how to discuss moving for a job with your partner, when your partner might not want to move

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m in my last year of a PhD program and am currently on the job hunt. This graduate program has been a really long process — I was meant to graduate earlier, but some family and health issues came up that pushed the graduation back a few years. When I originally started the program those many years ago, my husband and I discussed the strong likelihood of us needing to move after graduation (a normal thing for academia). However, at this point I’m really tired of academia and am looking into industry or governmental research positions. This does open up the field a bit for local positions, but only slightly.

A while ago, I interviewed with an amazing agency in a different state and had a great outcome. I really enjoyed speaking with everyone on the team in our interview, and am excited about the research they do (even though it’s different from what I’m studying). I got a tentative offer and was asked to come to the office to meet with everyone, which I’m excited about.

However, there is one major catch — my partner. Because my grad program took longer than expected, he understandably has been putting down roots at his job in order to support us. He worked so hard and hustled his way from a contractor position to a full-time internal position within a local agency. This almost NEVER happens at that contracting company — it was only his hard work that made it happen. He’s made several good friends on the job and in the city we live in. While he’s said he would always support my decision regarding moving for a job, I know he really would rather stay here. The agency I applied to unfortunately doesn’t do spousal hires, so he would need to find a new position if we moved. He’s my best friend, and I would feel like such a jerk if I basically said “thanks for everything you’ve sacrificed and worked for these many years — now I need you to throw all of it away and start over.”

That being said, I think this agency I applied with would be a really great move and offers a lot of room for advancement. And I know my partner could find another great job in this new state, because he’s done it before several times and I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area. Even if this offer fell through, I imagine other jobs in the future might require us to move, as many of the ones I’ve been applying to are clustered in this general out-of-state area.

Alison, readers, do you have any advice for how my partner and I can talk about this with respect and kindness, so we can find the best option for both of us?

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 329 comments… read them below }

  1. Professor Ma'am*

    This is the two body problem. Classic for couples who each have specialized jobs, and so often happens with those of us in academia. I don’t have an answer, and in fact I’m in a similar situation with my husband finishing up his degree in a year or two. I struggle with the fairness of me keeping my job just because I found my career path first.

    What I think is the best starting point is for both people to be willing to have the conversation. Even with strong opinions you have to be willing to listen to what your partner has to say. It’s the only way you’ll find a solution.

    1. Daniel*

      Is it the two body problem? My impression from the LW is that the husband doesn’t have such a specialized job:

      “I know my partner could find another great job in this new state, because he’s done it before several times and I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area.”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It’s not a two body problem in the sense that we usually think about, but yeah, I would call it a two body problem. In my case, my industry is based in major cities, so we had to take my career into account when finalizing our move. In the LW’s case, her husband has established himself in something he enjoys, so even if it’s not a matter of not being able to find something, it’s still a blow to the career.

      2. Professor Ma'am*

        @Daniel Yeah you are right, it’s doesn’t fit the true definition of two body problem.

        That being said, I think a lot of two body problems struggle with a similar issue of one person being established in their career and their partner just starting. Whether jobs are easy or hard to find is definitely of importance, but so is taking into account being established/new. Who gets priority? The person who just spent years working to get a degree or the person who spent years working their way up a company? That to me is the two body part of this.

        1. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

          Right, or one is in a hot field and the other one, not. I joke that I moved into a faculty-adjacent position because my husband and I couldn’t get tenure-track jobs in the same time zone. I really feel for the OP, it’s such a hard position to be in, for both partners.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        . . . but he’s worked his butt off to get where he is and moving would mean he’d have to start over, or at least could lose some status.

          1. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            I think about the student debt load and feel that the best potential earner might have a better claim. Her husband knew this day would come.

            1. rubyrose*

              Assuming that there is student debt. If they have been able to keep that to low or non-existent because her husband has been working his butt off…

              1. OP*

                I really, really wish that were the case, but yes there’s a ton of student debt we’re dealing with. that’s actually one reason I’m excited about the job opportunity, as it looks like they might have a program to help pay that off.

            2. Snark*

              My point is not to mind-read what he’s actually feeling, it’s to emphasize that LW needs to get an honest sense of where his head is at here independent of any feelings of obligation, and that even if there’s no objectively practical barrier to him moving, there’s still reasons not to move.

              1. TallTeapot*

                OP-I hope the program isn’t the PSLF. Because, take it from someone who got rejected from PSLF, like 99% of the people who applied for it–there is almost 0 chance of the PSLF paying off your loans.

                1. AlsoPSLF*

                  Don’t be too scared of PSLF! While a lot of the first group of people were rejected due to poor program organization and record keeping, if you are just starting now there is a LOT more organization and tracking and clear approval processes. This sounds like shilling, and I’m definitely not trying to take away from how crappy it must be to get rejected, at this point it’s really not fair to say there’s 0% chance of getting loans forgiven.

      4. joss*

        The fact that her husband has done it several times before though could also be interpreted that he has been the one to always put his spouse first. Those chips might have been used up by now. There comes a time when it has been enough for the one told that “you did it before and you can do it again”. This needs a very long discussion that focusses on the needs of both partners. There are no easy solutions

        1. Mama Bear*

          I think OP needs to have a cards on the table conversation. ASK HIM. Ask him if he wants to start over, if he’s willing to compromise again (since he already did, honestly, by standing by while the grad program dragged on) and what HIS real thoughts and goals and dreams are. Is this a situation where there really isn’t a better place for OP than this agency or is this something where in retrospect the move would be a no-go for other reasons? I’ve made sacrifices for my spouse and sometimes I just want that sacrifice to be acknowledged. Like we live where we live for reasons related to him/his family but that means I’ll never live closer to mine. There are things we do to help mitigate that – is there something that you can do to mitigate a move, if he agrees to do so? He gave up a lot for you. What are you willing to do now for him?

      5. Good Luck!*

        Even if it doesn’t meet all the details to meet that version of the two-body problem, it’s still the same problem.

        As the less-specialized spouse, I hate the implication that I should happily pick up and restart my career just because there are more openings that sound similar to what I do than for my hyper-specialized spouse. Especially after having done it a few times – even if I started a new jobs several times for our relocations in our 20s doesn’t mean I want to keep doing that the rest of my life.

        OP, I don’t have a great answer, since I’m still working on this problem in my life. We sort of stopped discussing it once I landed a job that lets me work remotely, but it still affects my career that I *have* to work remotely.

      6. Pineapple Incident*

        “I know my partner could find another great job in this new state, because he’s done it before several times and I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area.”

        It sounds to me like this sentence minimizes the struggle that the spouse has taken on because they’ve “always been able to find a job” wherever OP’s academic career has demanded, and the OP is feeling the weight of asking their spouse to do this dance again. It’s a little too easy to write off the grind the spouse has had to do with this situation because they seem to be a good worker that’s had success in this arena before, or has experienced just enough success not to complain about it while the OP’s pursued their grad program.

        The fact that it hasn’t been a challenge prior to now to find another job doesn’t mean that the hypothetical move (and associated job search) will actually be a successful one, or that the spouse will be able to find a job (let alone a good one, that fits with their career progression, in their field, at an organization that values them). It sounds like a very classic spin on the academic two body problem, honestly.

    2. OP*

      Thank you so much for your thoughts – I know how difficult the two body problem can be when you’re both in academia. A few people from my program were able to get positions as a spousal hire (or get their spouse as the SH) when applying to new universities, so it’s definitely doable (and I get the impression it might be more common than it used to be perhaps). Good luck and I hope you both are able to find a good solution!

      1. Marie*

        The 2 body problem is why I left academia with an MSc, worked remotely twice, had to work in another state (LDR), worked for a toxic company, and finally took night classes to switch to another field that has many more jobs available in my city. My husband and I have taken turns following the other & we have both made sacrifices.

        Even still it’s taken 7 years and both of us giving up our original career goals. My only advice is to be as flexible as you can & keep your priorities straight. No one job title was worth giving up my marriage or desire to be a mother, for example. I’m no longer working in my original field of study, but we did finally have a baby and that’s worth everything else.

      2. Amanda*

        OP – some universities now do something akin to a spousal hire for spouses who are not academics (admin positions, for example). Or they at least give a leg up to people applying for admin jobs who have faculty spouses. That is worth looking into in your case. It tends to be most common in universities that are in smaller towns or areas where retention is an issue (i.e. not the super hot desirable locations).

  2. Lurker*

    I think that this is such a great question and reflects how much you care about your partner and appreciate all of their hardwork and support!! My husband and I have had a series of these conversations this year as in the Summer he was in the running for a position that would have required him to work long hours about an hour away from home, and would have required me resting in place a bit in my own career to use the flexibility that I have earned to take on more of our day to day child care responsibilities that we currently share pretty evenly. He didn’t get the position, but recently I accepted a position that is a big step up for me in pay and responsibility and he is going to have to assume more of our responsibilities at home.

    For us, the key was really laying out in reality what the pros were and the cons were to either option, and letting each other express our feelings openly (without judgment of those feelings) about how those changes would really feel. Would the increase in salary be enough to make it worth it for both of us? I think that you have a really great map to do that with your partner in your letter!

    1. FuzzFrogs*

      OP, this is really up to talking it over with your spouse, but in all likelihood he knows it’s coming since you’ve discussed this before and he’s surely noticed you’re on the verge of graduating. This is a GREAT time to have a conversation about your long-term goals and see what outcome fits best with those goals. Remember, either way this pans out, it’s a collaboration, so you should work to find the version that fits most of both of your personal goals.

      It does sound like you feel like you’re on uncertain territory, which considering your future often feels like. In that spirit, here are some suggestions for clarifying topics/questions to consider as you discuss this with yourself and your partner:

      –does staying here/moving to other state align with where I want to live long-term? (this can include proximity to friends, family, personal preference on climate, city vs suburban vs rural, where you want to raise pets/kids, etc.)
      –can we afford to live in new place X for an unknown number of months while spouse tries to find a job? alternatively, would we be able to swing some sort of split/long-distance arrangement while spouse finds new job, and would we want to?
      –on the flip side: can we afford to stay where we are if it’s going to take OP a while to find a job in their industry?
      –what do you lose by moving? what do you gain?

      If you can find a way forward that will be able to address at least some of both of your goals, your husband is unlikely to feel like he’s sacrificing anything.

      1. Cascadia*

        I really like all of these conversation starters! These are all good things to think about. My partner and I have each moved across the country 3 times for different jobs. Sometimes one of us didn’t really want to move, but it was the best decision for the time. Sometimes we both wanted to move. It took us awhile to find the city and the jobs that worked for both of us. We both had to make compromises and we both had to make sacrifices, but we did it so that it evened out over time. One thing you didn’t mention (and maybe its because you wanted to focus on the career aspect of the question) but I find the geographic location in other aspects of your life to be SOOO much more important than career prospects for a happy life. All of the questions that FuzzFrogs wrote about are super important – where do you want to live? What sort of climate do you want? What long term family plans do you have? What about friends/family/community? In all of the moves we’ve done, the answers to these questions made/broke a place for us.

      2. Amanda*

        This, but I would add: what is the likelihood that OP will find a job in her industry if they stay where they are? How much would she resent not working in her industry if that is her only option if they stay? Realistically, the issue with having a PhD is that you don’t always have the option to find a job that uses your expertise in any given area, so considering what would happen if that job never materializes is important.

    2. BRR*

      Your second paragraph is so important. Not just location but spouse’s need to do this for all jobs. My husband applied for a job as a teacher at a boarding school that would have required evening and weekend work and would require us to move on campus. The campus location was not an issue but it would have been a huge lifestyle adjustment. He didn’t get an interview but we talked about before hand that he might have to decline this jobs if offered to him and at an interview he would have to learn a lot about the lifestyle.

      While not the same as moving for a partner’s job, it’s similar in that you really need to let your partner express how they feel about it and figure out what would work for both parties.

    3. OP*

      Thank you so much for your advice! You make a great point about about laying out the pros and cons clearly and having an open discussion about what they would mean in aggregate. (Also congratulations on your new position!!)

    4. annony*

      I’m in a similar position right now. I think one important part is not focusing on trying to be kind. Be respectful and honest. Worrying too much about whether the truth will hurt your spouse can mean that you are not as clear about your wants and needs as you really have to be. For example, my spouse would really prefer not to move but would be ok with it so long as I would be making at least $Y. He under no circumstances wants to live in City A, B or C but would be happy with E, F or G. That way I can focus on cities he would be ok with and he knows I am keeping an eye on salary and benefits. It is not an easy conversation but it is better to be brutally honest about what you can and cannot live with than spend a lot of time and effort applying to jobs in a location your spouse does not want to go.

  3. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

    Have you sat down yet to have an open, honest conversation with him about exactly this? What you would like to do, and what your fears are?

    You’re worried about forcing him to do something he doesn’t want – you’re scared of making the decision for him – but deciding NOT to go because of these fears is ALSO making the decision for him.

    He knew from the start that y’all would likely have to move for your career. If his views on that have changed, you need to sit him down and ask him to articulate exactly what changed and why. At this point you’re clearly just guessing (“I know he really would rather stay here” – HOW do you know that? He hasn’t said that to you; on the contrary, in the same sentence you say “he’s said he would always support my decision regarding moving for a job”).

    Time for a Big Family Meeting.

    1. Academic Addie*

      This. My husband always knew I was going to move for my job. He stayed with me knowing that.

      It can be easy to catastrophize these conversations. Jump in and have the talk!

      1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        Yes – “catastrophize” was the word I was looking for but couldn’t quite catch, thank you! This sentence especially struck me as such: “thanks for everything you’ve sacrificed and worked for these many years — now I need you to throw all of it away and start over.”

        Like, no offense to OP, but that’s obviously nonsense! He’s not throwing anything away and he’s not starting from scratch; he has several years more experience and expertise and skill-building and networking in his field, and his resume will reflect that in his next job search. It’s not like he can only apply for jobs at a lower level than his current one! If anything, this is an opportunity to apply for stretch positions that could result in him having a BETTER job than his last one.

        1. CMart*

          This this this!

          I’ve known a bunch of couples who have made nearly this exact transition: Partner 1* got established/rose in the ranks while Partner 2* finished a degree, or passed licencing exams. Partner 2 finally got credentialed (oftentimes after a longer than anticipated timeline*). And to a couple, as far as I’m aware, Partner 1 said “great! I had my turn, it’s your turn now!” and they all moved off for Partner 2 to begin their career. Partner 1 always found an equally great, if not even better job in the new location because they indeed had all that experience under their belt now.

          *this dynamic has exclusively been Partner 1 = man and Partner 2 = woman, and the extended timeline in several cases was due to having a child or two

          1. TardyTardis*

            But this doesn’t always happen. There are a lot of military spouses who *have* no career because of the military member’s moves, only a resume full of spotty jobs that add up to keeping the home fires burning without ever doing what the spouse wants. (I say this, and I was the one in the military. Fortunately, my husband could teach just about anywhere, but that isn’t always the case for the spouse).

      2. starsaphire*

        For big decisions, we sometimes even use the old-school “pros vs cons” method, with a notepad and a pen.

        Super important to have the talk. And don’t dread it and put it off; just do it. Get a pizza or takeout one night and sit around the table and just write down reasons for staying and reasons for going, and see what you both come up with.

    2. Sit in Syrup*

      Definitely agree. It’s time for a big talk.

      I’m a former academic, and I moved to a new state for graduate school and eventually married someone from that state. My mentality was geared towards being mobile and following job opportunities after graduation. My partner wanted to stay put. It was a rough transition when I realized that my relationship might limit my mobility, but it was really important to have that conversation and understand his point of view. Our eventual agreement is that I will work locally, even if it’s not my #1 preference for a job, and we would only consider moving out of state if I could not find any meaningful work here. It can be hard to see interesting job opportunities pass by, but I still have a good career, I like where we live, and my relationship is very important to me. Most importantly, I don’t feel cheated because I chose very deliberately, with all the cards on the table.

      If possible, I would suggest framing your goal as “what is best for us?” not “where should we live/work?” Be open to possibilities you may not have considered before, and really try to visualize what living with those choice would look like.

    3. Joie*


      When I moved with my partner, it was the final nail in the coffin for our relationship because 5 years into being together and he was still making decisions like this without even mentioning he was considering moving to me. All in, I wasn’t mad so much about the move (we moved to my home town) but that he made such a huge decision for us without involving me.

      Your husband may be okay with moving or he may have changed his mind about it but the most respectful thing you can do is give him a chance to tell you how he feels about it and then you go from there.

    4. TL -*

      I don’t know what the OP’s gender is but I’ve noticed in my social and professional circles, the women are very, very concerned about even asking the men to move and/or plan their career placement opportunities around them – they’re hesitant about asking, very concerned about how it will affect the men’s career, and just tend to start from a baseline assumption that of course their male partner’s career shouldn’t be affected by their own so any ask is a big one that has to be carefully considered before the discussion is even started.

      Several women I know have made career-limiting decisions without ever discussing it with their partner, because they don’t feel like they have the right at all to ask their partner to sacrifice for them (and usually the women have made a career sacrifice for the men.)

      Whereas the men tend to…not be bothered by any of that? There’s definitely a much stronger feeling of “I have the right to ask to open negotiations on us moving for my career” and “a pre-negotiated fact of our relationship is moving for my career, even if you’ve settled in well here.” There’s never been any guilt before opening negotiations, even if they think the answer will be no.

      I honestly wish in this case women were more like men – willing to come to the table with the assumption that their career is something worth their partner’s sacrifices (and negotiation.)

      1. Daniel Atter*

        I do think you need to separate “I have the right to ask to open negotiations on us moving for my career” and “a pre-negotiated fact of our relationship is moving for my career, even if you’ve settled in well here”.

        The first is completely reasonable – everyone, male or female, should be able to talk to their partner about possibly moving. The second is ridiculous and someone who thinks that should grow up.

        I agree 100% with your point though, and I think this might come from the same root as the fact that men are generally more willing to negotiate over salary. It’s sad that we still need to work so hard to move away from the idea of women as being aggressive, or nagging, or shrill, or pushy just when they ask for what they want (or in this case even ask to consider what they want).

      2. Amanda*

        Thank you for bringing this up. When I was reading this, my hunch was that if OP was a man and spouse was a woman, this letter would not be written. My gut reaction was that if OP is a woman, her spouse needs to move for her because there are already way too many woman throwing away their credentials so their male spouses will be more comfortable.

        But at the end of the day, only these two know what will make them happy and they need to have a conversation about it. I’m a female academic and I told my now-husband that I would consider his needs but ultimately I needed to move where I could get a job. He was fine with that, but had the right to out some reasonable limits (based on his career path) in place. And I supported him in going back to classes to beef up his credentials so he could get a better job once we moved. There are a lot of ways to balance two careers but it takes honest conversation, flexibility, and the willingness to say “I need you to do this for me but here’s what we can do to support you in return.”

        1. Ico*

          The OP and their husband really need to determine what makes the most sense for them as individuals and as a couple, not based on population-level concerns. I’m glad you overcame your gut reaction.

    5. Ms. FS*

      I’m in the same boat OP, except for I’m the spouse that has to potentially move. Its complicated by the fact that we have a special needs son that goes to the best private school for his disability in the nation. Not exactly easy to say goodbye too, but I also want to support my spouse in his career, and I recognize my responsibility of that. I knew he was going to need to pursue opportunities elsewhere, I signed up for it. But we’ve been talking alot about it, so nobody is going to be surprised about ultimately what we end of up doing.

      One suggestion I would make – is it possible for your spouse to request to work remotely? That’s what I’m going to do and see if it works out that I can keep my job rather than start again.

    6. IsbenTakesTea*

      Yes! In direct response to your question, you can have a respectful conversation by not starting with any assumptions or projections about what your partner might feel–wait for him to share with you!

