Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend is Having an Existential Crisis and I’m Over It”

I dearly love my boyfriend and I honestly think that we’re really good together (most of the time). We’ve been dating for 3.5 years, living together for 2.5 years. The problem is that over the past couple of years, off and on, my boyfriend, “Kyle,” has been going through an existential crisis of sorts and it’s beginning to wear me down. He obsesses constantly about what he wants to do with his life. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree at a prestigious institution but has decided that he no longer wants to continue on in that field. However, he has not yet figured out what will make him feel as though his life has meaning.

Because of this, we start arguing almost immediately whenever he brings up what he would like to do. I don’t really know what to say anymore; my opinion is that he should go a more traditional, business-minded route that I think would make him (and to be completely honest, us) the happiest and the most secure. I feel trapped whenever he comes up with another option that he knows I won’t think quite so fondly of and then gets angry at me for not being consistently positive about all of his ideas. This is made slightly more complicated since I’m also in graduate school pursuing a degree that I love but one that won’t necessarily make me much money, so wanting him to pursue a more financially stable career feels deeply selfish and shameful. I do care and I will love and support him no matter what field he chooses, but I just can’t keep having these roundabout discussions that are making me want to start pulling out my hair in frustration! — Over the Crisis

You will support your boyfriend no matter what field he chooses?? Really? Because it doesn’t sound like you’re supporting your boyfriend now when he’s simply considering what field he might like to pursue. It doesn’t sound like you’re interested in supporting him unless he chooses a lucrative field that you imagine will help support you/your family together one day. Why else do you start arguing with him “almost immediately” when he brings up the topic of what he wants to do with his life? He’s having, as you describe, an “existential crisis” and turning to his girlfriend of three and a half years for support and rather than help him through it — like, by listening to him, brainstorming, offering suggestions and ideas, reminding him what his strengths are, letting him know you believe in him — you’re basically shutting him down at every turn, sticking your fingers in your ears and going, “No, no, no! Only one path will lead you to happiness and personal fulfillment and that’s a traditional, business-minded one!” Hmm, are you sure you don’t mean that’s the only path he can take that will lead to happiness for you?

You said yourself, your own chosen career field isn’t a lucrative one. You’re depending on a partner who can be the breadwinner and support you. You thought, after three and a half years together, this was the guy you’d end up with for the long haul. You’ve been counting on him to follow the traditional, business-minded path you decided would best lead to your dreams of financial support. And he was following that path until now. You’ve invested three and a half years and now he’s changing course? You were counting on him to be the breadwinner. It’s not like he KNOWS what he wants to do with his life, so why not just go with the thing that will make the most money, amiright?

If that sounds incredibly lame and selfish it’s because it is. Your boyfriend is a person. A young person, at that, I’m guessing. He’s allowed to not have it all figured out. He’s allowed to consider different career options. He’s allowed to change course, especially considering that he isn’t married yet and doesn’t have kids and a family to support (not that he couldn’t make a career change if he did, but it’s decidedly less complicated and risky when one isn’t supporting anyone else). This is the right time for him to think about his future. Trust me, it’s much better he do some major soul-searching about his future now than after graduate school or after he lands a job or after he puts ten years into a soul-sucking career he hates.

And it’s the right time for you to do some major soul-searching too. What does this relationship really mean to you? Does it mean enough that you’d be willing to give up your fantasy of being financially supported and maybe create a new fantasy – perhaps one that doesn’t involve your boyfriend working a career he isn’t passionate about? Or do you simply see him as part of a larger picture – maybe one in which he isn’t even a main focus? Do you think of him as replaceable? Is it more important to have someone who will be the breadwinner than it is to be with this particular man?

You say you’re tired of your “roundabout” discussions, but what you’re describing don’t sound like discussions. And the only thing “roundabout” about them is how they keep coming back ’round to your desire for your boyfriend to pursue what YOU think is best for him/you. But it’s his life. You may not be in the picture five years from now. And if you want to be, I highly, highly recommend getting over yourself and being a bigger support to your boyfriend. Reserve the judgment and frustration and let him work through what he has to work through to figure out where he wants to go and how to get there. If you decide it’s not a place you want to travel along with him, MOA. But don’t fight him to change paths simply to suit your own agenda.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here an Twitter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

173 comments… add one
  • avatar

    kerrycontrary October 11, 2012, 9:09 am

    I don’t know…I kind of disagree with Wendy on this one. Or maybe just have a different opinion. I read the letter as the LW is saying that her boyfriend can’t figure out what to do with his life, so they’ve had this discussion over and over again. Having any discussion with a partner over and over again will wear anyone down. So I got the impression that she was like “pick something already!”. And I understand that. One of my friends is going through this and having these discussions with her are wearing me down. Plus, the LW is entitled to have her opinion about what she thinks he should do, and if she hasn’t changed her opinion she’s probably run out of ways to respond to his ideas. Maybe he really is suited towards business and has talents that he can’t recognize in himself.

    But I think the real problem is that he hasn’t figured out what he wants from his life, so she can’t plan her life around his non-plan. I mean he may want to move to India to study Yoga! Or become a photographer for National Geographic. So I think he needs to spend some time on his own figuring out what he wants to do before they settle down together.

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    • katie

      katie October 11, 2012, 9:22 am

      that could be happening, and i thought that too, but what set me off was “whenever he comes up with another option that he knows I won’t think quite so fondly of”. she isn’t thinking of him at all, in my opinion. she is thinking about herself and what is going to set herself up for the future.

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    • SixtyFour

      SixtyFour October 11, 2012, 9:28 am

      Yeah, I tend to see this more like how you described it. My ex whom I dated for a year and half was also always struggling with what he wanted to do with life. He had a great job, was really good at it, but he felt like he was missing something. He could never be content, was never satisfied, and felt like if he could just do something else, everything would come together. And that was really frustrating to deal with. He didn’t have any idea what that something else was but just that his current life wasn’t good enough. Even when he changed jobs, he still wasn’t happy. And it made me feel like nothing was ever going to make him happy and being with him would have been an endless search for “his passion.”

      We’re led to believe these days that everyone can follow their passion and find amazing jobs that will make you so happy and fulfilled. And the bottom line is that’s not always true. Sometimes you have a job that you just like or that you tolerate but you find your fulfillment in other parts of your life – your family, friends, and hobbies.

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      • avatar

        kerrycontrary October 11, 2012, 9:36 am

        I think that some people are just never content, and there’s nothing you can do about it as their partner.

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      • avatar

        Meg October 11, 2012, 11:28 am

        I agree, this is exactly how I felt upon first reading the letter. Perhaps it’s because for awhile I was going through the same thing with my fiance. At one point he was going to school for computer science, then he wanted to become a pilot, then he wanted us to move to NYC, then he wanted us to move to California so he could pursue comedy or acting, then he was content with his current job, THEN he wanted to go back to school for a variety of other things.

        It’s not that I didn’t want to be supportive – it’s just that, after a few years of hearing the newest grand plan, all I could think was “when WILL he be happy, or will he ever?” I had no problem cutting corners while he went part-time to go back to school, I looked at apartments with him in NYC and LA, and I even looked into what we would need to do in order for him to get his pilot’s license. My problem was that I was often left wondering when he would hop onto the next idea, and that in my quest to make him happy I would end up having to risk not being happy myself.

        Not only this, but as a person that values stability (we were poor and moved around a lot when I was younger so it’s something I’ve strived to attain as an adult) it stressed me out. I think as he’s matured he’s realized that he won’t necessarily be able to do everything he’s ever wanted to do. That being said, I will agree that it’s important to try and encourage the feasible things – on the occasions my fiance brings out something he wants to do I am still there to listen and see if there’s any way I can help him achieve it (in his case, doing local stand-up instead of jumping balls-deep into the comedy scene in LA, or figuring out how he can swing part-time schooling while maybe cutting back on work hours a little so we can still afford bills).

