update: my husband and I are both working from our small apartment and it’s bad

Remember the letter-writer who was working from a small apartment with her husband and it wasn’t going well? Here’s the update.

I looked through my old thread again and I’m so grateful to the the amount of people who really tried to help, and also sympathized with my situation during lockdown. Thankfully, my update is generally good news!

A lot of commenters suggested we just both get headphones. I didn’t reply very quickly to that, so I couldn’t note that we both did have headphones! I have SonyMX3’s and my partner wore his own headphones all day. I wanted to point this out, just because so many people were thrown into situations with no easy turnkey solutions as this pandemic was starting up. My partner’s job sucked, and I was already mid cycle in the “My husband hates his job” scenario of this Captain Awkward article. With the lockdown, instead of just hearing about it for hours in the evening, I was witnessing my partner getting berated and yelled at in my own home. Even if I was only hearing his side of the conversations as I ducked in and out of the apartment trying desperately to manage my own difficult workdays, it was demoralizing for both of us.

When lockdown started, it actually marked my 7th year of WFH for the same company. I had a system and a rhythm for it, but my own trouble with leadership at my company really got to me. There was a great irony that I was constantly denied being promoted further in leadership despite running a successful department. They always said it was because I was a remote worker, with no other notes they could give me about my performance. Suddenly we were ALL at home, and our business did not suffer (it in fact boomed because of the sector we were in), and I was a great example of how to do it successfully. When they still denied that I was eligible for any promotions after 6 months of lockdown, I hit a wall with all the crud I was tired of, both personally and professionally. Something snapped.

I decided that I would start job hunting if my partner was not going to, so that I could increase my pay and get us on track to buy a house (something I had been planning and saving for for years). I spent a lot of dark days crying and being certain that I was stuck. Stubborn as I am, though, I still used this blog’s advice. I went hard on my search, and in 2021 I found a new position with less responsibilities (no more running 20 person meetings!), less stress, and a decent pay bump. My job hunt actually motivated my partner too. He bounced around, but he got himself away from his bad boss. After a few months, he landed with an old company he loved contracting for years ago, but this time it’s a full-time position and much more stable. Also, in fall of 2021, in the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life to date, we bought a house. Right before the interest rates hiked back up. It’s very small, but we now have three rooms, two of which are our own cozy, quiet offices.

I feel so very fortunate, but I also worked very hard over the years to be here. I hope that people in similar situations were able to find good outcomes somehow. I think for me, I only have but so many spoons for compartmentalization, and it was hard for me to keep all the extra stress at arm’s length. Things continue to be tough out there, so I hope readers who are not in a better situation yet believe that better times can be fought for.

Thank you, Alison, for all your advice.

{ 51 comments… read them below }

  1. Emdash*

    What a lovely, humble, kind and encouraging letter. Thank you for sharing and I am very happy for you.

  2. GlowCloud*

    Congratulations! I’m so happy that you and your partner were able to get into a much better situation, though it sounds like it was desperately tough for quite a long time.

    I’m sorry that your partner felt he had to stay so long in a job where people were constantly berating and yelling, and also a little sorry that it seems to have fallen to you to steer your whole ship away from that giant garbage patch.

    It’s so wonderful to hear that you’re both in much better jobs, and with your own office space now. I wish you happiness. x

  3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Because of this site…honestly, for the work part of Covid lockdown and its aftermath, the value of realizing we are not alone – in a real, first person way, not in a generic “everything you need to know about WFH during lockdown! Click Here!” way – made such an impact.
    I’m so happy you made such a powerful move, and impressed that you inspired your husband. This is so cool.

  4. SansaStark*

    “I feel so very fortunate, but I also worked very hard over the years to be here.”

    That line really stuck out to me and I’m glad that the LW is acknowledging their own hard work. There’s an element to recognizing opportunities as such and it’s awesome that LW was able to go after and get a better position. As someone else with a small house but distinctly different office spaces for me and my spouse, it really is life-changing. Congrats!!

