do you have to tell your boss why you’re quitting?

This was originally published on June 2, 2011.

A reader writes:

I will be giving my (two week) notice at my job this Friday.  I’m not leaving to take another job.  I’m leaving because the Army is moving us ….. again.  Unfortunately, in order to get the job, I had to fib and tell the bosses that we’d be staying in the area (and would eventually retire here) and I think that’s one of the reasons why they hired me — I said I was sticking around.  Many employers will not hire military spouses if they think they are leaving soon, and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job.  And while we do plan to retire in the area eventually, and we really DID think we’d be here longer, the Army has decided to move us two hours north so my husband can attend a school for a year (only to turn around and send us right back here next summer).

Do you absolutely have to tell your boss why you are leaving?  Is it really any of her business?

If you think it is, that’s okay.  I’m just curious if it is ever acceptable to write a simple resignation letter, thank the boss for the opportunity and wish her well (without giving an actual reason).  I plan to tell her in person, but honestly, I’m just so tired of quitting jobs because we have to move again.

Despite the “love-hate” relationship I have with my boss, In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had.  So much so, that I would give anything not to quit.  But there’s no way around it.  And because I’m still “in denial” about having to move again (we’ve only been here in DC for 18 months), I’ve been putting off the “I’m quitting” notification.

You might ask why I’m only giving two weeks notice, when I’ve known we were moving since the end of April (April 26 to be exact).  Honestly?  I’ve quit so many jobs in my life (thanks to the Army) that I get so sick and tired of the dismissive attitude that immediately begins the second you tell the employer you’re leaving.  I suddenly become invisible, despite the fact that I’m still coming in every day, working very hard, and doing everything I can to set up notebooks and documents to help the next person.  Yes, I do realize I’m leaving, but for now I’m still here, I’m still the person who knows the job inside and out, I’m still the person who knows all the clients, knows how to work the schedule, knows the files, knows how to find stuff, knows the “unspoken rules” of the office, knows what the boss likes, and I can still be helpful … and yet, I quickly become the outsider and get ignored for two weeks.  Things vital to the performance of my job are kept from me, simply because I’m leaving.  And I fully expect this treatment again at this job, as my boss is just “that” kind of person.  I hate feeling like a leper for two weeks.

Anyway, I’m nervous about telling her WHY I’m leaving and wondered if it was okay to just not say anything other than “It’s personal.”

You don’t have to tell your boss why you’re leaving. No one can make you. But it’s probably going to be pretty awkward if you don’t, because when you resign, at some point most normal bosses will ask, “So what will you be doing next?”

You can certainly say “it’s personal” if you want to, but it’s such a normal question to ask and such normal information to share that a refusal will probably come off as odd. And chilly. And if you end on a chilly note, that’s going to be the most recent memory of you in your boss’s mind when she’s called for a reference at some point in the future.

So I don’t think it’s a great approach. I hear you that the alternative isn’t one you relish either, but I think just being honest is your better bet here. Be straightforward:  “In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had and I would give anything not to quit, but the military is moving us.” (If your boss has anything approaching normal human emotions, that first clause is going to help soften things.)

Two other issues your letter raised:

1. Resignation letters are weird and generally unnecessary, unless your company specifically requests one after you resign in person.

2. I believe you that your boss wouldn’t have handled a longer notice period well — because you know her and I don’t — but I haven’t ranted about this in a while, so indulge me:

Managers who react badly to resignations give up any right to expect employees to give them more than two weeks notice. Managers who get significant amounts of notice when an employee is thinking about leaving  are managers who make it safe for employees to do that.

On the employee’s side of things, you should pay attention to how your employer has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, assume the same may happen to you, and give two weeks and nothing more. But if your employer has a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, consider giving a longer notice period yourself. Some employers “earn” long notice periods by treating resigning employees well.

Okay, rant over. Back to your situation. In sum, you’re entitled to be secretive if you want to, but like many things you’re entitled to do, you’ll probably negatively impact the relationship. Just be honest.

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    I don’t understand why LW’s letter has such a “victim”tone. LW, you are the one who lied to get this job (calling it a fib in quotes doesn’t make it less of a lie). And then you complain that you don’t get treated the way you expect after you resign for the very reason you lied about? Your issue should be with the military for moving you so often, not with the employers you aren’t up front with.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I didn’t notice this was an old post. I wonder how many jobs OP has quit since 2011!

        1. Cat S.*

          I think “wonder how many jobs OP has quit since 2011” is an unfair and unnecessary assessment. The military does move you around. The decision on where and if is not yours to make. So does that mean no military spouses should ever work at all? I don’t think she should have lied about how long she was planning on staying in the area. I do think there is (or was at the time) a way to rectify this or smooth it over, and I hope she was able to do so.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            It was a lighthearted joke. Of course I have sympathy for military spouses, but the entire tone of the post was “poor, poor me, I lied to get a job and now I want to quit and not let anyone know that I lied”.

            1. Liane*

              Granted it is hard to tell tone, but in Lily’s post in question there isn’t anything to indicate it might be a joke, so yes some of us might decide Lily was serious.

            2. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, I’m with you there and also, I think the OP’s bigger issue is with her husband’s job, not her own. If you don’t want to deal with the military moves all the time, your choices are for your spouse to get out of the military, suck it up and deal, live separate lives while he completes schooling, or divorce him. At some point, it just comes down to making a choice to live with the situation or not.

    1. AB*

      I have a rant I am working really hard to control, so please forgive me if I’m too verbose.

      But, I think military spouses should get a pass on this. Most military spouses I know hide the fact that they’re a military spouse when they apply for jobs.

      The cold hard fact of the matter is, whenever a military spouse says they plan on being in the area for any amount of time, it’s a fib. it’s a fib because they simply have no way of knowing. The military is really good about promising people that they’ll be stationed for a set period of time and then immediately changing. Case in point, my dearest friend’s hubby was told he would be stationed at place A for 3 years, and that he was ineligible for combat duty and therefore would not be shipped out. One month after moving to place A, he was given orders to ship out in 2 months, and that upon return he would be stationed in place B. They have decided just to wait out his tour of duty (promised to be for one tour, but that will probably change too) because odds are they may not decide to station him in place B afterall.

      You can rail at the military all you like, but you might as well rail at the earth for circling the sun for all the good it will do you. So what’s a military spouse to do? It’s not like military pay is really good and spouses don’t need to work to make ends meet. They need jobs but have very little control over where they live and when they move.

      1. JamieG*

        I agree with this. When I was interviewing for my job, I told them that my husband is in the military. They asked if we were going to move anytime soon, and I gave them the most honest answer I could: We’ll probably be here for at least a couple of years. Given the nature of his job and the place he’s stationed, it’s likely that he’ll actually wait out the rest of his enlistment here (which sucks because I hate it, but it’s not exactly optional), but it’s the military! He could come home from work today and say he got orders, we’re moving to Germany or something.

        I was lucky; so many of my coworkers are former military, or military spouses, or have parents in the military, or are in the reserves, or are otherwise affiliated. If they were going to use “might have to move” as a disqualifier, they’d have to rethink a lot of their staffing. But if that had been a dealbreaker for them, I probably would’ve lied about it the next time I got an interview, because bills have to get paid.

      2. Student*

        It is 2014, this is a silly assertion.

        (1) Military spouses are individuals separate from the spouse in the military. They have options. They can choose not to relocate every time their spouse moves if they have compelling reasons not to do so that outweigh the downsides. This comes up in other professions and people find ways to deal with it.

        (2) If a military spouse has decided that she will always move to accommodate her husband’s new post, then maybe she should look into careers that work well with that decision, instead of jobs that reasonably expect a long, butt-in-chair commitment. Again, it is 2014. There are 100% telecommute jobs. She could run her own business in several fields. She could do more traditional jobs that are friendly to temporary employees – retail, babysitting, cleaning service, some temp agency work, telemarketing.

        1. Valar M.*

          Deployments are hard enough on a marriage, adding in an optional long distance living arrangement is a pretty big downside.

          A military spouse might not be able to switch career fields that easily. Getting into retail or babysitting when you have no experience and have had a ton of education/years of working in a totally unrelated field is a lot more difficult than you would imagine. Starting your own business often requires a major investment of time and capital which may not be available to them. It’s not always that easy just because its 2014.

          1. Saturn9*

            Not true about retail. Last time I was in retail (5 years ago?), we had all sorts of people with advanced degrees working there.

            Everyone is having trouble finding jobs and unless the store is managed like some kind of Lovecraftian hellscape, they reasonably expect people coming from professional environments to behave more professionally than the average high-schooler and to give a reasonable amount of notice when they find something better.

            1. Valar*

              I didn’t say it was impossible, just difficult. While you’ve known people that had advanced degrees, I’ve known plenty that got rejected – and told they were rejected because they were more of a flight risk with their education than a high schooler or someone with only an HS diploma. I’ve also seen several military/military spouses who have been rejected from positions like that because of the military connection. (Nevermind that many retail establishments have unspoken rules about what their employees need to look like.) My point was that retail is not automatically a safe or guaranteed option just because it requires no education.

