update: how can I convince my girlfriend to get a better job?

Remember the letter-writer earlier this year asking how to convince her girlfriend to get a better job, because of the joint financial plans they were making together? Here’s the update.

Whoa! Re-reading that was a trip. I had forgotten about all the frustration and fear I felt when I was writing that letter. I definitely wish I had phrased things differently (“which we both agree is much more customer service oriented than she would like in a position”? yikes). But I appreciate the time that you and all the comment section took to answer my core question that was hidden among the fear: how do you negotiate with a partner about work and money?

I’m sure to no one’s surprise, she’s in the same job! She’s working on the certification which would move her to a better paying work from home gig at her own pace, and I’ve made my peace with that. It’s her life, and her career, no matter how closely intertwined we are. I tune out a little more when she complains about her work, and sometimes we work alongside each other in the evenings on my grad school homework and her certification.

What really solved the problem was I got a stipend that covered my portion of the rent! I was laid off from the job I wrote about in the letter, but the stipend made it possible for me to pay rent, get my feet under me in grad school enough to find a great work-study gig. Things are tight, but it’s not dire. I can’t, and shouldn’t control her, but I can control how hard I work and reap the rewards from there. I am capable of pulling my financial weight in the relationship, and I don’t need to pressure her to pull more than her full share.

What I learned is that no matter how much you love someone and want good things for them, you can’t force someone to move through a career at your pace. I’m a high strung go-getter, she’s a mellow communist nerd, and we balance each other out.

Also, I loved the folks who cast this in a male-female dynamic! We’re both lesbians, but it sort of helped me see how controlling I was being.

Thanks a million for the advice! You (and the comment section!) helped me when I was so scared, and I appreciate that so much!

{ 79 comments… read them below }

            1. Jaguar*

              Oh, come on. There was no implication – the joke was phrased that way because it wouldn’t work otherwise. I’m kind of bewildered by the accusations of erasure here.

              1. anonymoushiker*

                I’m not sure how you think it wouldn’t work. Bi people also like people of the same sex? Probably misreading what you’re saying, but your original comment did come off as pretty erasing.

              2. a*

                Ok yes the joke’s phrasing is more concise that way, but it definitely does have implications. The implication is that if two women are in a relationship, then they both must be lesbians. The joke is actually built on that implication (which is why, as you say, the joke wouldn’t work otherwise).

                Not that it’s the worst thing in the world ever. The comments you’re responding to are full of bi people who still laughed.

                1. sstabeler*

                  I don’t think it actually matters what label you attach, actually. lesbian is fair shorthand for “attracted to other women” in a similar sense to how gay can be used as a reference to “attracted to other men” regardless of the actual sexuality.

      1. Roz*

        Nice catch! Bi erasure sucks (as a bi woman married to a man, it’s just a fact of my life at the moment)

        1. Canadian Dot*

          “But what does it matter?! You’re a woman, married to a man, and you plan on being married to him for the rest of your life. It doesn’t MATTER that you’re bi!” Uggggghhhh… Thanks, world!

          1. Required Name*

            As another bi woman in a long term relationship with a man, this attitude is everywhere. I try to remind people that I’m bi when it comes up (because bi erasure is real), but the ‘why does it matter if you’re with a guy’ thing is so prevalent that it’s almost ingrained, even in me.

          2. Whippers.*

            Ok, I know this is going to come off as ignorant, but it’s not intended to be and I am genuinely interested in the answer.

            Why does it matter that you are bi when you’re married? I mean obviously it matters to you but why does it matter if other people recognise it or not? Is it something that comes up a lot in your day to day life, or affects you a lot? I just can’t imagine that it comes up a lot if you’re not actively looking for a partner.

            Again, I’m not trying to be offensive; I’m just trying to understand something I have no experience of.

            1. halpful*

              I’m guessing here:
              First, because it happens a lot, and bi people in general get shit from all sides, so it reinforces that BS. Even if married-bi-person isn’t *personally* suffering from it, they probably want to stand up for all the other bi people struggling to be accepted.
              Second, because it can really hurt to have your identity invalidated or dismissed. I’m reminded of when my otherwise-wonderful husband was making fun of my mild phobias and trying to logic me out of them; the hurtful part wasn’t about whether his statements were accurate, it was about him steamrolling over my feelings and trying to “fix” me, which made me feel broken and stupid. It was only after I’d found a way to get him to see he was hurting me that I realised just how much it had hurt.

              … and I just realised that while he’s learnt a lot since then, there’s one he may not have learnt… and it’s not in the original foot-stepping quote either: “if you don’t understand why I want you to get off my foot, *first* get off my foot and *then* you can ask why”. I’m not sure I’ve fully internalised that one myself, either. :/

            2. Ashton*

              It hurts when people erase a huge portion of your identity. The relationships you had are now considered moot because you’re in a “straight” relationship or a gay one for that matter. You don’t stop being bisexual when you date/marry somebody. You still are, and it’s nice to have recognition of that. That your identity matters, and your experience matters.

