(Closed) Seeking relationship advice…

posted 11 years ago in Relationships
Post # 17
14181 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

Military wife-to-be here! A long distance thing is no pie in the sky, but here’s my take.

My Fiance and I have been long distance for over 3.5 years. Loooong time. 15 of those months he was in another country. I got emails during the week, but only one 30 minutes phone call on Saturdays. It sucked, but I would have rather spent all that time alone, waiting for him to come home and biding my time, than be *single* and try to find his replacement.

You have to love someone that much and want to be with them that badly. It sounds to me like you haven’t reached that 100% you KNOW you want to marry him stage. See how the 1st year long distance goes. You may find that distance makes your heart grow fonder. I thought i loved my Fiance and wanted to marry him so much, but after the first month he was gone, I just knew it more and more and it solidified. You do have the option to move with him for a few years while he finishes his phd, right? I have lots of friends who lived apart, got engaged, stuck it out until their leases were up, then decided who’s job was easiest to try to replace in which particular location. AStrophysics is probably more common on the west coast, so you’re likely the one to up and move. Maybe it will be a great adventure for the two of you to be in Cali together.

at some point, you will have to make the decision to stay home near your family or temporarily move to be with your significant other. I ended up staying in St Louis while my Fiance lives in Georgia because I know I couldn’t uproot that far away for only a 10-month time span. But I’ve told him that if it was going to be more like 2 years or if I hadn’t landed my sweet job, I would have moved down there with him. You need more time. You cannot make a decision about whether you love someone that much if you don’t know it yet! Give your relationship time to either grow or die out over the next year.

Post # 19
610 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2009

I think you have a pretty controlling personality (similar to me and many people, I bet). It would be great if the future of our lives could be predicted with an algorithm so that we can plan ahead, prepare emotionally, etc. Fortunately, the unpredictability of life may not only be the source of frustration but also of pleasant surprises.

I recommend not sacrificing too much on your part without some mutual compromise at this stage. There is also no formula or secret to predict how a long distance relationship would turn out. I’ve seen in my own experience, ppl who were super strong in their long distance relationship for >2 yrs and break up after they are finally in the same city. I’ve also seen people who got engaged while long distance. I’ve seen a girl relocate for her bf & got engaged soon after. I’ve also seen one person relocate for another bearing much sacrifice, only to face a break up.  I’ve seen too many situations but there are no data to build a congruent model to predict what could very well happen in your specific case.

That being say, you’re too young to be too worried about these things. You should just go with the flow, whatever the flow may be. Wait for what ur bf wants to do after he receives his acceptances, wait for your own job/school prospects. Sometimes a path will slowly emerge as to what’s the best for you. Passive preparedness, as opposed to active impulse. My gut feeling is that you’re not at the stage to make any big compromises. But what do I know….

Post # 20
1276 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2009

Hmmm…there’s a lot to ponder here.  To begin, I’m actually really wondering exactly what your Boyfriend or Best Friend studies.  My PhD is in astrophysics, so I’m curious what fields are broadly only at a UC or Harvard.  Now, given that, I’d say it matters a great deal what school you go to for your PhD, and it is totally possible that there are only 1 or 2 that fit his interests.  And especially in astrophysics, the resources of the university matter as well, and I’m getting the impression that maybe he wants access to the big glass (large diameter telescope) that the UC’s or Harvard can offer.  Another thing to note is that a PhD in astrophysics is more like 6+ years.  Possibly shorter if he’s a theorist, but realistically it’s a longer program than, say, a PhD in biology. Anyway, these are logistical things that probably don’t go to the heart of your issue…

I would say that I think you’re getting ahead of yourself.  For the record, I moved to the opposite side of the country in the middle of my PhD (visitor at my FI’s university, still got my PhD from my own) and we were not engaged.  I felt pretty strongly that he could be the one, but I wasn’t sure and needed to find out.  There were several other factors playing into making this an easier decision for me, but it was still a pretty big sacrifice.  He also graduated 6 mos before me, and found a job.  I followed him again w/o being engaged.  I was, however, the one not ready for engagement.  And I agonized over the decision.  The job was not my dream job at first, but still a great opportunity and I knew it would give me a great experience and open up lots of options.  It has, in fact, turned out much better than I expected career-wise.  All of that said, if I knew it was hurting my career prospects irrevocably, I would not have left my university and I would not have moved to california where I am now.  And my Fiance has always assured me that we’d do whatever we needed to make it work (LD or not).

