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She should face fiance head-on about intruding on her choices

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

She should face fiance head-on about intruding on her choices

San Francisco: I'm marrying my boyfriend in six months. He recently decided to apply to graduate schools, some on the opposite coast. He also thinks I should look for a new job. His motivation: I think that he doesn't think my job is "good enough" for me. (He's said repeatedly that I could be doing more. I wonder if he just doesn't understand the nature of nonprofit work, where sometimes it's just easier for me to do menial tasks rather than delegate them.)

He's sending decidedly mixed messages — encouraging me to apply for jobs here, even as he sends applications to schools on the East Coast. When I pointed out the discrepancy, he said, "It'll all work out."

But I don't see how. It feels dishonest to apply for new positions when I know I might be moving. Yet he was upset with me when I told him this morning that I canceled a job interview (I only applied so that he would stop bugging me). I'm so very confused, both as to what he wants and what I should do.

Carolyn: The clear answer on the job issue is for you to keep your job until you know where he's going to school. No-brainer.

Too bad this isn't a job issue. The far bigger problem is that you and your fiance have a vaguely drawn boundary between your business and his. The only say he has in your career is where it affects your joint quality of life. For example, if you have a baby and then take a job where you end up traveling some part of 48 weeks of the year, he has every right to say "Enough."

But if all he has to complain about is that your job isn't impressive enough for his tastes, then you need to draw that boundary very clearly: Let him know that you like what you're doing, that you don't like having to justify your choices to him, and that as long as you're carrying your financial, emotional and domestic weight, you believe he has no grounds to pressure you to change jobs.

How he reacts to this is really, really important to note before you put one satin toe on the aisle. If he believes he has a right to tinker with your essential selfhood, just because it pleases him to do so, then I think you'll find this was the first of a lifetime of intrusions — that is, unless you deal with the problem now.

By the way — the fact that you "think that he doesn't think my job is 'good enough,' " and "wonder" how well he knows nonprofits, means you don't know. Which means you and he haven't even really talked about this.

Doing so could solve the problem right there, before you ever get into the much bigger problem I laid out for you above — however, the fact that you haven't plainly spoken what's on your mind is a big problem unto itself. You applied for a job to get him to stop bugging you, which seems like an awfully long way to go to avoid dealing with someone. The consequences of avoidance are far worse than the consequences of disagreeing.

She should face fiance head-on about intruding on her choices 11/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:30am]
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