  4. Peacemaker*

    OP seems to be having both sides of a necessary conversation with herself. Seems to me she ought to have that conversation with her partner and give him a chance to weigh in. She may discover that it’s less of an issue for him than she thinks. Of course, she may discover that what she is assuming is in fact true for him, in which case she has opened the conversation and they can work together to find a resolution. In the end, they originally had a joint agreement for their future together, and this needs to be a joint conversation as well.

  5. ZS*

    “And I know my partner could find another great job in this new state, because he’s done it before several times and I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area.”

    You should clearly just be talking openly with him about how he’s feeling and if he’s even open to finding another position after all this time, but that quote stood out to me. Has he done it several times before on his own willingness, or because of your job/academics?

    best of luck, I know these discussions are hard and you never feel like there’s a correct answer.

    1. Toodie*

      That’s the sentence that stood out the most for me, too. I get tired of being the one to start over again and again. But I’m introverted and I just don’t like change much. YMMV.

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      My partner is not in academia or a field that requires moving, but he does have a *dream job* which is in another state. A state I would hate living in for many reasons. And due to the way life has worked out, I’ve moved multiple times for him now and given up a couple of jobs and had to start over. I won’t lie, to you or him, and when asked, I wouldn’t be upset if he never gets that dream job, other than to be sad on his behalf because I want him to be happy.

      If he’s moved multiple times and started over multiple times for you, OP, then it’s time to check in and see how he feels about doing it again. Maybe he’s comfortable continuing to support you while you job search specifically in your area and that’s a compromise you should consider. Maybe he is expecting this since you were reaching the end of your program and it’s no big deal. Who knows? Only him.

      So it’s time to sit down and ask him how he feels. “Babe, as you know I’ve interviewed with XYZ in Montana (or wherever). How do you feel about the possibility of moving?” That’s where you start.

    3. OP*

      Thank you so much for your response, and you make a great point. He’s changed jobs a few times for a few reasons – mostly because he wanted to (e.g., moving through a few different departments in the same company to get to a position he enjoyed) and then once because of company layoffs. This would be the first time he’d have to change positions because of my job prospects.

      One thing I didn’t explain very well in the letter is that we have spoken about this before, but it’s a difficult subject and we always end up dropping it because emotions get a little tense. I think you and other commenters make a great point about laying out the pros and cons clearly and having an open discussion about this.

      1. PollyQ*

        Perhaps a “meta-conversation” about how you two can best work on discussing this would be helpful.

        1. IsbenTakesTea*

          Ooh–I like this, OP. “This is a conversation we need to have–how would you like it to go? What does the threshold for agreement look like to you?”

          For some, that threshold might be finding the most logical choice, for others it might be the most economical choice, or the most emotionally fulfilling one.

      2. SPDM*

        You could also consider having this conversation over the course of a few couples counseling or mediator sessions. Therapists are not only for long-term treatments, emergencies, or mental illness, and you might be happy to have a conversation guide help you through.

        1. Perpal*

          Isn’t there a new category of facilitators called lifecoaches, that sound appropriate? Less about “how do we live together” more about “what are the goals and how do we accomplish them”
          I can’t say I’ve tried many of them but lifecoaches always sounded to me like something that would be awesome to try

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Dear god no do not go to a life coach for help with any major life decisions. There are no necessary credentials or regulatory boards or formal training involved, no standard methods, no defined processes. If someone wants to be a life coach, they can identify as such and start taking on clients. A trained councilor is vastly superior, especially if you’re going to them about something that matters.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Au contraire, some kinds of those counselors do have to be licensed with educational requirements, at least in Oregon.

      3. J!*

        If you’ve tried talking about this before and going nowhere, it might be useful to think about some couples counseling sessions to help you get through it. It can help to have a third party to give you some tools to get past whatever you’re bumping up against in your conversation and problem solving styles rather than just dropping it because it’s hard.

      4. mcr-red*

        I think you need to look at WHY emotions get a little tense. Do things get tense because you bring up him leaving this current job and he’s not sure he wants to? Do things get tense because he brings up staying in this area and you don’t want to? Because you are both commenting on what it is you want without saying so in those cases.

        I think you need to openly acknowledge these feelings. Like, “From our previous discussions, I get the feeling you don’t really want to leave this job/this area/whatever. I really want to find a job in this field/this city/whatever. Can we sit down and talk about a way to compromise?” I know ultimately sometimes compromises won’t work and someone will “lose” but perhaps you could also find a way to come to agreement where you both feel positive about the outcome.

      5. Cascadia*

        Sometimes when I know my partner and I need to have a “big talk” we make plans to have that talk ahead of time. That way we’re both going into the conversation ready to have it, in the mood, etc. No one is caught off guard just trying to relax at home and all the sudden someone else is discussing The Future. We often make a date night out of it, and go out to a restaurant where we can sit down and have a nice meal, and a glass of wine, and a good solid discussion.

      6. Senor Montoya*

        You can work with a therapist or marriage counselor short term to work through an issue like this. And also about communication in general? dropping a difficult subject when emotions get tense is something to work on, perhaps this is not the only such subject? — just speaking from my own experience, YMMV.

      7. Mama Bear*

        If you cannot work through it on your own, short term couples counseling may be beneficial. A counselor can mediate as a neutral party and also improve your communication gaps.

      8. Good Luck!*

        That part of changing frequently stood out to me, too! I’ve shifted jobs once because I got a new job, and then every other time was tied to a relocation. When we started out, we both misunderstood how much relocating we were signing on for. In my mind, it was going to be “move to some random place for grad school, then move home and work at the local university”.

        It’s definitely not played out like that! It’s been more “move some random place for grad school, and make really great friends. Then leave them all and move somewhere random for a post-doc. Then relocate again for another post-doc? Then get a permanent position and 1 year in realize it’s not working and start job hunting again….”

        You hopefully won’t have nearly so many moves, or you will and you’ll enjoy them! But for me, it’s really isolating to keep losing all my local networks, and there’s no sign of settling down permanently anytime soon.

      9. BonnieVoyage*

        Are either of you generally people-pleasers or conflict-avoidant people? Because I think it would help if you could work on strategies to deal with tension other than just dropping the conversation. There’s things you can do to mitigate it – I like the suggestion of a counsellor or other neutral third party being present – but ultimately I think there probably will be some tension/disagreement whatever you do because it’s a tough subject that you both will likely have strong feelings about. It’s kind of like what Alison says about employees crying when getting bad feedback – you can be kind and considerate but you do still need to have the conversation, even if it’s hard. It’s not great that the two of you have repeatedly dropped the subject because of tension until you’ve essentially forced the issue by moving ahead with this application, so whatever the outcome of this one discussion is, I think that looking at other ways of dealing with disagreement will be helpful the next time something like this comes up.

    4. Ophelia*

      I think it’s also worth exploring with him whether–now that he has a great track record in his industry–he might actually have opportunities for *advancement* by moving. Who knows – maybe the place where you’re looking has a partner or competitor of his current firm, and he could explore whether there are interesting benefits for him to the move. There’s also the potential that he could talk with his current employer and learn that he could work remotely, with some travel back to your current location (I personally did this when my husband got a job in a different city – we moved because of his student loans, and I’ve been working–successfully–from here for 10 years now).
      All that to say, talk to him! Let him know what’s going on, what you’re considering, etc. This may be a really Hard Conversation, or it might turn out to be exciting for both of you.

      1. BethDH*

        My spouse and I are working on this part and I highly recommend making it part of your discussion explicitly. Moving was an aspect of making my career a priority, and it came on top of having made my grad school a priority already in ways that affected his career (like not changing jobs because the spousal/family benefits at his not-challenging-enough job were really good). So we started talking about how we could make some sacrifices for his career that weren’t about location, like money spent on certifications/advanced training that will help him make a lateral move into a field of more interest.
        Ahead of time, we also talked more generally about the kind of place that would be best for us outside work and I didn’t apply to some “perfect” places that didn’t fit our larger lifestyle goals.
        This is an ongoing discussion because we’ll likely have to move again for my job, so it’s also worth discussing whether this is a one-time move or not. Also what you’ll do if you move and he (or you) hates it. If he gives it a good faith effort and is really unhappy, would you be willing to change the plan?

  6. Jay*

    I’m the trailing spouse married to a recovering academic and I teach communication skills. These conversations are *hard.* Some people like a heads-up before this kind of convo (my husband) and some people hate that (me). You may know which camp your partner falls into, so you can decide if you want to say “I’d really like to talk this over. Maybe we can sit down tonight” or just launch in. It also helps before you start to have a clear sense in your own mind of the acceptable outcomes.

    I’d start by saying just what you told us: you are excited about the opportunity and aware that it’s asking a lot of him and you wonder what he thinks. Tell him how much you appreciate all the work he’s done while you were in school. Don’t say “I know you don’t want to move” because you don’t actually know that (unless he’s told you recently, but it the letter makes it sound like an inference). Then listen to the answer. Let him know you heard it by reflecting it back to him – “So I hear you saying you want me to be happy and you’re anxious about the idea of moving.” Be as supportive as you can be. Tell him how you feel as well. Take the time to really listen to each other without trying to convince each other of anything.

    Then talk about interests, not positions. A position is “I want to move and take this job.” An interest is “I really want us both to be happy in our work and where we live.” See if you can find a position you agree on, and then think of strategies to see if that interest can be met. This is almost certainly not a single conversation but a series of conversations over time.

    Also remember that getting an offer doesn’t mean you have to take the job. You can pursue the opportunity to the offer stage and still turn it down; people do this. If you tell them you’re turning it down because your partner doesn’t have career opportunities, they may have something to offer.

    tl;dr: ask gentle questions, really listen to the answers, focus on what you both want

    1. I edit everything*


      To pick up on one aspect of this: My spouse and I have tended to “mind read” each other–assuming we know what the other is thinking, feeling, intending, even when they haven’t said so. It’s taken some time and a lot of conscious effort to realize that a short tone when Edits Nothing talks to me doesn’t mean he’s mad at me. He might just be tired, or frustrated with something else, or even just hungry.

      So: Don’t mind read.
      By the same token: Don’t put your spouse in the position of needing to mind read you. Be really clear and honest about where you stand and how you feel.

      1. Jay*

        The ladder of inference. I know it well. Danger, Will Robinson!

        I worked until 8:00 PM on Tuesdays for many years. That meant I didn’t get home until after 9:00 and always had at least an hour of paperwork to do. I usually didn’t get dinner. So I’d get home tired and hungry and staring more work in the face – and there would be a sinkful of dirty dishes waiting for me. At least I *assumed* they were waiting for me. So I would do them before I ate my dinner. I figured he was leaving them for me because he’d had to wrangle the kid and the dog while I was working, and then I inferred from that that he hated it when I worked in the evening. I was angry and guilty. This went on for YEARS. Eventually I said something. He said “I leave the dishes so I can get some work done while you’re gone. I always plan to wash them while you eat so we can talk in the kitchen, but you always do them before I get to them!”

        Inferences, man. They’ll get you every time.

        1. ireme adler*

          Excellent example!
          Who knows: the OP’s spouse may be ready for a new challenge-in a new locale- in spite of the successes he’s made at current company/location. He’s just a person who knows how to maximize his situation wherever he is (like going from contract job to where he is now). Maybe he’s kept his interest in a new challenge to himself because he’s waiting for OP to bring up what she wants to do before he voices this.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I’ve been working asking more and inferring less! I do a lot of consumer research and my actual job is to take small bits of data and spin them into entire narratives / insights / strategies. That’s helpful an analyst and storyteller. It’s not helpful as a partner. (Some of my most unhelpful traits as a friend & human are my most valuable skills at the office. This reinforcement creates challenges.)

        For this LW: It’s not just a conversation about right now, this next job and move. It’s also about the next few steps as well. Let’s say you don’t move now, because he’s so settled here. Does that mean trying to stay there semi-permanently? What are the odds he’ll feel better about leaving in 2-5 years? What are the end goals in terms of what kind of place you can see being in the long run?

        1. GB*

          “Some of my most unhelpful traits as a friend & human are my most valuable skills at the office.”

          +1000… jumps right to the top of my favorite posts ever.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Aw, thanks! It was a HUGE reveal when I figured that out. The very things people pay me for hold me back personally. Being highly critical & poking holes is top of that list…

            1. Jay*

              My husband is a scientist. Being highly critical and poking holes in things is literally his job. It is almost never what I want from him in conversation. Took us a loooong time to sort that out. Life is much better now that we have.

    2. ursula*

      This is kind and close to what my partner and I did when he finished his PhD and we were trying to figure out a plan (we are both ambitious professionals in niche areas where opportunities are rare). Like the LW, my partner had reached a point where he was looking for a path out of academia but still understandably wanted to use his skills and training. We were long-distance for a number of years, but when he hit a period of unemployment (and I was stable in a rewarding and promotable position) he moved to my city and has now found a good job here, against all odds. But it’s still incredibly hard on him – he’s building a social and professional life from scratch. We are now jointly working on figuring out how to move us both to a different city/place with a better cost of living/environment and it’s at least as hard as the first decision.

      One thing we have arrived at, which may be helpful to you: you don’t have to relocate at the same time. If one of us finds a job first in NewCity, we have agreed that the other person can take their time visiting, networking, job searching, and then moving there over the course of a year or two. This lets both of us do the most possible to manage our careers while also moving our shared life in the direction we want. Maybe this would be something you could consider, depending on the geography/cost? (Much harder if you have kids, obviously.) It may also be helpful if you can commit to staying in NextPlace for a certain amount of time, especially if stability is something your partner wants and hasn’t had during your education. “One last move, and we’ll stay there for a good 8-10 years minimum” might feel different than “one more move in the endless carousel of our lives, don’t get comfy!”

      1. Jay*

        A move is a chance to renegotiate everything in a relationship – it’s necessary. Negotiations are a form of intimacy: how can we both get what we want? We’ve contemplated a couple of moves in the last decade and want to move together – we’ve done way too much long-distance over the years. Our deal is that the trailing spouse will not try to get a job before the move, so whoever gets the job we’re moving for will have to earn enough to support the household for a while – we set “a while” at a year. At this point I think we’re staying put until my retirement (he’s already retired) but having that deal in place allowed both of us to explore opportunities we might have ignored otherwise.

      2. OP*

        Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate you mentioning the point about not necessarily relocating at the same time. I don’t think we’d ever considered that, but it definitely would offer some flexibility in terms of finding a new position, if it came to that.

        1. J*

          My husband and I just did a staggered relocation. During the course of his PhD we relocated from our home city because of his studies– his PI relocated, and he either followed the lab to a new city/university, or join a new lab and start a new project. We were in new city for four years. Last winter/spring I got a job offer in current city, and my position started in late spring. My husband just joined me here a few weeks ago after spending the summer wrapping up his postdoc and finding a new position here.

          It was tough on our finances to juggle two rents, especially since we were both living in couple-sized apartments– this would actually have been easier if we were going to be apart longer and I could have just rented someplace small and he could have downsized too. But it made a move that was a big boon to my career possible. It was worth things being lean for a while.

        2. Amanda*

          I know some friends who did this, and I think the key is having a time limit. Like “I’ll take this job and Spouse will try to find jobs in this area, but if nothing works out after 2 years (or whatever) then we’ll revisit.” That way it doesn’t feel like something that might go in forever.

    3. Minocho*

      I really like this, it gives the OP good strategies for making sure that she gives her partner the safety to express his thoughts and interests, and makes sure that she hears and internalizes them, and indicates to her partner clearly that she hears and internalizes them as well. That’s so important to a critical conversation like this.

      Can I suggest the book Crucial Conversations here as well? I’ve been reading it, and I think it’s perfect for finding ways to have potentially difficult discussions in the right way to arrive at good solutions where everyone feels like they’ve made the best decision.

      1. bdg*

        That book is so helpful for learning to have conversations that make you uncomfortable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used it!

    4. Butterfly Counter*

      I 100% agree with this.

      One year early in our marriage and careers, he mentioned over a dinner that he was so sad that he’d never get to work internationally now that he’s married to someone looking to put down roots in a career. He just assumed I wouldn’t be available to move to a different country.

      I was so surprised. I told him that it was early in my career (less than 6 months in) for me and I hadn’t yet really built anything. So I said, Hey! Let’s do this international thing! I’m all in! So, it was his turn to be surprised.

      He began to look into opportunities more seriously and found that, despite the thrill of international travel, the pay was bad, as were the work hours, and he was currently making 3 times what he would in another country. Basically, the international stuff was for people to build their resume, which he was more than fine doing in our home country.

      Because he brought it up 1) he discovered the opportunities weren’t what he had built in his head, and 2) that he had no reason to resent me for blocking this kind of opportunity because I’m happy to support him.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Unfortunately this was not the case for me. I don’t really do bucket lists, but there is ONE thing I feel I’d regret if I never did — live in another country for at least a year. My partner does not want to and if I say anything that even vaguely touches on it, he panics. It was always a bit of a pipe dream but it does make me sad that it doesn’t even seem like a possibility with him. I’m hoping with time his feelings might change. The way he panics tells me there’s an underlying fear there that might be resolvable.

        That said, he’s in school and will be building an entirely new career late in life. A career that is NOT portable. Working abroad or taking a sabbatical would be functionally impossible. So it’s probably moot. Maybe after we retire?

        1. AnonPi*

          Actually a lot of people are retiring in other countries so that is certainly a possibility! Or some are buying homes in other countries (depending on location it may not cost as much as you think) and spends half the year in one country, and the other half in the other country.

          And you never know what the workplace will look like in a 5, 10 or more years from now. An opportunity could always come up you weren’t expecting.

    5. OP*

      Oh my goodness, thank you SO much for that advice! I really appreciate your suggested framing for the conversation, and I think this will help our discussion a lot.

    6. I Go OnAnonAnonAnon*

      “This is almost certainly not a single conversation but a series of conversations over time.”

      THIS, so much. Great answer, Jay!

    7. Blue Horizon*

      I think this is the best of the answers I’ve seen so far.

      There is no way for everyone to get what they want, and there is probably also no way for you to meet in the middle. One of you will almost certainly have to compromise a lot more than the other. That’s a relationship challenge as much as it is an employment challenge, and needs to be handled sensitively. One or both of you are almost certainly going to experience some resentment or second thoughts at some point, and you need a really solid grounding of “we’re in this together and have listened to and respected each other” in order to make it through that.

      Also: if you do move, don’t expect the conversation to end. It’s entirely possible that your husband will find he’s not as cool with the idea as he thought he was, and even if he is there could be a kind of ‘grieving process’ as he lets go of what might have been. One day he might say something like “this isn’t working out, and I want to go back.” That, or something like it, translates to: “I would like to re-open the conversation.” Don’t jump to conclusions or do anything hasty. I had more or less this exact conversation with my wife and thought we were going to have to go back to square one, but we were able to narrow it down to a couple of things that were really bothering her. We put a lot of effort into fixing those and once that was done, it turned out the original plan wasn’t a lost cause after all.

  7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Just to say, my father was in the military and we moved whenever he got new orders. My mother was never able to have a career, (not that she wanted one) she was a stay home mom, but I saw that it was a source of frustration for some of my friends’ mothers. You are lucky that you have the options which at the same time makes it more difficult to make a decision that works for both partners. All you can do is make the best decision for both of you but sadly, one person is going to have to compromise.

    1. No more moving*

      Yes. As a milspouse I have been forced to move 14 times in the last 20 years. Thankfully we are at the end of his military career. My career is just starting at 43. If he came to me today and wanted to move for a job Id have a very hard time agreeing to it. Our situation is different but I feel for the partner. Its hard to be the one always searching for a job, always being the new person at work and having multiple entries on your resume.

      1. Snark*

        A coworker of mine is a military spouse, and her husband just retired. And he was like, oh hey, we’re free, let’s move to Florida/California/Arizona/Texas!” And she was like, oh no, we’ve moved 15 times in the last 12 years, sit down.