I generally think doing the "I’ll give this up if you give that up" thing ends up being a zero sum game, though I totally relate to the feeling.  How do you know that if you stay together he won’t end up making a big sacrifice for you in ten years?  You simply can’t.  So you need to just evaluate your choices now.  If giving up being close to your family for a few years so you can continue this relationship doesn’t sound like a choice you can make, then you can’t make it.  No judgment, no right or wrong answer…it’s just what you are comfortable with. OTOH, it’s also not a permanent decision.  You could always move back home if you hate it or it doesn’t work out.  I guess, and of course I’m biased b/c I relate to your b/f in this situation, I feel like it’s unfair to compare asking him to give up his life’s dream to asking you to live somewhere you’re not sure of for a few years.  That said, there may be other factors that I’m missing…like where you want to go to grad school, experiencing certain things with your family, etc.  I have a once in a lifetime opportunity for next year, but it involves living across the country.  It doesn’t make sense for my Fiance to quit his job, so he won’t.  We’ll be LD our first year of marriage.  That’s just the way things go.

I guess what I’m getting at is that there are way too many unknowns for you to pressure yourself into making a concrete decision now.  You aren’t really expressing uncertainty about the relationship, only about some specific decisions.  But you guys aren’t even ready to be making some of those decisions yet.  So I would say don’t.  Wait and see where he gets into schools (maybe it will be Harvard, who knows?).  Wait and see what opportunities present themselves when you are graduating.  Maybe you’ll have an incredible opportunity back home, or maybe near where he ends up.  I have friends who got married last year after like 8 years of LD (starting when he graduated a year before her from college, and then went to grad school).  Every time they tried to plan a way to live near each other, one of them got a great opportunity somewhere else.  And they agonized at each decision (live together or take this great chance?), and then agonized over whether they should break up.  But each time, in the end, they chose their opportunity and also their relationship.  And now, they have jobs in the same place and of course are together.  Getting married is a huge leap of faith.  And being a scientist and an engineer myself, I know how difficult it can be if you are used to problems having solutions (or at least a methodology to pursue).  But in the end it’s more about how you feel then what’s right…and that can change over time.  So don’t try to predict the future…you might miss out on something great!

All of that said, I’m going to somewhat contradict myself by pointing out one thing.  A career in academia is fraught with uncertainty and very few choices (one reason neither my Fiance or I are pursuing one).  Jobs are limited, and it’s usually 10-15 years from when you start grad school that you can get a permanent tenure-track position.  If he is committed to pursuing a faculty position at a big university, then he might just have to go where the job is (and for better or worse, where you got your PhD will matter a lot).  It takes a lot of sacrifice from everyone to make this happen.  If this is something you don’t think you can live with, it’s worth considering now…b/c it ain’t easy!

Oh, and if your bf wants any advice on picking schools or broader info about programs, feel free to PM me.  I got really lucky in the end that I got into the right research group, but I had no idea where to apply and what to do when I applied. 

Post # 21
339 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

I was/am kind of in the exact same situation, except not different coasts. He wants to get his PhD, I want to be working. He wants to stay here, there are no jobs here. I was looking at jobs all over the place, slightly desprate for anthing they would throw my way. I ended up going into an accelorated masters program 2 hours away (in my home town) and will be done by the end of next year. We are playing it by ear now. After this program, I hope to find a job (different field than first) here and be with him. 

Post # 23
7081 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: July 2009

You’ve gotten a lot of great advice here.  Academia is a tough road, and not for the faint of heart (speaking from my last 3 months of training here!)  My fiance and I did long distance for 2 years so that I could pursue my academic career.  I am a believer (and there are definitely different schools of thought on this) that making career sacrifices for each other before being engaged is not a good idea. 

Keep pursuing your individual dreams, and eventually the relationship will come into focus as just as important (or not)… but don’t feel like you have to move to California, just because he might.  Long distance is a great test of the relationship (preferrably in shorter doses than what many of us here have experienced), and greatly enhances communication!