        2. AB*

          Certainly a military spouse can choose to live in one town and not move; but as you can read the the LW’s copied response below, that is a less than ideal situation and a really difficult one to impose on a family. Military families already have to endure long periods of separation, sometimes years worth, that any time they can spend together becomes precious, regardless of what year it is. You can hardly fault a family for wanting to stay together.

          To your second point, there are some jobs out there that are flexible or that don’t require you to be in-office. But, let’s be honest, there are very few of those jobs and many typically require highly specialized training or are low-paying. The examples of high-turnover jobs you listed are not exactly high-paying jobs. Babysitting, retail, cleaning, etc are all typically low-wage jobs with less than stellar working conditions.

        3. NavyLT*

          Honestly, all those are pretty crappy jobs, and it’s not quite fair to tell someone who’s educated and qualified that she should babysit. And not everyone is suited to running a business. I’m unsympathetic to OP based in her specific circumstances (living two hours apart for a year wouldn’t have been the end of the world, especially when her husband was going to have orders back to the same area immediately prior to his retirement–even if he had deployed from there, his family would have been able to stay and keep their housing allowance and so on), but I also know it’s not easy for military spouses.

          1. AB*

            I agree with you on the fact that I’m sure the family could have made SOME allowances to help her keep her job as she was only 2-3 hours away. But then again, you never know. In the city we live in, there are several areas we can’t or won’t live (either because they’re way too expensive or because they’re dangerous). Unfortunately, those areas also tend to be the areas that work best for “in the middle”. It just works out that jobs in my field tend to be in the city center and jobs for my hubby’s field tend to be in the outskirts. That’s a large part of the reason we’re still renters, because we vacillate between my having a longer commute for a few years, and him having a longer commute for a few years.

            1. NavyLT*

              Yeah, but it was for a year. He could have been a geobachelor and let the family stay in a place they were going to move back to anyway. Plenty of other military families do it. If OP and her husband decided that wasn’t right for their family, then fine, but that’s their decision, not victimization by the mean Army (I can’t believe I just defended the Army).

              1. Cucumber*

                To anyone who might be a military spouse reading this today and thinking they might want to start a business – there’s a program called VWISE for women veterans and military spouses, which helps them learn about entrepreneurship. It’s a wonderful opportunity –

                Also, men should check out the Macho Spouse organization. It’s led by a man married to an Air Force officer, who like the OP, had challenges in continuing his career.

          2. Student*

            No, they aren’t. There are some very high-end jobs and some very low-end jobs, and a sparser array of mid-level jobs.

            My husband took a telecommuting-only job because I have a career that requires frequent moves to often-backwater areas, not entirely unlike the military. He makes 100k a year at it. It took him a little while longer than average to find something appropriate due to our unusual circumstances. But he didn’t have to lie to get the job, and it fits well with our chosen lifestyle.

            I am astounded at all the people who look at the alternatives available, and then decide that lying their way into employment is really the best choice for military spouses. Pick a job that fits your life, people! Don’t hold on to the 9-5 office mindset when it becomes totally unsuitable to you.

            1. AB*

              It’s wonderful that the situation worked out for you and your husband, but you’ll have to forgive the rest of us for taking it for what it is, an anecdote, which is to say, not necessarily a possibility for everyone or indeed most people. Most of us would love to have a job that fits our lifestyle, but the reality is that we have to make do with a job that fits our talents, experience, needs, and location as well. Finding a job that checks all the boxes isn’t always realistic and we have to compromise.

              The OP wasn’t lying; she thought this would be the last time they were moved. My military-spouse friends and family do not generally overtly lie, but they also do not advertise the fact that they’re a military spouse. Change happens and people leave jobs, often sooner than an employer would like (whether it’s 5 months or 5 years), it’s just that, for military families, that change tends to happen more frequently than it does for us civilians and is more out of their hands than it is for ours.

            2. NavyLT*

              Some high end, some low end, and a sparse array of jobs in the middle. Yeah, most people, by definition, don’t have the high end qualifications, and with the sparse jobs in the middle, that tends to leave the crappy jobs. Telecommuting, freelancing, owning a business–all great if you can get it and are good at it, but it kills me to constantly see the “just be self-employed” advice. Not everyone is good at that, or suited to it. Start your own business isn’t a one size fits all solution.

            3. Sigh*

              There are some very high-end jobs and some very low-end jobs, and a sparser array of mid-level jobs.

              But you don’t get to pick one from the list that you like best. You get the one that matches your experience and qualifications. It’s not about “taking a little longer than average” to hold out for that 100K telecommute-only job as thought it’s something to settle for.

        4. Muriel Heslop*

          I live in an area with large number of military personnel, and this just isn’t feasible or productive for most marriages. We have had two military spouses and one was here a few years and one was here for several years. They both left for new postings for their spouses. To suggest they should live apart or change fields completely doesn’t make any sense. Anyone can leave a job for any time. I’d prefer an employee be upfront. Plus, I like military spouses can usually use a break. If they’re qualified, I’ll hire them.

        5. Cucumber*

          Student, have you been a military spouse? If you haven’t, it wouldn’t invalidate your comment – but it would explain why you’re presenting these as very cut and dry solutions, and suggesting that the comments by other military family members are “silly”.

          I have been a military spouse, and I did choose number #2 after finding that no one was interested in hiring me on account of my possibly leaving the job. (Ironically, too, as I lived in the same place throughout my husband’s entire enlistment.) I chose to start a business, and I do recommend that path if it fits with someone’s overall career goals, but I also recognize that it’s not easy to start and run your own business, especially in a new town where you don’t know anyone, or where there may be established prejudices against the military presence. (Most people were fine, but some people were very rude to servicemembers and their families because of what we were; our base had a special book at housing listing landlords who had historically been abusive to base personnel.)

          Telecommute positions that are for solid professionals (versus dead-end or part-time positions, like Amazon Turk) are hard to come by when you are a young wife or husband at the beginning of your career. You usually receive those kinds of positions after proving yourself for several years.

          As for the assertion that this comes up in other professions, and people “deal with it”, being a military spouse is very different than being the spouse of someone in almost every other field. My friend who married a cop did understand the risk and worry I had as a military spouse, but did not have to worry about living on base and how her behavior and relationships impacted her husband’s career. (There was actually a recent incident at one of the Army bases, where a high-ranking officer’s wife retaliated against another military spouse she had issues with, by getting her husband to mark down the spouse’s husband.) There are a lot of expectations in the culture, and staying on base for better or worse usually means you’re closer to resources that will support you, and people who understand what you’re going through during the frequent or long separations.

          In hindsight, I wish that I had moved away from the base, to a nearby city, but that would only have helped my job opportunities. It wouldn’t have provided me with better support. To this day most of my civilian friends – some of whom I have known for decades now – really don’t understand the challenges of military life.

        6. TychaBrahe*

          I can’t imagine any job I could have that would be worth being away from my hypothetical husband for four years. Maybe, if as in the LW’s case, husband’s PCS is only two hours away. What if the PCS is to Germany or Japan? I couldn’t afford to visit on my own, so no weekends with my husband for the entire length of his tour? Throw in a couple of kids and just traveling across the country for a weekend together gets infinitely harder.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I will disagree a bit.

        #1 – Some military services are better than others, and it is in the military’s best interest cost-wise not to pay to move people too often. The situation you describe is bad for the family and is unneccessarily expensive for the tax payers.

        #2 – Military pay is not uniformly terrible. Both junior enlisted and officers are paid poorly. Junior officers can be especially low paid when compared to people with similar education (a college degree) and experience, but they have steady promotion and pay increases so that they can move past their peers quickly.

        1. NavyLT*

          Re: #2, yes, but please don’t lose any sleep over junior officers. Speaking as a junior officer, our base pay is lower, but the benefits go a long way towards making up for it. The junior enlisted guys make way less (though it’s not a terrible deal for someone coming straight out of high school).

          Also, yes, some services are totally better than others.

        2. Melissa*

          Junior officers aren’t paid that poorly. The base pay for an fresh brand-new O-1 is $2905/month, which is about $34,000 a year.

          And that’s not including their BAH (ranges depending on location) and BAS ($223/month). A single junior O-1 stationed in my very high COL area (NYC) would be getting nearly $3,000/month in BAH, bringing their total salary (before the tax breaks) to $73K. Even in the lower-cost area around the joint base in NJ where my husband used to be stationed, though, a single O-1 would be getting $4700/month or about $56K per year. That’s more than most college graduates can hope to make in their first job out of college.

      4. BRR*

        I agree that it puts military spouses in an extremely awful position. But lying about it really screws others over. If I was hiring someone to do a job and went through a full job hunt, spent time training someone and they leave after a couple months, then have to do another job hunt and train a second person that could easily be a year without someone doing the work of this position.

        I don’t really have a solution to the problem but lying about being a military spouse isn’t the right way to go about it.

        1. Saturn9*

          Hopefully you would have been vigilant enough in your job hunt to contact the applicant’s previous employers and notice a strange habit of leaving soon after starting a position which she assured the hiring managers she intended to keep for some time?

          It would be unfortunate if that habit were to come back and bite her in the face after circumstances had changed and she actually was able to keep a job.

