thing doesn’t materialise it doesn’t look great.

    Of course yes, he is being sensible etc etc, but in my experience twenty something men who are REALLY serious about a girl tend to override the practical excuses and go for it (I presume he is not divorced and has no kids, so no “baggage” to deal with). And he’s not whipping out a ring or suggesting you move in together to tempt you to stay, it’s just “let things continue as they are or I’m out”.

    I’ve moved round a fair bit, and in my experience guys who are serious about me – as soon as moving is mentioned – will offer paying for plane tickets, want to push the course of the relationship forward so they have a commitment in place etc.

    I just tend to see IRL a lot of these things, the guy sticks with a girl, they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. She’s playing it cool. She’s the sensible choice for him. She acts like the sensible choice for 2-3 years. Then they break up and he meets someone new and they are married within two months. I’m NOT saying they would make the best husbands or have the best marriage – but just how things seem to go.

    I’ve read what Evan (and cool Karl) have to say on letting a guy have time to make a decision, and I DO think it makes sense – you can’t force people to do things. But then again I’d say Evan and Karl are MUCH more emotionally “on the ball” than other men who tend to make less sensible long term decisions.

    Personally, I’m probably not a great long term prospect and not geared to make myself that way at the moment, but I still get taken as a serious prospect by men because I look a certain way (whilst they are probably passing over better “girlfriends” who will make them happier). There never is any ambiguity – they want, and they will ignore my not so great finances and nomadic lifestyle and any “practical” difficulties in order to get.

    In my experience twenty something men are often pretty clear on whether or not they’re serious about a girl from the start. Five months is enough. I’d take the Austin job and start dating around. Late twenties is a good age to be doing so. Good luck.

  20. 20
    David T

    Interesting that you couch your dilemma in these terms:

    @Victoria 18 “One option involves packing up my life and taking a risk in a new city (alone), and the other involves sacrificing the “big picture” plan I’ve had for the better part of a decade (for the man I love). ”

    In both cases you are focusing on what you will lose, rather than what you will gain. The cons are part of the process and cannot be ignored, but once you decide, think only of the the positives that are coming your way otherwise you will be dwelling on what you have lost regardless of your choice.

    Aside: His firmness is definitely something to explore. If he does not compromise in general, you are going to have more problems in your relationship. Still, he says he *is* willing to move for the person he is going to spend the rest of his life with. Five months is too soon to get engaged, but it is not too soon to start talking about cities you both could like. 🙂 This will also give you insight into how firm he is. And who knows, maybe in another 7 months, Texas with you might not sound so bad to him.

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