Post # 24
1276 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2009

jadedragon, seriously get your Boyfriend or Best Friend to get in touch with me.  I spend a lot of time helping new grad students figure out what they want and what their options are.  I think his perceptions of what career paths are available are pretty typical of an entering grad student, but they are also not accurate…and sadly many people don’t learn of alterntive career paths until pretty close to graduation (this is something I’m working on trying to change through our professional society, so it’s not a criticism of him at all). 

But for you, my advice is not to look at it as time "wasted" or "sacrifices".  And again, there are times in my relationship with my Fiance when I could have almost written your exact post, so I do totally understand how you feel.  If you are unsure of your relationship, then don’t stay in it.  But if you are happy with him and want to see how it unfolds, then do so.  Even if you knew today that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with him you really wouldn’t be able to predict where things are going to end up.  When I was graduating college (about your stage), I was really confused about what to do next.  My dad, who isn’t really much of a sensitive advice-giving guy, called me up and told me something that has really helped me a lot through the years.  My parents, By The Way, are immigrants.  He said, "when I was your age I barely imagined, maybe just thought, that one day I might visit the US on vacation.  I had no idea that a few years later I’d meet your mom, we’d get married, and then we’d decide to come to the US for some training.  And now, so many years later, I’ve spent more than half my life in this country and all my kids are Americans."  My point, is that you really can’t predict the future…and it sounds like you both have very bright and exciting ones…and that you both have quite a few ambitions.

If you are happy with him now, then it’s not time "wasted".  It’s time developing that relationship and learning if it fits you.  And if you decide that it doesn’t later on, then you’ve still learned a lot of valuable things about yourself and what you need.  And I guess what I’m saying regarding sacrifice isn’t about what’s fair, it’s about what makes sense.  If you take a job near him so that you can continue the relationship, that’s not a sacrifice, that’s choosing your relationship at that time.  If you cant’ find a job you like or whatever, then the choice will be harder.  But who knows, maybe you’ll still work out LD.  Like I said, I’m getting married and then choosing to spend a year apart from my hubby b/c of a great career opportunity.  He supports me, and also, of course, he’d prefer I stay close.  But that’s how it’s working out.  My point is that even deciding to get married doesn’t mean you won’t have to make choices about how to live your life.  (And I’ll admit that at bad moments I get resentful that he won’t just quit his job and move with me…but it really, really doesn’t make sense.)  

By The Way, I don’t think your concerns are selfish (it wouldn’t even occur to me to characterize them that way).  They sound more to me like anxiety about whether he’s as serious about this relationship as you are.  And whether he’s committed to trying to make it work, even in the face of obstacles.  I think this is something you need to address with your Boyfriend or Best Friend.  I get why he took the research position in CA for the summer, and I get why you feel upset that he didn’t consult you first.  Not everyone would take the position, not everyone would be upset.  But that’s who you both are.  So I think these are things you need to talk about.  It doesn’t mean he does what you are telling him to do, it doesn’t mean you just blindly follow him around the country for the rest of your life.  But it means both of you have informationa bout what the other one is thinking and feeling.  B/c I personally think learning to respect that about the other person and finding ways to nurture their needs *without* sacrificing your own is really what a relationship is all about. 

You might consider the book, "Non-violent communication" by Marshall Rosenberg.  It really contextualizes feelings in terms of their being reflections of unmet needs.  I think, you’re like me in having a tendency to overthink things while rationalizing away your legitimate feelings.  This book might help give you some tools for understanding what’s really behind your emotions…it’s probably not as negative as you think (i.e. you don’t sound that selfish to me).

Post # 25
559 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

First, hugs Jade. I think we all remember what is was like to be 20 and in the beginning stages of an amazing relationship. Maybe we haven’t all been in your exact situation, but you’re not immature at all for bringing this up. I too, want to have all my ducks in a row before I make big decisions. I too, analyze and consider option after option for months at a time before making the "right" decision. I too, understand what it’s like to be nervous about making large decisions about a relationship early on. I too, understand what it’s like to see down the road, years later at all the "what if’s and maybe so’s" of what life can bring and wonder and worry. All I can say, is this may be a time where you give up control and just hold on for the ride. Be careful to take care of your heart, but try not to have too much control over the process.