      5. Melissa*

        Well, it’s not a fib to say that you plan to be in the area for 3 years if they tell your spouse that you’re going to be stationed at X place for 3 years. Sure you know there’s a possibility that you can be moved earlier (my husband is an Air Force vet) but that, frankly, can happen even when you aren’t in the military.

        To the rest of your comment though, I constantly worried about this when my husband was in the service and, I have to admit, very relieved when he separated and decided not to return. I had no idea how I was supposed to maintain any kind of professional career moving around every 3 or so years.

    2. Cat S.*

      The OP’s response/update is here:

      Reading her comment, it appears that she truly did entirely believe that this would be their last location before her husband’s retirement. She used the word “fib” above because while she expected to be there, you cannot 100% guarantee that you will not move away as long as you are in the military.

      Even outside of the military, no one can 100% guarantee that they will stick with a job for the next X years (unless maybe there’s a contract involved). They can certainly plan on it, but things happen; circumstances arise. I can tell my employer that I intend to stay at a job in the next 5 years, and truly mean that at the time, and 3 years in my ailing mother may need me to relocate closer to her. “Fib” is in quotes because she intended to stay there but knew there might be a however slight possibility of leaving. So it’s not an all-out lie. If her husband had not been given temporary assignment, she would have stayed there for the entire length of time. In her notice to her employer, she was honest about why she was leaving.

      I do see how you see a victim mentality in the language of the letter. Personally, I read the letter as having been written in the “heat of the moment” while her feelings on the subject were still fresh. Her update later in the comments section is more collected, and if she truly expected to stay in the area, I can understand where she’s coming from.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I had wanted to point this out too. I don’t think you’re obligated to point out every possible issue that might impact how long you stay at a job. If she sincerely thought that she’d be there at least a year or two, she wasn’t lying.

        I do think that if you expect to be moved after less than a year, you should be up front about that. But if you think it’s more likely than not that you’ll still be around, there’s no reason to say, “Hey, here’s a reason to not hire me!” in an interview. Just like you wouldn’t expect someone to bring up the fact that they’re currently trying to get pregnant, or that their parents are in bad health and they might need to move out to take care of them at some point in the not-too-distant future.

    3. Robin*

      Since the OP is not here to defend herself, and people did call her out in the comments last time about her “fib”, here is her response in the original post:

      When we moved to DC, we truly did think this was the last move. This (upcoming) assignment was not even on my husband’s radar and we did not expect to leave the area. This is home for both of us and we thought we’d come home for good. That said, he is in the Army and the Army has a funny way of changing its mind about where you will be sent.

      I did give two weeks notice (plus two days) and I told the truth. My boss was not pleased and the first thing out of her mouth was, “I thought you were here (in the area) to stay”. To which I simply replied, “Unfortunately, while we had planned to stay here until he reitres, I cannot control what the Army does and they have decided to send my husband to this assignment for a year, immediately followed by a deployment for another year. (The Army continues to deploy troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite what the public might have been told otherwise). I will return to DC when my husband deploys, as my family is here in the DC area. Because we are a military family and because we endure so much separation as it is, we do not wish to be separated for the upcoming year if we don’t have to, and therefore I will be moving to **** with him”.

      I was told that I was free to call the office when I returned to the area to see whether or not she needed me, however, no guaratees were made (didn’t expect her to make any) and no leave of absence was arranged.

      Telecommuting is simply not an option for me. It is a very hands-on job, with lots of client interaction, phone time, billing, emergency document drafting, putting out fires, etc. It is also a very small business and the boss is the owner. I am her only full time employee (she employs a part-time clerk (once a week) as well). There is one other professional person who shares office space with my boss and she has two employees of her own, both part-time. And although my boss and the other person do co-mingle some aspects of the shared space, it is not a partnership and I work only for my boss.

      As for moving one hour north and commuting, that is not an option either. We will be living on post/base) and although we will live two hours away, a commute (on the I-70 and I-270 corridor) would take three hours and is simply not an option. Additionally, should something happen to my son at school, I would be two hours away from home and unable to pick him up. Not to mention the fact that my husband will be living within walking distance of his new job on post and he has no intention of commuting an hour to and from work every day when he doesn’t have to (because the Army has already provided us with quarters). So no “splitting the difference” as far as moving distance is concerned. And being a geographical bachelor for a year isn’t an option for my husband either — he does not wish to “come home when he can”. We endure much separation as it is. We have the opportunity to be a family for another year in this next assignment, and we choose not to pass up that opportunity.

      As for “knowing what I was getting into”, let me address this as best I can. First, we’ve been married for 18+ years and my husband has been in the Army for 25 years. When I married him yes, I did know that we’d be moving every 2 to 4 years. Yes, I did know that getting a job in my chosen field, in a new city, every 2 to 4 years would be tough every time we moved. And I married my husband fully expecting to not be able to find work in some cities. However, I did not marry my husband with the intent of sitting at home all day and having babies. I simply prefer to work and I have been exceedingly lucky, finding employment in the same field at almost every duty station. I’ve worked (in the same field) in 5 states and 10 moves. As to knowing exactly what I was getting into, no, I did not know exactly what I was “getting into” for no one can predict the future. I married my husband pre-9-11. There was no way to possibly know that my husband would be deployed 3 times in seven years immediately following 9-11. You simply cannot predict war.

      Lastly, I truly thought we WERE here in the DC area to stay. Again, this is home for both of us and we were ready to be home. I called it a “fib” because until my husband retires after 30 years service, I cannot 100% guarantee to any employer that I will be staying in one city forever. Period. We thought we were done moving, but clearly the Army has other plans for us. If you’d like to call me a liar, fair enough. That said, many employers will not hire a military spouse if they cannot be assured that she will stick around for two years or longer. Without exception, every single job interview that I have participated in for the last 18 years included the following questions: 1. What does your husband do? 2. How long will you be staying in the area? NEITHER of these questions have ANYTHING to do with how well I can do the job you hire me for. But I get asked these questions anyway because my resume makes is clear that I have moved often. The easy answer is “He’s in the Army” and “I don’t know”. Sadly, many prospective employers want something more concrete than “I don’t know”. I have received glowing reviewed from my last 8 employers, all of whom KNEW the risk in hiring me, but assumed the risk anyway.

      For whatever reason, my boss has decided not to hire a replacement and instead split my duties three ways between the existing office staff (her own part-time clerk and the two part-time employees that belong to the other person sharing office space). Additionally, two days ago, my boss realized that not hiring someone to replace me might have been a mistake and I have already been asked to come back to work for the month of August while my son is at camp (I’d stay with my in-laws who live here locally) and work while the boss is out of the country on vacation — as she does not feel confident leaving the country and not having me here.

      Am I whining about having to quit yet another job? Yup. Did I “expect” to move away from DC after only 18 months? Nope. We really thought we were here to stay since my husband plans to retire in five years, after 30 years of service. It is what it is. Sometimes it just gets tiring to continually convince employers to hire me, knowing I’ll eventually leave and yes, it gets tiring to have to quit job after job. But I DID know that I’d have to do that when I married my husband, so I was okay with it. This time around, it was just harder to quit because I loved the job and we thought we were done with moving.

      In the end, although this has been a fabulous job, my family comes first and I would prefer to live in one place, all together, for the next year. We’ll just see what happens when we return to DC next summer.

      Thanks to everyone who commented — I really enjoy reading everyone’s opinion.

  2. s*

    I started formulating me response before seeing that this post is oooold, but whatever. For anyone else finding themselves in this situation, if you are very certain that the move will be for just one year, and then you’ll be back in the same town again, why wouldn’t you as about other options so that at the very least in 1 year you could do back to that job?

    2 hrs isn’t so far away, and 1 year isn’t terrible long, so either you’d be out of work for that entire year, or spending lots of time job-searching, only to have to quit <1 yr later and repeat the process.

    Could you not telecommute full or part time for that one year? Could you go to part-time work, or take an unpaid leave of absence for that one year? While I wouldn't wish a 2 hr commute on anyone, if you could find a way to only do it 1-2 days a week at most for 1 year, it seems like that would be worth it to maintain a job that you liked that you'd want to still have in a year.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. I would have spun this as a leave of absence and a temporary relocation. That even mitigates the lie. THey are going to be in the DC area but the husband has a temporary assignment for the year. I would have explored telecommuting if this is at all plausible for the job (obviously not if she is the receptionist or something) or the possibility of taking a leave of absence for a year or even ‘hoping something will open again in a year.’

      There is no way to walk away without saying why in this case but it can be mitigated by praising the job and hoping for a return.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      That’s what I thought when I read this also, really giving up a great job for just a year, and only two hours away?

      But to be fair, I live in a large metro city where two hour commutes are not unheard of, and also growing up, my parents thought my dad was going to retire, so we moved across the country ahead of him, and he’d come visit. Did that for a year, before it became obvious he couldn’t retire when the stock market tanked.

    3. Melissa*

      OP explained this in the original post. The boss didn’t want to offer her an unpaid leave of absence, and she didn’t want to commute because her husband had been deployed so many times during his career that they wanted the chance to just live like a “normal” non-military family for a year in which they were sure he wouldn’t be deployed. She also had a son and it sounded like he was young, so she was worried about being 2 hours away from her son if he had an emergency at school. Military personnel can’t easily leave work in an emergency depending on what they’re doing.