      2. Eurekas*

        I know a couple of Pastor’s Wives who have had similar discussions. And who got strong voices in where they would live in retirement.

  8. That'll happen*

    There’s a lot to think about with a big decision like this. I think the first thing would be finances:
    -What is the cost of living in the new area compared to where you live now?
    -What is the job market/salary situation for your partner’s field?
    -Are you financially prepared for a move? Depending on how far you’re moving, you’re looking at several thousand dollars in moving costs.
    -Will your salary at the new job be enough to cover expenses? If not, how much do you have in savings and how long will that be able to sustain you and your husband?

    My hope is that since you’ve been going through this hiring process, your partner has started to get an idea of what the job market would be like for him in this new area. It sounds like you really want to move to this out-of-state area. That being said, have you taken a serious look at the local job market? Would it be possible to get a job in your area for a few years and truly take the time to prepare for a move to a new state? My guess is you’ve been living off your partner’s income, as phd students usually don’t get paid very much. You have the opportunity to save a great deal, which would make it easier to afford the move and to support your household for as long as your partner’s job search in the new area takes.

    1. That'll happen*

      I totally missed the part of your letter about there being lots of opportunities in the new area for your partner. That’s great! Even with that, Alison has written many times about how employers prefer local candidates. It could still take your partner 6 months or longer to find a job after you move.

      1. Daniel*

        That said, if LW and partner do have this conversation, and do wind up moving for LW’s career, the partner will know what area he’s going to land, probably several weeks before they go. Conceivably he could start looking as soon as they know they are going to move.

        It is true that most employers want local candidates, but that usually includes candidates who are moving in. In this case, LW’s partner could replace the address on his resume or application with “Name of City, XX (moving in April, 2020).” Or whatever might be the case.

        Perhaps Partner could briefly touch base on that in his cover letter, too, to ensure prospective employers that the move is a sure thing at that point? I’m less sure of that; I hope Alison chimes in.

  9. Digley Doowap*

    I recommend the following approach when you chat:

    Speak without offending.
    Listed without defending.

    This has worked for me and wifey for 35 years.

    Good luck!

      1. banzo_bean*

        Can you elaborate on speak without offending? I try- but it always seems to still upset my husband when we have these types of conversations.

        1. Jay*

          Start with I-messages: I feel, I notice, I am concerned. Don’t use that as disguised you-messages; “I notice you’re defensive” is not an I-message. “I feel frustrated when the conversation is upset” is an I-message If he gets upset, don’t get locked into defensiveness: ask genuine questions about what’s upsetting him and what he wants to be different. If it’s a pervasive pattern, then I’d bring it up at another time: I notice when I try to talk about XYZ topic, it’s really upsetting to you. How can I approach it so that we can have the conversation? Then really listen to the answer without getting defensive yourself.

          “Offending” speech often starts with “you” and especially “you always…” If you’re not doing that and your husband gets upset with any expression of your needs, you might want to consider couples counseling. Good couples counseling is all about teaching people how to communicate with each other.

        2. ACDC*

          Digley will have to elaborate on what they mean by that exactly, but I take it to mean not speaking in a way that is rude or derogatory when you are trying to have a productive conversation. I.e. avoid “you’re a horrible person and that’s why this relationship is failing” and maybe try “when you do X, I feel Y, can we come up with a compromise or plan of action so that both of us feel at ease”

        3. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

          Well, it only works if BOTH members of the conversation are making the same good-faith effort. Is he trying his best to “listen without defending”? Or would he find something to get upset about no matter the words you used to frame it? That can be a manipulation tactic, you know. Distract from the actual issue by derailing into a discussion of HOW it was brought up.

          1. banzo_bean*

            I don’t think he’s trying to be manipulative, but my husband does do that. I know part of it is that I wait till I’m exasperated to discuss stuff like this so then I’m always coming in hot.

            1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

              Ah, I see! I have an ex-friend (notice the ex) who did that… she would bottle up her problems and never say a word until she had a WHOLE LIST of grievances built up, and secret resentments that I had noooo idea she harbored. Then she would suddenly EXPLODE! it was *a lot* to cope with, especially when my reaction was… why didn’t you just open your mouth and use your words in the first place?! I wasn’t doing any of it to intentionally harm you, and would have stopped immediately if you had raised ANY of it in the moment! I was hurt by her assumption that I was doing things maliciously, and by grievances she never gave me the chance to address before the friendship was irreparably damaged.

              Captain Awkward recently had a great post about exactly this:
              Here’s a sample: “There’s a fallacy that it’s not “worth” speaking up when a problem is small because we don’t want to appear “difficult” or “make trouble” and I don’t know what put it in so many of our heads that we are supposed to save up the words “no” and “stop” and “don’t” for Special Occasions”

              But those Special Occasions super suck for the person on the receiving end, who is blindsided by what appears from their perspective to be disproportionate rage.

          2. Rina's husband's*

            It’s also a manipulation tactic to be offended by smaller issues and force someone into a large discussion about the smaller concerns. When the big things come, and they do, it’s harder to address. I had an ex friend who made damaging choices and still does while calling them ‘mistakes’. An outsider can read into many things not really there. There are ‘mistakes’ or ‘choices people make in any relationship that are insurmountable and require no discussions. People can also continue making bad choices and the recipient of those choices can simply be speaking up. Hard to say which might be going on as an outsider. But for op, sometimes sadly big choices can end the relationship.

          3. Rina's husband's*

            My comment below was a nesting fail. Meant to respond to this one, Eve’s husband’s moustache.

        4. Cedarthea*

          I see it as an extension of “Those who profess to brutal honesty are more interested in the brutality than the honesty”. That the message is delivered with no “intent to harm”, that it is spoken from the “I” and that there are no knife twists in the words.

          Obviously, I can’t speak for the OP, but I think I will be including this into our training for camp staff, its a nice framing of speaking to each other.

          1. Filosofickle*

            “Those who profess to brutal honesty are more interested in the brutality than the honesty”

            I LOVE that. Pretty much anytime someone says “I’m just being honest” they’re actually being a jerk.

            1. Cedarthea*

              I forget where I originally heard it, but it is one of a handful of “wisdom” I always follow, along with:

              – We are too poor to buy cheap things.
              – Seek first to understand then to be understood
              – Your friends don’t need an explanation and your enemies wouldn’t believe you anyway.
              – Nothing in life is free, everything costs something, you have to decide whether you are willing to pay it.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Great advice.

      Early in our relationship my boyfriend saw me re-reading the book Difficult Conversations (which I’d assigned to a work book club) and asked if he could borrow it. I was like OMG YES I’LL BUY YOU A COPY RIGHT NOW. It is one of the most valuable things I’ve ever read. We read it together and it helped us start out on such a good footing. We rarely “fight” but we do have real conversations about what matters. It’s been a learning curve for both of us, being avoiders by nature, and now we feel like we have the tools to do this better.

  10. Purt's Peas*

    It sounds stupid, but you just have to start. He knows that you’re graduating and applying to jobs, but might not know how you feel about it all yet; you know that he loves his job and his roots, but you don’t know whether he’d be OK to move.

    I think it’s important to remember that your first conversations shouldn’t necessarily be about future plans or ripping up roots, but how you’re feeling. You’re excited about opportunities, worried that you won’t get any if you stay where you are, worried that he’ll feel uprooted or that he won’t want to leave. How does he feel about it? It’s a good starting point and it sounds like, at this point, it’ll be a relief to start talking about it with him rather than guessing how he feels. There’s time to figure out the logistics and what you’ll actually do, but you just have to sit down and talk (and it’s not a bad idea to schedule a little time for it).

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I agree. OP, it sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought already and you have all the facts of the situation. You’re already approaching this in a thoughtful manner. Now you just need to actually say it out loud, to him. There’s no way to guarantee that the conversation will be perfectly smooth and conflict-free, and if you’re waiting for that you’ll be waiting a long time. You need to have the conversation, so just… start.

  11. Washi*

    I feel like one big factor that’s not in this letter is how hard it would be for the OP’s partner to find a job in the new area, or how hard it would be for OP to find a job in the current area. If it’s pretty likely that partner would eventually find something, that’s pretty different from a situation where partner would almost certainly need to stop working in his field because there are no opportunities. (And same for the reverse situation.) I think that would be one of the main factors in deciding where to go.

    1. Washi*

      Whoops, missed the part where the OP said there are other opportunities for partner in the area! I think that makes the conversation a lot easier, since worst case, you’re not advocating a move that would absolutely quash your partners career.

      1. Washi*

        (not that it’s an easy situation, just that it’s not a stark his career vs. mine situation like I originally understood from the letter.

    2. Mad Woman*

      I agree this factor is important. I am in the exact position of the husband, but I know that I have a really marketable skillset in almost any location, and I’ve used the time he’s been PHDing to get myself additional education to improve on that more. That’s sort of how I’ve dealt with it. But I knew when we first started dating that this would be the eventual situation, so I’ve had years to come to terms with it.

    3. Hi there*

      I think, too, that the OP (and maybe partner) have been assuming they’d move when OP found a job in academia. Now that OP is not looking in academia that assumption does not have to hold. Together they have to decide if moving for OP’s job is something they want to consider.

      You could also live separately for a bit while you try out this field and figure out how you’ll balance the two careers. We have done that a couple times.

  12. Suzanne*

    I would suggest sitting down together and brainstorming a bunch of different scenarios – from pie in the sky to nitty gritty options m. It’s just brainstorming, so it’s low stakes, but it gives you the opportunity to talk through some options. Think about what each of your ideal situations would be, and also think about a hard boundary that you would not want to cross.

    This may not lead you to the perfect scenario, but it will help you understand what’s in motion with every job prospect.

    My last suggestion would be to make your partner as involved in your job search as possible. If he can visit locations with you from the beginning, that will probably make the decision making process feel more fair.

  13. Matilda Jefferies*

    I think you should have this conversation with the help of a couples therapist if you can, or some other third party who is experienced in this kind of thing. You both have strong feelings and totally valid points of view, and it’s going to be hard to navigate it on your own. It would be a huge help to both of you to have someone else in the room to facilitate this tricky situation. Good luck!

  14. a boy named sue*

    My partner moved for my academia job earlier this year. My situation is not exactly the same as yours, but I can share my experience.

    It was a tricky conversation, because we moved from their hometown to a city they’d only ever visited. But my partner knew I was deeply unhappy in my last job, and that the new one I applied to was a great fit for my experience and goals, and they weren’t nearly as invested in their job at the time. It was honestly kind of a cagey conversation at first – very much “What would you think if I applied to this job, theoretically, in general?” type of questions. Although they didn’t love discussing it at first (which I respected and didn’t nag), it finally came down to them saying “You should do what you need to do for your career and we’ll figure out everything else along the way and that’s all I really want to say on it for now.” And that’s pretty much what we did, tackling it in bite size chunks, which makes it sound way easier than it was! My partner kind of came around slowly, first we discussed a temporary long distance situation, but as they adjusted to the idea of a move, we settled on a staggered move – I went as soon as I needed to in order to start and they followed when our lease was up and they had an agreement settled with their employer. It was stressful and tough at times but the payoff has been great, financially and emotionally.

    Basically I guess my general advice is don’t lay anything down as set in stone when you talk about, be flexible about ways to make it work, be open and not pushy when letting your partner work through it mentally on their own, and be grateful for support!

  15. NicoleT*

    The fact that you are even considering your partner’s feelings is a good first step.

    Would your partner be more concerned with logistical (could you support both of you for a while until they find a job? What’s the cost of living like?) or the emotional aspect (is this a situation where you might live separate? Is this a dream job for you? Somewhere you have always wanted to live?).

    I think you could also bring it up and allow them some time to ruminate on it and then come back to discuss too. May help make it less heated and give more time to come up with questions for you both.

    1. Mrrrrrrrr*

      “The fact that you are even considering your partner’s feelings is a good first step.”

      Not really, that’s kind of the minimum bar necessary to be a decent person in a relationship.

  16. snowglobe*

    First of all, if you moved, your husband wouldn’t have to ‘start over’. He’s got several years of experience in his field, which should help him either move up or move to a similar position. It’s fairly normal for people to change companies after 4-8 years, so he might well be considering a move anyway a couple of years down the road.

    I think when you discuss this with your husband, you should talk not just about this next move, but longer term. If you move now to a city with more job opportunities, would your husband want you to commit to staying there, so he can put down roots in the new city? Or would he rather have an agreement that after, say 3-5 years in the new city, you would agree to move to a new place of his choosing? If he’s made sacrifices to help you get to this point, what would he want from you in the future?

    1. Lance*

      ‘Starting over’, in this context, isn’t finding a brand new field, or being new to an industry. ‘Starting over’, in this context, is being new to the area, to the people and neighborhood and geography. To the potential employers that are available there, that he’d have to then find a new job with and start out as a relative unknown, compared to his current job where he’s making an impact. That’s a lot to have to worry about, even if he does have a good deal of experience to back him.

      1. LawLady*

        Yeah, I think this is a good point. It’s about having to make new friends, find new patterns, get a new support network. That takes years to build.

  17. The Cardinal*

    “Do you have any advice for how my partner and I can talk about this with respect and kindness, so we can find the best option for both of us?”
    I know it sounds like a trite, sometimes overused phrase, but “use your words and really listen to what your partner says” is probably the best advice anyone can give – especially if they don’t know both of the parties involved. Hopefully you can successfully encourage your partner to do the same but realistically, you only have control over how you choose to approach this topic. Best of luck…

  18. Emily K*

    One conversational tool I find very helpful is to always be trying to find a way to frame the issue so that you and the other person in the conversation are on the same side of the equation, dealing with a problem together, instead of on opposite sides where one side has to give in or sacrifice for the other side to win.

    So in this case, I’d say start off by trying not to think of it as Your Career vs His Career. Instead, try to look at it through the lens of what makes the most sense for your family – that’s what the two of you are, a family unit, so what is going to be overall the best for both of you? Maybe the job you’re being offered has such great perks or you’ve both wanted to live in that state (were partner’s current job not a sticking point), so you decide that overall the two of you would be better off there. Maybe the weather there is terrible and you’re hesitant to be so far from family and friends, so you decide to pass on this offer but leave the door open to another potentially out of state job that might have a different cost-benefit analysis. Maybe you’ll find out that his job would be willing to let him try out remote work but needs a longer lead time, so you’re willing to be apart for a few months while you settle into the new city and he comes a few months later and gets to keep his current job.

    Basically, be open to solutions that aren’t just your job offer vs his job, and that acknowledge a bigger picture than just this job offer and his current job status – there are also future offers that might come into play, or changes to his job status that might appear in the future. And above all, remember that you’re on the same side, working together to make the best choice for your family.

    1. JustKnope*

      I really love this framing! Go into the conversation as a team, figuring out what priorities you each have and what will make your family most successful and happy. It’s a collaborative conversation, where you’re both speaking honestly, not a “me vs them” conversation.

    2. I edit everything*

      Yeah, a “Let’s figure out our next step as a family” framing really changes the dynamic.

    3. blackcat*

      Academic with a trailing-yet-breadwinning spouse, who has several overseas interviews coming up. Thinking about what makes sense as a family is exactly right. What would you lives look like in the new place? Is that what you want? Is the cost of living relative to the pay/his potential pay reasonable? Is it rural when he’d prefer a city? Are there cultural factors for wanting to stay put?

      1. blackcat*

        Also, I’ve had the rule that moving for a temporary job (ex, post-doc) was never on the table. That means I’ve done a set of jobs during/post PhD (VAP, remote post-doc, some adjuncting) while going on the job market repeatedly. I’m in a major city with a lot of schools, and my research skills are pretty niche (yet in a growing field), so this has worked well.

        1. JobHunter*

          This is a good point. The permanence of the job is important. Selling a house to take a 1-2 year post doc isn’t a sound financial decision, especially if moving from a place with a low COL to one with a high COL.

          1. blackcat*

            I also have a tiny human, so that factors into these sorts of things a lot. “Where do we want our child to grow up?” is a major part of all discussions. And, honestly, I applied to more overseas jobs because of that, even though moving overseas would be harder for my partner professionally. But he feels strongly that he’d rather raise a child in an area with less gun violence, so he’s willing to make other sacrifices to make that happen.

  19. Qwerty*

    I think you need to start by learning what your partner’s career goals are. How would this move affect his long term plans? How would those changes affect your partnership?

    Some good advice I’ve seen for couples is to take turns in advancing each person’s career. It is hard for two people to propel their careers forward at the same time while having a harmonious partnership. When it is your “turn”, you might take on projects with longer hours, change jobs, etc. During this time the other partner may pick up more of the domestic slack, focus on keeping their job stable, etc. Then you switch, so both people can get what they want long-term.

    So a question to ask yourself is how long do you expect your partner to fully accommodate your career while his takes second place? When you get to the new location, are you going to need to work longer/harder to prove yourself in the industry or take a lower paying job that requires them to support you? Or will you be able to get something that pays decently and has consistent hours so that he can focus on whatever he wants? If he needed to take a few months off working to find a new job after the move, would your job be able to support that?

    Does he like change or stability? You say he’ll be fine because he’s had to deal with big changes to location/career “several times” – some people thrive on change while others would be tired of it. It all depends on your partner, their wants/needs, and their personality.

    Does your husband feel like he can say no to this move without crushing you / your dreams? When you ask him about this, it needs to be from a fully neutral position. Come up with a plan beforehand of how you would make your career work if he needs to stay put for a while. Could you work at one of the local opportunities for a couple years so he can focus on his career? Whether to move should be a joint decision, not one partner needing to support another’s decision to transplant their lives.

    1. Qwerty*

      I also wanted to address this comment – “I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area”. Has your husband said there are good opportunities *for him* in that area or is this from your own research? When it isn’t your career, more options look like good opportunities, especially when viewing them through the rosy glasses of wanting something to work out.

      I’m a programmer – technically there are jobs for me almost everywhere. In truth, only a small fraction of those are good opportunities once I run them through the filter of details relevant to my personal career: company size, company culture, programming language, pay rate, benefits, etc. Often when someone tries to get me to come to their area citing plentiful jobs, those job ads end up being a poor fit. So your husband is really the only person who judge if those are good opportunities for him.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This: Would OP’s husband say there were sufficient good opportunities for her [in current city/other location]? How would she feel about him telling her this?

  20. fposte*

    OP, I think this is the opportunity to talk about life trajectories in general, which is ultimately a good thing. Money obviously needs to be looked at, and not just the salaries but long-term what this means for your family’s overall financial health long-term. But also, what would your lives together look like in New City and what in Old City? What kind of place would you live? What would your mutual contributions be to your life? Is it a place you’d want to stay until retirement, and what would retirement mean? You didn’t mention kids, but if there’s a possibility, how would that play out in both scenarios? What enjoyable pastimes and human connections exist in the two scenarios? Is it possible that there’s even a third scenario (is now the time to look for work abroad, for instance?) that hasn’t been considered and that should be if you’re considering change anyway?

    1. hermit crab*

      Yes, all of this! My spouse is a former academic (now in government) and was making big life decisions like this around the start of our marriage. Being faced with those decisions was actually really great for our relationship, I think – it provided an opportunity to have a lot of useful conversations about things that otherwise we might have approached less deliberately.

      In our case, I was adamant about not being a trailing spouse (at least, at that time in my life/career) and we ended up living in different cities for a few years.

  21. ElizabethJane*

    I almost feel like this particular opportunity is lost – or it would be if I were your spouse. I think this conversation should have been had ahead of time because now you’re on a timeline and I’m not sure that would work for me for making a decision.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was also thinking that this opportunity should be set aside until they have a major discussion on what their goals are. I’m sure the OP wants this job, but the relationship should be the priority. There will be another opportunity and they can move forward as a couple.
      I’d confess that I was job searching, applied on a whim, got carried away and realized that there should have been open discussion on this from the beginning.