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      • avatar

        MMcG October 11, 2012, 2:54 pm

        Yep!

        I read this as his constant jumping from idea to idea was not only wearing her down, but also raising some alarm bells about his ability to commit. Went through this with my now husband, and he was unsure and went back and forth between 2 choices, but then picked one and went with it,,, if he had kept jumping to the next new thing (and/or worse, spending money to pursue things he never finishes) I would get really tired of that discussion.

        If he keep leaping from thing to thing that will make him feel “complete” or whatever – when does he take into account her needs?

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      • Moneypenny

        Moneypenny October 11, 2012, 12:29 pm

        I totally agree with your last paragraph. I feel, for myself, that I cannot rely on my job to fulfill me. I need to have hobbies and other interests that keep me happy, because my job is just not going to do it. And since I’ve focused on this, I feel less pressure with my job and I’m happier overall.

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      • avatar

        Ravage Maladie October 12, 2012, 8:17 am

        Wow, SixtyFour, that is so true.

        I don’t like to admit it, but I was ‘the seeker’ from age eightteen till about four years ago (I’m 31 now), and I know for a fact that I have driven my boyfriend and some of my close friends NUTS at times.

        There was a cool documentary made in Holland about two years ago: “All we ever wanted was everything”, about our generation’s tendency to want to find a unique, fulfilling path through life. I think that expectation that you’re supposed to make a life for yourself that ultimately ‘counts’ in every aspect, wears a lot of people down and keeps them from simply living in the ‘now’. I know it has certainly had that effect on me, until I decided to just CHOOSE already.

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    • avatar

      MJ October 11, 2012, 9:29 am

      I read it this way, too. I can’t imagine sitting with someone and listening to them run through their options over and over and over again. I mean, it’s good to sort things out and to be a listening ear, but after awhile you have to sort of move in a direction. If he’s paralyzed by options, that can be exhausting for both him and his girlfriend.

      And yes to your last paragraph. It really throws the stability of their life together and their relationship into question if at any point he could think “Oh! I need to go live abroad for a few years!”

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    • avatar

      csp October 11, 2012, 9:52 am

      Right, and how much student loan debt is he piling up while he is finding himself?

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      • becboo84

        BecBoo84 October 11, 2012, 10:13 am

        Also my thoughts! If it’s a “prestigious” university, I can’t imagine it’s cheap. He could be doing some GA thing that’s paying his way, or he could just be racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which would make it even more understandable why the LW thinks him having a financially stable career is important.

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      • avatar

        csp October 11, 2012, 1:10 pm

        I am sure so many people would agree that student loans can just cripple someone,

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    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 October 11, 2012, 10:11 am

      @KC, I read it exactly like you did and was, therefore, a bit surprised by Wendy’s response. If you’ve been having the same general conversations with your SO for 3+ years, it’s natural to at this point be frustrated by the fact that they’re not propelling that person in a “fulfilling” direction.

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      • avatar

        MMcG October 11, 2012, 2:57 pm

        @ BB84 – I totally agree with both of you and many others here!

        Plus, how damaging would it feel to realize that YOU are never going to be able to fulfill your boyfriend/fiance/husband and they will always need to seek something new!?!

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    • avatar

      spark_plug October 11, 2012, 10:25 am

      I got a different tone reading the letter. When I read it, it seemed as though the boyfriend has very pie in the sky types of dreams. I think its important to pursue your dreams, but its important to be realistic as well. I went to a a very liberal undergrad and so many of my friends pursued majors because they felt “fullfilled” rather than because they made sense down the line.. classic french lit, anthropology, art history, etc… nothing wrong with those majors except that the downturn happened, my friends had no interest in staying in those fields and ended up working as saleswomen, admins, and so on. I also think that American culture idealizes “self-fulfillement” too much. Growing up in a developing country, the idea that you would do something just because it makes you feel good is regarded as the dumbest idea ever.. and it is, because you can’t survive and feed a family on that in many locations. American economy is getting tough as well.. and so is job switching as we get older.

      So I don’t necessarily disagree with the LW, I wish she had revealed what her boyfriend was thinking. I mean, does he want to drop out of HBS to pursue a degree in divinity studies or to pursue an MA in education? Big difference.. once is about wanting to make a contribution the the other just self-gratification.

      Also, what’s wrong with wanting to be with a man who can provide for his family? Especially if the LW isn’t making money.. I think he’s just being realistic. I read somewhere that the #1 cause of marital problems is finances. Especially now. Its a very big factor in their relationship going forward and we always give women the advice to discuss finances, children, etc. before getting married.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 11:29 am

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be with a man who provides for his family. But this man isn’t that kind of guy and she is trying to make him one. She needs to find a man who has the same long term goals as her.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar October 11, 2012, 10:25 am

      I would have thought that too – except she wants him to pick the career that gives her financial stability and feels ‘trapped’ if he picks anything else. I almost thought that he is trying to please her but is unhappy and when he suggests alternatives she gets aggravated.

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    • avatar

      CG October 11, 2012, 10:32 am

      Kerry, that’s totally how I read it too! Maybe this guy needs to go to a career counselor instead of constantly rehashing the same ideas with the LW.

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  • katie

    katie October 11, 2012, 9:19 am

    WWS.

    bottom line, its his life. he gets to live it the way he chooses, and a good partner will support him in whatever path he does chooses. ill be totally honest, you sound like a MRS degree seeker to me… going to college just to land a husband (and a rich husband at that…), become a stay at home mother/wife and let him make all the money.

    also, if money means so much to you, why didnt YOU pursue a degree that would make you a lot of money?

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    • katie

      katie October 11, 2012, 9:23 am

      oh, also, “wanting him to pursue a more financially stable career feels deeply selfish and shameful” – that feels selfish and shameful because it is.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 11, 2012, 10:52 am

        Every Time I hear a woman wants to ‘marry money or financial security’ or wants her spouse to be the income earner I think of a girl I know who wanted that – and got it. She married the investment broker with lots of money – and all the power in the relationship. He ended up doling out an allowance when he felt like it and when she broke her tailbone giving birth (I don’t even want to know how) that gem of a man made her and new baby sleep in the basement so he wouldn’t be disturbed at night. She hates him now and is actively just trying to have enough children so that child support can support her. Which – as a plan – is ridiculous and has disaster written all over it – not to mention what having children with that man means for her kids. Marry the man – is he honest? trustworthy? kind? hard working? That’s a happy life. Marrying a lifestyle or a bank account can’t end well.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 10:58 am

        that is so sad. and terrible. and awful. and just really sad…

        and, what sucks more, is that those are the women who give the world terms like golddigger and MRS degrees and stuff- and then all women are judged by that. i hate it!!

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    • avatar

      Desiree October 11, 2012, 9:40 am

      I think there are multiple motivations behind seeking a financially well-off spouse. It could be, of course, that a woman loves luxury and wants “the good life.” But some people may come from backgrounds that make them see money as stability more than luxury, and not everyone has the skills to pursue the higher-paying career paths.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 9:55 am

        well, i think it depends on what “financially well off” means, because that can mean different things.

        but, i do not agree with finding a finacially well off spouse (meaning they will pay for your life) just so *you* can go off and pursue whatever interests you want. if *you* want to have a certain type of lifestyle, *you* should make that happen. people should not be dependant on others to finance their lives.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 11, 2012, 10:27 am

        Exactly.

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      • theattack

        the attack October 11, 2012, 12:20 pm

        It really makes me wonder what her chosen path is and what sort of ideAs he’s coming up with. There’s a big difference between getting upset that he wants to be a teacher and getting upset that he wants to travel across the country and invest their money in a part time birthday clown business. Is she just hoping that he has a more stable income (totally reasonable,IMO) or will she not settle for anything but wealthy? Because depending on what you’re doing, business careers don’t always bring in the big bucks either

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      • avatar

        MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:01 pm

        That’s what I am wondering… I don’t take her needing some financial stability as a bad sign, just an honest assessment of her needs… but it depends and there isn’t enough detail!