    4. Melissa*

      Oh, and the telecommuting was also impossible – this was a job that required her to be on-site and dealing with clients and crises in person on a regular basis.

  3. HR Girl*

    I’m guessing there’s no compromise in where you live? I knew of a military family where they lived somewhere in the middle so they could still commute to their old lives but it wouldn’t be so hard on the spouse in the military too. I’m sure you’ve already looked into it, but for just a year and to be able to stay at the job you love, it could be an alternative?

  4. De Minimis*

    This was an interesting thread….I remember it from when it was first posted. Agree with AAM’s point that the LW was there a year and a half, and although she was aware there was a possibility of having to leave when first taking the job, it wasn’t exactly set in stone.

    Wonder what ended up happening…this was a sort of unusual situation since in theory she could remain at the job if she was willing to make some adjustments as far as commuting.

    My cousin is career Air Force and his family has had to make all sorts of crazy moves over the years–either that or he gets deployed overseas and the family gets to stay put but be without him for long periods, which is even worse.

  5. Cat S.*

    I’m a working Army spouse too so you have my sympathy. Maybe you can start by saying you had planned to stay here and retire here, but an unforeseen circumstance has your husband training two hours’ north for a year before returning to the area next summer. I think if you start out stressing this was unplanned, then follow up with what Alison said “This is the best place I’ve worked in 20 years…” and then explain that you are returning to the area and do plan to retire there. All of that might make the situation easier. I think most people are aware that you are on the military’s call as far as this stuff goes. You certainly do not have to disclose why you are leaving, but if you are returning to the area and possibly want to have a future with the company, you probably should give them some sort of reason.

    I also agree with what Alison said that the culture of an organization dictates how much notice you get from employees. The organization I am with now, I gave them roughly 5 months’ notice that I was leaving only because I did not fear for my job. No one treated me with contempt that I was going. We are in this location less than a year before moving again. During the transition, we discussed my continuing to work remotely while I’m in my transitory location. Now that we are approaching the end of that, my supervisor has offered to be a reference as I job hunt and it has been a wonderful experience for me.

    That being said, there are other organizations I have only given the minimum two weeks’ notice to because I could not guarantee how they react. Even at my current organization I would have only given 2 weeks’ notice if we received orders with my previous supervisor rather than my current one.

    I want to end on saying that I sympathize with your frustrations. My husband has a service-related disability so we are going through the process of “hurry up and wait” as he discharges and really do not have any sort of timeline on when we will be finally out and moving to where we plan to relocate. It makes job hunting when you don’t really have an exact timeline of when you’ll be settled in a new area rather difficult. Because I know it can be difficult, I just want to say good luck with everything! I wish you well!

    1. Cat S.*

      And I just realized this is an old post. Attention to detail and all that. Still, I hope everything worked out.

  6. GrumpyBoss*

    My last boss was an absolute nutjob. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I started reading the DSM V in my spare time because I needed to have some sort of explanation for his behavior.

    When I finally got out, he wouldn’t accept my “I found an opportunity more inline with my overall career goals”. He kept on saying, “Come on, what’s the real reason?”. I didn’t want to say, “Because you are loonier than a toon!”, which was the driving factor (but certainly not the only one). So I made up a reason that I’m pretty sure I’m going to hell for. I was moving for my new job, so I made up a sick relative that I needed to move and take care of. I really stuck to that story, so I have some old coworkers occasionally contact me to see how the relative is doing. I’m too chicken to admit that I made it up, so I’m wondering if I should now invent a death (just kidding…. I usually ignore the questions).

    Moral of the story – if you can’t tell the boss the truth, stick to your canned, PC response.

    1. Bwmn*

      You are not the only one who’s gone the “sick relative” route. Or in my case embellished an ailment my father already had, but it was much easier than saying “I’m tired of working in a place where you make everyone cry all the time.”

      There was just no PC-quitting to this boss and I do not regret saying that (and neither did my dad, he offered me all sorts of ways I could have really “spruced” up the story and made it worse).

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I love that your Dad was in on it and am even happier to hear that he isn’t actually sick :)

        We do what we have to do when we are in a toxic situation.

        1. Bwmn*

          In the movie that will never be made about my life, it’s not a shining moment. But she was so dreadful, it was the only way I could get through it. At this point I’d been there for 3 years, and the first thing she said when I gave my notice was “I was just getting used to you”.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            I’m sorry, but your boss’s comment made me laugh out loud. Some people, man.

  7. JuniorMinion*

    Wonder what the LW ended up doing…. I would have approached my boss and explained the situation and said I loved my job and was committed to staying with the company however my spouse was on a temporary reassignment for a year two hours away so could I work things out so I say was able to work from home monday and friday and thus split my time with hubby / with job.

    I also would have a come to jesus moment with my significant other if i was getting this frustrated… but i dont know what the LW’s relationship / financial reality is like so I cant really comment but my significant other would be hearing from me something along the lines of “i get a vote”

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Yep. In this case neither spouse gets a vote. It’s not about the relationship struggle, it’s about the situation.

    1. Kirsten*

      Except as a military spouse you don’t get a vote. Ultimately you go where the comman sends you. I suppose she could have elected to stay in her current city while her spouse moved, but that isn’t always feasible or what’s best for the family.

      1. The IT Manager*

        You can also vote whether the military members stays in the military because it is too hard on the trailing spouse’s career and their family.

        Given that LW thought this was their last duty station, her husband is probably close to or already eligiable for retirement.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Just read OP’s response. I know there are some other potential factors, but she says my husband has been in the Army for 25 years so he is eligable for retirement.

          Given that he has been in for 25 and plans to stay until 30 he’s likely fairly high ranking (either officer or enlisted) so he’s getting selected for competive, important jobs, but it sounds like the family has voted that his career is more important than hers and the family being together is more important than her career too.

          1. Melissa*

            He is probably fairly high-ranking if he’s been in for 25 years anyway, but the reason for staying 30 years is likely because you get more retirement pay that way. At 25 years of service you get a little more than 60% of your final pay, but at 30 years it goes up to 75%.

    2. JamieG*

      The Army didn’t give the soldier in question a vote, though. It’s not like LW’s spouse decided to do this on their own (at least, it doesn’t seem likely given the information). When it comes to the military, nobody gets a vote. They just tell you what’s going to happen, and you do it.

    1. KimmieSue*

      Enid – Thanks for posting. I was glad to see my own comments from way back then. AND YES, I still feel the same way. It’s very hard to military spouses to find work because employers don’t want to recruit, hire, train and replace. The spouses & families are sacrificing too.

  8. Ms. Anonymity*

    I was a military spouse for 10 years. We moved several times during that period of our lives. In each new place, I was honest and up front that my husband was in the military and was never discriminated against. It was a non-issue so I don’t quite understand why you would need to lie. I was able to progressively move up in my career gaining more experience and pay with each position I took. I think with the amount of job hopping everyone does these days, it’s really not that abnormal. Just my two cents.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      This isn’t universal, though–there are plenty of employers there who do have issues with military spouses, whether due to one bad apple spoiling the bunch, or thinking they’ll quit on a Tuesday and be gone by Wednesday, or whatever. There are certainly good employers out there whom it won’t bother–but it is a very real issue for many spouses–especially those who aren’t advanced in their careers.

      1. De Minimis*

        She actually didn’t lie [although she did say in the past she had with other jobs.] The husband was 5 years away from retirement and there was a decent chance of them not having to move again, but it didn’t work out that way.

        Lying would be saying you were staying when you knew for a fact that you weren’t. That wasn’t the case here.

    2. Cat S.*

      I am a military spouse. I do not bring up the fact that I’m married (although I wear a ring so it’s not a secret) or even what my husband does in the interview process. Honestly, not many have asked me in the interview process, and if they do, that would make me very iffy on the organization as a whole. A company should not hire based on marital status or what one’s spouse does so why is it even coming up in the interview? Before hired I just sticking to telling them what my husband does FOR the Army. It’s not a lie and frankly it’s not their business to begin with.

      1. Anon*

        Good point. Why would a hiring manager know that the OP’s spouse is in the military? It could naturally come up later, but I don’t see it happening in an interview.

        1. Cat*

          Well, if you’ve moved a lot, and changed jobs every year or so as a result, you might need to offer an explanation for that lest the employer assume you’re an unreliable job hopper.

          1. Ruffingit*

            That and the OP lives in DC where there’s a strong military presence of course so it could be that it comes up just as a topic of general discussion.

  9. Penny*

    Why would she have to quit?? I know TONS of people who work in DC but live in New York, Philly, Baltimore, Charlottesville, or other places a distance away. They generally come to the office once every other week or once a month, but otherwise work remotely. No one should quit outright without asking for these types of accommodations – you never know what arrangements your boss might permit!!

    I know that many work places do not allow teleworking, and it’s not appropriate for all types of roles, but the tide is absolutely shifting.