              1. Whippers.*

                But, why does it matter what the outside world thinks of your identity? If you’re not being discriminated against and are able to live your life as you see fit, what does it matter what people you don’t know think about it?

                1. Hrovitnir*

                  (This is not to pile on Jaguar, but to engage with the discussion of bi erasure in general.)

                  (a) It matters what family and friends think of you, because they are people you want to share your whole self with and it feels very unpleasant for people to rewrite who you are as a person in their head for convenience – this comes up more than you would think with conversations about relationships etc where people blithely talk as though you’re straight/there’s no one queer in the room (and I’m not even talking bigotry here). It’s like any part of your identity, it feels gross for people you care about to erase it.

                  (b) It matters that the outside world acknowledge bi (and pan) people because the predominant approach is to view people as defined by the relationship they’re in, and that feeds a reality in which it’s very easy to dehumanise us. Bi women are called straight but “adventurous” by straight people and seen as untrustworthy by lesbians, bi men are called gay by straight people and seen as untrustworthy by gay men.

                  (c) Being “free to live your life as you see fit” is not necessarily a given here, and at the least feeling invisible in society isn’t really the ideal situation for most people.

                  TL;DR: It matters both as a part of your personal experience where you want to be free to be seen as you in all aspects by your loved ones, and as part of the greater societal context where there is a lot to be worked on in seeing bi people as just as legitimate as monosexual people.

                2. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Normally it shouldn’t matter all that much. But I know what the world thinks of queer and bisexual people in general and I’m not ok with constantly having to feel like I’m hiding just because I’m dating a guy. In order for people to believe that I have some stake in LGBT rights I have to disclose what should be mildly private information. If it was normal to just have no particular opinion about someone’s orientation with no data, that would be fine, but I know most people think something about me which is incorrect, which even if it weren’t a heavily politicized part of my identity would be just kind of annoying.

                3. StrikingFalcon*

                  I mean, I don’t go around telling everyone I meet that I’m bi, but when the topic comes up, I should be able to talk about it as a matter of fact part of who I am and how I experience relationships. Part of that is getting people to acknowledge that bisexuality is a thing. Being with a straight guy doesn’t make me straight any more than being with a bisexual woman makes him bisexual. So while I am not offended if people assume I am straight when all they know is that I am dating a man, I am upset when people try to tell me that my bisexuality is *irrelevant* because I am dating a man, or ask me questions like “but you’ve never dated a woman, how do you know you’re bisexual?” (….The same way you know what your sexuality is.)

                4. Candi*

                  Take a look at Hollywood. Check out the number of times someone who’s bi stays bi.

                  Most of what I see is ‘lesbian who had to sort out issues’ (and generally a bad stereotype of lesbian to boot) or ‘straight guy who experimented/just that one guy’ -and That Guy either leaves on a bus or dies when he’s no longer needed.

                  Cracked had an article addressing it a few years ago, including Tara from Buffy. I don’t remember the title, though.

            3. a*

              The reason this matters to me is that I don’t like having my identity invalidated. I generally want people to think of me the same way that I think of myself. It’s similar to how I, a mixed-race person, don’t like it when people assume that I’m one race or another – because it’s inaccurate, and because it does affect how they perceive me, and whether they take me seriously when I talk about the subject at hand.

              Recently I was having a conversation with my roommate about LGBT+ rights, and he started to “explain” the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality to me even though I’d told him before that I’m bi, and he is straight. Little annoyances like that really wear down on you. I’m single and not in the closet, but I’m not naturally inclined to talk much about dating or attraction, so people usually assume I’m straight.

            4. SignalLost*

              Because it’s tons of fun when you wind up in a relationship with a man and people assume you’re no longer bi for the attention, your mother breathes easier because while she doesn’t care you’re bi, your conservative relatives (who don’t talk to you anyway) will stop talking to her if you brought a girlfriend to family events, and people who know you in your current relationship are startled to hear about your ex girlfriends, because by being with a man you’re so straight. My partner is also bi, even more invisible because he’s male, and just because we’re in a het relationship doesn’t mean we turned off parts of our selves. We’re also poly, which is similar in the why-does-it-matter camp, with the addition that it gets really frustrating to tell people he’s at work during a family event when he’s actually je with his wife, because of the aforementioned conservative relatives. I guess it matters because it’s really emotionally and sometimes physically tiring to always have to pick in every conversation whether you want to stand up for your identity or let it slide. And if the latter, I feel like I’m lying. Like I’m pretending my ex-girlfriends don’t exist or matter or aren’t special, or like my partner is someone to be ashamed of. I don’t like lying about people that important, but sometimes I just can’t keep arguing for recognition.