        My take: It doesn’t sound like she expects him to pay for everything or take care of her exclusively… but might be concerned that among his flights of fancy he can’t pay for ANYTHING. those are 2 very different situations to address with a long-term partner and someone you’ve already moved in with.

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      • theattack

        theattack October 11, 2012, 3:40 pm

        Good point that she’s already moved in with him. It’s not just a concern that he makes money long term. It’s a concern that he’s able to pay his share of the rent this month too!

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      • avatar

        temperance October 12, 2012, 11:47 pm

        I’ll be honest, Mr. Temperance has a very good income, and if he decided to quit his job to pursue his passion, which is music, because he is not a musician. I don’t feel like a terrible person for that, I grew up in a trailer and would like to never live in one again, hopefully.

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    • avatar

      csp October 11, 2012, 9:57 am

      It is funny you say this. I remember I had an ex boyfriend who said to me, “no matter what, you will be rich.” and I said, “I don’t look at mates based on income potential.” He said, “If you fall for a penniless muscian, then you will make the money.” I blew him off at the time. But 15 years later, I look around and realize that he was right. I had a focus on a certain lifestyle and I was going to get my dream by myself or with someone. LW, does this guy fit in your dream or not?

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    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 October 11, 2012, 11:42 am

      I didn’t get that feeling from her letter at all. The LW specifically says that she’s going to graduate school for a degree that she loves, but she knows won’t make a ton of money. That sounds to me like she definitely plans on working.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 11:58 am

        Read Kate B’s comment below.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. October 11, 2012, 11:53 am

      “if money means so much to you, why didnt YOU pursue a degree that would make you a lot of money?”

      I wanted to ask that, too, but then I remembered the whole thing about her pursuing a degree that acknowledges won’t make her much money. So it seems to me that she wants financial stability, but only if someone else earns it, so she can do what she wants.

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      • theattack

        the attack October 11, 2012, 12:28 pm

        I think this is over simplified. I just said this above, but financial security doesn’t have to mean wealthy. It could also mean a job with a steady paycheck or making more than minimum wage,etc. Are the plans that she’s shooting down more like get rich quick schemes or deciding to become a famous actor, or are they realistic career paths that don’t make enough money for her tastes? Big difference and both are possible with the given info

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      • avatar

        MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:08 pm

        Whereas I read this as the LW was fine with him doing whatever (he’s currently in school for something at one point he really wanted to do) and has probably gone through a few phases already and is currently thinking about chucking his prestigious university for yet another “this will make me happy” phase… and the LW is now at her limit and looking at mounting debt with no end in sight and is trying to be practical by recommending options… at what point do you get to be legitimately concerned about your partner’s ability to negatively impact your credit/financial situation??

        There’s a HUGE MOUNTAIN between golddigger support my fanciful career and hey can you chip in for groceries this month… seems like the responses here depend on which way you interpreted that section of the letter.

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      • theattack

        theattack October 11, 2012, 3:21 pm

        I agree, and I think we really can’t give proper responses to this letter without knowing more details. My response could vary from “Get over yourself” to “MOA from this unstable man” given more details.

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      • avatar

        AmyRenee October 11, 2012, 3:31 pm

        I agree. And the part about “then gets angry at me for not being consistently positive about all of his ideas” makes me wonder as well. Is bf getting mad whenever he says “I think I should pursue [insert crazy dream that doesn’t make any money]” and she say “but what about your $100,000 in student loans from prestigious university?” and then he says “Why do you always have to shoot down my dreams?! Why can’t you be supportive of me?!”

        Its not being unsupportive of her to point out reality, like the existance of student loans or the fact that her career won’t make enough money to pay all of the rent and his student loan bills and the groceries. It might suck, and he might want a little commiseration, but being a realist is not being unsupportive. She might need to be a little more sensitive about it, but at the end of the day, being honest (nicely) may be as supportive as she can realistically be right now.

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    • katie

      katie October 11, 2012, 5:09 pm

      the reason i see this girl as a selfish person who values this man for his earning potential is her repeated references to money-

      “my opinion is that he should go a more traditional, business-minded route that I think would make him (and to be completely honest, us) the happiest and the most secure. I feel trapped whenever he comes up with another option that he knows I won’t think quite so fondly of and then gets angry at me for not being consistently positive about all of his ideas. This is made slightly more complicated since I’m also in graduate school pursuing a degree that I love but one that won’t necessarily make me much money, so wanting him to pursue a more financially stable career feels deeply selfish and shameful.”

      that whole thing is about how she will not make a lot of money, and he was *going* to be making a lot of money, and now he might not be, but she still wants him to, because again, she is not going to be contributing. if the LW had left out all this crap about money, i would be more inclined to think that this guy is just floundering or indesicive or whatever like others here think. but no, its about money. the LW even says so- she feels shame and selfishness wanting him to pursue something finantially stable, BUT SHE STILL THINKS THAT. thats the key. and, sure, we dont know what finantially stable exactly means to this particular LW, but if meant so damn much to her, she should have made that life for herself and not relied on a boyfriend/husband to do it for her.

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  • avatar

    daisy October 11, 2012, 9:20 am

    I agree to a large extent with Wendy’s response, but I can also sympathize with the LW. My boyfriend is also somewhat directionless, and it can get frustrating (he’s also unemployed and doesn’t have a lot of work experience).

    The way I feel is that if my bf had a low-paying career but was passionate about it, I would of course support him; but, since he doesn’t seem to be interested in much of anything (or, just as problematically, he’s interested in EVERYTHING!), I feel like he might as well do something to make decent money. I actually feel this way about my own career as well, in that I’d take a pay cut for a job I love, but as long as I’m not working in my chosen field I should at least try to make and save up money. I will give the LW the benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe she has a stance similar to this.

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    • avatar

      MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:11 pm

      ” I actually feel this way about my own career as well, in that I’d take a pay cut for a job I love, but as long as I’m not working in my chosen field I should at least try to make and save up money.”

      YES x a million.
      It’s amazing how much your perspective changes once the deferment period is over and the student loan bills come due… and since I can’t do the job I love (which paid nothing) I’m going to do a job that can pay for other things I love (travel with family, sports, concerts, etc.) 🙂

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  • JK

    JK October 11, 2012, 9:21 am

    I totally agree with Wendy.
    We are supposed to be supportive of our SOs, not try to dictate what they should do with their lives (to make our lives better).
    Why don´t you, LW get into a business related field to make money? That would make you miserable, no? Maybe it would make your BF miserable, too.
    A good idea might be for you to investigate some career orientation sessions for him, a professional might be able to help him decide what he wants to do.
    And finally, just because someone is in a field not traditionally well paid doesn´t mean they´ll never make money. My husband and I are in the health field, and a few years ago he opened a home health care business, and thanks to that we´re doing a lot better financially now.

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  • avatar

    Amanda October 11, 2012, 9:23 am

    “My opinion is that he should go a more traditional, business-minded route that I think would make him (and to be completely honest, us) the happiest and the most secure. I feel trapped whenever he comes up with another option that he knows I won’t think quite so fondly of and then gets angry at me for not being consistently positive about all of his ideas.”

    WWS! LW, you are not supporting your boyfriend at all. He sounds like he is really struggling with what to do with his life and all you can say is “Go get that lucrative degree! I know it makes you unhappy, but I really don’t care!” That’s absolutely terrible. I feel so sorry for your boyfriend that he is dating someone so selfish. You should probably MOA from this relationship so that your boyfriend can figure out his life without you.

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    • avatar

      AmyRenee October 11, 2012, 3:41 pm

      But if he’s in debt for 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars in student loans, what she might actually be saying is “I know you don’t want to work in these financially lucrative fields, but we need to be realistic about what you can do to pay off these debts and these fields are the only way that is going to happen”. That’s not selfish, that’s practicality.

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  • LK7889

    LK7889 October 11, 2012, 9:29 am

    I have mixed feelings about this letter.

