Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I have been with “Bill” for over a year and I am absolutely in love with him. Bill has a perfectly fine union job and stands to be employed steadily for years to come. We will never be rich but we would be just fine. My career — I don’t want to be too specific — is different, in that not only do I already make more money, but I have the potential to make a lot more, and to gain a lot more responsibility and frankly go far, as long as I’m willing to work hard.
Two weeks ago, I was offered a major promotion. It would require a move to Seattle. A return to Alaska is not guaranteed but is possible. The financial boost would be huge and the future potential is limitless.
Bill’s immediate response was total refusal to even consider moving. I waited a couple days knowing it was a shock, and brought it up again. He refused, again. I just brought it up again today and he was shocked to know I hadn’t turned it down yet. He said he loves me and our life here should be enough.
I don’t know what to do. The me before I met Bill would have never thought of turning down this kind of opportunity, but I was single a long time before I met Bill. I’m so happy with him, so this situation has me rethinking everything. Can I turn down this opportunity to stay with him? Is it possible I only so highly prioritized my career because I didn’t have a relationship? Now that I’m in one, is it OK to turn down a promotion for a guy? Or is it wrong to consider being with him if he’s holding me back? I badly need advice. Please help.
Our goals as 10-year-olds are not the same as our goals as 20-year-olds or as 30-year-olds and so on. Priorities change, and for so many reasons. We have near-death experiences. We get fired. We achieve promotions. We suffer loss. We fall in love. It’s completely OK to give yourself permission to adjust priorities based on life’s fluctuating circumstances.
So, once upon a time, your career was No. 1. And the single, solo you would have absolutely seized an opportunity to uproot, relocate and lean in on a crazy-incredible new opportunity. Now that you’re part of a relationship, you aren’t so sure, and this is completely reasonable and understandable. Part of a relationship — of a successful relationship — is compromise.
You didn’t detail Bill’s reasons for wanting to stay, and perhaps you’re yet to totally understand them yourself. They do matter, and will help you understand where he’s coming from. Surely, his point isn’t to hold you back or keep you from succeeding. Maybe he is anchored here by strong family ties. Maybe he has his own work considerations that make moving a nonnegotiable option. And who knows: Maybe five years ago, he too would have leaped at the chance to restart his life in a new locale.
The point is, if you pick Bill, it’s OK. And if you don’t, it’s OK. Don’t feel pressured by your past promises to yourself. Re-evaluate based on what matters most now. And know that if you want Bill to be part of the picture, a major key to succeeding as a couple is to understand each other’s drivers, pressures, passions and pursuits, and see if there isn’t something nearer to the middle that can bring you both happiness.
Something else to consider is what will you possibly regret more in a year: leaving Bill and Alaska for a professional opportunity in Seattle, or passing on a professional opportunity in Seattle to stay with Bill in Alaska?
For a driven professional like you, there will always be great opportunities on the horizon, even in Alaska’s cozy corporate landscape. To improve your odds, you can continue shining in your current gig; network to make sure you’re on everyone’s radar; and join boards and further your education to expand your toolkit.
And for a single person in Seattle, there will always be great dating opportunities on the horizon. There will certainly be more people to meet and mingle with who share the ambition that drives you and that Bill lacks. Quantity doesn’t equal quality, though. I guess the same can be said about the Alaska men-to-women ratio …
Sorry, I’m not answering your questions. I can’t. This isn’t my decision to make and, like Wanda, I don’t have enough details on the inner workings of your relationship, enough backstory on Bill, or enough understanding on how you would feel about trading Alaska’s friendly slow flow for Seattle’s big-city bustle. All I can say is you seem to be very thoughtful, so really think about what’s most important to you today and what you truly want for your future, as well as what decisions you might be grateful for or kicking yourself over down the road.