            5. a different Vicki*

              One reason it matters is that coming out is a political act (as Harvey Milk taught us when I was in high school). If bisexuals shrug and say “it doesn’t matter, since I’m monogamously partnered,” that makes it easy for people to believe that they don’t know any bisexuals, and that almost everyone they know is straight. People who don’t realize they know anyone who isn’t straight are less likely to care about our rights, because they’re less likely to think of us as real people.

              Similarly, the person who doesn’t realize that they know any bisexuals is more likely to make a casually bigoted remark, or tell a teenager that they need to “figure out” who they’re attracted to. If you know that your cousin or ex-roommate or other friend is bi, maybe you’ll say “that’s not appropriate” or “that sounds bigoted” when someone makes anti-bi remarks in casual conversation.

            6. cleo*

              “I just can’t imagine that it comes up a lot if you’re not actively looking for a partner.”

              I suspect that’s because you’re thinking of bisexuality as something that does rather than something that’s a part of who one is.

              I’m bi and married to a man and honestly it doesn’t come up that often, but it does come up when people are talking about exs and I mention an ex-girlfriend, or I mention my queer book group, or marching in Pride, etc.

            7. The Rat-Catcher*

              I guess I don’t see why it wouldn’t come up. I’m happily married (straight woman) and I tell stories that start with “I went to Applebee’s with my boyfriend-at-the-time” or whatever (I feel that phrase should be hyphenated because people always say it very quickly). I would imagine bisexual women want to be able to tell stories like that too and say “girlfriend” and not get like a visibly shocked/possibly negative reaction.
              That’s just one of a million small things.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          Yup. I feel like once I married my husband [a wonderful man I wouldn’t trade for anything] there was no longer room for me in the queer clubhouse.

        3. Kelly White*

          I know this is off topic – but I would love to know if there is any kind of support group for a bi woman married to a man- I often feel quite alone in this.

          1. SanguineAspect*

            I’m VERY lucky in that I’m a bi woman married to a straight man, but we’ve negotiated an open marriage–so I also have a girlfriend. Of course, after a year and a half and spending a lot of time with us, she’s basically OUR girlfriend. It’s really nice to be able to have both male and female romantic partners in my life. I’ve been in this open mindset for so long, I sometimes forget how crappy it is sometimes to be in a monogamous m/f relationship when you’re someone who really wants to be able to explore your feelings for the same sex (been there–never again!).

            1. VintageLydia*

              You can be bi and monogamous and not feel like you’re missing out on the other sex. Doesn’t make a person any less bi. The part that sucks is both the queer community and the straight community wants to erase that bi-ness once that person is in a committed monogamous relationship of any gender.

          2. Ktelzbeth*

            Sign me up! Though, like SanguineAspect, my husband and I are poly, so I still have some options. As it’s worked out, though, in a deep red, lightly populated state, the only other partner either of us have right now is my long distance boyfriend.

          3. asteramella*

            The vast majority of bi women are partnered with men and in my experience the vast majority of discussion/writing online from bi women is from the perspective of bi women partnered with men. Speaking as a bi woman not partnered with a man. You’re far from alone.

        1. seejay*

          I have two female friends that are married and are always referred to as gay or lesbians and while they don’t take offense to it, since it’s the common default to assume, they correct people that they’re bisexual. They just happen to be married to women right now. One was openly bisexual before but no intentions of long-term relationships with women, the other was straight and never had any relationships with a woman prior to marrying her wife. It just happened to be that when they met, they clicked together and that’s how they wound up. They don’t know what paths they’d take if they separated in the future, but they’re both still firmly planted in the “both genders are on the table for us” camp at this point, although the one girl *could* possibly go back to being straight… she just doesn’t know, this relationship really was a surprise to her.

          1. halpful*

            aaand I think my brain would have made that assumption too, even though I still kinda wonder if I might be bi myself. I’m glad we had this discussion :)

      2. Tammy*

        There are also other sexual orientation labels that people claim (pansexual, omnisexual, sapiosexual, and on and on) which could result in a relationship involving two female-identified people that don’t identify as lesbians. This stuff gets sort of nuanced at times, which is why my attitude — as someone who can check multiple of the “LGBTQIAP+” boxes — is pretty much “tell me how you identify and I’ll respect that choice whether or not I understand it.

        And since I know someone’s going to ask about my alphabet soup above: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, Pansexual, Polyamorous, and others. (and I fit into 3-5 of those boxes, depending on how I choose to describe my identity in the moment).

        1. Nashira*

          Ally is not part of the acronym. Being an ally is something you do, not something you are. A verb, not a noun.