    I mean, on one hand, I agree with Wendy that it’s his life and he needs to do whatever makes him happy. If the LW really loved him, she’d want him to be happy. She wouldn’t be so worried about what he is going to do for her.

    On the other hand, I’ve got plenty of friends/family right now that are all soul searching on “what they want to be when they grow up” despite already having bachelor degrees and tons of student loan debt. No one is happy in their current jobs, almost all of them because they aren’t making enough money to comfortably survive on. Then they are looking into fields where there are no jobs or there is no money to be made. It’s tiring to have the same conversation over and over again with (multiple) someone(s) especially when we’re almost all 30 years old. Ok, you want more money? Why the hell are you going back to get your master’s degree in library science?

    We don’t really know what it is that he is telling her. I mean, if he’s sitting around going, “I wish I had more money and I wish I could find a job when I graduate but I want to study underwater basket-weaving,” then I can completely understand her frustrations.

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    • JK

      JK October 11, 2012, 9:33 am

      Yeah, we all know only women are allowed to study underwater basket weaving. Men are just there to pay for everything!!!

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      • LK7889

        LK7889 October 11, 2012, 9:41 am

        It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with someone stating that they want their life to be one way and then doing something that doesn’t match up with their stated intentions. If someone, anyone, tells me that they want to be rich and then does something that would keep that from happening (ie, studying library science or underwater basket-weaving), I’m going to be frustrated with them because they clearly don’t see how illogical their behavior is.

        If the LW’s boyfriend is sitting around going, “Gee, you know, I don’t really care at all about money and I think I want to study underwater basket-weaving,” then I would agree that she is being very, very selfish. We simply don’t know that from the letter.

        Also, FWIW, I’m the breadwinner in my relationship and I’m a woman.

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      • JK

        JK October 11, 2012, 9:44 am

        Yeah, I meant that more for LW than anyone else. I mean why does she get to do what makes her happy, but not much money, but HE has to go make money for them???

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      • LK7889

        LK7889 October 11, 2012, 9:47 am

        That’s true though. She is definitely doing exactly what I’m saying makes me frustrated. If money was one of her goals, she shouldn’t be studying underwater basket-weaving either! Haha.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny October 11, 2012, 9:52 am

        I see what you mean there – it sounds almost like she thinks she called dibs on the low-paying career, right?

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        daisy October 11, 2012, 9:54 am

        That’s totally the impression I got (unfortunately).

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        muffy October 11, 2012, 11:24 am

        Agree with this completely! It’s like she’s saying that because she already has a low paying career he has to do something more lucrative to help support them.
        LW: what are you going to do if your bf ends up picking the same field you are in? Will you be happy he finally picked? Or will you be disappointed he didn’t pick something lucrative?

        I understand the desire to be with a man who can provide so you need to decide if that is something that is important to you? Nothing wrong with that – plenty of men only want a girl with a certain hair colour or certain looks.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle October 11, 2012, 11:31 am

        Yeah, I think that’s exactly what’s happening here. In all fairness, when there’s one person in a relationship pursuing a low-paying but personally “fulfilling” career, then other person tends to have to go the more traditional route–just in the interest of being able to pay for living expenses.

        BUT it sounds like this LW & her boyfriend never officially came to an agreement on this. She’s just assuming that’s how it SHOULD be, & it’s never open for change.

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        MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:16 pm

        But he’s also in grad school for something right now that he must have loved at some point… and she was fine with it. I read it as she’s now not fine because another pipe-dream has come and gone before her with 3 semesters of tuition to pay for (as I noted above – a reality that really doesn’t hit when you stay on the schooling/deferment train forever) and he wants to leave and find more happiness. When does it end? And isn’t it possible that she’s paying for things now and simply recognizing that a budget they may or may not have agreed upon when moving in together can’t be met with his constant changes?? Suggesting reasonable, well-paying jobs doesn’t make you a golddigger… it makes you someone whose getting older and wants to settle down on something!

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        AmyRenee October 11, 2012, 3:38 pm

        I think its possible that what she’s saying is that her career will pay enough to support her, but not both of them, so she expects him to get a career that will at least support himself and any debt he’s put himself in. She (hopefully) isn’t saying that she expects him to support her, but there is a big difference between expecting someone to support you vs expecting someone to at least be able to pay their own debts and half of the household expenses.

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      kerrycontrary October 11, 2012, 9:38 am

      Hey! I have my MLS! haha. But yeh, it’s not a field to go into if you are looking to make money…on the other hand it will make you more money than a BA in history with no work experience.

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      • LK7889

        LK7889 October 11, 2012, 9:42 am

        Hahahaa, yeah, anything will make you more money than a BA in history…. says the woman with the BA in history.

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      • avatar

        daisy October 11, 2012, 9:55 am

        Another history BA here (and sadly another nod of agreement!)

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      • avatar

        kerrycontrary October 11, 2012, 10:01 am

        I have BAs in history in french, I just knew I would have to go to grad school. But I went to college to get a well rounded education in addition to more job opportunities, so I don’t hate on liberal arts majors. You just have to know what you want to do and then pursue it.

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      • avatar

        Christy October 11, 2012, 11:30 am

        Man, preach. The MLS isn’t a good option, but it’s better than no options at all. (If you ask me.)

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      Jessibel5 October 11, 2012, 12:08 pm

      I can see her having supported him up to a point and is now frustrated and thinking “if you’re going to be miserable regardless, do something that makes you miserable and a lot of money, that way that’s less of a worry factor”. The tone I got from this letter was more “he’s wishy-washy” than “I’m a selfish b” although maybe it was edited there was more evidence for the latter in the original.

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  • avatar

    Buzzelbee October 11, 2012, 9:35 am

    I actually have a lot of sympathy with the LW on this.

    My husband lost his steady conventional job last October and then decided he didn’t want to continue working in the field and wanted to “figure it out” but as far as I could see he was doing nothing but lounging around the house and doing a few chores. He ended up going to counseling to help him figure out the process as this became a big strain on our marriage. It turned out one of the big problems is that for my personality, steady and reliable is really important to me and him possibly being unemployed for long stretches and me not knowing where our financial security lay made me cry and was terrifying. For him, freedom to explore was really important and being stuck in the same boring, no creativity job was terrifying. It took both of us realizing what the other person needed to be happy and really having empathy for the other before we were able to talk about it without me storming off or crying and him shutting down.

    LW, I really recomend thinking about if it really is a deal breaker for your boyfriend to provide and if it is, why? Then talk to him about it. Maybe recomend he go to a counselor to help him figure out what he is looking for in a job or career and then talk about it honestly.

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      daisy October 11, 2012, 10:00 am

      Buzzlebee, I can totally identify with your experience. My boyfriend doesn’t have much work experience and is currently looking for his first full-time job. I’ve been working and supporting myself (and now him, largely) for a number of years already and also have a somewhat high-strung, worrying personality. This means his very laid-back approach to finding work leaves me incredibly stressed out! In the past I’ve tried to help by sending him lots of job ads I thought he might like, and while my intentions were completely good, this actually totally stressed HIM out! Your example reminds me how important it is to communicate and recognize that we deal with stress in different ways and need different types of encouragement. In this specific case, I need him to assure me he’s actually sending out his resume (since it’s not something I ever SEE happen), and he needs me to back off with the pressure, suggestions, etc.

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      csp October 11, 2012, 12:55 pm

      This is so right on. I see so many people who don’t like the situation they are in but don’t know how to fix it either. I wrote it below. But it might help you. Taking the Meyers Brigs test can really help focus people and give you a good idea of the direction you are supposed to be heading in.

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      • avatar

        MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:19 pm

        Taking Myers Briggs can also be really interesting to your relationship — sharing the results and seeing where you mesh or didn’t even realize you didn’t!