      1. NavyLT*

        Eh, OP’s comments don’t make me any more sympathetic. I mean, sure, she made her choice, but if her husband was on the verge of retirement (which, why was the Army even sending him to a school if he was that close to retiring?), she should have just stayed where she was if she felt that strongly about keeping her job. Also, honestly, stop-loss wasn’t much of a thing by 2011, so it’s not like his retirement orders would have been in seriously jeopardy.

        But yes, of course if telework is an option, go for it. It’s just that OP specifically comes off as whining about the Army without really trying to make things work. I would probably have a different response if OP’s husband had only been in for a few years, but seriously. It’s the last crappy year before retirement. Deal with it.

        1. De Minimis*

          My cousin is fairly late in his career and has been sent to schools recently. He says it often happens because they will get extra time out of you when they send you to school…I think you have to agree to stay an additional length of time equivalent to the time you spend in school.

          I see this at my work too, with the health service officers.

          1. NavyLT*

            For someone early or mid-career I can see it, but it sounded like OP’s husband was already eligible for retirement. There’s not really much incentive to keep someone on at that point if they want to retire. And if OP’s husband negotiated the school so that he could get follow-on orders back to where he and OP lived at the time, it really ought not to have been a surprise, and they should have figured out a way to deal with it that let OP keep her job if she cared to. I’ve never heard of anyone late in their career getting completely involuntary orders to a school. Generally those are competitive enough that you can decline them (plus, as you get more senior, you tend to get more flexibility in orders, in that you may be at a point where you can just say, well, I don’t like those orders, so I’m going to put in my retirement papers). Not that people never get screwed over, but it kind of seems like that wasn’t the case here. A one year school two hours away with follow on orders right back to where you are? Yeah, not a bad deal.

        2. Saturn9*

          Agreed. The OP’s original letter and her follow-up both seem to translate as “I made a decision. Please validate my decision.”

          She appears completely unwilling to consider any alternate solutions and spends quite a while justifying what she’s done and changing her story (if she didn’t want people to call her out for lying, she shouldn’t have stated she lied in the original letter).

        3. Sarah*

          The OP implied that her husband would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan after this training. I can certainly understand not wanting to live separately from your husband right before a potentially dangerous deployment. I have a hard time finding fault with the OP’s priorities here.

  10. some1*

    I’m lucky that I’ve only ever resigned from jobs for another one, some I never offered any more of an explanation than, “I’ve accepted a position at another organization.”

    1. money lady*

      Where I work , people rarely give the real reason for leaving. It’s always “the commute was too long” or “I’m moving.” No one wants to give the real reason (toxic environment). We do exit interviews but they are a joke. No one in upper management takes them seriously and folks don’t want to burn their bridges so they rarely give the “real answers” to the interview questions.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I worked at a toxic place once and met a woman there who became a friend. Still is these many years later. Anyway, she’s one of the few people I’ve ever known who actually told the truth in her exit interview. She had another job to go to and she flat out let the owner of the place she was leaving know that it was toxic and exactly why. He knew it was, but refused to do anything about it (this was a situation where his wife was allowed to run the company and get away with treating people like crap). Anyway, I’m not saying people should tell the truth because it can burn the bridge, but I did admire her for doing it.

  11. Wonderlander*

    I actually had the exact *opposite* reaction from a prospective employer last summer when I was job hunting. I live in a very military-friendly area (Norfolk, VA) as a rare civilian, with an all-civilian family. When I was applying for paralegal positions last year, one attorney told me during an interview that he ONLY hired military wives, because they come with their own health insurance. He straight told me that he won’t hire civilians because they cost more. It was incredibly rude and felt like a slap in the face. On my next interview with Current Job, I used being a civilian to my advantage by assuring my bosses that I had no plans to leave the area. I think they hired me because the last 3 paralegals in my position had left because of a military move, and they just wanted someone to stick around!

    1. Cat*

      Ok, is that legal? I mean the fact that he’s limiting it on a gender basis, clearly not. But what about basing hiring on marital status?

      1. Wonderlander*

        I have no idea. I’d like to think it’s illegal… but it didnt stop him from asking, and he was pretty blunt about not wanting to spend any additional money on me for healthcare. His loss; I like to think he’s trading a constant hire-and-leave cycle every 3-4 years of those military wives for not having to pay for health insurance. Sounds like bad business sense to me. Plus, the firm I work for now pays 100% of my health care :D

        1. Melissa*

          Plus, he’s only thinking small-picture here. I used to be a military spouse and so I wish employers wouldn’t discriminate against them at all, but having to do a new job search every 3-4 years is probably quite expensive and stressful for an employer – especially if the position is an essential one. Seems to be it would be more financially worth it to shell out for the healthcare and have a stable employee, if that was the main concern.

  12. LAI*

    This isn’t specific to military spouses but it might help if employers were up-front about their expectations rather than expecting job candidates to disclose information that might harm their candidacy (sort of like employers asking what salary you are looking for, but refusing to tell you the range that they are offering). Not that this would solve all problems, but it might help. At my last job, I accepted the position in order to relocate to be closer to family but I knew that the job wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and that I would probably only stay in it for a year or two at the most. I felt a little bad about this – I never lied, but I never volunteered the information either. If they had told me before I accepted the position that they were expecting a longer commitment than I was willing to make, I would have said no and kept looking.

    At the new job I just started, they made it clear during the interviews that they were expecting at least a 2-3 year commitment. I accepted the job with that knowledge, and I was ready to make that commitment even if I didn’t love it – but I do! This doesn’t mean that I can’t quit if some unexpected emergency situation comes up, but at least I know that we’re all on the same page and no one feels deceived.

    1. KellyK*

      Yeah, I definitely agree with that. A year and a half is a short stint, but certainly not so short that it’s reasonable for an employer to feel betrayed, unless they specified they needed a long-term commitment.

  13. MaryMary*

    To me, OP’s situation was a little unique, but particularly for those who work at larger companies, I would urge you to be candid about the reason you’re leaving a job. When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, they did track why employees left, and one of senior leadership’s performance metrics was attrition. “Uncontrollable” attrition did not count against them, as well as termination for poor performance or cause. Uncontrollable included things like spouse/family moved, leaving to take care of family full time, leaving for health reasons, leaving to go back to school, career change, etc. Controllable attrition was people leaving for more money, better opportunities/advancement, better work-life balance, or because due to work environment (which I think was code for crazy manager or coworkers). Obviously, this wasn’t a perfect system. It was still subjective, for example, there could be a fine line between quitting for a career change and a better opportunity. And all of this was done electronically, so of course it’s easier to check a box than to tell your manager you’re leaving because he’s loony. But after a significant number of people left in a matter of months for better paying jobs, the company did a market study and many of us received significant raises. Some companies do track and pay attention to attrition.

  14. NavyLT*

    Well, in this specific scenario, OP and her husband should have either moved somewhere halfway between his school and her job, or else he should have moved to where his school was and been a geographical bachelor for a year, if he and OP were that concerned about it. Sure, it’s not ideal, but if the husband had follow on orders to the same place, seriously, you can’t mame some arrangment work for a year? It’s like a deployment, only he’s not downrange. Zero sympathy for OP.

    1. Mints*

      Wouldn’t it have made more sense if the family had stayed in the area and the husband had commuted? The wife and son stay in the same job and school, and the husband commutes two hours. He could even do a weekend commute and sleep in bunks M-Th. (I don’t know anything about the military, but that’s possible, right?) That seems cheaper too. Moving twice in a year seems really disruptive when I feel like it wasn’t totally necessary

      (I feel bad for military spouses and veterans in general, but this situation looks like it was more flexible than usual)

      1. NavyLT*

        Yep, absolutely. And you’re right, this was an incredibly flexible situation. Also, keep in mind that someone on the verge of retirement from the military is earning plenty of money. They could absolutely have found a way to make this work.

        1. De Minimis*

          It did look like there were at least a couple of parts of it where they just didn’t want to try to make it work….husband didn’t want to live off base, the wife didn’t want to commute, and they didn’t want to live even a short distance apart. I’ve lived apart from my spouse for work for long periods and for very long distances, and only being an hour or so away does not seem like that big a deal to me–especially if it was just going to be for a year.

          What bugged me was the whole self-righteous “But she lied!” thing that kept coming up, when she actually didn’t.

          1. Saturn9*

            She brought that on herself by saying she “fibbed” to get the job [scare-quotes in original text]. Words mean things and people crucified her for using imprecise language (as is the way of the internet).

          2. Melissa*

            Some people can do it, and some people can’t or simply don’t want to. I lived apart from my spouse for several years when he was stationed in NJ and I was attending grad school in NYC – we planned to move halfway between once I went ABD but then he separated and moved to NYC. Now we’ll be living apart for 2 years while I do a postdoc and he finishes his degree here.

            But some people are unwilling to live apart from their spouse for any period of time – and you know what, that’s totally fine and I think it’s kind of bizarre that people are judging her for it. She decided that she’d rather leave her job than try to make a stressful telecommuting arrangement, part-time. So what? They decided, as a family, that her husband’s job is the priority at least for now. So what? Being an hour away doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it is to some people. Living apart from a military spouse can also be more stressful than living apart from a non-military spouse, because all your plans to get together for the weekend or use a well-deserved break can be dashed if he doesn’t get his leave approved or gets sent on a last-minute TDY. Living off-base means finding sometimes expensive accommodations for a year/doing an apartment/house hunt when you could just move into base housing easy, and there are some perks for living on base, too. And driving 3 hours in traffic is something I would also be unwilling to do.