I think there are two main possibilties here, though. #1, the relationship is so new that you don’t know if you can sacrifice yourself for the sake of the relationship or #2 you are committed to this person and will do what it takes to make it work even if it means going to where he is for a few years and then perhaps where you want to go after that.

And just in case I haven’t been vague or confusing enough, I’ll throw two real life situations into the mix. First couple were high school sweethearts but broke up to pursue seperate college paths. They reunited after college and are now happily married with two children. Second situation: girl and boy meet in undergrad. girl goes to west coast for boy so he can go to postgrad school of his choice with the understanding that they would move to midwest for her after postgrad. 2 years later as agreed, they move to midwest. 1/2 year later they break up. 2 months after that girl reunites with childhood friend. 6 months later she marries childhood friend.

what do those two situations tell us? i don’t know.

Post # 26
2292 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2008

The tricky thing about relationships is that you not only have to find the right person, you have to find them at the right time.  I have friends who would argue that if you have found the right person, it will be the right time, but since my husband and I knew each other for about 20 years before we got married, I’m pretty sure that’s not necessarily true.

When we started dating, I lived in CO and he lived in WA, and I had been offered a job in the UK.  We talked a lot about how (or whether) that would work, and he was pretty confident that we could make it work if we wanted it badly enough.  In the end, the company that was going to send me to the UK actually moved me to WA – waiting for the contract in the UK to come through – and it never did.  So we ended up in the same town, although as much by accident as anything.  I think that when something is meant to be, things do just line up for you in an amazing way.

So – here’s what I think about your situation (and I’ve been in similar situations).  I think that graduation from college is scary – starting a career is scary – thinking about leaving your family is scary – and breaking up with your bf is scary too.  Somewhere in your list of choices there must be something that is actually exciting as well, and that’s what you need to find.  Believe me, if you had a fabulous job offer in CA, that would be exciting.  People live across the country from where they grew up all the time.  I did for years, and my sister still does, and she and my mom and I have talked almost every day wherever we lived.  It doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your relationship with your family, just that you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone, make some new friends, and learn your way around a new town.

Long distance with your SO is a bit of a different story.  While your mom remains your mom when she’s 3000 miles away, that’s not necessarily true for your SO.  So you’re smart to wonder whether your relationship will work under those conditions.  But you’re clearly also not really for a serious commitment, and it’s good that you realize that.  Wondering whether you can sustain a relationship with someone you’re not willing to move to be with, who also hasn’t really asked you to come with him – that sort of says it all, although I know the situation is much more complicated.  You both have other priorities – you have your family, and your familiar surroundings; he has his career plans.  It sounds like those things are actually more important to you right now than the relationship, and at 21 and 20, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s what I would advise.  Apply for some jobs in CA.  Take some interview trips.  See if there isn’t a job out there you could be excited to have, and a place you could be excited to live – independent of the idea that your Boyfriend or Best Friend will be there (think of that as a nice bonus).  I would absolutely not move "just for him" – you are really likely to end up resenting him and feeling like you did the wrong thing if things don’t go well.  Whereas if you move for an exciting job offer, and look at it as a great opportunity for you, you don’t have this idea that if the relationship doesn’t work out you have done something stupid.

Also remember that at the age of 20, and in the field of engineering, you have huge opportunities ahead of you.  You can go anywhere you like – including CA.  And you know what?  In a few years, you can move back to the east coast if you want.   If you go to work on the east coast initially, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look for a job to CA in a few years.  You might think about looking particularly at companies that have bi-coastal offices, which gives you an easy way to travel or transfer back and forth if you like. 

Also, I agree that you really need to know where your Boyfriend or Best Friend is coming from.  He’s got some very specific career goals, which are going to be very limiting as far as where he can live.  If you end up with him, your career opportunities will probably always be limited by that.  At least he’s likely to live in a major metro area, where there will be a lot of engineering jobs.  If that’s going to bother you, then you probably need someone whose goals are more similar to your own.  (Honestly, I do think that is the biggest contributor to the long-term success of a relationship – sharing a set of goals.  If you’re always working for different things, then one of you is always going to feel like they came in second, which is no fun.) 