      1. ElizabethJane*

        Yeah I just don’t know how I’d feel if my spouse sprang this on me. We’ve always had it in the back of our heads that eventually we’ll move to a different state but we don’t have any sort of plan beyond that. The other day I got contacted by a recruiter for a job and almost immediately said “Got contacted by a recruiter, how to you feel about ABC city” so we could start the conversation.

        It’s not clear in the letter if the LW has been having ongoing conversations with their husband about the prospect of this job, or if it would literally be a surprise when the offer comes through. If the conversations have been happening then this opportunity could still work. If this is the first time the husband is hearing about it I think the ship might have already sailed.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          Is it really springing it on them? Surely the partner is already aware of the interview/job offer.

    2. Hrovitnir*

      It seems impossible to me that OP’s partner doesn’t know about their job interview; it’s hardly like they’re interviewing sneakily! I really, really disagree that OP should throw away a job opportunity without careful consideration.

      Certainly they should be willing to entertain the idea of not pursuing it, but for compromise the comment above about potentially moving separately sounds like a much better idea than immediately sacrificing your first opportunity. Obviously long distance relationships suck, but it’s a reality of academia so I feel like OP has probably thought about it. If partner decides moving really doesn’t work for him OP could stay for a year then look to move back.

      Obviously the main answer to this question is to have a really genuinely open conversation about wants and needs, as many people have said, but I just really wince at the idea of defaulting to losing an opportunity like this straight out of a PhD programme.

    3. Paulina*

      It may also be worthwhile for the OP to consider more local opportunities for longer, to give the option of staying put more of a try. There’s a big difference between “ok to move if you have to for your career” and “willing to set my circumstances on fire so you can take the first good thing (or initial best thing) you find,” and many options between them that should be discussed as a partnership.

    4. J*

      I tend to agree. “How do I broach this with my partner?” post-tentative offer is a little backwards. Obviously the husband knows this job is on the table, but it seems clear that he hasn’t yet felt able to be open about how he really feels about it. And at this point I think he’ll be feeling a whole lot of pressure to go along with the move, whether or not OP is intending to apply pressure or even actually is. I don’t know that I could 100% trust that he was freely, happily making the move in this scenario.

    1. That'll happen*

      Agreed. Is this just the only job OP has gotten an offer from, or have they only been applying to jobs in the new area?

    2. Dust Bunny*


      One spouse’s great job doesn’t actually take precedence over the other. The fact that there are “good opportunities” in the other city (although that’s OP’s perception) doesn’t override the good job her husband actually has in had. It’s no less fair to ask her to compromise here than it is to ask him to start over somewhere else.

    3. JC*

      It seems to me that if this was an option, the OP would be considering it. I don’t know what the OP’s specific circumstances are, but often PhDs either need to do a national search for academic jobs or are constrained in the types of locations that would have appropriate non-academic jobs. I have a PhD and work outside of academia, and like the OP, when I graduated I had a partner who was working. There were not any non-academic jobs in my PhD city that would have been appropriate for me. Staying was not an option if I was going to work in my field.

      Luckily my now-husband was early in his career at the time so moving was not a big issue for him, although if I were not in the picture he would have stayed in PhD city. Now that we are each established in our careers, moving would a bigger issue for either one of us. I wish you the best of luck, OP

      1. That'll happen*

        From the letter: “… I’m really tired of academia and am looking into industry or governmental research positions. This does open up the field a bit for local positions, but only slightly.”

        It sounds to me like the OP has their heart set on this new area, and it’s unclear how seriously they’ve looked at opportunities where they currently live.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          …that doesn’t sound that way to me at all? It sounds to me like she has looked into the surrounding area and is aware that her chances of finding a job there are not much more now that she’s interested in industry/government research than they were when she was in academia. Not sure where in the sentence you quoted it suggests that she’s won’t look seriously into local opportunities.

  22. SierraSkiing*

    One thing to think about before this conversation- what compromise would leave you feeling bitter? Bitterness is a slow poison for any relationship, and a compromise that ends in bitterness won’t be sustainable. It’s okay if one or both of you are a little sad about the compromise- compromises often end in someone giving something up.

  23. writerboy*

    Oh wow. I really feel for you having to make this decision. As some have said, the two of you need to talk. The bottom line, though, is this: Who is going to be willing to sit with you and hold your hand while you’re on your deathbed? I can bet it won’t be your co-workers, and it won’t be his either. A job is a job, but a marriage is something bigger. If you are planning to spend the rest of your lives together, then sometimes sacrifices need to be made on the career front. The big question here is who is going to make the sacrifice, and how will both of you feel about that decision 10 years down the road?

    My wife and I both made compromises on the work front to make sure our family was harmonious and functioning well. That should be your overriding obsession in all of this.

    You might actually want to talk to a couples counselor to help you resolve this if it starts to look like a stalemate.

  24. nuqotw*

    Oooh…this situation is just tough. I’ve been there. (We wound up not having to move but I recognize we were incredibly lucky.)

    Money is the one thing I don’t see mentioned in your letter: for us it was clear cut that we would have to move wherever I got a job because any job I got would pay at least twice spouse’s income. In addition to the whole roots put down / friends / intangibles thing (which is super important; I’m not saying it isn’t) it seems you also need to talk about your individual/joint earnings if you move, and what your lives look like in each case.

    1. remizidae*

      Definitely think about money. Prioritize the career that pays more and is more important to the person who has it. Yes, this might mean that the person who earns less/cares less about their career might end up having to sacrifice. It’s still the best decision for the family.

      Also–if you’re not already married, incorporate career sacrifices into the prenup. (Yes, everyone needs a prenup.) The person who sacrifices by moving or quitting a job. should get compensated if the marriage ends within X years of their sacrifice.

      1. J*

        Who cares more is not always the same person as who earns more. (And sometimes “who earns more” changes in unexpected ways.)

        I will also say this: it’s easy to be sensible– i.e. we go where the money points– when the sensible course doesn’t require the sacrifice from you. For a long time my husband and I lived where it was sensible for him to be, because his work seemed more niche, and his earning potential was greater and we presumed it always would be. This was an easy cost-benefit analysis for him, while it wore at me in surprising ways. A year ago an incredible opportunity fell in my lap and suddenly it made sense for us to move to a new city for my job and he would fit in around it. And all of a sudden he understood a different perspective on sensible.

        1. Jay*

          It’s amusing how gender plays out in this (and by “amusing” I mean “infuriating”). I’m a doc. My husband is an academic. I have always earned more than he does – usually three times as much. His job was the priority because I was more “portable.” I’m pretty sure if he’d been the doc and I’d been the academic, his job would have been the priority because he was earning more money. And we have the most egalitarian relationship of any couple I know. He’s been the primary parent. He does more than half the housework and all the cooking, and he doesn’t call it “helping.” It wasn’t just him – I totally bought the logic. Took me years to realize what was going on.

          1. Lara*

            There have actually been studies that prove this too! One was about Doctor/lawyer relationships and whichever was the male career almost always was viewed as less flexible and more important. I do wonder about the impact of societal norms on this: I (female doctor) went part time recently for better life balance and was very supported in doing so, while I think my male partner would damage his work reputation by even mentioning it. So maybe there is inflexibility is because they’re male.

  25. JokeyJules*

    I have a similar issue but on the opposite side. At some point we will have to move for my partners career. Probably multiple times. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. If you’ve had a similar conversation/realization with your partner, they’re likely already on the same page. It sounds like they might already be aware this would be a thing since you’ve been leaning towards academia which would require lots of moving anyway.

    The way that we work through it is by discussing what is reasonable with logistics for me finding work in a new location, how his work can supplement our income in the meantime, and how we can make the adjustment easier on both of us. The most important thing for me is feeling that i’m being heard and that my needs and logistics for finding work are the same priority, and that the conversation doesn’t have the tone of “Hi, we’re moving for my job, i’m sure you’ll find something, i start in 2 weeks” and moreso is “i’ve got a great opportunity in X, how can we make this work for you also?” and go from there. maybe you’d need more time before your start date to give your partner time to job hunt. Be ready to need to commute a bit and sacrifice on different things, and be ready for your partner to staunchly not want to move. The key theme here is that you are in a partnership, so try to keep the conversation focused on ‘us’ and ‘we’.

    Congrats on the exciting opportunities!

  26. AnotherAlison*

    I’m really curious about what the OP’s husband said when she interviewed for the job. He does know you interviewed for it, right? Did you frame it as “I’m going to this interview, but I don’t think anything will come of it” or did you share your excitement with him? I think that’s a big factor. You’re already a couple steps into the process and should be having some discussions already.

    1. VelociraptorAttack*

      I’m hoping I’m wrong in thinking since OP doesn’t mention how he reacted that he doesn’t know.

    2. OP*

      Hey, thank you so much for your thoughts. I didn’t want to go into a ton of details int he letter, but he knew I was interviewing. When the interview happened I honestly didn’t think I would get a job offer, so it was much more of the “I’m going to this interview, but I don’t think anything will come of it” type of conversation.

      We’ve actually discussed this whole situation a few times, but each time it comes up it got really emotional and we ended up tabling it for another time (e.g., I’m excited about the job but anxious about hurting him, he is disappointed about the idea of leaving but would be supportive if I decided to take it). So I should have clarified I’m looking for communication strategies to discuss the options without us getting overwhelmed. But you’re right that I really should have been more proactive about discussing this before the interview even happened.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        Oo, OK, so you do know that he’s emotional about it. It’s so hard! This topic is really close to me as I haven’t even started a PhD but I both want to and probably have to move internationally afterwards and my partner has deep roots and it makes me mega anxious.

        I do think considering all the options as mentioned above, like you taking it and him potentially following later, and even you looking for work back in this town if he decides he’s not OK with it could take the pressure off the conversation? It’s not “decide now or forever hold your peace”.

        I just really think, you have put so much work into your PhD, you need to start strong in your career even though it’s really hard to juggle with caring about and considering your partner’s needs. I went to another country for 7 months a couple of years ago for experience in another lab/networking and it was So. Hard. being away from my partner for that long (we hadn’t spend more than a couple of weeks separately in over a decade together) but by the end of it I think I could handle it? Not long long term but a few years if we could see each other at least yearly.

        Not sure any of that’s helpful, but have a ramble. It’s great that both he did expect this would happen, and that you’re not intending to just railroad him based on that. Good luck!

      2. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

        Ahhh so your question wasn’t really “how can I talk to him about this” so much as “how can I talk to him about this in a much more constructive way than we’ve been able to in the past, when previous attempts got overemotional and overwhelming?”

        That is a very good and important question, and honestly in that case it could be worth a few sessions with a couple’s counselor. It’s very helpful to talk through thorny, emotionally challenging issues with a neutral third party who’s trained to help people work through such things.

        1. blackcat*

          +1 on a two sessions with a couple’s counselor. One to present the problem, then a good counselor will give you homework and guide you through this discussion.

      3. BRR*

        Yeah, a discussion like this is one of the times I think you should put the cart before the horse for job hunting and talk about it as if you might get the job (and manage to do that without getting your own hopes up, fun!). Would it help to talk about it as more broadly as how you want to approach it as a couple if either of you need to move for a job?

  27. NW Mossy*

    About 10 years ago, Mr. Mossy and I were in a similar situation. He was finishing his Ph.D. but knew he wanted to leave the academic life, and ended up getting a line on a job with a company tangentially related to his research. The catch: on the other side of the country, with no friends or family within 2000 miles.

    What worked for us was not to have one big conversation, but a series of smaller ones. On weekends, we’d go for long walks and talk about it, which is surprisingly helpful – the combination of movement and thought was really effective to help us discuss our concerns with honesty and kindness. Ultimately, those walks helped us develop a plan to counterbalance my worry that I wasn’t going to find work (because, Great Recession!) and agree to go with him.

    It ended up being the best possible decision for both of us, somewhat amazingly so. We’re both in a great place in our careers, we love our new home, and we’ve been able to advance non-career goals (kids, etc.) in ways that wouldn’t have been possible where we came from. It was scary because every big change is, but absolutely no regrets from either of us.

  28. Nikki*

    My boyfriend and I met in grad school. Afterwards, we both found jobs very near each other by accident. His was a fellowship- after two years, he started looking for work in a very niche field and I settled further into my career. He eventually got a great job offer and moved back to his home state. I didn’t want to give up my career without other options, so I waited. Two years of long distance later, I moved to be with him when I received an offer in my field (also fairly niche) that has been the most wonderful change for me. Those two years were, ROUGH, but the job I have now is such a great opportunity for me that I don’t regret a thing. I left a lot to move- friends, family, the one place I’d ever lived- but it’s been worth it for me.

    First- you have to figure out what’s best for you, or what you’d need to do to be selfishlessly happy. If you could have everything you want, what would it look like? Where would you live, what would you be doing, how does your husband factor in? Once you’ve got that scenario, look at each component. What can you compromise and still be happy? What does compromise look like for you? What can you give up and still find joy? Your husband needs to do the same thing. What is joy for him? Where can he compromise and still find joy? What overlaps?

    My partner felt a lot of guilt about asking me to uproot my life. He would apologize a ton and constantly acknowledge that what he was asking was huge- I… hated that. I was moving because I love him. I wouldn’t have done it if he weren’t worth it to me and I hated how guilty he felt about it. I also knew, though, that moving without a job would make me anxious and uncomfortable. I love my career and I didn’t want to give it up and risk too much time out of work and not being able to get back into my field. I couldn’t compromise on that and I made that clear, so we figured out what that meant for us. For me, it meant distance. It meant monthly eight hour drives to see each other, phone calls every night, and video chats weekly. It meant two years apart.

    All this personal story is to say that I’ve been your husband. He thinks you’re worth it too. He thinks your happiness matters too. He certainly has preferences, and they may not align with yours, but you’re on the same team. Talk it out together. Talk it out with friends. Write it down, talk out loud to yourself in the shower or the car. You absolutely will find a way to both find happiness. It may not happen for both of you at the same time, or the same way, but eventually you’re going to meet in the middle again. Good luck!

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience- it really helps to hear your perspective. I’m so happy it worked out for you and your partner!

  29. WellRed*

    “And I know my partner could find another great job in this new state, because he’s done it before several times and I’m aware there are lots of opportunities in the area.’

    This is something you really need to think about. Maybe he’s sick of doing this.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Or maybe hes not.

      They need to discuss it instead of “thinking” about things and coming to your own conclusion.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Agreed. My husband had moved 23 times growing up and had been in the current area about 7 years when I finished my BS, so we stayed here so that he didn’t have to start his life over again (even though his job was a non-factor and there were more exciting industries for me elsewhere). It was a good decision for the family overall (the kids grew up with extended family around, too), but probably not the most interesting career situation.

    3. Dagny*

      I’m the spouse who left everything behind for her academic husband’s career, and this line made me do full-head revolutions. It’s very, very easy for the one “leading” to assume that it will all be roses for the trailing spouse, which is problematic on several fronts: it is often inaccurate, and then the trailing spouse feels like a jerk for saying that there are problems with the arrangement.

      I’ll also point out that “opportunities in the area” is a… vague term at best. Is the new city actually a hub for his area of expertise, or do you just think there are opportunities? Will he end up taking a step back in his career, or commuting a stupid long distance, to make it work?

  30. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Before you got to the end of the program, your talks with your partner were all hypothetical and very much in more of a dreamlike trance sort of mindset.

    You need to sit down and have a real “This is coming to an end, this is real now, we have to decide what we want to do as a couple.”

    You need his true feelings, which may be exactly what you’re envisioning about his roots and his happiness in his role. Or he could have been grinding, fighting and working all that time knowing it was going to come to an end and you’d move, given your original plan!

    I’ve relocated for my partner and it’s perceived that I have “roots” down and am comfortable. I’m comfortable wherever I land, I’m comfortable with the partner I’ve bonded with and have dedicated myself to. I don’t care about a job, the friends I have, the work I’ve put in. Why? Because I have proven to myself over the years I’m happy to land wherever the wind takes me.

    Talk to him. This is part of the hard part of being in a committed relationship. You can do it.

  31. Quinalla*

    This will be a tough conversation, but you can do it! Trust me, I am the queen of avoiding these kinds of conversations, I’d rather do almost anything else, but they are worth having. Also, trust your husband when he says he will support you. Sure, he probably wishes he could stay and you could get your career start where you are, but talk to him and let him tell you again that he supports you and let him know how much you appreciate it.

    Something that might help you think this through: we all have different seasons of life. Some of those seasons we are being the more supportive partner or we put our career on the front burner or we are going back to school or or or. Things will change again at some point down the road and you’ll have another conversation. Life is always changing, the fantasy that we’ll “make it” and then I guess fade to black and live happily ever after is one a lot of us have, even if we don’t realize it, but we never “make it”. Sure, we might get to societal acceptable milestones (finish school – ding, marriage – ding, kids – ding, etc.), but life goes on and life is always changing. Kind of went on a tangent there, but I’ll leave it. Anyway, you will likely get a “turn” to be the supportive partner – either again or for the first time – its ok to accept the support! I’m bad at this too, so I get it, I get it soooo much!

  32. Jaybeetee*

    I think the first thing you need to do is get an honest idea of how he feels about it – he presumably knows you interviewed and all that, and says he supports it. Ask him to tell you honestly what he would prefer in terms of staying or going. Also get honest with yourself about what you would prefer to do. It might be that yes, he likes your current area and would prefer to stay… but that he’s ultimately okay with moving as well.

    An important thing to bear in mind, with conversations like these, is that there’s no “one objectively correct answer”. It’s when one of you or the other concretizes your preference as “this is the only right thing to do, anything else would be wrong” that things start to derail. Because by that point, you’re not so much arriving at a solution with your partner, as pushing your ideas onto him (or vice versa). If you’re able to approach this as “there’s no *wrong* answer, there’s whatever works for both of us”, you’re a lot more likely to arrive at a solution that, well, works for you both. Maybe that means staying. Maybe it means taking this job and moving. Maybe it means doing a “commuter marriage” for awhile. Maybe it means letting this opportunity go, but being open to other parts of the country if other opportunities come up. Lay all options you can both think of on the table, figure out what’s most palatable for the two of you.

  33. Snark*

    Having done my five years in grad school, I can say that I totally understand the drive to, once you’ve put all that work in, to put that degree to its highest and best use. But it’s also the case that PhD students need a lot of financial, emotional, and practical support for those five years, and their partners often shoulder the lion’s share of that. And your husband, OP, may be very much in the habit of that supporter role – “he’s said he would always support my decision regarding moving for a job.”

    So my advice is, listen to the voice in you that’s saying “I would feel like such a jerk if I basically said “thanks for everything you’ve sacrificed and worked for these many years — now I need you to throw all of it away and start over.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to throw away everything you’ve been sacrificing and working for all these years yourself, but I think you need to get his honest feelings about what moving would mean for him, and honor them in a way he might have gotten out of the habit of doing himself.

    And while academics often have to relocate by necessity, you’re getting out of academia for what I know are the very best of reasons, and there are options in your area. So my feeling is, you’re on a pretty equal footing as far as priorities go, and it sounds like you could find a job in your area and your field. Compromise may be the way you can now support your partner.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think you’ve nailed it here, in that it’s possible OP’s own instincts are against her own plan. Sometimes you have to stop people sacrificing for you because you just know that you don’t want to shoulder that debt. I think she needs his true enthusiasm to proceed.

    2. OP*

      Thank you so much for that perspective – you make a great point about going with the gut feeling and focusing on compromise. I think regardless of how the conversation goes, I’ll definitely look more into local options rather than assume we’d have to move eventually.