            I don’t think there’s anything wrong with deciding upfront that there are certain things you are not willing to do and sticking to those things. In fact, I think it’s admirable to know upfront. Who knows, maybe she had disastrous experiences with commuting long distances before. And given that it sounded like her husband had been deployed a lot in the last few years before her post, I absolutely don’t blame her for wanting a year of normalcy.

    2. Melissa*

      She explained why she didn’t want/couldn’t move halfway in the original post. As a former military spouse myself, I am very sympathetic to wanting some normal family time before your spouse is deployed.

  15. JC*

    I’m assuming the OP from a few years ago isn’t going to be reading this, but I want to say that I feel for all of the military spouses who have posted here and I thank you for making so many sacrifices in your life. Military life was very foreign to me for most of my life, but now I have a sister-in-law who is a military wife and I see how hard it’s been for her. She’s done all kinds of things to figure out the intersection of her work and her life with her husband, including having a 2-hour commute while living near base, living halfway between base and the city where she worked, living in a different state than her husband during the week, and being grossly underemployed while living in a remote town where the military was the only game nearby. I think she managed a brief stint of having a job she liked in the same town as the base, but then that was interrupted by having to move to a new base. I don’t really understand why the military (or any organization) thinks it is beneficial for them to move people around constantly in this day and age where both spouses usually want and need to work, but that is another issue.

  16. Betsy*

    I don’t know why so many people seem to think the OP had such a strong obligation to make it work, even at the expense of her happiness, her family’s comfort, the amount of time she got to see her child, or whatever else.

    Yeah, she could have decided to only see her husband three days a week. There is a zero-percent chance I would EVER make that choice, no matter how much I loved a job, or what promises I had to make to get it.

    Honestly, if I told had told a company, “Yes, I will make a 3-year-commitment” and then a year and a half later someone offered me a 50% raise and phenomenal benefits in a job that would make me happier and help grow my career, I would take that job, and that’s a much more ethically murky ground than the OP was here.

    Maybe I’m an unethical person? I don’t know, but the reality of the world is that circumstances change, and you aren’t somehow failing as a human being if you decide some sacrifices are too big to make in the interest of “keeping your word.”

    1. NavyLT*

      Because her whole question was about how to quit without burning too many bridges, given that she had thought they’d be there for the long term. From what she posted, it looks like she wanted to have it both ways–quit so shecould be with her family, but not have any repercussions with her employer. Yes, it would have sucked for a year, but enough people have made it work that she could have, too. I’m not making a value judgement on the choice she did eventually make, but she didn’t try very hard to make things work out with a job she said she enjoyed.

      1. Melissa*

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to leave on good terms with an employer and also quit so you can be with your family. The point is, she simply did not want to have it ‘suck’ for a year, and that’s a valid decision. Some people are willing to bend over backwards to make a job work and others are not.

  17. OP*

    Guess what! It’s the OP! I’m not sure what to feel/say/think about this situation … nothing like getting “beat up” all over again for something that happened three years ago. ;) I’m happy to update everyone and explain a few things, so here goes:

    I left the job in June 2011 and we moved two hours north (a full 3-1/2 hours in rush hour traffic … I know, because I made the trip in rush hour a few times along the I-270 corridor, returning home from visiting family in DC). Staying in the job, no matter how much I loved it, was really never an option. My husband is career military and his career comes first. You are welcome to agree or disagree with this line of thought, but that is how our marriage works. Commuting was simply not an option for either of us in this situation. I needed to be immediately available for our son (and not two hours away), should he get sick at school. My husband needed to be near his assignment, due to frequent after-hour commitments. As a family, we did not want to be apart anymore than necessary, especially since my husband returned from a 15 month deployment immediately preceding our posting in DC and again immediately following our one-year posting north of DC. I “elect to stay in my marriage” because I love my husband. We absolutely found a “way to make it work” and we moved together away from DC, because for us, it was necessary to be together. As far as “being on the verge of retirement” we truly thought we were … but the Army decided it had other plans for us, breathing new life into my husband’s career, and off we went. And you know what? I “dealt with it” just fine. And no, being a geo-bachelor is not the same as deployment. It’s so easy for everyone to simply suggest that we just “live apart” for a year so I could keep a job, but we endure enough separation as it is, with deployments and TDY (temporary duty) assignments, so we choose to stay together whenever we can. And in the end, it would not have been “some arrangement for a year” because he immediately deployed to Afghanistan following the year-long assignment. As far as being cost effective (or moving twice in a year being disruptive), because my husband was moving assignments with orders, the Army takes care of the relocation. It isn’t always about me; it’s about us. I elect to be a following spouse because that is my choice. Does that mean that because of my choice, I’m not allowed to whine about quitting yet another job? Probably. But after (now) 22 years of marriage, leaving a fantastic job is just tough, and frankly, continually leaving jobs (for a reason like mine) can simply wear a person down, and my original post came from that place. For those of you who might have missed it, my husband deployed back to Afghanistan 11 months after we relocated two hours north of DC. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary via Skype and frankly, it was great … we spent 45 minutes telling stories and recounting each house, each unit and each state we’d spent the last 20 years in. Best Skype call ever. After serious consideration, I elected to stay in our home (two hours north) and not return to DC during the deployment, mostly for the benefit of our son (who had attended 6th grade in GA, 7th grade in VA and 8th grade in PA; I elected to keep him in the same school system in the same state so that he could move to the 9th grade with the same kids), as well as for the benefit of remaining in a military community so that if the worst should happen and my husband did not return from Afghanistan, I would be living in a close-knit, insulated military community and I would be well taken care of in the initial weeks/months following any sort of tragedy. (This second reason was actually brought up by my husband. He was deploying and wanted me “looked after” if the worst happened.) Although there are plenty of military personnel in the DC area, they are spread out and I would not have been part of a formal “unit” had I returned with my son to DC while my husband deployed. Thankfully, my husband returned safely in July 2013 and we moved to our next assignment (not in DC). Oh, and I have not quit any additional jobs since 2011, since you asked. I told the truth, as I knew it, when I interviewed for the job. We thought we were home to stay, but the Army had other plans. I was able to visit with my former boss (of the original job in question) in June 2013; it was a lovely visit and she wished me well, just as my husband was returning from Afghanistan and as we were getting ready to move yet again (but not back to DC). And right or wrong, in every interview since 1992, I have been asked point-blank, “Is your husband in the Army” and “how long do you plan to stay in the area.”

    I also want to thank all the military spouses who responded here, as they understand this roller coaster life and the sacrifices that we make on behalf of our spouses, our families and this lifestyle. Cat, I hope everything works out for you and your husband, and thank you for his service, as well as yours.

    In the end, it’s all good. I love this life. We celebrate 22 years of marriage in 2014. I wouldn’t change a thing. Every state, every country, every house, every job and every assignment has been an adventure. What an amazing, privileged life I have led. Come 2016, this part of our life will come to an end, my husband will retire after 30 years, we will settle in DC and I will go back to work. I’ll miss this life and all it’s challenges, the frustrations, the headaches, and all the crazy moves. (But because it is my life, I’m allowed to praise it the same way I’m allowed to “dis” it). I’m incredibly excited about returning to DC and returning to work. It will be awesome! Thank you!

    1. Cat S.*

      Thank you for updating us. I’m truly glad to hear your husband returned home safely. I, too, would not want to have broken up my family immediately following and prior to deployments, and I think you and your husband were right to surround your family in a support network should the worst have happened.

      It’s totally okay to vent. I understood you were coming from a place of frustration. Even though we are happy with our choices, there are definitely times we vent about the army. People have good days and bad days. I love my job, too, and I definitely have days where I feel the need to vent about situations that arose.

      Thank you for your husband, your family’s and your service. Congrats on your husbands soon-to-be retirement! I have the best wishes for you and your family!

    2. NavyLT*

      OP, glad to hear that things worked out for you. It’s always easy for someone like me to say “stranger on the internet should do X,” but of course there’s always more that goes into it, and the choices I would make aren’t necessarily the choices someone else would make.

    3. BRR*

      Thank you for the update and I admire the strength you possess being a military spouse and all that involves.

    4. Diet Coke Addict*

      Thanks for coming back to update everyone and being such a good sport about the responses. I wouldn’t choose to be separated from my husband, either–it’s a choice we make, but if I hear one more person say “you knew what you were getting into,” I’ll be forced to roll my eyes directly at them. As a military wife from your neighbours to the north, congratulations to your husband on his upcoming retirement, and may you have many stable years ahead of you!

    5. Sigh*

      I’m sorry you had to go through all the same judgments again. All you originally asked was whether you’re required to give a reason for quitting, not whether you should quit or not or commute two hours or not or get divorced or not. (That last one, I mean, wow, internet). I’m glad to hear everything worked out for your family; it sounds like a close one. :)

    6. Callie*

      I’m glad your husband made it back safely from Afghanistan. And I don’t blame you one bit for choosing your family/spouse over that job! My husband is not military but for a couple of years he worked an hour away from where we lived and his hours were basically the opposite of mine and I was miserable all the time and the few times we were actually home together all we did was fight.