    1. MEH Squared*

      Agree! It’s both hard work and luck, and it’s great that the LW can embrace both. Congrats, LW, and to your partner for getting out as well. Here’s to a better future for both of you.

  5. Daisy-dog*

    A major lesson that I have gleaned from updates is that the question we are asking may not provide the answer we are looking for. One immediate issue is highly annoying, but once that issue is alleviated another one pops up. Many times the solution is a complete overhaul.

    Happy to hear that LW figured it out and has a cozy new home!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      It does turn out to be a symptom/off-shout/result of some other thing. Updates like, “I realized that X was never going to change/I could change X” are so cool.

  6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    What a beautiful message, I’m so happy for you, OP! This site and commentariat is truly the best, and thanks for your inspiring message!

  7. Anon (and on and on)*

    “I think for me, I only have but so many spoons for compartmentalization, and it was hard for me to keep all the extra stress at arm’s length.”

    Good, lord, do I ever relate to this! There’s so much lip-service and advice about how to A) buckle down and work hard through difficult situations, or B) relax and eliminate stress. Sometimes life just gives you more than you can handle and it SUCKS no matter what you do! I try to remind myself that getting through things really ungracefully still counts as getting through it.

    1. OP here*

      They were surprised!

      Since you asked, I’ll go into it a bit. I didn’t want to put this all in the letter since it feels so in the past now. This is probably more than you needed, haha, but here’s how it went:

      It was all very frustrating for me. After 7 years of clawing my way up, instead of getting to executive (which was all white and mostly male, aside from one person) they decided to hire another white man from outside the organization. They put me in “leadership training” which was just allowing me to sit on one executive meeting a quarter. These are people who I had known the whole time I was there, so it was just a normal meeting where I reported the same things I always did, but earlier in the morning. I had started with the company when it was only 13 people, and I was one of the few that just… did not make the “leadership” cut to them, despite having a nominal “department head” title. I hired, trained, provided feedback, and monitored and analyzed the performance of my entire department, but I was denied pay that reflected that every time I asked.

      When I put in my two weeks, my boss said I was so important to culture if I gave him a day, he could immediately give me a 15k raise, to match my new salary. I told him that sucked. I had been asking for ages, and all of the sudden the money has been here all along? I told him that, if anything, made it feel worse.

      The new guy they had hired to head the department was actually quite nice! I told him that all this wasn’t his fault at all, he had just walked into a bad situation. He had been there for maybe 2 months when I quit. He asked me to extend my notice to 3-4 weeks, and I told him that sounds like the notice an executive would give, and I’m not that. He respected that and we just spent my last two weeks documenting as much as I could. I took time off to decompress between jobs, instead. All advice I took away from this site.

      The cap of the story is, the company was purchased and merged into a much larger organization about 8 weeks after I left. The guy they hired to be the department exec was let go because of redundancy at the new organization. I figure that the 15k offer was actually because me leaving looked bad as they were completing the deal, not because “I was important to culture”. Most of the c-suite that was there when I was hired did not like the new, big-corp culture, and took their pay outs and left within the year.

      So, basically I feel super fortunate in more ways than one. I dodged a huge bullet, and my new job was a step down in responsibilities for an increase in pay. I’m much, much happier with the work.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        He asked me to extend my notice to 3-4 weeks, and I told him that sounds like the notice an executive would give, and I’m not that.

        Well done! Very good response to the very crummy situation of them not recognizing your talents during the 7 years you were there. I am glad that you dodged the merger bullet and ended up at a much better place!

      2. Certaintroublemaker*

        Holy smokes, this just makes me that much mor relieved you are out of there! Your husband’s workplace was a dumpster fire (I’m so glad your move helped unstick him). But your workplace was a long, slow burn of toxic disrespect. So happy for both of you!