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    Desiree October 11, 2012, 9:37 am

    I can definitely see a lot of the points Wendy makes, and agree with them. But I also read the letter a little differently. It sounds like maybe the boyfriend has trouble sticking to a path and seeing it through. I have a friend like this; it doesn’t matter what he starts pursuing, he will eventually second guess himself and decide that he should do something else. He has changed programs/careers so many times because he loves the ideas of certain fields but struggles with the realities.
    I am not sure it really matters whether the boyfriend has professional “commitment issues” or is doing legitimate and necessary soul searching about his life, because it sounds like the LW is not personally invested enough to stick with him through it. I got out of a relationship because of a similar situation once. My then-boyfriend was struggling with aimlessness, and the fact that I wasn’t willing to suck it up and support him through it made me realize I didn’t love him enough to be his life partner. Maybe that is where the lW is.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle October 11, 2012, 9:48 am

    I wish this LW gave an example of what career paths her boyfriend mentions exploring. He’s pursuing a graduate degree at “a prestigious institution” right now– okay. Has he REALLY decided to stop doing that? Or is he just throwing out crazy ideas & getting upset when the LW takes him seriously enough to shut them down? Like, I am pretty frustrated with my life/job at the moment, so sometimes I’ll sigh to my boyfriend & tell him I’m just gonna become a stripper. Or a DJ. Or an erotic novelist. Or even a regular novelist. I’m really not serious half the time (at least, not about the stripper part ;)) but he lets me bounce ideas off of him & let my thoughts out.

    Sooo Wendy is right… it sounds like he just wants you to listen & support him. Instead, you “start arguing almost immediately” when he throws an idea out there that “he knows [you] won’t think so fondly of.” That’s sounds kind of terrible. I mean, I understand the frustration of repeating similiar conversations over & over– but you’ll feel less likely to want to “pull your hair out” if you relinquish your desire to control your boyfriend’s life.

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      Desiree October 11, 2012, 9:58 am

      Yeah, that’s an interesting point about how serious the boyfriend is or isn’t about discussing other careers. Being in med school, I frequently say things like “OMG I’m going to drop out and do X.” I never mean it, it’s just a way to blow off steam.

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    • avatar

      csp October 11, 2012, 10:00 am

      Totally true! But honestly, what is more dangerous and costly, is going to 2 years of business school then 3 years of med school than 3 years of law school. Then have 100k in debt and no degree to show for it.

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  • avatar

    Turtledove October 11, 2012, 9:58 am

    I do think that it would be difficult to have this conversation repeatedly. I also think that if he’s repeatedly having this conversation with the LW, then he’s probably also having it with his parents, other family, and friends. And he’s probably getting a different opinion from every single person he talks to, and none of those opinions are going to be completely supportive and unbiased– and all biased in a “I care about you and your future” sort of way. But everyone has a different opinion on what is going to make his future the brightest.

    I think that just recognizing that you have an ulterior motive when you have these conversations is a way to have the conversation. It’s just instead of, “I think you should go out and do X and make a ton of money.” You should be saying, “I’ve realized that what you want out of these discussions and what I want out of these discussions are two different things. Perhaps it would be best if you went to the career center attached to your grad school to discuss this with someone unbiased.”

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  • avatar

    ktfran October 11, 2012, 10:19 am

    I was totally ready to sympathize with the LW. Having the same kinds of conversations with people who sulk sucks. Stop complainging. Figure it out. And do something.

    But then she talked about her career and how it’s not lucrative and she wants someone to support her. I stopped sympathizing right there. LW, why do you get to do what makes you happy and your boyfriend doesn’t? That seems a bit unfair and yes, as you said, extremely selfish.

    If finding a provider is that important to you, do this guy a favor and MOA. If not, sit and listen to your boyfriend and help him figure this out. Suggests things so he acts and not just sits around and mope. But listen to his needs and suggest things that might actually interest him. Do not instantly shoot him down because what he’s telling you doesn’t fit your idea of perfect.

    And I’m sorry, but this statement . . . . “I don’t really know what to say anymore; my opinion is that he should go a more traditional, business-minded route that I think would make him (and to be completely honest, us) the happiest and the most secure.” . . . is completely WRONG!

    How in the hell do you know that a traditional business job will make him happiest? Maybe you’re happy because you have your security, but is he going to be happy going to a job he hates just so he can provide? He will eventually resent you. I promise you that.

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    • avatar

      MJ October 11, 2012, 10:27 am

      But she knows him and she thinks traditional business would make him happiest. Maybe she’s reading her own desires into that and projecting herself all over him, but yeah, maybe he would be happy in a traditional job.

      People are portraying this guy as though he needs to pursue the dream of underwater basket-weaving that’s just waiting for him, but in reality, he has NO IDEA what will make him happy. It’s not like he’s got a special dream just waiting and the LW won’t let him pursue it because she wants the cash. He really has no idea what he wants and is just drifting around. If that’s the case, why NOT choose the more lucrative career?

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 10:31 am

        except she never says it would make him happy. she says it would make them, and by extention, her, stable and secure.

        “my opinion is that he should go a more traditional, business-minded route that I think would make him (and to be completely honest, us) the happiest and the most secure. I feel trapped whenever he comes up with another option that he knows I won’t think quite so fondly of”

        theres a big difference.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 10:35 am

        and to clarify, she is not using happy meaning it would make his life happy and give him fulfullment. its happy in the sense that it would make them financially secure.

        and, sure, maybe to her happiness = security/money/financially doing well, but way you are using it and the way she is using it is different given the context of the whole letter.

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        MJ October 11, 2012, 11:23 am

        Well, you don’t really know how she’s using the word happy. She says “it would make him happy”. Those are her exact words. You can decide what you think she means by that, but I’m taking her at face value.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 11:46 am

        given the rest of the letter regarding security and money, i cant take her just at face value. you have to look at the whole package…

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 11:55 am

        And I’ll go further and say that I think that most people here who sympathize with the LW are glossing over a lot of what the letter actually says because of experience with partners or themselves not knowing what to do with their lives. But there is a huge difference between being undecided and getting support from a partner, and them having your partner shoot down your ideas because it won’t be lucrative enough.

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        MJ October 11, 2012, 12:00 pm

        We all read all kinds of stuff into the letters. I was surprised at Wendy’s answer because I didn’t get that out of it at all. To me it sounded like the LW is concerned about their future as a couple and tired of hearing the same things over and over. You’re reading one thing into it, I’m reading another.

        I don’t have a partner like the LWs. If anything, I am more like the boyfriend. Sometimes I talk about my need for a new or more fulfilling job with my boyfriend, but I don’t expect him to career counsel me.

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        MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:26 pm

        Here’s a thought – what if the LW did all of the things she was supposed to do before moving in with her boyfriend of a year.. all the talks about finances, expectations, etc. etc. and now he’s changed so many times that he isn’t holding up his end of the bargain!?!

        If we want to pick apart the letter, here’s another section: ” I do care and I will love and support him no matter what field he chooses, but I just can’t keep having these roundabout discussions that are making me want to start pulling out my hair in frustration!” Which I read as… HOW CAN I SUPPORT THE MAN I LOVE WHO APPARENTLY CAN’T MAKE DECISIONS, B/C ME PROJECTING IT FOR HIM SEEMS TO MAKE IT WORSE, BUT HE CAN’T DEFINE FOR HIMSELF WHAT HE NEEDS??

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      • FireStar

        FireStar October 11, 2012, 12:06 pm

        Who is the arbiter of his happiness? Her? Because HE said he wants to change the field he is in – I’m guessing not because he couldn’t bear the happiness of it all. The LW said her boyfriend wants to do something else – how about we take HIM at HIS word?

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 12:29 pm

        Exactly!!

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      • avatar

        MJ October 11, 2012, 2:19 pm

        But she doesn’t say he has to stay where he is! She just says she thinks he’ll be happy in a traditional business career. I have no idea what he’s doing now, other than that he’s in grad school. And maybe she has no idea what will make him happy. He certainly doesn’t seem to.