    7. Cucumber*

      From me and my ex-swabbie, just want to say congratulations on his pending retirement and your anniversary this year. You both have many more adventures ahead. Enjoy.

    8. Bonnie Doon*

      Thanks so much for the update OP, and I’m really glad everything is going great. I hope you and Diet Coke Addict didn’t take my below comment as one that was “beating up”, regarding living separately for the year so you could continue at the job. The question came from curiosity, as that was the choice my family made (and it’s a choice that sucks either way, so there is no right answer!). Also FWIW I don’t think you fibbed – you were honest to the best of your ability, that you expected to be there for awhile. Things change and you can’t predict that.

      I hate the responses that “you knew what you got into”. My mother has had that thrown at her in their 32 years of marriage many times by people who don’t understand.
      At the end of the day, nothing in life is perfect, and so everything you choose will have good and bad. You are perfectly entitled to find parts of your chosen life frustrating, without that meaning your life choice was wrong!

      My dad is a career military as well (in the navy 17 to 55) who has been technically “retired” for 2 years now, but still seems to be working full time! His passion for the military life comes from a deep desire to protect his family and loved ones, and I love him for it.

      Like you OP (but from the child’s perspective), I wouldn’t change my childhood for ANYTHING, but that doesn’t mean it was absolutely perfect and I can’t be frustrated about certain aspects!

      In my experience, military life is particularly polarising, with both huge downsides (9 elementary schools around the world, 3 high schools, no nearby family and an often absent father, watching my mother’s frustration over her own struggle to establish a career and friendships, but also the lack of recognition for the sacrifices SHE makes as part of military life);

      balanced by huge upsides (a third ‘family’ of navy ‘aunts uncles and cousins’ who I love more than anything, living in some amazing places, having good friends around the world, having parents who taught me what’s it’s like to have passion for their career, well practised ability to deal with change and get along with all types of people, empathy for immigrants who have to uproot and fit in to a new culture/language/community which has led to my own passionate career, etc etc etc).

      I’m sorry this comment is so long and all over the place, but I have a strong emotional response to military life!

      1. Melissa*

        “I hate the responses that “you knew what you got into”. My mother has had that thrown at her in their 32 years of marriage many times by people who don’t understand.”

        The other thing is – it’s not true. I mean, cognitively you know that your spouse is going to be gone sometimes, but realistically and emotionally you really DON’T know what you are getting into. When my husband enlisted we had no idea where he’d be stationed or what plane he’d be working on because they don’t tell you that. We got lucky and he got stationed nearby where I was doing graduate school, but equally likely was a base on the opposite coast. And a few months in he was doing so well that he got offered a position with very frequent temporary duty assignments. “Temporary” in the military can mean a couple of days to a couple of months. I mean, you know that there will be some uncertainty, but I don’t think anyone is 100% prepared for what being a military spouse/partner is really like. There’s a lot of pride and happiness but also a lot of loneliness. And a lot of Skype.

        It’s wonderful to know that you wouldn’t change anything about your childhood, though. My husband is separated now, but when he was still in the service among the many things I worried about was the impact the military lifestyle would have on our hypothetical children. Most military kids I’ve met have been well-adjusted little people, though, heh.

    9. Melissa*

      Thanks for coming back to update and thanks for your family’s service. I totally understand and sympathize with you about putting your husband’s career first – when you’re military you really have no other choice, honestly, and a lot of people don’t understand – another reason the support of a military community is great. Also, you made great points about having no way of knowing that it would be “only a year” (and it turned out to be more). Hope you and your family continue to do well!

  18. MK*

    Several observations:

    1. A person chooses to enter the military. Their spouse chooses to marry someone in the military (or they choose it together). This choise, like all career choises, has both advantages and disadvantages. One major disadvantage is that the family has to live where the army tells them to and that they will be moved at the army’s discretion. This is a well-known fact that the family should have considered and accepted before the career choise was made. So, no, I don’t agree that military spouses should get a “pass” on this to the extent that it’s ok to lie to their employers.

    2. That being said, I am not saying that a military spouse has an obligation to point out to their (prospective) employer that their plans are subject to the army’s discretion. After all, anytime a candidate is asked “do you plan to stay in this job for at least X years”, every reasonable person concerned realises that the answer comes with an implied “in the normal course of events” attached. Just don’t lie or make promises you don’t know if you will be able to keep.

    3. What bothers me about most of the responses is that they put the onus on the employer on this. The problem belongs to the military spouse and their family and (maybe) the military and they are the ones who should find an ethical solution, Especially since this is not some unreasoning prejudice on the employers’ part: having people quit after a short time on the job can be seriously disruptive; they are not evil for wanting to hire someone who, God willing and weather permitting, will stay for a couple of years.

    4. The OP’s original letter gave the impression (at least to me) that this is something of a pattern for her: “fibbing” about how long she will stay with the company to get the job and then resenting the way she is being treated during her notice by the people she misled. She also seemed to ascribe this bad behavior on the employers’ part on the fact that she gave notice, while it would be a reasonable assumption that it was, partly at least, because they felt lied to. It appears this is not actually the case, at least for this last job, and that the OP assured their boss that she would stay in good faith. However, even so, I think a certain reserve on the employers’ part is human and only to be expected and the OP (who, after all, got the job for as long as she wanted it and can now leave without consequences) should just deal with it. Also, I have to say I find her attitude about this over-dramatic, since this “bad” behavior of her employers’ seems to consist of basically sidelining her during her notice period. Isn’t that to some degree normal? Of course you and your work wouldn’t be the focus of your employers’ attention at this time, they are busy trying to deal with your departure.

    5. I feel that all this may be a bit off topic, since the original question was whether you can quit without explaining why. I must differ from Alison: not giving a reason wouldn’t just make you seem chilly. Certainly you can resign without giving a reason and, if your boss doesn’t ask the reason, great. But in almost all cases ‘”I resign” will be met with “You quitting? But why?”; it’s almost automatic. In which case you can’t just stare mutely at your boos, you have to say something. Invoking your right to silence will either make you seem like a loon or make the boss suspect some deep dark reason for your resignation, so you sort have to give a reason, however vague. I think it’s one of those situations that, while something is theoretically not compulsory, in practice it’s almost impossible to get out of.

    1. OP*

      MK, did you read my update? Are you now or have you ever been a military spouse? Have you lived in two countries, nine states and 11 houses in 22 years? Have you, despite your husband’s career, managed to hold down 7 different jobs in 22 years? Have you ever been asked during an interview, “Is your husband in the Army” and “How long will you be staying here?” Continuously enduring those interview questions over and over, and continuously having to quit jobs over and over becomes tiring, but I fully accept that. One look at my resume, with jobs held on or near military posts, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (prospective employer) to figure out that I’m a military spouse, so “disclosing” that little piece of information is moot. I don’t have to “disclose it” because it’s all over my resume. Employer: “Are you a military spouse.” Me: “Yes.” Employer: “How long do you plan to stay in the area.” Me: “I honestly have no idea how long we will stay in the area, as my time here is subject to any orders that the Army gives my husband.” Employer: “Thank you very much for your time … we won’t be calling you back.” OR Me: “To the best of my knowledge, we will be in the area for two to three years.” Employer: “I can live with that, so let’s talk about your qualifications.” Did I just lie? Yup! Because I seriously have. no. clue. how long I will be in any one place, but the average assignment for my husband lasts two to three years. In the meantime, I will say it once more: I thought we had come to DC to finish out his career and retire, so I thought we were staying, and I told my employer that to the best of my knowledge, even though there was always the chance that I might not be telling the truth. We had no clue that my husband would be selected for another assignment and we would move on, just 18 months later. My original letter came from a place of frustration. Twenty-two years ago I not only considered the fact that I was marrying a career military man, but I fully accepted it. Despite that, this life is still challenging. I “deal with it” just fine. And I am not perfect.

      1. Saturn9*

        I get it now. You’re overly ethical.

        Listen: Saying “To the best of my knowledge, we will be in the area for two to three years,” isn’t made a lie if there’s a *chance* you will be leaving sooner than that. It’s only made a lie if *you don’t actually believe, to the best of your knowledge, that you will be in the area for two to three years.*

        Most people can’t guarantee anything for certain. That isn’t a flaw, that’s the human condition.

      2. MK*

        No, OP, I am not a military spouse. I am, however, working for the goverment of my country in a position that requires cumpulsory transfers every two years and you can be asked to go to the other side of the country on a few weeks notice for months, if the work demands it. My colleagues and I are familiar with this problem, but we realise it’s OUR problem to solve, not anyyone else’s.

        Your employers are not miltary spouses either. That is a choise YOU made for YOUR life and the resulting disadvantages are YOUR problem, not theirs. I don’t blame you for not pointing out to prospective employers that, being a military spouse, you can never be sure how long you stay. I do blame you for the entitlement you project, both in your original letter and now. You are not treating this (both the difficulty to get jobs and the manner you leave them) as an unfortunate consequence of your husband’s career, but as “bad” behavior on your employers’ part.