  34. OrigCassandra*

    Whoof. OP, one of the rocks my marriage foundered on was something like this. Let me suggest some warning signs you might look for — to be clear, I do not know whether they are present in your relationship and I certainly hope they’re not!

    * Does your partner understand both your and their options fully? When I was near graduating from professional school with my partner still in a Ph.D program, I sat down to have this conversation with him. He said that he wanted a tenure-track academic career, but my (as gentle as possible) subsequent questioning made clear that he didn’t understand the kind of work and commitment that meant at ALL, much less his odds of success, much less the likely impacts on me and my career aspirations.

    * Does your partner feel safe being honest with you, and you with them? Mine didn’t. Leaving aside the question of whether that was warranted (I don’t think it was, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?), it meant he told me what he thought I wanted to hear, rather than his actual truth. I actually would have had a much easier time accommodating what I believe his then-truth to have been! It was wildly frustrating.

    * Have you and your partner successfully negotiated Major Life Things before? How did the process go, and does it need improvement, or better ground rules? Our situation around this was… never great. I wish we’d involved a counselor, frankly, though it’s water under the bridge now.

    * How is the balance of contribution to your marriage looking at present? Is it basically equitable? If not, danger lurks. I went into my marriage with a ridiculous (in hindsight) amount of indulgence for my partner, which fed his entitlement. It wasn’t good.

    I wish you and your partner the best, OP.

  35. Kay*

    I’m an academic with a 2 body problem. I think moving for an academic job (which is almost always necessary) can be different than moving for an industry position. So you need to determine under what circumstances your partner is willing to move. Don’t assume that because they were once willing to move to support your academic dream that they would be willing to move under any circumstances. Similarly, don’t assume that because they seem settled, they’re unwilling to go. You have to really listen to their perspective.

    One deal that my partner and I made about moving is that nobody would take a job that didn’t pay enough to support the entire household, even frugally, for a year. Even if your partner is a rockstar, it can take time to get into a new position. My state’s unemployment rate (where we moved for my partner’s job) is under 2.5%. There are basically no jobs if you’re not in timber or nursing, and I am not in either field. So knowing I wasn’t under immediate pressure to take the first job that I could find made the difference.

  36. Not A Manager*

    This is not A Conversation. This is an ongoing series of conversations that, ideally, should have started at about the same time you began applying for jobs. Everything that you’ve reported here is based on what you think he thinks, or on what you and he agreed to a long time ago.

    I suggest that you open the topic not with “well should we move for this job,” but with “how do you feel about the past few years here? What are your thoughts about the next few years?”

    And honestly, you and he might benefit from sitting down with someone who can help you establish and maintain ongoing communication within your marriage.

    1. Snark*

      I really like this framing, because I think PhD students have a tendency to get so wrapped up in their progress and their career and their work that the framing becomes, “will you consider moving for my career” rather than “where are we now, how are we feeling here, what do you envision moving forward, which one of us is willing to compromise here and about which of our personal and collective priorities.” That’s not a criticism! But a PhD program is – speaking from experience – a place where your ego and ambition are necessary to propel you through, and it’s hard to get off that kick once you’re done.

  37. K.K.*

    For us, we’ve been taking turns. We lay groundwork of types of areas we might veto. Then he chose where he went to grad school and I followed (and did grad school there). I got to choose first city after grad school (and he found a job here). We may stay here, or in say 5 years he may choose a different place.

    It’s obviously more complicated than this but that’s what it boils down to. OP, it sounds like you chose grad school city and are not on professor track – maybe weight your partner’s preferences more heavily for this next cycle of your life? Or maybe grad school was long enough that you feel you chose once to go to that city for a cycle and he chose to stay for a cycle?

  38. Chili*

    I think the first thing to do is research all of your options:
    – Are there options for you to stay in place and find work in your field? Would you be sacrificing pay or career potential by staying in place? Could you be happy doing this? How long would you be happy doing this? Just a couple years or forever?
    – Does your partner have satisfying career options where you’d like to move? Would they be sacrificing pay or career potential by moving? Would they be happy? Would they be happy living there forever?
    – Is there a third option that may be more equal? A move to a city that is neither of your first choices, but would work better for both of you?

    Then move into some more theoretical questions:
    – How much moving do you expect to do? Would this be a one-time thing? A few times over your career? Or moving around frequently?
    – Would you be willing to move for his career if he really wanted to?
    – Would you be willing to move back?
    – Do you feel like you’ve both made equal amounts of sacrifice in your relationship thus-far?

    And some pragmatic ones:
    – What would the quality of life be like for both of you after you move?
    – Will you have enough resources to come back to visit home/the city you’re leaving?
    – Do you have enough in savings to support your partner while they find a job?
    – Would you be willing to support your partner if they take extra time to be picky about their next job?

    1. Emmie*

      Ask yourself questions:
      – How certain are you about your future career path?
      – It seems like OP is wavering. Would this new location give you and your partner options if you decided to change focus?
      – If you are unsure about your path, what other metro areas would you two be open to looking at? What gives you the most options? Your partner? Do any of those areas align?
      – Are you excited to have a job offer? Or excited about the work you would do?
      – What else excites, or interests you?
      – What does contentment, or fulfillment look like for you? Does this city, and position align with that? How much does that matter to you?

      Be honest with yourself, and your partner about your wavering. It is normal to do be uncertain, and you can still factor that into your job search.

  39. CMO*

    Can anyone speak to their experiences with one spouse finding a job and instigating the move before the other spouse has one lined up? What-ifs of that situation (how to job search as the job-less spouse, if spouse isn’t finding a job how long before they consider relocating, consider taking a part time or less career-aligned role, etc.). Because I think that’s the practical advice that OP is asking for to help create a concrete plan for the move…and I selfishly want to know what you have to say, being in a similar position!

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Hubs moved 8 hours away 3 months before I could (wanted to finish a degree). It sucked, tbh. The location had little to no opportunity for me. I was job-less for another 4 months in a state where I knew no one other than Hubs. My horse couldn’t get to me yet because it was the dead of winter and I didn’t want to move him across 3 states with all the ice and snow. I had no friends in the area. I felt absolutely useless.

      We had agreed at the time that 1) we did not require me working financially, which took some of the burden off of me finding any job that paid, 2) if nothing could be found within 6 months, we would consider moving a bit farther away from Hub’s job and expanding my geographical area, 3) if nothing came up in a year, it was time for both of us to move on.

      Hubs was also very supportive during this time – he knew I was struggling emotionally with it and would do little things to cheer me up. We started volunteering at a local nature center, which helped a lot. It’s actually how I started crafting more too (mostly knitting) because I needed something to do. Hubs also asked his job’s HR folk if any of them would be willing to review my resume for tips, which I was very grateful for him to ask and for them to do! They knew with him going in it was a big move for us, and did send some assistance our way.

    2. remizidae*

      Cut expenses to the bone until you’re both stably working. Cheapest possible housing, no new cars or other big purchases, no new clothes, no restaurant meals. Unemployment is hard enough without adding financial stress or dipping into savings.

  40. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I’m the trailing spouse to a recent PhD graduate. I was also the primary breadwinner for a long time. I moved willingly to the city where my partner got his PhD, but I always knew it would be a temporary thing– fortunately for us, I suppose, I never really took to that city so I was eager to move. When it came time for the job search, I knew that I had a say in which city we ended up in, but I also told my partner that I would give anything a try. If I hated it after that try, well, we would have to work that out but it would likely mean long-distance or separation.

    I think the key is to be clear about what you want and what your goals are, even if they don’t exactly match up. I never told my partner flat-out that I would not move to a certain city, but I did tell him that some cities were better for me than others. The PhD job market is TOUGH (and he was focusing on academia for his job search, though he had a consulting offer and ended up taking a government job) and I went into it eyes open. That didn’t mean I couldn’t express disappointment, mind you. I really, really, REALLY did not want to move to a certain city in the Midwest, and my partner knew it, but I never stopped him from pursuing the position. I just worked out my Plan B. And when it came down to it, when he had a bunch of mediocre offers on the table, I was comfortable saying that if he took the job in X city I would move with him, but if he took the post-doc in Y city I was staying put and we would re-assess when he got something permanent. He took the job in X city and I’m pretty happy with that. I know he respected me and my needs, even when sometimes things looked a little more bleak for me than for him. He felt driven by a sense of desperation and a lack of broad choices, and I understood that. I felt driven by a sense that my happiness depended a lot on my lifestyle/location, but also that I wanted him to have the opportunity to establish his career.

    A question for you: has he talked to his job about the possibility of working remotely? If it’s even a possibility, he should explore it. That way he gets to at least keep his career moving forward at a job he likes. The friends part is harder, for sure, and if he’s really settled, moving might be a big blow.

    The other thing: he has said he would support your decision around moving for a job. You need to listen to him. You can ask a couple of times if he’s really sure, but if he keeps telling you he supports the decision, respect what he’s saying.

    A cautionary tale: one of my partner’s cohort has been completely stymied by their partner’s preferences. It’s the saddest thing; the partner has a job that is super portable and can be done anywhere, but they absolutely refuse to move anywhere the PhD has had an interview, and the PhD agreed to move wherever the partner wanted. The partner got a job offer in the worst state imaginable for the PhD’s academic opportunities (seriously) and took it. MY partner asked the PhD, “So… what are YOU going to do?” and the PhD said, “I don’t really know. I can try to talk to the department at University of Middle of Nowhere, but they don’t have a graduate department in our field so they probably won’t fund my research.” My partner feels bad for the PhD, but honestly, the PhD made their bed by making that agreement. So try not to make absolute declarations that are great for one of you but terrible for the other!

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This is a good response.

      I’m also a trailing spouse, but to an MD, not a PhD. We moved for med school, we moved for residency, and while we plan to put down roots where we are now, I realize there may be yet another move on the horizon.

      It’s not necessarily a fun reality, but when you sign up for this life, you do realize what’s coming. I was happy where we lived for med school, but I’m happier where we are now. But if we have to move again, I knew this was a likelihood coming into this relationship. LW, it likely won’t be a surprise to your partner when you bring this up. If he’s anything like me, he’ll have been waiting for this conversation to arise.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Expanding on this to say that my husband was wonderful about handling moves. He let me have control over his match list to make sure we ended up somewhere good for both of us (which we did). He does nothing unilaterally, but if we have to move again for his job, I’m happy to do so as long as the location is suitable for my career.

  41. Hedgehug*

    For all you know, the reason he’s been doing so awesome at his current job, is so that when you both inevitably move away he’ll have a great resume and great reference letters to go with it to help him get a new job quickly when you move.

  42. austriak*

    Instead of asking a bunch of strangers for advice, you should have an honest and open conversation with your husband. If he says he is all for it, then do it. If not, discuss alternatives.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That seems harsh. There’s a value to asking a body of people, including those who have also faced this situation, in preparation for a deep conversation with LW’s husband. We can bring up points, angles, and suggestions that they might not think of on their own, and provide additional guidance.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I was kind of surprised as well. This is more of a relationship issue. If the OP didn’t discuss this before applying for an out of state job, then this isn’t a great situation. I couldn’t imagine coming home to my spouse saying, “So I applied for a job in another state, went on interviews, and was offered the job. You have a week to decide if you want to move. I’m ready to go.”
      My husband and I know we want to move and we are in the process of deciding where we want to go. Once we decide on a few destinations, I will start applying for jobs, and he can get a job after we move. That’s the plan we came up with after years of discussion.

      1. Emily K*

        LW says, “While he’s said he would always support my decision regarding moving for a job, I know he really would rather stay here.”

        They’ve discussed this in general, it’s just now getting close to the point where they might have to consider something more specific and make a hard decision, and she’s trying to be sensitive to her partner’s unspoken feelings.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, and it can be tricky when your preferences evolve. The OP probably started her degree at least 5-7 years ago, and I can imagine feeling guilty as the partner thinking that I’d genuinely been open to moving half a decade ago, but now I’ve put down roots and built a great career for myself, I’m not excited about moving, but also don’t want to kill my partner’s career…It’s a tough situation!

        2. AndersonDarling*

          Yeah, that’s why I really feel bad about the situation. I think the OP knows her partner has settled in and that is why she moved forward without discussing it.

          1. Anonapots*

            It’s not clear if the OP discussed the implications before they applied and interviewed. If they did, I think the conversation is much easier to start. If they didn’t…there really isn’t any excuse for that. The OP made huge moves towards a huge shift in their lives without first discussing it with their person. At this point, the only real solution is to let their husband know what’s going on and make a decision together.

    3. ThatGirl*

      That’s not quite fair, it can help to get outside perspectives on these kinds of things, oftentimes it helps clarify how you really feel or how to start a conversation.

    4. Malter Witty*

      This is a problem that is about two people, and it will take two people to solve.
      Have the conversation, have it sooner rather than later – you’ve already had an interview with an out of state company, so obviously this conversation is overdue. And it won’t be one conversation, it is most likely to be a series of conversations, as it is not a clear cut issue.
      You need to discuss what you want out of your career, what spouse wants out of their career, what types of jobs each of you would like, what industry you’d like to work in, what $$ you need for your current life, what $$ you will need for future, etc. etc. Maybe spouse would like more education now that you are done with your program.

      Start talking!

      1. Malter Witty*

        Think about what you are actually discussing. A conversation about your next job is too small in scope.
        The conversation needs to be about the much larger picture of your desires/needs/hopes as couple. So maybe you start the conversation by saying you want to have conversations, and this starter conversation is to determine what the future discussions will be about. You can start small. “I want to have a discussion this weekend about our career paths, not just what we are doing, but what we want to do.”
        As you get further into it, you might want to consider a couples planning session with a career coach.

    5. Me*

      Really unfair. She isn’t asking a bunch of strangers for solutions, shes asking how to have a productive conversation.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, I think maybe some people didn’t read the last part of her letter, where she specifically asked, “do you have any advice for how my partner and I can talk about” the issue. She wants to talk to him and knows she needs to, but she wants to do it kindly and respectfully, and that’s the part she wants help with. She’s not asking us if she should move or not.

    6. voyager1*

      If you marry someone with a job that moves around a lot or marry someone in grad school, one should be prepared to move.

      1. CheeryO*

        I can’t agree on that one. It completely depends on job and salary prospects, whether one wants to stay in academia or is interested in getting away from it, etc. And even if the best option from a purely financial/career standpoint is to move, a committed relationship isn’t a dictatorship; there are plenty of factors that go into a decision like that, and it’s always worth a conversation and a degree of open-mindedness from both sides.

    7. ACDC*

      This is a harsher way of saying what I was thinking. OP and her spouse (at least from the details I got out of the letter) have talked about the move in general, but nothing specific. At this point OP is reacting out of anxiety for a conversation that hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t think anyone on this site can give OP the magic words for when she talks to her husband. Only she knows their relationship and an open conversation on this topic needs to happen sooner rather than later. I have a sneaking suspicion she will be pleasantly surprised after talking to her husband!

    8. JB (not in Houston)*

      Is it possible that you did not read the letter all the way through? Because it seems like you missed the part of the letter where the OP says why she’s writing in. She already knows she needs to have a conversation with her husband, that’s the entire point of her letter. She is asking for advice on how to best have that conversation.

  43. bananaboat*

    Talk to him!
    Tell him how much you love him for everything he’s done for you, how much he means etc. Ask him how feels about leaving his job. Make it clear that you would support him either way whether he leaves or stays in his position and that if he decided to leave you would support him with getting a new job, updating his CV whatever was needed. Then follow through.

  44. BRR*

    This is the way I handled it with my now husband, who was getting a PhD in history when we met and wanted to go into either teaching or a handful of other niche fields. First we determined that I would have to be willing to move. Then we established what we needed for a place to be an acceptable location. I didn’t want to live in a small town both for personal preferences and it would be too challenging of a job market for me. Before he applied, we would talk about the location because it wasn’t worth it to go through everything to apply for a tenure track job if it was a no go for me.

  45. Quickbeam*

    I’ve been there but not in academia. Mu husband is an expert in an extremely niche field. He had to do a nation wide job search and got a single offer, which resulted in a 25 year job with full pension. It is unfortunately in a state I am not fond of. I ended up retraining, with new licensed profession (portable)
    and finding work here.

    Downside: I still miss my home state, my friends, my old profession and my family. Upside: Husband has had a great career only made possible by this location. I love him and we are looking at a very comfortable retirement.

    It’s all in the perspective I guess. And the commitment to the relationship.

  46. Linzava*

    I can only advise that you both sit down and run the numbers. I’m in a weird situation myself, my partner has been the breadwinner our whole relationship, and we will be relocating in a few years so I can finish my education with a good program and scholarships. When he told me he’d move for me, it was so special. He has the high paying career and the city we’re most likely to move to pays 15% less for his field. But after I finish school, I will be able to make near if not the same as he does. It’s about the opportunity for the couple, not the individuals alone.

    I’d also advise that you both see what his long term dreams are as well, they may fit into relocating, he might want to go back to school or start a business and your career could make that possible.

  47. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I gotta say, it bothers me a little that the OP’s specific question is do you have any advice for how my partner and I can talk about this with respect and kindness, so we can find the best option for both of us? (emphasis mine) and many commenters are just saying “well you should talk to your partner!”

    Y’all. The OP is going to talk to their partner. This is preparation for that talk, not a substitute for it. Let’s focus on what’s being asked of us.

    One thing that I think you should be ready for, OP, is that this very possibly isn’t going to be one conversation, but the beginning of a series of them. Raise issues, brainstorm, and then break to let ideas ferment and for both of you to do some market research based on what you’ve talked about.

    You know your husband better than we do, so you know whether he’s going to feel menaced or buttressed by laying the groundwork for the conversation before you have it. Act accordingly! The benefits of laying the groundwork ahead of time are that he’ll have the opportunity to do some focused research and soul-searching on his part, if he hasn’t already done so.

    Unless you’ve done most of his job-hunting for him (which I’m aware is how some couples operate, though I don’t see any indication of this in your letter), he’s going to have a much better sense of his job prospects in this new location than you are, and that’s going to be a significant part of the decision. Just because he has had successful job changes in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that this new location will be particularly good for it.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I actually kinda think that our comments aren’t going to help LW much with the initial conversation. That should just happen asap. Our comments will be more helpful once LW knows for sure that husband doesn’t want to move. Or if he is hesitant, but open and wanting encouragement. Or if he is just appearing to have roots, but really has just been waiting to move the whole time.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I don’t agree. The OP has a pool of people here who have been in similar situations and had to make similar decisions. It’s highly likely that we can provide the OP with additional possibilities, ways to approach, and items to consider that they might not have thought of themselves. And that is as true for the initial conversation (which would likely involve a brainstorm of options, and thus be a great time to introduce possibilities) as it is for followups.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Right, but I don’t know how much useful input beyond that we can give as people who a) don’t know the specifics of the job market, positions in question etc, b) don’t know the husband and can’t speak to how best to approach him and c) don’t actually know whether or not he’s open to moving as the letter is mostly about what the OP thinks he will think. The OP sounds as though they had the facts of the situation lined up and are conscious of their partner’s feelings, so to me the only thing left to say is to, you know, do it. Have the conversation. If she waits until she’s crowdsourced the Perfect Conversation That Cannot Possibly Go Wrong, it will never actually happen.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        Seems like there have been plenty of comments from people who have been in similar situations who have offered their perspectives on the conversations that need to happen. You may not have any great advice, but by reading OP’s responses it seems like other people do.

  48. Kiwiii*

    Is there a reason that partner moving would have to amount to them throwing everything away? I can’t tell if they’re in a niche job or not or if they could work remotely or not — a move might be an opportunity to take a step up, even!

    I do think one thing OP should do when before the conversation is to consider outcomes she, personally, is okay with. If spouse genuinely doesn’t want to move — is that an option you can live with? Are there options nearby that are 5-10 steps removed from what you do that you could reasonably be hired in/would want to work in? Or is this a conversation where the gist is, “so it looks like the time is coming for us to do this move for a position for me; what can i do to make this easier for you?” It’ll be kinder if you can decide which it is beforehand.