              1. Candi*

                Considering they can get treated as nastily as those they support, that’s not a completely accurate statement.

          1. asteramella*

            Historically “ally” was commonly part of the acronym since the 90s.

            Whether it should still be part of the acronym is another discussion, but it has been part of the acronym in the past and often is still part of the acronym. Just as Q almost always used to mean Questioning but now more commonly means Queer.

  1. Mustache Cat*

    What a great update! Gosh, it had everything. The LW learning and evolving, a complex situation that remains complex, and some good advice from the comment section. Good job, OP! I’m rooting for you and your girlfriend.

    1. KTB*

      SUCH a great update! I am grinning from ear to ear over here. Well done, OP! I hope you two are happy together for a very, very long time, and good luck in grad school.

    2. CM*

      Absolutely — I admire the OP for being so open to criticism and advice!

      I had to laugh at this: “I’m sure to no one’s surprise, she’s in the same job!” Definitely not to my surprise, since I remember your original letter and thinking that you and your GF have exactly the same dynamic as me and my husband (who has been in the same job for basically his entire adult life, while I’m always wondering what I will do next.) I’m glad you’re feeling better about the situation!

  2. DMC*

    I really admire people who can review advice, even advice that is critical, and come away responding with self-reflection and maturity.

    1. StellaMaris*

      Absolutely agree. I admire how the OP was able to look critically at the situation (and the original letter) and find such clarity.

      Best wishes to you both!

    1. QualityControlFreak*

      Re: name change: NO YOU DO NOT. You are a bright, beautiful young woman and your day will come.

    2. ..Kat..*

      Elizabeth, you don’t suck. You have given a lot of thoughtful advice and good wishes to people on this blog. I hate to see you label yourself this way.

      I am sending you good wishes and virtual hugs. I hope your situation improves soon :)

    3. Sarah in Boston*

      Elizabeth, you’re great. I always enjoy your comments here. Jedi hugs (see Cpt Awkward if you don’t know the term) if you want them. Please don’t keep your new username.

    4. Prismatic Professional*

      I agree with the rest of the people saying that you do not suck. You’re awesome and a great contributor here!

  3. Clever Name*

    Yay for this update! This kind of reminds me of my husband’s situation with his job, which he hates and complains endlessly about. I really wish he’d move on, but he’s admitted to me that after 18 years at the same company, he’s scared he’s not able to be successful anywhere else. I personally think he’s dead wrong, of course. So I just don’t even ask if he’s applying to other jobs and try not to get too frustrated when he vents about work again.

  4. AnonEMoose*

    This is such a great update! I’m rooting for you and your girlfriend, and I hope she is able to complete her certification and find something she likes a lot better, that also comes with better compensation.

  5. SanguineAspect*

    So happy to see this update! I’m glad things between you and your girlfriend have settled out. I actually recently (VERY recently) came to the same sort of realization that you did. I’m also a very driven control-freak married to a laid back type going through some financial stress–and the financial stress was really making me a jerk sometimes. I had a conversation with my husband earlier this week, actually, where I told him that I’d support him in whatever direction he wanted to go, that we could make it work, and I think we really can–even if his career doesn’t look like mine.

    Thank you for making me feel less alone in this crappy situation by sharing your stress (and your subsequent insights and evolution)–I appreciate you!

    1. CeeCee*

      I’m sure he appreciates your understanding. I’m in a similar situation (being the less career driven one) and it makes a huge difference to have that support.

  6. anom*

    Having people see your relationship as “male-female” helped you see how controlling you were? And who is controlling who in that stereotype of yours?

  7. MW*

    This is a total unicorn post; someone who came off as overbearing in their initial letter but turned out to be a totally reasonable person who reacted to advice! I remember hearing alarm bells ringing when I read the original to this, I thought any followup would be super weird (like the woman whose husband wrote to her boss informing her that she quit). It’s a *huge* relief to read a followup that shows the OP off as a good person. It sounds like your relationship is healthy and you’ve got a good handle on your professional goals. I’m so happy things turned out well!

  8. J.B.*

    I didn’t comment on the original post but did assume a male-female dynamic. A reminder not to assume. I’m glad things worked out!

    When you are in a relationship with someone, you both need to have a voice in the money and overall life decisions. A partner who is down can really get you down and make your own life a struggle.

  9. Jess1216*

    My husband and I are in a similar position and I feel like this could have been his letter 5 years ago when we moved in together. I think he now sees the benefits of my lower-paying, but much more flexible job. He’s never had to stay home to let in repair/maintenance people, rush home to deal with an emergency, or anything like that. My contribution to the household is equal but different, and I think it benefits everyone to recognize the various things needed to run a household besides just money.

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