        I don’t understand the need to paint this LW as a selfish bitch. These are the last lines of her letter:

        “wanting him to pursue a more financially stable career feels deeply selfish and shameful. I do care and I will love and support him no matter what field he chooses, but I just can’t keep having these roundabout discussions that are making me want to start pulling out my hair in frustration!”

        She wants to support him. She feels selfish and ashamed of wanting him to be stable. She is frustrated with the go-around. Where is everyone getting this idea that she’s a money-grubbing she-devil?

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        daisy October 11, 2012, 10:37 am

        This was exactly my point above. It’s one thing to take a low-paying job because it’s the field you absolutely love. But if you genuinely have very little preference regarding what you want to do, at least doing something that makes you money will give you financial stability. Again, not that that necessarily brings happiness, but if I won’t be fulfilling my lifelong dream anyway I’d rather be at least getting a nice living out of it.

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        ktfran October 11, 2012, 10:47 am

        I guess I don’t equate money with happiness. My dad is a barber. His brother, my uncle, was an engineer and CEO of his company. One day, I was sitting outside with my Grandpa. We were just chatting and my uncle came up. My Grandpa had the nerve to say to me “at least I had one successful son.”

        What. The. Fuck. Yes, my uncle has tons of money and never has to worry. But my dad built a life that is important to him, which was being home with his family. He raised three pretty awesome, well adjusted daughters. He was home every night by six so we could have dinner together as a family. He made enough to provide. Not excess. And yes, I’m paying off student loans. But I wouldn’t trade what we had for any amount of money.

        We have no idea what this dude’s (the LW’s boyfriend’s) life long dream is. Heck, he doesn’t either. Maybe he wants to be a teacher. Or a hair stylist. Or a bartender. Or a bus driver. And any time he brings this up, he is shot down. That’s the way I read this letter. Maybe I’m projecting. But I think so is everyone else.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar October 11, 2012, 10:21 am

    It is always shocking to me when people want a certain type of life – but they don’t want to take the steps to earn it for themselves. Selfishness aside – life has no guarantees. The eggs placed in the basket of rich boyfriend/husband can break as easily as it it takes to say “I decided we should break-up”. And THEN WHAT? This is not good planning for your future.
    If you are fulfilled in your career choice LW – then want the same thing for your boyfriend. How could you not? If money wasn’t a factor for you because you didn’t want to sacrifice any of that career fulfillment then you cannot make money a factor for your boyfriend. Does that mean you adjust the vision you have of the future? Yep. It should be adjusted to what YOUR income can generate in any case – because that is the only thing you have (a modicum of) control over. If you are more than your future bank balance then treat your boyfriend with the same courtesy. Your financial agenda can’t guide his life. It is a plan doomed to failure. Eventually he will notice where your loyalties really lie – and you won’t have to worry at all about how much he makes in his future since you won’t be part of it.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. October 11, 2012, 10:22 am

    This hits home with me. When I was young, my dream was to pursue a career in the arts. I have a degree in Theatre and I completed a program at a very good acting school. This was all done without my parents’ approval. And not only them. I remember being at the dentist once, and when I told him what I was studying, he said, “How’s it feel to know you’re not going to have a job?” I remember my father telling me he didn’t want to be the father of a bum. My father described his ideal son-in-law as someone who wore a suit and carried a briefcase. After a while, I believed it. I gave up the dream and became a legal secretary. Not a bad job, but one I have come to hate. “Soul-sucking” is an excellent term. It really does feel like that. Now, at this point in my life a career change would be difficult but I am comtemplating it. Most of my free time is taken up with doing what I love: performing. I really am a happier person when I do it. Your BF is like me. If he chooses a career path he does not love, he will be miserable, and so will you if you marry him. Do you want to live with someone who hates their life? What if he becomes so resentful that he decides to leave you and chase that dream, whatever it may be? It could very well happen. If making money is all that is important to you, you should marry the guy my father wanted me to marry. (Maybe he has some recommendations, since I never listened to them.) Truly being supportive means wanting the other person to do what is right for them, not necessarily for you.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh October 11, 2012, 10:27 am

    I can see both sides to this. It is frustrating to have the same conversation repeatedly and it is frustrating to feel like you’re not getting the support back from your SO when you’re giving it to him. I would ask myself if I had always reacted to this questioning what he wanted to do with this life the same way. Have you always pushed him towards more lucrative fields and dismissed other fields? I would sit down and think about these conversations and your reactions first. Then sit down and actually talk to him about this, let him know what scares you about him taking a position that isn’t as lucrative and let him know that you realize that you’ve been selfish and you’re sorry for that. Also, let him know how repeatedly having the same discussion does wear you out and you’re not sure you’re able to provide him the best advice possible. Encourage him to talk to an advisor or people currently in the field he’s considering.

    And also like Wendy said decide if you’re willing to stay in this relationship if he does choose a field that he isn’t going to be a breadwinner in. But, also know that the whole balance of finances may change multiple times during your time together if you decided to marry. There may be times you make more, times he makes more, times neither of you is making a lot. And that can happen with anyone you decide to marry, whether they have one of the more lucrative careers you’re pushing him towards or not. At the end of the day though, you do have to be on the same page about finances. Talk to him about it and hopefully by talking to him about this you’ll both figure out what your roles are in this relationship and if it is a relationship you’re both willing to fight for even when you’re frustrated by the other person.

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  • avatar

    TECH October 11, 2012, 10:28 am

    Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. Most people I know do not have jobs they are passionate about or that they find incredibly meaningful. The lucky few I know have been able to develop such careers. What I am passionate about will never make me a steady living, so I have had to compromise and find jobs that pay the bills but do not fulfill me emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise.
    From the sounds of it, the LW and her boyfriend are both in their 20’s and trying to figure things out career wise. When you get out of school most people have the crushing pressure of having to pay a lot of bills and reality is very sobering. Often times it takes trying many different jobs to find one that is not soul sucking. I think both the LW and her boyfriend need to come to certain realizations:
    1. The boyfriend needs to understand that he may not find a job that provides passion and meaning in his life. He may have to try several jobs until he finds one that he doesn’t completely hate. He can find meaning in many other areas of life and should not rely on a job to give him that.
    2. The LW needs to understand that she is being selfish in expecting her boyfriend to go the traditional business route. She is asking him to chose a path that she approves of and makes her life easier. Why doesn’t she go the traditional business route and see how she likes it?

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  • avatar

    Anna October 11, 2012, 10:34 am

    I would have to agree with Wendy here. Even though the economy sucks and it’s getting harder and harder to find rewarding work, it’s still worth striving for. Some people aren’t cut out for the suit and tie mundane business world. My dad started out after high school studying accounting, graduated college, and worked in the field for about 6 months before he couldn’t stand it anymore. He couldn’t take dressing up every day and sitting at a desk crunching numbers, even though it paid well. He quit and became a machinist for TRW, the company that makes airplane parts. He would have made more money and been able to afford more luxuries for my mom if he had continued as an accountant but do you think she begrudges him that? Not at all. While my parents are often a bad example, one good thing I can say about them is that I respect the institution of marriage a lot because of them. If you aren’t ready to have this man’s back throughout all of life’s hard decisions, cut him loose so he can find someone who is.

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    • avatar

      lemongrass October 11, 2012, 11:43 am

      I just looked up what an accountant makes in my part of the world and its about equal to a machinist! May be different where you’re from though.

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  • avatar

    MarkD October 11, 2012, 10:34 am

    Buy and read “What Color is Your Parachute.”

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite October 11, 2012, 10:43 am

    I can see this one both ways since I’m a social worker and my boyfriend is 4 years older is working full-time and going to school to be a teacher. He’s only in school because his original career field lost all sorts of job opportunities when no one retired on schedule and he only had interning to look forward too. He had to do some soul searching and I pouted a bit since my job is not very lucrative, but he’s figured out something for him, on his own. It’s going to work.