  49. Professor's Wife*

    Trailing spouse too. The transition from my husband’s PhD to postdoc, and then postdoc to assistant professor, was probably six years of on-and-off ugly-fighting. I didn’t want to move to the state where he got his postdoc, and when I got there I ended up hopping from toxic job environment to toxic job environment partially because he was on a year-to-year contract and I only had a three month window to change jobs each year, and partially because we were a poor “culture fit” for the area, which was really insular and hostile, and I was treated like an Intruder from Elsewhere the whole time we lived there, and also partially because we really needed the money and I just had to take whatever I could get that paid the bills.

    When he was applying to professor jobs it was something of a double-edge sword, the prospect of landing in any random city was so stressful for me I couldn’t even look at the list of where he’d applied. But thankfully we ended up in a decent city with a decent airport and we’re much happier here.

    But career-wise? I’ve been here over two years and I’ve been sending job applications into the void for most of them. My work history is a bit of a mess from the postdoc years of just taking whatever job I could get because we needed the money at the time, and it’s really frustrating to me. His professor job pays more than we were both earning at our last jobs so at least financially it’s working out, but I’m really starting to stare down the possibility that I may never be able to find work again and it’s terrifying me to me that I can’t support myself in the event of an emergency.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I feel for you! When my partner got an offer for a post-doc across the country, I cried when he told me. In front of him. I didn’t mean to, but the stress made it really hard for me to hold it together. We were lucky that he had some other offers, but that post-doc was really tempting for him and my reaction is the biggest regret I have from that whole period.

      1. Snark*

        I don’t think that reaction is regrettable. I think a lot of trailing spouses feel like they can’t express any negative emotion about where their partner’s career is yanking them next or they’re not being supportive, and I think a lot of trailed spouses get into the habit of accepting that support for a variety of good and bad reasons. “Well, but of course we need to jump on this postdoc because the job market is very tight” is true, but it also can steamroll a partner inadvertently.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I know that you didn’t mean to cry in front of him of course but in reality, that’s good that he saw your immediate reaction. That’s important.

        These are our partners we’re talking about, they get to see us in every vulnerable moment, that’s part of the deal. It’s not the same as having a conversation with a colleague, sibling, parent or best friend. When we lock up our emotions between our intimate partnerships, it hurts both of us in the long run.

        We should never use our emotions as a weapon, so I’m not saying “oh just start busting out crying if you’re upset! That’ll get you what you want!”, no no no. But if your immediate gut reaction is to wail, let him see it.

      3. CheeryO*

        An honest reaction isn’t something to regret! It’s not like you were deliberately trying to manipulate him.

  50. Environmental Compliance*

    I can’t tell you what to do in *your* relationship. I’ll tell you what we did in ours.

    Hubs graduated first – I was still working on my MS. He moved out of state for an opportunity 8 hours away. I followed after a couple months. Then he got another opportunity at another facility – we moved again. And again. In total, 3 times for his job. He was the primary breadwinner, and we had discussed it and agreed that this was how it was going to work for the time being for us.

    However, now I am the primary breadwinner, and my career is more solid than his. At this point, the roles have flipped. We’ve rediscussed, and have decided that *if* I were to find a job that really was great for me, and it required a move – well, we did it for his first, and we both decided it was fair for it to go the other direction too.

    FWIW – Hubs was almost military (he was accepted to officer school, went part way through, got medically disqualified, it sucked all around tbh), and that meant that 100% I would have been the trailing spouse. However, if I were to get set up in a great job…. we decided at that point that it would also be fair for me to not follow around for 3-6 months at a time and be uprooted so very constantly.

    We would not have made any of it work if we did not discuss it frankly and honestly.

  51. Jess*

    I have sometimes found it helpful in these sorts of conversations to detach the possibilities from the person, at least at first. Literally brainstorming and writing a list together of all sorts of possible scenarios, from realistic to awful to pie-in-the-sky. That exercise helps to get out wishes and fears so they are visible in the conversation, rather than influencing it while hidden from one or both people. Then go through each one, and each of you assign an initial “yes” “maybe” “no.” That helps to clarify the landscape more. It can also be relieving to see where there is unexpected alignment and to recognize what is actually off the table for both people. These two steps (which can be fairly quick or take some hours, depending on how much is in the mix) can clear the way for a much more productive decision-making process, because they surface a -lot- of helpful information before anyone digs in their heels on a position, and instead allow people to partner with each other to solve an external problem that impacts them both in a lot of different ways.

    Hope this is useful.

  52. expecting to be in LW's position in 2026ish*

    I think it might be helpful to consider that your partner isn’t really “throwing it all away and starting over” if he gets a job–his experience, skills, accomplishments, and potentially his network are all factors that will be really helpful on the job search and in a new job. Even if he isn’t able immediately to land the same type of position that he has now, he’s going to be starting his job search and a new position from a better place than when he first moved with you for graduate school (assuming you moved together, which isn’t actually specified here and may not be true!). You wouldn’t be forcing him to start from scratch while you advance your career.

    It sounds like you’re feeling a lot of guilt about the fact that you’ll probably need to move after your PhD, and it might make this conversation easier if you’re able to let go of some of that guilt, especially since your letter indicates to me that it’s is coming from yourself, not from your partner expressing concerns. He knew when he married you that your career would almost certainly necessitate moving one or more times in the first decade of your career. He isn’t going to be starting from scratch again. He might even be able to pursue new opportunities because of the move. It also sounds like you might feel differently–less guilty, less like the decision is so fraught–if you were looking at academic positions, but I don’t think that should be the case. It’s a post-PhD job search either way, and the national scope of the search is part of the nature of the beast. Let go of the guilt and the expectations about how your partner will feel about this conversation.

    (As a side note–I’m a little disappointed by all the commenters who’re attacking LW and advising simply “talk to your husband,” since LW’s entire question is “how do I have this conversation, what are some things that I should think about”! Obviously LW is not looking for AMA’s commentariat to replace a conversation with LW’s partner.)

    1. Anonapots*

      I think it’s a little because the question feels weird if they had already talked about the position the OP was applying for and knew what the implications were when they were interviewed. If the OP did talk to their spouse, then the possibility of moving would have come up already and this conversation would be easier to have. However, it feels weird that the OP is saying they don’t know how to bring it up now that they’ve interviewed and had a tentative offer.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I suggested talking to the husband simply because LW seems to assuming how he’ll feel without actually knowing.

  53. Me*

    I think prior to having this conversation you need to put your guilt into perspective. First, he was aware moving was a distinct possibility – it’s not like there’s a blindside situation going on. Second, you can’t decide how he feels. So deciding he would want to stay if he could preemptively is pretty unproductive. Maye he would. But equally likely he would be excited about leveraging the career he’s developed into something new bigger or better. It’s Schrodinger’s cat.

    Perhaps the conversation you need to have begins with checking in. “Hey now that I’m approaching end date, how do you feel now about potentially having to relocate?”

  54. deesse877*

    If it were me, I’d want to clarify for myself (not in conversation with a partner) whether the job at issue is truly a one-to-one replacement for academia or not. An academic job one takes out of a sense of vocation, and most people derive identity from it, and plan to spend their lives in it. Is this job that? It might be; that’s possible. If yes, then your original arrangement could be still valid (though with the caveats that others have mentioned about paying attention to spouse now, not just what spouse said years ago).

    But if it’s just a great job, the situation is different. There are many jobs, some better and some worse, and a good one is nothing to sneeze at. It’s only a job, though.

  55. EEB*

    A few years ago I was in your partner’s position – I ended up leaving a job I really liked to move to a city where my husband had gotten a great and unique job offer. Some of the things that helped us make this decision were:

    1) He only job-hunted in cities where there would plausibly be good job opportunities for me as well.
    2) We weighed the likelihood of him being able to find a good job in my city vs. me being able to find a good job in his city; ultimately, my skill set is broader and more transferable than his.
    3) He showed tremendous respect for my career. He never assumed that his career came first; it was truly a decision where each outcome was on the table.
    4) We agreed that this would not necessarily be a permanent move. If at some point I received an equally compelling offer in a different city, or we wanted to prioritize being closer to family, we’d consider relocating again.
    5) I felt really strongly that, once I agreed to the move, it was our move and not just his. If my job hunt didn’t go well, feeling resentful or thinking “I only moved because of you” was off the table. He didn’t force me to move – we talked it through and make the decision together. I think that mindset was incredibly helpful.
    6) My ultimate position was that I could plausibly find many jobs that would make me happy, whereas he was the only person I wanted as a partner. I knew that he felt the same way, and our mutual support for each other made the idea of relocating and job hunting much less intimidating.

  56. Bopper*

    1) How hard was it to get this job for you? Is this the type of job you want to move for? E.g., you would move for a Tenure track job, but not junior researcher.
    2) Did you have many interviews? Were you offered more than one job? Could you wait?
    3) How hard would it be for him to get a new job?
    4) What would you tell a friend in your situation?
    5) How much will not taking this job affect your future job prospects/growth vs. him leaving this one?
    6) Thinking about male/female issues…are you deferring to him because he is male?

    1. CheeryO*

      Glad to see someone bring up the gender issue. The length of the letter and the fact that it preceded any serious conversation with the partner sort of smells like woman-doing-all-the-emotional-labor. It’s wonderful that the LW is so thoughtful, but I hope she feels that they are on equal footing and can advocate for her needs as well as his.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I commented on this below – I missed that bit of Bopper’s post. I think it’s an important issue to be aware of in terms of how each of them may be unconsciously expecting this to play out, and how much trouble OP is having with the idea of asking her husband to sacrifice for her career (if OP is a woman).

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        According to OP, they’ve already had several conversations on the subject. This letter did not precede those.

  57. Daisy-dog*

    TALK TO HIM! Make it clear that it is finally time to make real plans. Also **have a contingency plan**.

    Example: A few years ago on July 3, a friend got an offer for a promotion within his company that would require a move. He explained that he’d need to talk to his wife because there was a lot to consider like selling their house and his wife finding a new teaching position. The next day (July 4), his wife got a call from the principal of a school in a great district offering her a job. His company also called and offered to buy their house. My friend & his wife talked it over and decided to give it a try. After 1 year, they decided they didn’t like it and wanted to move back. They both went back to their old jobs and bought a new house in their old neighborhood. It didn’t matter how much his company did to try to convince him to stay in the new job, he wanted to do what was best for his relationship.

    OP, you’re being very sweet and considerate. But your husband is an adult and knew this was coming. Talk through all the possibilities and find out what he really thinks. Even if he’d prefer to not move, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t okay with other choices. For instance, my husband has gone back to school. When he mentioned his plan, he said he had 2 school possibilities. I said I would prefer School A because we had lived in that town before and I loved it. He ultimately picked School B. And you know what? I like it.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Correction to the above post – come up with a contingency plan TOGETHER. But that’s probably much farther along in the convo.

      Conversation 1 needs to be today – “Hey, this is real now. What do you think?”
      Conversation 2, sometime this weekend, preferably over your favorite beverages – “So, let’s re-group on this. What is going to work?”
      Then start with logistics, contingencies, etc.


    Could he work as a remote employee or revert back to contractor status with his agency?

    Two reasons I think lends itself to this being a successful solution for you and your husband is this:

    1) “He worked so hard and hustled his way from a contractor position to a full-time internal position within a local agency. This almost NEVER happens at that contracting company. ” He’s proven to be a successful contributor to his employer and in this day and age, remote working is becoming more common, employees are hard to come by, good employees are even harder to find.

    2) “He’s made several good friends on the job…” Those friends are proof he is valued at work and the ones he made in life shows he ‘s able to make friends easily so moving to another town may not be as difficult as you fear.

    FEAR – Future Expectations Appearing Real.


    1. J*

      Lolol I’m sorry but number two legitimately made me laugh out loud. My husband and I just relocated (because of a job opportunity for me) from a city we relocated to a few years ago. I had several good friends at my old job. In fact, I had a super awesome community there, inside and out of work. And I worked damned. hard. to build that community. I was an introvert 1000 miles from home and literally everyone I knew outside of my spouse, and I busted my terrified butt to put myself out there and build those relationships.

      And now I’m in a new, less friendly, city and I am struggling so hard to build anything here. It’s been half a year and I’ve yet to make a friend. I work in the same field, but in a completely different office and social environments. That OP’s husband has friends in his current city doesn’t in and of itself offer any indication that it will be easy for him to make friends or build a community in the new one.

  59. New commenter*

    Honestly, you already have a general idea of the situation so I don’t think it’s very productive to talk further until you have more specifics. You don’t know when your offer will arrive, so you can’t really know right now exactly what you’d be asking your partner to give up in terms of professional status and social ties. You also don’t know yet where you will be working, how much money you will be making, how far a dollar will stretch in your new town.

  60. BottleBlonde*

    I agree with the other commenters that the best thing to do is probably to just talk about this soon with your partner. One thing my partner and I have found helpful in tough joint decision making like this is to have an initial conversation that is totally open and *not* be focused on making any decisions. Just a time to share feelings. And then have a second conversation after we have had a chance to digest each other’s (and our own) feelings, where we approach the topic a bit more practically. But we are big on “talking things out” so it might be overkill for others!

    I do want to note that you have the sense that your partner will be upset (as most people would be) to leave his job and support system behind. But how would he feel if he watched you work so hard for your degree for all those years, and then was the reason you couldn’t put it to use the way you wanted to? From how supportive you describe him, I am sure that would upset him as well, in a different way!

  61. Millennial Lizard Person*

    Give him a heads-up that you want to talk about this, so he has time to collect his thoughts. You could each write down a few preliminary points so that both people know their voice will be heard (especially if one of you is a people-pleaser and tends to walk back their opinions so they’re agreeing with their spouse). Other factors:

    – Would it work to have you move to new!location and start your new job while he stays in your current city, keeps working, and looks for jobs in your new area? For how long? At what point would you want him to join you in new!location even if he hadn’t found a job yet?
    – Does his current workplace have an office in new!location? Can he use his current job to get leads there? Can he work remotely at all?
    – Visit potential new!location together. Look at cost of living, neighborhoods, schools (if applicable), etc. Is the climate different? Is this a place you’d want to settle down?
    – What are the long-term prospects for you at this agency? Is it susceptible to budget cuts or furloughs?
    – How similar is this job to your current work in terms of day-to-day and long-term objectives? Does it omit anything you like and find important in your current job? (example: maybe you work with hardware right now and your new work would be more theoretical/simulations). Would you be willing to take a less exciting job in the area to build up experience, figure out what you like and don’t like?

    Give yourselves a few hours at home to talk about this, and you don’t have to solve it all in one day. Be honest and open, let each other speak. Congrats on being close on your PhD, and good luck!

  62. I feel you*

    Hi! I am on the other side of your problem! It is so tricky. My husband is in a full-time position at a university that he (very luckily) got immediately after completing his Ph.D. It is about an hour outside the major metropolitan area we live in. However, it is not tenure track, and it is not necessarily the kind of university he pictured himself at long-term. While he was in school, I began a career I really love at a large corporation, and I am doing quite well. I’ve built a great reputation at my current location, and I love it here. We are also near my family, which I enjoy. They will also be a great help as we start a family in the next couple of years.

    My husband wants to move, and I do not. Because he’s on the TT job market, we don’t have any looming offers, but we have had to have a lot of difficult conversations as he applies for jobs. Sometimes we find some common ground and make progress. Other time, communication breaks down and the conversation goes no where. This will take multiple conversations, and it is going to take a willingness to make compromises on both sides. Throughout our conversations, these are the things that my husband has been willing to budge on: He has stopped applying for ANY tenure track job position out there, he has taken location (one where I can stay within the corporation I’m currently at) into consideration more, and he has become more open to the idea of adjusting to his current school because of the flexibility he’s offered there, along with the proximity to the city we currently love living in. Here are some compromises I’ve mentally made: I now am open to moving to certain other geographic locations. I made a list for him of schools that I would unequivocally support him accepting a job at, no matter my career situation, and I have also become more open-minded towards moving closer to his current job, which is out in the country, rather than the city we now live in. I know this is all particular to our situation, but I hope it is encouraging to see the progression on both sides here.

    When we first started having this conversation, any of those compromises would have been earth-shattering. What happens in your first discussion about this is not necessarily an indicator of where you’ll end up on the issue. Also, as someone who did. Not. Want. To. Move.: I will say that location is a big determinant in my willingness to move. If this current position you’re looking into doesn’t end up being what works for both of you, I think it could be helpful to ask your husband to think about places he could envision himself moving to if the opportunity arose. That will help you direct your search in some direction that might be a little easier for both of you.

    1. I feel you*

      I also wanted to clarify: we are still in the midst of this and dont have it totally figured out. He is still sometimes mad at me because I have vetoed small town life, and I am sometimes dismissive of his current dissatisfaction because he *has* a full time job in academia, which at one point, was more than we could have ever imagined.

    2. Kiwiii*

      While not quite in the same boat, I followed my partner when he got a decently-paying job in a tiny (<2k pop) town in our home state right out of college and I was worried about finding a job there, so we instead found an apartment in the larger (20k pop) town about 15 minutes east, but when it became really clear after about a year and a half, that the closest place nearby I could make a reasonable (see: more than $25k/year) career for myself was in the (200k pop) city 50 miles south, and as I was getting settled and things, the conversation immediately turned to moving to someplace in between the two positions so neither of us would have a ridiculous drive. We ended up in house we got immediate equity in in one of the towns between and I had a (wonderful) 35 minute drive until I got a new job further into the city lol.

      We're discussing, now, what are best options are, because partner feels stagnated in his job and we don't want to just plan to move another 20 minutes closer if he ends up in a job in or south of the city instead of north or if he ends up getting an offer in one of the other areas we're open to moving to, which i'm open to doing only because I know my company would be cool with me doing my job remotely after I've been here a year, but that means that part of the job hunt is on pause until then. It's all been one big conversation about what will be best for both of us and what will be functional and what we absolutely can't live with and for how long or until when.

  63. S*

    I’ve been in this situation. It’s challenging. I’d say you need to have a serious conversation about the following:

    1. Are you willing to – at least temporarily – have a long distance relationship? That’s one possible compromise, and many people I know have done it. You take the job, he keeps his, and then you both continue to explore job opportunities in each other’s (or a totally different) city.

    2. To what extent are you (or is he) willing to make a career sacrifice to avoid a long distance relationship? And how great would the sacrifice be, exactly? What would giving up the job offer, or his current job, mean for your career paths? (I do know from experience that giving up a job you really like – or that seems really promising – isn’t the end of the world. There are other jobs. The career path you take may look nothing like the ideal career path you had in mind – and it can still be great and leave you with no regrets.)

  64. Person from the Resume*

    My suggestion is to go in with an open mind and talk to him before assuming for him. You said your husband agreed to move when you graduated. Now you are thinking about how much he won’t want to leave, but you haven’t gotten his side yet. It could honestly be true and he could be resentful about the move. But he could also have always expected it so it’s been in his plans, and there’s no resentment. Most people now-a-days don’t stay at the same company for life. You don’t say how long he’s been with his current agency, but there may be a timeline where people move on from there anyway.

    Logistics-wise: Determine if and for how long you are willing and able to live apart. Even if that’s not the long term goal, would you get a job and he move with you without a job or would you move and he remain in current city while job hunting in your city until he accepts an offer? (He could use your local address as his address and would have a place to stay and a secondary reason to visit for interviews.)

    I do not recommend living apart indefinitely with no end date in sight, but with modern communications and travel options, a set frame that you’re willing to live apart may be a good option. (Although made much hard if there are kids or maybe even pets involved, but people do manage it.)

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Also be clear with each other.