      3. 2 Cents*

        So glad you’re out of there! When I left one job, their counteroffer was to give me a raise I’d been asking about for two years. So, if it took me leaving to get it… (don’t worry, I left and never looked back.)

      4. This is Artemesia*

        I love that you told them 4 weeks notice was ‘executive level and you were not that’ — BURN. You should feel proud to not have been bullied on that. Glad you got out and are getting what you deserve. Sometimes you just get categorized as not ‘promotable’ for no good reason, but once you have that reputation, it is really hard to shake it except by getting out of dodge.

      5. junior*

        I understand wanting to keep your update short – but this adds so much! I’m so glad you were able to get out, and especially before the acquisition. Your responses to your organization were pointed, but professional, and I’m so glad you told your boss that knowing the $15k had been there all along made you feel worse. That’s something a manager needs to hear.
        I’m really happy you and your partner were able to find better employment. I remember reading your first letter, and feeling awful for you both – just a tough situation all-around.
        Congrats on the house!

      6. allathian*

        Thanks for explaining even further. Congrats to both of you for getting into a much better place, and I’m glad your new job inspired your husband to change jobs as well. I love the way you noped out of extending your notice period, too.

  8. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I love this post and I also really, really like the linked shoutout to Captain Awkward that’s included. I think that sort of frustration is so common right now with more people doing WFH and not getting ANY SPACE from their job or partner, and that CA article was super topical.

  9. A Girl Named Fred*

    “Better times can be fought for,” is something I absolutely needed to hear today, OP. I’m in a job that’s a super poor fit for me and veering into a toxic culture, and it frequently doesn’t leave me enough energy to search for the way out. This reminder that better times have to be fought for was timely and so, so important for those days where I “don’t feel like it.” Thank you so much for sharing your story and your encouragement, and may those of us still on the hunt for better times have the strength and support to carry on fighting!

    1. OP here*

      Good luck in your search, and hang in there. No part of the process was easy or fun. It was exhausting and I feel so much relief after having moved on.

      You deserve to have a job that’s not making you miserable. I truly hope you find something that brings you a little peace.

    2. SansaStark*

      Oooh boy, your comment really hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I could have written this 10 years ago and I am so proud of myself for fighting my @ss off for years. It paid off in ways I couldn’t have expected. You got this and your older self is going to be really proud of you!! But don’t forget to give yourself a little grace on those extra-hard days. Some days it’s ok to just have survived to fight another day.

  10. Dino*

    Nothing made me realize how toxic my job was like being berated in my own home. The job was very stressful and horrible but I was able to compartmentalize. Then covid hit and it wasn’t until a particularly awful meeting that it clicked for me. The thought popped in my head “I cannot believe you’re treating me like this in my own home” and I was done.

  11. Rob*

    I love this update. A someone going through a similar situation as the OP, me and my partner hitting walls on how much more we can take with the bs of our current employers, it gives me hope to see that someone could successfully channel those feelings into real change/progress. It let’s me know that hopefully I can do it too

  12. Bookworm*

    Congratulations, OP! I’m so glad it worked out for you and you’re both in a better situation overall.

  13. Yelena*

    Nice update, but this letter demonstrates one of the problems with WFH that people very rarely talk about, which is that if you are dedicating an entire room as your office, which is reasonable, it can come at a significant cost to the employee.

    1. allathian*

      Cost, or investment, depending on how you look at it. I know I’m fortunate in that we have a large enough house so that my husband and I can work on separate floors, not just separate rooms, and that when our son was in remote school, he had his own room, too. And that even when he was 10 years old, he was able to actually learn something remotely without constant supervision so that my husband and I could focus on work for most of the day, and that my our employers were very understanding of the inevitable disturbances.

  14. Michelle Smith*

    There are few posts on this website that make me happier to read than ones like these. Congratulations on homeownership, the new jobs, and a happy marriage!!

  15. Cathy Gale*

    May I just say, Congratulations! first time home buyer, and resourceful letter writer!!
    I hope this opens many doors for you and your husband.

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