    I also have flighty friends who will be forever searching for what they want to do. It pisses me off as I know that they’re spending more of their parents’ money in the process (as they’ve said so or live in the trendy parts of town with all the amenities while working part-time). That’s not going to work in the long run.

    I wish we had some examples of what he was thinking about switching to or more on why he wanted to get out. If there aren’t jobs in it in the area, however lucrative, it won’t turn out well.

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    • theattack

      the attack October 11, 2012, 12:53 pm

      Hello fellow social worker : ). Except that I’m still looking for my first post college sw job, but it’s good to see a similar soul around!

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite October 12, 2012, 7:06 am

        Hello! I’ve been around before, mainly lurking, but I think I’m back and ready to get my daily dose of Dear Wendy. All part of self care ya know 🙂

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  • avatar

    SweetPeaG October 11, 2012, 10:50 am

    I understand Wendy’s point, but I can’t 100% agree with her.

    On the one hand, I think it is very unfair for the LW to say “I am going to pursue a career that doesn’t make much money, but I expect you to make lots of money.” Very unfair. If you’re worried about your finances and your plan is to have a life together, the financial burden does have to be on both of you. That is, unless you have a set in stone plan to have children and have discussed one of you staying home with the kids. And at that point, the financial burden would change. But, for now… you both need to work to make your lives run… TOGETHER.

    However, there comes a point in a person’s life where they want to date a GROWN UP. I can see where it would be extremely frustrating to date someone constantly whining about what to do with their life… about what is going to make them feel fulfilled. Ehh… shut up already! Maybe I am just the crazy old lady yelling for the hippies to cut their hair and get a job. But, I do feel like many people these days (myself included for a while) do everything they can to avoid actual adulthood. I don’t know without knowing this particular couple, but that’s how I am picturing the LW’s boyfriend. He’s afraid of being a grownup, so he’s delaying, avoiding, and changing his mind. And I can see where she’d be annoyed.

    As far as actual advice (since that is the whole point of “Dear Wendy”)… I am not sure what to say. I think the LW really loves this guy. Maybe she needs to give herself a time frame. How long is she willing to wait for the “crisis” to be over? It is normal for someone in their early 20’s to be very confused about where their life is going to go. But, if she has certain goals and finds the situation still the same in 6 months to a year (or whatever her time frame is)… maybe it’s time to move on.

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  • avatar

    Grilledcheesecalliope October 11, 2012, 11:00 am

    I guess i dont see the selfishness as much. I see frustration with a boyfriend who won’t committ to anything. I still think the lw needs to be more supportive and listen more to figure out what the boyfriend really wants. Maybe if you put aside your own ideas for a while and listened you could offer better suggestions that might get somewhere and then you could stop having the roundabout conversations.

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  • Copa

    Copa October 11, 2012, 11:05 am

    Oh, man. I’m kinda torn on this.

    I went through the same thing with my ex. It’s exhausting. We were both in law school together. Neither of us wanted to practice. My ex graduated a semester before I did. The summer before (about 6 months before he finished school), he started up with this kind of “existential crisis.” He applied for additional degrees, but a combination of poor planning and overshooting led to rejection after rejection. He started complaining a lot about having no future, I started job hunting for him and trying to find things that I thought would interest him. He didn’t apply for a single one of the numerous jobs openings I found him. The complaining continued. “I have no future.” “The future is bleak.” Keep in mind, this guy’s parents are pretty wealthy, he had no student loan debt. His parents told him he’d used all the money they’d set aside for his education, and he’d complain about how he felt stuck because he had “no way to pay for anything he wanted to do.” I mean, compared to most 20somethings, my ex had very little holding him back. He’d complain and mope and sulk. It was frustrating because he didn’t seem to want to do anything to better his own situation. His dad has his own company so that’s where my ex was working, so he was making money, but unhappy because he didn’t want to work for his dad forever. He “wanted to stand on his own two feet,” but didn’t job hunt. He complained a lot to me — I was in a similar position and had loans looming over my head. He wanted to be a writer! A teacher! Could he teach at a community college!? At one point in time, he started applying for jobs I’d bookmarked to apply to myself, all in a field he’d never expressed interest in, and didn’t understand why I was upset when he did this. Almost a year after he’d finished law school, he decided that despite spending his entire law school career not focused on making himself stand out in the legal field, he wanted to be a prosecutor! It was hard to keep up, and I didn’t know how to support him because he wasn’t focused. I’d say his behavior, and the way I started not even caring if I was being kind and supportive, was one of the factors that led to our breakup. I’ve talked about said breakup here a lot, and at one point in time after we’d ended things, I completely lost it after we’d gotten into an argument and I started SCREAMING at him that he doesn’t know how to commit to anything! Not a girl (he’d cheated/dumped me for another girl), not a career plan, nothing! It was honestly just so exhausting to deal with. I could’ve empathized with the guy because I was going through something similar, but the way he’d change his mind at a moment’s notice, then mope and sulk, then do nothing to take his own life into his hands, then feel betrayed that I wasn’t being supportive enough — it was so, SO tiring.

    But, on the other hand, what struck me about the LW is that she seems too focused on what SHE wants him to do and not enough on what HE wants to do. It IS selfish that she wants him to pick a career that is financially stable solely for that purpose, which is where I start agreeing with Wendy. Yes, it’s tough to deal with someone who doesn’t know what they want, but helping him find something he loves should take precedence over wanting him to make a lot of money.

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  • avatar

    Bossy Italian Wife October 11, 2012, 11:12 am

    Let me just tell you, if your boyfriend has been having this problem for two years, off and on, it ain’t going away. I live with a husband who is depressed, and call me crazy, but it sounds pretty similar.

    I have been with my husband for nine years and he’s always wondering what to do with his life, feeling inadequate, etc. I chose to marry him, and I knew that this was an issue he had, but that doesn’t make it easy. Neither my husband nor myself are in lucrative careers, but we don’t really care about money very much, so it works.

    Does it frustrate me sometimes when he is completely indecisive? Absolutely. But I love him, and loving a person means listening to them sometimes. You don’t just get to choose what they do and when they have their feelings, etc. If these things bother you and you are “over it” then MOA. Because, like I said, it isn’t likely to go away.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee October 11, 2012, 11:26 am

    Okay, I sympathize with the LW because I WAS her boyfriend for a long time. Went into marketing, hated it. Went into sales, quit the first day. Took the GREs, applied to grad school, got accepted, backed out at the last moment. In my case, I was a perfectionist and nothing felt “perfect”. I know I drove my then-boyfriend, now-husband completely crazy. I understand what it’s like to be the crazy, indecisive person, and from talking to my husband, what it feels like to deal with it, and neither are fun.

    However, at some point, your boyfriend needs to pick a path and stick with it, but you can’t be the one to force him to do so, especially pushing him into what you deem a “financially lucrative” field of a study. That’s not being supportive of him finding his path, that’s pushing him to do something that fits into YOUR plan. What’s even worse is you yourself are not in a field that you will be making lots of money, so why must the responsibility lie upon him? I’m sure your opinions and pressure are only adding into his indecisiveness. He wants to follow his passion, whatever that may be, and you want him to follow whatever path leads to $$$.

    So, basically my advice to the LW is either move on from this relationship if your main concern is your boyfriend’s future pay check, or become an actual supportive partner, and help him with the steps to figure out what it is he actually wants to do before he wastes more years of his life in school and possibly money if he’s financing his education through loan. My husband was so supportive of me and believed in me, that he’s a big part of why I finally figure everything out. I had a shoulder to lean on when I doubted myself and it steadied me enough to work through things.

    You can help him by making a list of what he’s good at, what he doesn’t like, what he does, etc. It sounds silly, but it really focuses your mind to see it all on paper. Then, draw up career paths/majors (possibly even the one he’s in now) that fit within those likes/dislikes/goals. Actively investigate them. Talk to people in the field, current students, job shadow, volunteer, whatever he needs to do to figure it out. It may not happen overnight, but eventually something will click. It took me a year and a half to go from marketing specialist to possible higher education administrator to finally a preschool director/owner (on my way there at least!) and I finally feel settled, happy, and excited about the plan for my future. Your boyfriend may not find a six figure salary on his path, but with your support, he could find a stable job and career path.