      I was in a LD relationship. I thought my partner had agreed to move to the city I lived in within 6 months no matter what. He was looking for a new federal job and apparently thought finding a federal job in my city would be easy within 6 months. That was not the case. He never moved because he was unwilling to give up his federal job perks. I understand much better now how much he would have been giving up leaving the federal government, but we had a real misunderstanding.

      Another logistics decision is how far apart are you willing to live. There’s a big distance between being able to drive there for a weekend or long weekend versus having to fly. And there’s a difference between a short direct flight which you can do for a weekend and flights and transfers that lead to a full day of travel.

      At one point my partner did “move closer” for what turned out to be an exciting federal job for him. Closer was still 800 miles away, and it made no difference in our ability to see each other.

    2. Perpal*

      Yeah, echoing the “do not do the indefinite live apart” plan; if you NEED to test the waters at the new job and live separately, make a hard end date of a year or less. I’ve known several people who tried it, and it usually ends up with either a) misery until folks are back together or b) divorce/breakup.
      I think it’s partially because the forces that lead to living apart seldom let up so the priority is either to stick together or … not.

  65. blink14*

    I can’t speak to this from personal experience, but a relative graduated with her PhD a couple of years after her and her husband got married. They had met at the same job working in a major city, and then moved several years afterward to the city where her PhD university is. As she prepared for graduation, she aimed her job search (assistant professor) at locations that were near her side of the family – so mainly East Coast – and applied at a couple of geographical outliers.

    She landed an international position, and they moved last year. Her husband worked remotely (which was already his job set up) for his former employer for about 4-5 months, to wrap up projects, and has been unemployed ever since. They recently had a child, and by default, he’ll become the stay at home parent with the child when she returns to work. They 100% moved for her job, and hers alone. Its doubtful they will live internationally long term, but if and when they move, it will be for her career again. That’s an agreement they came to, and honestly, I’m not really sure he likes the situation now that it’s become a reality.

  66. McThrill*

    Not sure if this’ll get read or not but: When you start a dialogue with him, you should make really, really clear that even though he promised to move to support your career however many years ago, it’s OK for him to tell you that he doesn’t want to anymore. Moving may have been easier for him to do before you had to delay graduation, and you acknowledging that his feelings may have changed given the longer timeline and making it safe for him to say that without you getting angry will go a long way towards making this conversation easier for both of you.

    Maybe you end up moving out of state, maybe you don’t, but this discussion will only work if both of you can be honest about where you are starting the conversation from.

  67. Sins & Needles*

    1. Mr. Needles and I had to figure out how to discuss things without it turning into an arguement. We had the Rules of Engagement on the ‘fridge, for a long time. No cussing, no always/never statements, etc. I recommend figuring out your own rules.

    2. I followed Mr. Needles out-of-state for his job. Big leap-of-faith, that. We threw some resources my way, to make it easier; we paid for me to take some classes at the quilt shop, meet some people, to join a gym, etc. That helped!

    3. Save any discussion of kids until kids are eminent! No, “would you like to stay home with the kids?” We had that conversation when we moved, and it was heartbreaking when we realized that kids were not happening (no condolences or advice, please).

    4. Therapy gave me a place to discuss my feelings without worrying about Mr. Needle’s feelings.

    5. Lining up the apartment and medical team before hand made me feel safer. Look around online to get info, info lessons fear, for me. Maybe for your partner, too.

    Good luck to you.

    1. I feel you*

      Number 4 was a life saver for me in the situation I’m in that I described above. There were things I needed to say and work through that I couldn’t say or work through in front of him without hurting his feelings. A third party is key here. Even talking to my close friends or family was not helpful. They were too personally connected.

    2. Professor's Wife*

      I negotiated compensation for each move. My first move, my compensation was a vacation to somewhere that was a burdensome flight from home, but an easy flight from new city. Second move, I insisted on finding a pet-friendly apartment so I could adopt a kitten.

      From chatting with other people, it seems this sort of agreement is pretty normal.

  68. Thankful for AAM*

    My spouse and I failed to have this talk in a clear and “formal” way which became a sort of “gift of the magi” situation. We were coming to the end of his contract in another country (not his or mine) and he was job hunting. mostly in the US (my country). I did not have permission to work in the country we were in and we had a preschool aged child. When he got a tenure track offer (the first offer) in the US, I was so happy for him that he got an offer in a tight market and he interpreted that to mean I wanted to move to the US.

    It is not that we did not talk it through but that we were trying to be respectful of each other. I did not want to move back to the US at that time, he was not feeling pressure to accept a job and was not sure he wanted the job. He took the job and here we are, 25 years later!

    So my advice is to be honest with each other! Have the conversation directly rather than make assumptions or to put the other first.

  69. KYL*

    I’ve been in the position of your partner, OP. Moved a four-hour drive away to new city from our home city so my partner could pursue a PhD.

    When they were wrapping up their PhD my partner actively applied for jobs in new city, home city, and another nearby city. We had many discussions and came to a conclusion that they’d target those 3 cities only (i.e. we agreed we wouldn’t move to a tiny town with no job opps for me, wouldn’t move across the country, or to another country, for that matter). Basically, it had to be advantegous to both of us, instead of just my partner.

    I understood that job opps for my partner would be rare because of their specialization, so I didn’t get my hopes up of the chance that we could pick up post-PhD and simply move back to home city. I did hope we would eventually end up at home, but I didn’t want to put that pressure on my partner.

    Throughout those years my partner and I always discussed how we both felt in new city, and always respected my input and my thoughts. My main piece of advice is to make your partner feel heard and always take into account his feelings. Talk a lot about it, what scares both of you about the potential of uprooting your current lives, and what the long-term pay off could/would look like of making this move. Have lots of conversations about the prospect of this new city — what would job prospects look like for your partner? Would his friends be able to visit, and vice versa?

    Also, consider:
    – Define a clear geographic area of where you’d both be willing to move — it’s sometimes easier to rule out what would be a definite no-go for one or both of you.
    – Are there local positions that would be a good match for you, or somewhere where it would still be feasible for your partner to travel to his work?
    – Is your partner able to set up remote work, transfer offices/locations or at least come up with a transition plan? It sounds like he’s very valued so there’s potential they will want to retain him no matter what.
    – The other elements involved in moving, what does the housing or rental market look like in that general area compared to your current city? Think about what it would entail to search for a new place, what finances would look like if your partner had to start a fresh job search.

  70. Commentor*

    Having moved for two different marriages (yay me lol), I feel like I can have some input here. I would be very careful how you work through it. It led to my first divorce, as it was a decision basically made by him because he was going to be making significantly more money than I was and I really really wanted to stay where we were (he had also just finished an advance degree). Although I did agree that, on paper, it made sense, this arrangement really caused a huge amount of resentment and led to our divorce. In the second go around, the decision was based more on moving to a location due to family ties, so it was more mutual and worked out. I would approach this mindfully and be sure that all decisions are not based solely upon who makes more money, unless this is something you can both agree on. I would also strongly advise coming up with no go places (I ended up in a place i absolutely never wanted to move-even though it was on my list of no go places-that was not respected) and really take their input thoughtfully. I think sometimes, especially when someone is just starting out in a career they have worked really hard for, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important within a personal relationship and be more self centered (I do not mean this is a slight or to be unkind, I mean it in the absolutely literal since, because starting a new career would require you to be self focused). Also, and this is from my own experience, the reality can end up being completely different from the idea. Although I agreed to the move, once it was a reality I was absolutely miserable and there was just no way to compromise. This is not to scare you or anything, but being the spouse that has followed a relationship more than once, this is a very close topic for me.

  71. MeTwoToo*

    Chiming in as trailing spouse to a PhD. I finished my degree and licensure while he was doing his PhD, post doc, etc, etc. I also took a job, worked my behind off and within three years made supervisor and was promoted again to third in command of my office. I loved my job, but I always knew we’d go to wherever he needed to go. He felt bad about it, but there was no reason to. Don’t decide you know what he’s thinking until you talk about it. It’s normal for couples to have to make hard decisions, but it’s easier to make those hard decisions together. Good luck

  72. SomebodyElse*

    OP, you need to talk to him!

    This is one of those tough conversations that you both need to be open and honest about. I had to do the same with my (now) husband while we were still dating. He was in a career/job that is 100% stationary. While I was in a job that I had already relocated 3 times for in 5 years. We were totally incompatible career wise. We had to be really really honest with each other and what we were both willing to do in our relationship and career.

    In our case it worked out. He agreed to move with me one last time for my job, knowing that I would derail my trajectory, but it gave me more long term options. He gave up his job in the move and spent the next 3-4 years re-certifying and going through a hiring process at a new department (in his words he won the lottery twice because of the scarcity and competition in his field. Seriously this is one of the last jobs left that you go into at 19-20 and stay until retirement).

    I knew that I would never be able to relocate again after the move (which didn’t affect my career as badly as I thought, thanks to my company’s willingness to promote me despite my remote location).

    Short story, the only way to know is to talk, be open and brutally honest, and to make sure that you are both in agreement on your path forward.

  73. BTDT*

    I speak from personal experience — I followed him, and I regret that I did. (So much so that I divorced him.) Have the conversation as honestly as possible, and also include marriage counseling as part of this conversation.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Sorry that happened, but I think it is great that you and others are pointing out that that is a possible outcome. One spouse may realize they are career-focused at all costs, and one may realize that they are focused on living near family and friends and prioritizing that particular lifestyle. Both are okay, but not necessarily compatible, and it’s good to realize it earlier rather than later. I’m not in that world, but the academics in my field apparently work 3 full-time jobs, so the trailing spouse really, really, really must be on board. You’re not always giving up the comforts of home to be with your spouse. You may be giving up the comforts of home to essentially live by yourself, do someone else’s laundry and grocery shopping, and share a bed from midnight-6 am!

  74. Unique*

    When one spouse is in a career where job opportunites are one-in-a-million, the hiring process operates like a professional sports draft, and even those lucky enough to get a real job have to move to Nowheresville, Nowhere, you take what you can get and are grateful for it.

  75. Guacamole Bob*

    One thing I haven’t seen anyone else mention is the way this particular conversation can stumble onto issues of gender norms. I’ve seen a variety of friends make decisions about moving around for partners jobs, and even couples who are generally very balanced in things like household chores sometimes get a bit stuck when it comes to genuinely prioritizing the woman’s career. So (especially if OP is a woman), keep an eye out for the way that social norms may make it hard for your husband to accept the role of trailing spouse and the way that you both may have adopted subtle ideas of who is supposed to sacrifice when a couple has to make these decisions. (In my case that led to difficulty in asking for what I really wanted for my own career at some points instead of automatically prioritizing my partner’s – and I’m a lesbian! Gender stuff is strong and weird and deeply-rooted, folks).

    There’s no right or wrong answer for any given couple, but sometimes these conversations dredge up Stuff you didn’t realize was there. Be patient and nonjudgmental, and keep talking through it.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      To clarify – my now-wife had a much clearer idea of what she wanted to do long term than I did right out of college, so I moved to follow her a couple of times and my job history kind of wandered aimlessly. In my late 20’s I started wanting to go back to school and found career direction and it was a bit of an adjustment for both of us to really shift our priorities and balance from thinking of us as a couple with a primary career and trailing spouse to a couple with two equally important careers. The idea that she might follow me to grad school caught us both off guard at first because it was a real shift from how things had gone before, but after a bit of discussion it became obvious that it was right for us.

      1. anon4this*

        But does that really have to do with gender or gender roles? Especially if you’re both women.
        What you were talking about sounds more like heteronormative roles, influenced by being raised in a patriarchal society. Not gender norms based on career aspirations (as the mere existence of a gay couple defies gender norms).

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          If Guacamole Bob is a woman and subconsciously feels like she must defer to her partner when it comes to career, even if that partner is also a woman, that’s still an issue of gender roles. And I don’t know how you can really separate gender roles and gender norms from issues of heteronormativity. Being a lesbian does not make one automatically immune from falling into the performance of what it means to be a woman and adhering to gender roles. It seems like you’re trying to split hairs.

  76. Bubbles*

    Just remember that this is not a singular conversation. You two are not going to solve everything by sitting down once. This will be an ongoing process, reaffirming your wants, needs, and goals at multiple steps along the way. You sound very respectful of your marriage and your spouse and I think that will help guide the conversation. But you do need to talk about it with him and ask him for his thoughts. Don’t make assumptions. Take him at his word and let him make the decision he wants to make.

  77. staceyizme*

    It’s a good idea to check in with your partner in depth. Some couples take turns moving. If you can make it work where you are, that might be the most equitable choice.

  78. Fikly*

    You say you know he doesn’t want to move anymore, but have you actually asked him? Communication is so important! Don’t assume his position has changed just because other factors have, or because you would feel one way if you were in his position.

  79. BeenThere*

    This a small story compared to OPs. But, it’s about making assumptions about how a partner feels.
    I found a job ad for a Perfect Job. When I got to the end of the job description, I realized that it was for an onsite job in SmallCityRuralState. At the time my husband and I lived in LargeCity and I liked it very much. I thought he did, too.
    So I was disappointed that I probably wouldn’t even apply for Perfect Job. But one night after dinner, I showed the description to my husband. He read through it, and when he got to the end, he said, “That looks perfect for you. AND it’s in SmallCityRuralState!” Turns out he’d been wishing, he thought in vain, for a move like this one. But since I was the one making the money and he knew I liked LargeCity, he just never brought it up.
    I applied for the job, got it, and now we live in SmallCityRuralState. I am doing well the job and I’m mostly okay with the place. And I’m very happy that husband is happy living here.

  80. 867-5309*

    This isn’t advice directly around having the conversation itself, but have or would you consider living in separate locations? I know this only works for a small sub-set of couples but if you haven’t considered alternative living arrangements, you might, especially if you’re both independent.

  81. Roja*

    My husband and I just had this same conversation ourselves. I moved to be near him when we married, to a very rural area that had nothing in my field. He loved his job, so I tried to make it work, but eventually I just couldn’t anymore. After a lot of discussions and deciding where to go, we finally moved this summer and now we’re both very happy. And I’m finally working in my field, hooray!

    Definitely open up the conversation as soon as you can, and expect it to be an ongoing conversation. You never know, he might not want to stay as much as you think. Anyway, the way we framed it was we needed to find somewhere we could BOTH be happy, not just somewhere I was happy or he was. We owed it to ourselves and our marriage to find somewhere that suited us both. Ultimately, it turned out the move was good for him too; he didn’t have any trouble finding work and is very happy in his new job (and a new field to boot, he was looking for a change). Considering both our fields, we may well need to revisit the issue in the future, and so may you, but keeping the lines of communication open and remembering that it’s most healthy when both partners are happy will go a long way to smoothing the process.

  82. Seminaranalyse*

    Your Husband says he supports you, so believe him. And please Talk to him. But before you Do that confront your own feelings. If you scared say so, it is totally normal. Don’t use your Husband as a Scapegoat. Try to use sentences that really Talk about your feelings and not about your Husbands. Don’t analyse him, he will speak up when something id not ok.
    And by the way congratulations on the amazing Job offer. You worked Hard for it.

  83. Wren*

    I certainly have no experience in this, but I wonder: if he were to commit to doing job hunting now in parallel with you, instead of waiting to see where you got an offer before proceeding, maybe he’d get excited about possibilities for himself beyond what he’s doing now. Never hurts for him to get started sooner in the job hunting game.

  84. Rust1783*

    I just did this. Moved from a huge city where my partner had a career and deep roots to a much smaller city where I had lived years earlier. I had a job offer that I couldn’t refuse. The good thing was, the huge city is a hellhole that we both hated, despite whatever roots we had. I actually took a huge pay cut to move – that’s how much we disliked living there. It also helped that I had looked at several jobs in the smaller city previously, and we had already had conversations about moving there. It sounds like the letter writer is in a similar spot – this hasn’t been a surprise to the partner.

    My partner went on unemployment for 6 months, which was helpful, but I knew he’d be able to find a job. It helped that I was familiar with the new city. I could point him in good directions, introduce him to folks in his field, tell him a bit of background about certain organizations. By the time the 6 months were up, he had found a part time job that could easily become full time whenever he wants it to. In the meantime, he used some of his free time to work on personal projects he hadn’t been able to devote energy to before.

    It turned out to be a great move for both of us. I might suggest talking with your partner about all the new opportunities that might open up, either to do their own personal projects or maybe to transition their career in some positive way.

    As long as you aren’t moving to a tiny speck on the map – if that’s the case, I have no advice for you. I’ve seen plenty of my friends in academia ruin their lives and their relationships because there’s a one-year post-doc in Minot ND and they just need to take it because they have no options.

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I honestly had forgotten about unemployment benefits possibly being an option, so I’ll keep that int he list of things to consider.

      (Your last point is so great as well – one of my colleagues was considering a 1-year VAP in the middle of nowhere, but you have to ask yourself “why are the continually hiring 1-year term appointments?” Probably because it’s not a great option to move there permanently with a family.)

  85. JobHunter*

    I am in the same boat as the LW, a year post graduation. My partner and I had a series of conversations that covered
    -dream locations
    -finances (cost of living here vs there, payback of student loans, insurance costs, income taxes)
    -family concerns
    My work experience and field should give me lots of job opportunities just about everywhere. Having lots of short frank discussions has been fruitful for us. It’s our families who have been the problem! They are having some trouble understanding that we can’t just move near them and work in a random position at Nearby U.

  86. AnotherLibrarian*

    I recently had to ask my partner if he would move across the continent, away from all his family and connections for a job opportunity. We had one major advantage. He was in IT and so he actually found a new job in the time I was still working through the negotiation process on mine. The joys of Higher Ed and a budget crisis.

    Here’s what I think we did well:
    1. Throughout the interview process, I kept him in the loop where I was going. I took an extra day each inperson interview and scoped out housing, the local job market in his field and sent lots of pictures and updates about the places I was interviewing at.
    2. I decided in my head, very clearly, what it would take for me to ask him to move and if I would be willing to end the relationship for the right job. Sucky choices, but you have to decide where your lines are.
    3. We were vocal in our support of each other.

    Things We did Poorly:
    1. I was really uncomfortable asking him to move. I tried to avoid the conversation for a long time and the reality was, we should have been having it much sooner. The first year of interviewing, we never really talked about it openly and that was a mistake.
    2. I did a lot of what you are doing, I think. I had a lot of this discussion in my head when I should have had it with him.

    In the end, I was offered an amazing opportunity and I did ask if he would move with me. He knew how excited I was about the job and immediately agreed. He found a promotion and a great job of his own in our new town. Things aren’t easy (we’re just 3 months in), but it was the right choice for both us. I wish you so much luck, OP, this is hard.

  87. Perpal*

    Jay’s post is excellent in how to broach the subject (listen, try clear out your own assumptions, open questions, etc)
    While money isn’t everything I do think mismatched financial visions are probably one of the most frequent marital stressors so, it’s worth considering that, especially since you are possibly shifting the dynamic where your partner is the main earner to where you are the main earner.
    Would consider
    1) what will the income at your new job and future career be vs your husband’s current job and future career?
    2) what is the min joint income that fulfills both your visions of the future (including housing desires, family goals, retirement, etc)? Will your job be able to do that?
    For me and my family, when I was in training my husband and I earned about even, but I was on a professional path guaranteed (as much as anything can be) to be a good income; he followed me, and even though he does have a job that is usually fairly easy to transfer, the area we are in is tough and the ones available seem undesirable. So he is not working at a standard job (pursuing a passion project); it’s less joint income but now that I am done with training we certainly have enough – I figure that’s the trade off of him being dedicated to following me around on multiple interstate moves (3 thus far, hopefully all done, so far looks good!). And I’d rather have a spouse who is happy working on their passion than miserable at a toxic job, since we can afford it!
    I just am emphasizing this because jobs are such a different world than academia and I hope you love it! But make sure the finances are sustainable if he is giving up a solid job for a semi unknown. My dad was a phd and my sense was it was pretty tough to get and sustain even non-academic jobs. My mom and I are in medicine, far more stable.