        I am sure living in “two countries, nine states and 11 houses in 22 years” was very difficult. I am also sure that your husband’s carreer must have meant some serious advantages for your family for your to go through this. I sympathise with you on the prejudice you have encountered as a job-seeker/military spouse. I also sympathise with your employers for the disruption your leaning might have caused in their work. Have you considered that those who didn’t want to hire you had this attitude because they had been left in the lurch by military spouses before? Or that your own employers may now refuse to hire military spouses at all?

        1. Melissa*

          I am genuinely baffled at this point…I don’t see how the OP is projecting any entitlement. All she asked in the original letter was whether she needed to tell her employer the reason she was leaving. She did use some imprecise language (fib) when really all she was telling her employers is that to the best of her knowledge, she would be in the area for the next 2-3 years. That’s all anyone can really say, honestly.

          “Have you considered that those who didn’t want to hire you had this attitude because they had been left in the lurch by military spouses before? Or that your own employers may now refuse to hire military spouses at all?”

          That is due to their OWN prejudices, and in this case is very much the employer’s fault. Anyone can leave in less time than expected for any reason at all – family illness, spousal career offer in a better place (military or not) or frankly just a better job offer in another town – or even the same town. It’s just like she said – it’s also not appropriate for an employer to ask you “Are you planning to get pregnant and go on maternity leave in the next 5 years?”

          I mean, what if they were left in the lurch by a person who wears hats? Should they also feel wary about hiring other people who wear hats? Some military spouses are more willing to telecommute than others; some military jobs are more stable than others (I know some career military who spent 8-10+ years in the same place), and some higher-ranking military have more control over where they are sent. Assuming that one military spouse is going to behave just another one you happened to meet before is silly.

  19. Editor*

    To people commenting that all those moves are to be expected and the OP at the time should have just sucked it up, I have to say that — having had to move because my husband was transferred in a civilian job — moving is not easy and the prospect of moving can trigger all kinds of unhappy emotions. In my family’s case, my husband earned three-quarters of the family income, so when he was told to transfer or become unemployed, we didn’t feel we had many choices other than to move. Unfortunately, he ended up earning pretty much all of the income for several years because I couldn’t find employment where we’d moved, both because the job market was so limited and different, and because he was working so many hours I had to be available for every family emergency — we were five and fifteen hours away from our former support networks.

    I once asked a Methodist minister’s wife about her upcoming move — her husband was being assigned to a larger, more prestigious church in a city I would have liked to live in. I should have known better, given my emotions about being transferred — she almost burst into tears in front of me and I felt pretty small about asking. She found it unbearably painful to make friends, become close, and then leave the newest close friends again and again.

    We moved several times. I’ve never recaptured the community and network of friends we had in the place we lived after graduation. So I can understand why anyone who moves can get emotional — it can be a huge upheaval, and it seems like many people are judgmental about people who won’t move to get a better job or endure long commutes. I’ve done involuntary moves, voluntary moves, and long commutes. And there are times when I am unbearably jealous of my sister-in-law, who lives contentedly in the same home (with additions and renovations) she and her husband bought about two years into their marriage and are retiring into with substantial pensions because they were fortunate enough to live in an area where jobs continued to be offered and the cost of living was reasonable — not having to move saved them a lot of money, and they have lifelong friendships that are local and provided help through some tough times. Their kids have been able to stay in the region and find jobs, so they can all get together easily.

    TL;DR: When I was young, I thought people were crazy not to move for a better job. Now that I’m in my 60s, I wish I had been able to live near family members in one place where I made friends for life who didn’t have to become long-distance friends.

    1. MK*

      I think there is a difference between having to move for work due to circustances and choosing a career in which frequent moves are to be expected. Some people are “unlucky” in that, while their chosen profession could well allow them to stay in one place their whole career with their family, other circumstances (money, unemployment, etc.) compel them to move a lot, commute or have long-distance relationships. But the people who choose a career that they know as a fact will require them to move all the time need to come to terms with this aspect of their lives early on. I have a similar lifestyle and I think I would have been driven insane if I allowedf myself to view every move as an unpleasant (which might or might not have been) surprise (which it shouldn’t have been).

      1. Melissa*

        Coming to terms with it doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t get frustrated when a new move happens. I feel like people are expecting the OP to be like “Yay, another move!” She may cognitively understand that this is all part and parcel of being a military wife while still being frustrated that it’s happening to her, because humans are complex beings with lots of emotions.

        Knowing that you are going to move often also doesn’t mean moves less of a surprise when they happen. And in the military they often are (“we know we said you were going to be stationed here for 4 years, but surprise, it’s 18 months in and we want to send you somewhere else.”)

  20. Lee*

    OP, I was a navy spouse in Australia for 3 years. Plans changed ALL THE TIME. Aside from my parents, pretty much none of my other friends or family truly seemed to understand what it was like. I’d talk about the lack of consistency in deployments or relocations and the response seemed like they thought I was exaggerating (surely things like that don’t happen/plans don’t change that much- yep, they do). Being in a military family is tough, and it’s a beast that others outside of it can never truly understand. I guess there are many occupations, situations, etc that outsiders can’t understand, but that’s not really what we’re talking about right now! I sympathise OP. Congratulations on your husbands upcoming retirement!

  21. Andrew*

    I have to wonder if there are any laws protecting military spouses from employment discrimination. I know there are laws that protect reservists from employment discrimination(employers can’t refuse to hire them b/c they might get called to duty, for example). There might be something similar for military spouses, but I don’t really know.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hate to say we need more laws, but it seems there ought to be some protection for military spouses. Sadly, we have to legislate common sense.
      These are the families of the people who are protecting our homes and our businesses.
      What I see here is we, as a country, are failing these folks on a regular basis. That is why people feel they have to lie/fib to get a job.

      I would argue that business owes something to a society that allows the business to operate and flourish. It is nice to think that we all live in a vacuum separate from each other but that simply is not true. We are all interwoven and interdependent. It’s nice to say “I pay taxes, so I am good here.” No. It’s just not that straightforward.

      I have seen our fighter planes patrolling the Susquehanna. I have had family members call me with the counts of the number of military airplanes headed to DC today.
      Yeah, we do owe something to these folks. And really, what they are asking of us is very simple in comparison to what they are giving. She is just asking for a job. That’s it. Her husband is willing to give his life for us. And we (the collective “we”) are not willing to give her a job because it is “inconvenient” for us.

      I see the “suck it down” arguments. And I will agree much of life comes under the heading of “suck it down”. That does not relieve any of us of our responsibility to lighten someone else’s load when we can. And once we open the door of “suck it down” what prevents us from putting everything that happens in life under that heading?

      I am embarrassed for our country.

      OP, hopefully, your post and it’s replay here will cause a few people to rethink what they are doing. And in turn, these few people will influence others. I find the collective lack of respect from employers appalling. It is time we confront that and make changes. Thank you for bringing this topic forward.

  22. soitgoes*

    I wonder why she didn’t just keep the job and deal with the commute for the year or so, since she expected to move back to that city eventually anyway. Two-hour commutes suck, but they’re somewhat normal in the NYC/LA areas (just as a reference point), and they’re manageable if you know that it’s only temporary.

    1. Melissa*

      She explained this both in the original post and in her comment upthread a bit. It would’ve been a 3.5 hour commute with traffic. And it turned out that it wouldn’t have been just a year – her husband ended up being deployed to Afghanistan immediately after his year of training. She wanted to be close to a military community for support (which I understand, too. Lots of things are done on base to help out spouses, especially people whose spouses are deployed).

  23. anon-2*

    I don’t think “my husband’s being transferred” is a bad reason, it’s a good one.

    Usually when I’ve resigned from positions, it’s just been “moving on to do something I want to do”… the only times I did something different were

    a) a major salary dispute, in which I indicated it COULD have been fixed, but wasn’t — my motivation for that was to assist a few others in the same position (it did)


    b) I was passed over for political reasons – a director did not like me, told me so, she was appointing one of her friends. I left — so did the manager, I would have been working for, shortly after I did.

    By the way, the director in b) was bounced out of that company several months later. I went on to continue my computer career, the manager did as well, and the director found a wonderful fall-back career as an LPN. She is now emptying bedpans somewhere.

  24. Bonnie Doon*

    As a child of a military family, I’m sympathetic to the plight of frequent relocations, and how often they can come unexpectedly.

    But I’m not sure why it’s the spouse can’t stay at her current job in this case – it’s only 2-3 hours away and only for a year. At the very least, they could agree to go for a year, and reconsider if circumstances change (eg longer than a year). My parents did this when my brother and I were teens, because continuity in schooling became the priority. It’s really hard, but after awhile, trailing a spouse every 6 months becomes harder.
    I would love to hear an update to this one!

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      This post is from three years ago, and the OP updated everyone further upthread.

  25. ABC*

    People need to give this woman a break! 1) We all say things to get a job when we need to work and feed ourselves and 2) The perception of ‘job-hopping’ and longevity=good needs to go away. The millennials are *thankfully* starting to change this, but we all move on, no job is permanent. There are commentors who need to get off of their high horses!

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