The thing is, and not to make light of your situation, but you actually are in a great place.  You’re getting ready to graduate with a good degree, you should have good job prospects, and you have your whole life ahead of you.  As hard as it is (I also love to have a plan, and know where things are going) you need to know that one way or another, as long as you do what actually feels right to you, things will turn out okay.  You may stay on the east coast, and satisfy your goal of staying close to your family, and get a great job and meet another great guy.  You may get a great job offer in CA, and move out there, and eventually marry your Boyfriend or Best Friend.  You may get a great job offer somewhere else entirely, and end up doing something you’re not even thinking about right now.  Change is always stressful.  Just look at all your opportunities, keep an open mind, and see how things turn out.  It should be a grand adventure, if you do it right – you’ll know what the right decision turns out to be when you find the thing that actually feels like a grand adventure to you.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be scary – new things are always a little scary.  Let us know how it turns out!! 

Post # 28
398 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2009


I too am an Astrophysics major, but I have taken a different route then what your Fiance plans on doing.  I graduated from Florida and had a fantastic internship at KSC/NASA for 4 years doing research for mars missions (including pheonix and hirise). Frankly, when it came time to graduate with my bachelors, I was tired of the beuracracy and more tired of being in Florida (and tired of being in school). 

My university professors tried to tell me that I had to go to graduate school it just wasn’t an option being in this field; but frankly I was tired of plasma physics and astrophysics books holding up my coffee table and just wanted to "grown up" and contributing citizen to society (pay taxes…lol).  I wouldn’t listen, so I did my own thing and got so many job offers around the nation doing such a variety of task.  I ultimately chose to work for AFRL in New Mexico (a huge change) but it was the one true place that I could be both a contributing citizen and pursue higher education at my own pace.  This ultimately meant that I had to leave my family and friends in FL behind and also my long term boyfriend in college of 4 years behind after the long distance thing didn’t work out for us; on the upside I did meet my wonderful engineer husband out west πŸ™‚

My masters is in Space Science and I will be applying to PhD programs in a year (after this current project I am working launches!).   All paid for and still getting a substantial salary I might add (much more then normal grad students). The beautiful thing is, working for me has given me such insight into what is really valuable in the workforce and has actually shaped my graduate thesis and ultimately my dissertation.  I have even recieved invitations to teach at local universities in NM….

Anyways, I know that doesn’t directly relate to your issue, but it just proves that there is so many ways to get to a goal and while the plan may be visualized one way you may find that in the next year (or even month) that there could be a change in action on many things (ie job offers, poor test scores, etc), but in the end it’s all uncontrollable.

On the upside California is a great place for Physicist and Engineers alike (I work alot out there).  So while you feel like you are giving up something just for some guy, this opportunity (if in two years you are ready for it) could be the best experience of your life. 

And just on the flip side you keep mentioning self sacrifice, but maybe your bf has similar feelings, just doesn’t express them.  Maybe he is scared to leave you behind and afraid to be 3000 miles away from his friends and family, etc.  It is not as easy as he is making it sound. 

I say roll with the punches on this one, it will all work out, just maybe not in 100% efficiency.  You will both figure out whats best for you as individuals and together. Good Luck!

Post # 31
6009 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

Hmmmm, well, the more I read your posts, the more I think that maybe you and your bf are on different wavelengths about how serious this realtionship is.  You say you’ve been dating for a while.  How long does "a while" mean?  It sounds like you are at a point where decisions you make about the future are made with him in mind… and that he is making these same decisions independently.  

Are there other indications of the seriousness of your relationship?  Like when you discuss future events (grad school yes, but even just making plans for holidays or next weekend) does he say "we" instead of "me" or include you in those plans without you asking?  He might not be at a point where this relationship is that serious, but it seems like you are. 

However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit him right down for another talk that, in your own words, will lead to a "big fight."  It’s hard to give people some space when you feel so strongly about them, but it might be what you need to do.  If he feels as strongly about you as you do about him, he’ll probably seek out your opinion before making decisions without you having to tell him to do it. 

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