  88. BridgeNerdess*

    I’d also recommend not going into the conversation expecting resolution that day. For my and my spouse, conversations like these usually play out over several days or weeks. If things get too tense, table the conversation. These are big decisions. My spouse is very change averse, so even laying out pros and cons, his immediate reaction will be NO to anything. It takes a few conversations and time for him to process before we can have a productive conversation. Make sure you give them time and space to process all of the options, outcomes, pros, cons, etc.

    Good luck! I’m married to an academic and in a specialized field myself, so I understand the stress of these conversations.

  89. greenius*

    Oh this one hits me in the feels. OP, my husband is working on his PhD while I am out in the non-academic workforce. And it’s tough, especially because, similar to your situation, my husband has been dealing with some unexpected delays.

    This is a very challenging conversation to have about hypotheticals. It is one thing to ask, “Will you give up your current job so we can move to our home state and I can work at Home State U?” and another to ask, “Will you give up your current job so we can move to the middle of nowhere and I can adjunct at Nowhere Community College?” At this point, you probably don’t know which of those you’ll be asking… which makes the conversation harder, but you still have to have it. You just have to be prepared for the answer to be different based on how the particulars work out.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that academia is a very different environment than anywhere else. Norms are very different. One way this has manifested for me is that I have to pretend that I am definitely in it for the long haul at my current employer. The fact that I might end up moving… somewhere… when my husband graduates… whenever that is… is something I have had to downplay. So, in some ways, I have come to believe that, especially as what was expected to be no more than four years has expanded, and I couldn’t stay in the job where I thought I could float for just a few years. When my husband does graduate & go on the market, we will have to very frankly compare his offers with mine.

    It’s really good that you know your husband’s thoughts may have changed over time! It’s good you’re considering his feelings and goals! I wish you the best of luck as you have the several conversations you need to have.

  90. Nep*

    My spouse has a PhD and works in the industry sector. We’ve moved three times for his jobs. Suffice it to say, I have experience.

    Number One: Don’t let your perception of their feelings stop an actual conversation, because that can easily lead to resentment.

    Number Two: Talk to your partner. Listen to what they say. If they say they’re okay, believe them. If they have reservations, talk it through and find something you can both live with.

    Number Three: Look into realistic options for you around your current home and options for your partner at any future locations. Then discuss some more.

    It’s hard and it takes a lot of conversation and a lot of trust. But you have to have both.

  91. Mynona*

    OP: also consider what your future employment looks like. Is your first job post PhD likely to be your last? If not, will you need to relocate again? If you foresee moving every 5 to 7 years for promotions, tell your partner now. That is the reality in my academia-adjacent industry. I explained this to my partner at the start of my PhD. Our compromise is that he follows me and I support us so he can dedicate himself to his vocation. I do discuss job opportunities with him, but they are so rare, he knows I don’t really have a choice of location.

  92. Donkey Hotey*

    I’ll be blunt:

    My wife makes considerably more than I ever will. (Bonus: She’s prettier than me, she’s smarter than me, and she puts up with my crap, too.)

    For us, it doesn’t matter who’s had the job longer or how much I love my job. If she says she found a better paying job in a different state, I’ll start updating my resume. That said, we would have talked about her looking other places before she started interviewing.

  93. CM*

    OP, I loved the way you asked this question — not “what should I do” (obv have a talk with your partner) but “how can we discuss this with kindness and respect.”

    You mentioned that in the past conversations about this topic, the tension would rise and you wouldn’t get very far. I would think about what is causing that tension. Is it resentment that one partner is getting to do what they want at the expense of the other partner? A feeling of being taken for granted? Frustration at being blocked from what you want to do individually? Worries about money? A feeling of connection to where you are now, or a desire to live someplace new?

    It’s probably more than one thing, but whatever it is, you can encourage your partner to tell you and listen nonjudgmentally. And before you have that conversation with your partner, you can figure out for yourself what you get most defensive, worried, or tense about.

    You both share the same ultimate goal: you want to support each other and build a life together that is meaningful and fulfilling for both of you. Try approaching these conversations with “How do we figure out what we want, and how can we get there” instead of “Should we choose option A or option B.” Express your appreciation for all he has done for you, and encourage him to tell you what he cares about and is scared of.

    If you start to feel upset or defensive, take a break — remind yourself that you both need to express feelings and ideas that might put the other partner on the defensive, and try to listen to the need he’s expressing rather than your own feelings in response.

    For instance, if he says, “I’ve given up so much for you already,” your immediate reaction might be, “I’ve given up a lot too! And this could finally get us some financial stability, so don’t be so selfish,” but take a breath and think about what he’s really saying: “There is something important to me that I don’t have.” And then continue the conversation, saying you appreciate all he’s done and asking what he’s given up that matters most to him, and if there’s some way those things could be part of his life.

  94. Product Person*

    I was in a similar situation to the OP’s partner a few years ago. After putting a lot of effort into building my career, an opportunity came up for my husband when he finished his PhD, on the other side of the country. I left my great job of 5 years, and you know what? I got some great opportunities come up at the new place right away.

    OP, by the sound of it, your partner has great skills and you two would be moving to a place that has opportunities for him. I’d have the conversation with him but keeping in mind that in some aspects, this may even help with his career advancement, like it did for me. Moving exposed me to new jobs, industries, and experiences that made me an even more attractive candidate when I was job hunting. I don’t think having to leave a good situation is necessarily bad, because you are bringing your potential with you and opening your horizons. Good luck!

  95. Em Dee*

    We went long distance so neither of our careers would need to be sacrificed. Have you considered this option? It’s fine if you have and decided it’s not for you.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think it’s also worth considering it on a trial basis. Maybe the husband would be more comfortable moving 6-12 months after OP, once OP has confirmed this is where she wants to be. If I were in OP’s shoes, that’s what worries me–uprooting everything and then I hate the new job/new city. I did a year of weekly travel to another city last year, and it was fine with my spouse/family. It’s surprising what you get used to, and how quickly.

      1. Bubarina*

        We did this for about two years. My husband is limited to specific locations for his industry, and he received a job offer in another state while I was finishing my Ph.D. program. It stunk to be apart, but it was the best thing to do while we got our careers established.

    2. Lavender Menace*

      My husband and I did this for a couple years for various reasons. It’s actually not all bad – there are lots of pros to long distance relationships, as well as cons. It also doesn’t have to be forever; the two of you can choose to end the long-distance part at any time you wish, really. It’s really for each individual couple to decide, but I do think people should at least consider it.

  96. fat scientist*

    I moved pretty far for my postdoc and plan to move wherever necessary when I apply for faculty positions. I have always worried about this problem, especially the possibility of me not taking a job because of my partners needs or vice versa, and so to prevent this have just not dated much which I wouldn’t say is necessarily the best strategy.

    Anyway, my best suggestion is for both of you to apply for jobs in the other’s preferred city- you apply for jobs in your current city and your partner apply for ones in the city your job offer is located in (maybe also you both apply for jobs in a third city that might have good options for both of you). Then after you have a better lay of the land you can sit down and weigh the pros and cons of staying vs moving.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I also did the “not dating” thing, because of this. With my current partner, I was prepared to end the relationship before I was prepared to turn down a job offer. That was both when I knew it was the right job offer and when I knew I was in the right relationship, because my partner’s answer was, “Of course, I’ll move to the MiddleofNowhere so you can get this amazing job.”

  97. New start*

    I am currently working in academia in another state, while my husband is getting ready to sell our house back home and then will be making plans to join me. We’ve been apart for a year now. May be you should talk to your partner about moving and taking the dream job, while he continues working at his current job and starts a job search in the city where you will be working. Do you think your partner will have a difficult time finding a job in the new city? I think his full-time experience will be a great plus when he searches for work.

  98. Bubarina*

    My husband and I faced a similar situation. There are only two major U.S. cities where he can do his job. When I finished my Ph.D. program, I was limited to searching for positions in those two cities. I was lucky and landed a spot in one of them, but it was really tough knowing that I didn’t have the flexibility to apply anywhere and everywhere. He makes significantly more money, so we decided that his need to be in one of two cities trumped my desire to apply elsewhere. I don’t know what we would have done if I hadn’t gotten a job. I probably would have left academia altogether.

  99. Milo*

    I’ve moved three times for my academic spouse. This most recent move will only be for two years at most and the one after that will hopefully be fairly permanent (a decade or more in the same city?) Like your partner, I’ve always said I would do whatever moving necessary for my spouse’s career. This is fine, because I don’t have a “career” – I’m in a field I really enjoy but I don’t feel any need to move up a ladder, and it’s the kind of field where I can find work anywhere.

    Would I rather not move so much? I mean, of course. But I also truly meant it when I said we’d do any move necessary for partner’s career, which he is intensely passionate about and really good at.

    Like everyone said, have a real conversation with your spouse. But when you do, please don’t get your guilt all over. Nothing bugged me more than those conversations where my spouse dithered about what he was “doing to me.” I’m an adult! I’m being honest about what I want to do in life! I don’t want to have to reassure someone about my truth constantly!

    Also, if this job means your partner can take a break from being breadwinner for awhile, maybe that means he gets to follow his passion? This is the first year in seven years of marriage I don’t need to support us, and it turns out the thing I want to do is be a stay-at-home mom for a little, something I never dreamed I would want but is working out amazingly. Maybe this move is more opportunity and less imposition for your partner, as well.

  100. MCMonkeyBean*

    If one partner would prefer to move and the other would prefer to stay, then I think the deciding factor should probably be whichever is most practical financially in the long-term. Much of it would have to be based on guesses and estimates but I would make spreadsheets with different likely scenarios. You’d want to consider which option is likelier to have the higher total salaries for both of you combined. And you’d also need to weigh cost of living in the different areas. And for a change this significant you probably want to bring other plans into the conversation, like whether you expect to have kids and which of you if any would be more likely to stay at home and anything like that that could have significant impact on future earnings.

    At the end of the day this is going to be a big decision and one of you will likely feel less than thrilled with the outcome at first. But hopefully whatever you end up choosing, a few years down the line you will both be settled into your lives and happy with where you are.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      Hmm. Of course you also have to factor in the cost if one partner can’t find work at all in X location. I’d also say that making $ the most important factor is something OP and partner need to agree on. Because if I’m making $$$$$$$ but my job is soul-crushing, it’s not worth the $$$$$$$.

  101. Lauren MD*

    My partner and I have discussed the possibility of moving for his job several times – so I’m in your husband’s position – and it’s tough! I have so many roots in my current city, a great job, a great group of friends, and so much I wouldn’t want to leave. To me, it would be a big ask to move anywhere at all, but a really good starting point was figuring out cities where we would both be happy living. Discussing the possibility of moving to several cities we *both* would be excited to move to and live in makes it feel much more like a joint decision.

    Asking me to move to the middle-of-nowhere or west coast – absolutely not! Asking me to move to a NYC or some midwestern cities where he knows I would be comfortable living and have some connections? – Much easier ask!

  102. BeeGee*

    I can somewhat relate. My SO moved a considerable distance to start his PhD program a few months ago (12-14 hours by car, few and pricey 4+ hour indirect flights) but I have decided to stay behind for the time being. Currently, I want to focus on MY career, which has been rocky and unfulfilling so far, and have been unemployed for 6+ months now after a layoff. I know that I would be unhappy if I uprooted from my friends and family to go to a city where I have no connections, live on a shoestring budget, and without my own job/career to pursue. My SO understands and we make our current long distance relationship work.

    Good news is that I am going to shortly interview in person for a position in his city, and it’s a role and a company I believe I would be happy doing and would be good for my career. But I have also been applying to local opportunities as well, and if that’s what occurs, then we will just be long distance for longer than expected.

    I guess my advice, though limited, is just to be sure to talk about what compromise looks for you and your husband. I think it is easy to look at the situation and think that one person gets to pursue their ideal job/career path and the other person sacrifices theirs, but I think there is lots of options that fall in between. One can move first for their job and the other stays behind until they find a job that is a good fit for them in the other city. Remote positions are more common so maybe there is the ability for them to work at their current job or another role remotely.

    But it is important to just talk about what you both want for yourselves and as a married couple, and figuring out how to approach the situation based on that discussion.

  103. Abby*

    Heya LW, much sympathy. I’m an academic scientist, and my partner is a software engineer at a Big Tech Company. When I was job hunting, we started with a list of cities where we could be interested in landing (in this case, the places where his company has an engineering office), and I applied in those places. I ended up accepting an offer for a NTT research job (in a city that was on the list) and we’re moving next month. It absolutely took my partner some months to go from “oh gosh I don’t wanna” to “grudgingly okay with it” to “actually pretty damn excited”. It helps that we’re currently working in Boston and living in an outer suburb and oh my goodness the Boston housing market and commuting situation is in a disaster spiral, so although he’s very happy with his local career stuff the rest of our life here is becoming less and less feasible. But I would talk early and often about what are the priorities to include, what cities are good/plausible/nope, and keep your partner in the loop as you interview. Good luck – it can be brutal out there.

  104. Galahad*

    I am going to jump the gun, and give solution / advice. This is based on our own “trailing spouse” issues over the last 25 yrs. — Making him move definitely impacted his “career”, and left him resentful (eventually, in future). I also ended up as the sole income in the family for a long time because he felt that he should not have to take “any” job, but could wait for one in his chosen career. (Logically reasonable, but it came with resentent from him and little support me if I ever had a boss or situation that was NOT GOOD).


    I would keep looking for other local options.
    I would likely take the job and move there and try it for 6 months apart.
    During this time, I would super save.
    I would take this time to mutually figure out what the best move forward is for us. Worst case would be I quit and return with some of my student loan paid off.

    Why? A strong marriage will definitely last a 6 month separation. Mine did with a (hard for me) 4 month separation with no visits and later another one with visits. The difficulty of the time apart was NOTHING compared to resentment about giving up that job that he liked to move, and then not get equally good work after

  105. nnn*

    Not a whole solution, but a thought experiment that might help identify where to focus:

    Each of you, independently, imagine yourself in the position of the trailing spouse. Imagine the inconveniences and disadvantages that that would present to you, personally.

    Now imagine a legally-binding contract that would mitigate those inconveniences and disadvantages – kind of along the lines of a prenup, except you’re already married.

    What would that contract have to contain to make it worth your while? At this point, don’t think about whether what you’re asking for is possible, or whether you can (or should) actually draw up a contract to this effect. Just think about what it would have to contain.

    The answer to this question – and how the answer differs between the two of you – might be informative.

    For example, if someone asked me that question, the answer (for various reasons I won’t bore you with) would come down to a dollar amount. I’d need a specific guaranteed income every year for the rest of my life to mitigate the risk of giving up my career. If that dollar amount is negligible compared with my spouse’s income, the decision becomes a no-brainer. If that dollar amount far exceeds my spouse’s income, it’s a no-brainer in the other direction.

    1. Acm*

      I think coming at this decision by placing yourself squarely in the other person’s shoes us definitely the best way forward (though only works if both parties do so earnestly and fully!)

  106. Public Sector Manager*

    My wife and I are going through this issue right now. I’m an established public agency attorney but in a very specialized field where my skills might be transferable, but the job itself is not. Meaning there is no other public agency in our state that does what I do. So any job I would be applying for probably would be a pay cut because I’ve been doing my specialized field for 20 years. My wife had a corporate career, was laid off, went back to school, and is now about a year away from finishing her degree.

    I’ve told my wife that I will move, and I will even take on a job that I hate, so she can pursue her new career. But I told her what I can’t do is give up my career to support hers and have the family take a huge financial hit simultaneously. That’s my line in the sand. So if the jobs I can get pay $60,000 less than I’m making now, the job she needs to get needs to pay at least $60,000, and even more than that if job is in a high cost of living area.

    I have no problem starting my career over. I have no problem reestablishing myself in a different legal community. I will do all those things for my wife. But to do that and take a huge familial pay cut simultaneously I can’t do.

    The only way we got on the same page was to talk it through.

  107. Maya Elena*

    I agree with all the others: discuss it; don’t mind-read; what you think is a sacrifice might not feel like one to him. But if it IS, one angle to think about is future kids. If you think you might want to pause your career and stay home, then that’s a factor to consider in the dreaminess of your job vs. that of his.
    I say this because my ambition went out the window with kids; to be fair, I didn’t *love* my specific job, so it wasn’t as difficult a trade-off as it is for people who love their work. But it’s also a thing to consider when you guys estimate what five years from now will look like.

  108. Lavender Menace*

    I did this with my partner – I was also a PhD student who exited academia and went into industry. In my case, we moved all the way across the country. My husband is the type who normally does not like change, so I was pretty afraid he was going to say no. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t, we moved, we are both very happy.)

    The first step was actually an internal one: I had to remind myself that my husband was not me. What I mean by that is, I’m a person who loves new challenges and new adventures, so the idea of moving clear across the country to a place I had never even been before, and where I knew no one, was exciting. I had to get myself in the mindset of empathizing with my husband’s perspective for why that might be scary or intimidating to someone who wasn’t me, and respecting that as an equally valid point of view. (The reason I needed to do this is that I tend to be pushy when I really want something, and have a hard time really listening rather than half-listening and half-brainstorming defensive arguments to whatever the other person’s saying.)

    What my husband and I ended up doing was having a conversation about the cities/states we’d be willing to move to. I got to understand what was important to him about a living place. Then I concentrated my job search in those areas. When I had an interview lined up at a place I’d really love to work, I approached him again and said “This job is in City, State. Would you be willing to move there?” His response surprised me: “You don’t say no to Company. It sounds like an awesome position, so if they offer it to you, yeah, we’ll try it.”

  109. Acm*

    To me this is really only something you guys can decide together, with a long conversation (or ideally, multiple conversations with time to sleep on it in the middle). You: your job options are limited, this day would always come, new city would have more opportunities. Him: he has put in a lot of time and energy and effort to support you, he’s the one with more to lose in case of a move, maybe it’s his turn to be the priority job-wise. Ideally in this conversation you each promote the well-being of the other over your own, and eventually, I think, it’ll become clear who will suffer more from action or inaction.

    The only thing I would avoid is making a compromise including future promises – nobody can know what the future brings and saying “next time it’s your turn” is begging to be reneged on when circumstances change.

  110. anon5789*

    I’ve been on the other side as the partner of an academic, we’ve moved a couple of times since he graduated his phD including abroad. It’s tough but the main thing is my partner never said we have to do anything. We discussed every option at every stage and were honest about preferences and long term career options. You have to balance who will give up the most or if there’s any middle ground eg commuting or long distance. Think about all of both of your options… I get this is a dream position for you but do you have any options closer to home?

  111. Looking*

    As someone who did this, actually moved 400 miles because my spouse got a job I can tell you how hard it was. Although I was looking to move out of my job having been in a place for years and moving can be hard. Make sure you look into the community you are moving to very carefully. Make sure that it is one you both can see yourselves in for a long time. I can tell you that even though we did that we both regret moving because the community put on a facade that we are only just discovering. Speak to people who have moved out as well and see why they did that. I wish we had done that I think if we did we would never have moved.

  112. theelephantintheroom*

    My husband was in a PhD program that had no set graduation time. It was, “You belong to us until you can prove you deserve to graduate.” So my advice is to tell your partner EXACTLY what you’ve written here and have a real discussion about it. I think your partner is going to be more understanding than you think. Many jobs end, for one reason or another.

    We moved 800 miles away from home and it was hard, but it was worth it. Just be careful to research whatever area you’re looking into and let your partner in on the decision. One of the reasons we’re happy with where we wound up was because he let me veto the one city he was offered a job in that I just knew we’d both be miserable living in.

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