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  • avatar

    quixoticbeatnik October 11, 2012, 11:33 am

    I think that you should go see a counselor or advise your boyfriend to see a life coach or career counselor. Those kind of people could probably help him a lot better than you could – but you don’t even seem to be helping him that much. I think today is kind of a weird mish-mash between the old world and the new world. A lot of women and men are growing up hearing that they can do whatever they want but also that the ideal life is still “college, career, marriage, family.” Especially for women, it seems to be more important that they get married and have a family and have stability. But I don’t think you can count on that happening anymore. Things happen. You could get marry and expect to be supported by them forever – but what happens when your spouse loses his job or if you get divorced after 10 years? Then you’re quite possibly a single mom facing the prospect of having to find a job that can support you and your child(ren). That does not sound like a happy life to me.

    That’s why I’m completely adamant that I want to be able to financially support myself before I get married. My boyfriend is an engineering major and he’s always like “I’ll make so much money!” But I don’t really care about that. I mean, yes, it would be nice to marry someone who will make enough money to provide a stable life. Finances is something that people should definitely, definitely think about before marriage. For sure. But I think it’s super important that everybody is able to provide for themselves in case something happens. In case you end up divorced, or your spouse dies, or something. That’s why I’ve kind of chosen to go get my certificate in something that I think will pay more money once I graduate because I have no idea what to do. I might as well make more money while I figure that out. So, LW, I see where you’re going with that. If your boyfriend doesn’t know what to do, he might as well try a career that will pay him more money while he figures it out.

    But at the same time, if you want to be with him and marry him, then you have GOT to be more fucking supportive. Actually set aside your notions of what YOU want for him and listen to him for once. Listen to what he has to say, and try to help him. This reminds me so much of my best friend’s current situation with her boyfriend. It’s a long-distance relationship because she kind of had to take a job in our hometown, which her boyfriend hates. HATES. But he is completely not supportive of her at all and puts a lot of fucking pressure on her which really pisses me off. He wants her to move back ASAP and I told her, completely honestly, that I thought it was a bad idea unless there was a guarantee that their relationship would be more equal and that he would support her emotionally if she moved back. I’m not sure if he is able to do that or not. It’s so hard for her because she is not getting the support she needs and he doesn’t seem to understand that at all. He’s being pretty selfish, and so are you. I think you need to think seriously about where to go from here. Are you going to make more of an effort and help your boyfriend or are you going to give up…..which will probably lead to a breakup?

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    • avatar

      lemongrass October 11, 2012, 11:56 am

      Yes, it is a risk for a woman to rely on her husband for finances. But that is a risk I am willing to take. I will be a stay at home mom once this kid comes out of me. I don’t think that it is a bad decision though. If I hadn’t met my husband as young as I did and knew that our path would lead us to kids in a few years then I would have gone to university and made a career for myself. I didn’t though because we didn’t want to put off having kids until we paid off the student loan debt for a career that my education would likely be outdated for by the time I wanted to go back.

      Yes, my husband could lose his job. But we have saved enough to keep us going for a year in case it took him that long to find another job. Although it wouldn’t, he’s very hireable. I’m lucky- he loves his job and it makes enough for me to stay at home with a few sacrifices. We won’t be going on vacation anytime soon, and concerts will be a rarity. But staying at home is very important to both of us. I guess I’m getting at- don’t knock stay at home moms.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 12:04 pm

        It’s not knocking stay at home moms, it’s acknowledging that the deck is decidedly stacked against them.

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        bethany October 11, 2012, 12:13 pm

        make sure you guys have life insurance. seriously.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 12:31 pm

        We do!

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      • Amybelle

        Amybelle October 11, 2012, 12:31 pm

        Where did she knock stay at home moms?

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      • avatar

        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 12:46 pm

        It was more of a poke than a knock- saying that you can’t count on your spouse providing for you.

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      • avatar

        neatist October 11, 2012, 2:26 pm

        Its extremely naive to think you can rely on anyone 100%. When you have kids to care for, its foolish.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 2:40 pm

        Are you saying that stay at home moms are foolish?

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      • theattack

        the attack October 11, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Well ya know, marriage is about being able to trust that you CAN rely on that person to do what they said they would. Yes divorce happens, and yes sometimes people are unreliable, but it’s horrible to think that you shouldn’t even trust your MARRIAGE enough to give those dreams a shot. I would hate to live in that world, and I most certainly wouldn’t want to be married in it.

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        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 3:24 pm

        Thank you! If you can’t trust a guy then don’t marry him! It’s not like I don’t know that divorce happens, you’d have to have your head in the sand not to realize that. It’s that I took a really hard look at who I wanted to marry and asked a lot of hard questions before making that decision. I feel comfortable that we will make it in the long run. If my husband started acting like an asshole I would take him into the doctor to check for a brain tumour. That’s just not who he is.

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      • theattack

        theattack October 11, 2012, 3:38 pm

        Haha, Sounds like you have a good one!

        Maybe I have too much faith in people, but I honestly don’t see the point in getting married if you feel like you can’t rely on or trust that person. I would trust my fiance to save my life and help me in any dire circumstance, otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to marry him. Why would I draw the line at not being able to trust that he would follow through with our agreed financial situation? I definitely see the value in getting an education and work experience for yourself regardless of whether or not you use it in the long term, but that’s not the same thing as assuming that it’s foolish to trust your spouse. That honestly makes me sick to think about.

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      • theattack

        theattack October 11, 2012, 3:45 pm

        It’s more reasonable to worry about something happening to your husband (God forbid) and you needing to go to work. It’s NOT reasonable to say you should trust no one in the entire world. This clearly rubbed me the wrong way.

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        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 4:03 pm

        Yes, and we have measures in place if my husband couldn’t work. We have life insurance, his pension covers injury, we don’t have consumer debt (beyond the car loan that we just took out, which will be paid off in 9 months), we have a reasonable mortgage, we have a nest egg and we budget pretty damn well. My husband also has a pretty secure job.

        It’s not like he’s working at McDonalds and we have no money saved and I’m saying “it’s okay, all you need is love.”

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      • theattack

        theattack October 11, 2012, 4:11 pm

        haha, I hope that my comment didn’t come across as accusing you of an oversight. I’m sure you’ve got it all planned out because you’re smart. It sounds like y’all have a good plan. 🙂

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        jlyfsh October 11, 2012, 12:53 pm

        for me i think what i took away from quixoticbeatnik’s comment was, she can’t rely on her bf always being the breadwinner. in any relationship, finances are probably going to fluctuate. it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about being a stay at home parent or just the so that makes 1/8 of the other one. sure he might get a business degree and get a great job, and he might lose it in 10 years and she might need to be the breadwinner. it would be wonderful to think that picking a certain profession would mean stability no matter what, but it’s just not reality.

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        quixoticbeatnik October 11, 2012, 2:34 pm

        This is exactly what I meant. Things are just going to change over time – hot careers that make a lot money now may not be there in the future. All I was saying is to plan for all contingencies.

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      • avatar

        Kristen October 11, 2012, 1:07 pm

        If I had my choice, I’d be doing the exact same thing as you, lemongrass. Being a stay-at-home mom is a dream of mine, but it doesn’t seem likely for awhile.

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        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 1:11 pm

        Thanks. I guess I’m a little sensitive about it because it feels like people don’t respect women if they don’t have a career. Like raising kids and doing the housework doesn’t make you an equal.

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      • theattack

        the attack October 11, 2012, 1:28 pm

        I agree, lemongrass. People are really judgmental of women who enjoy a traditional home life, when that’s just as bad as judging women for wanting big careers. Do what makes you happy! I’m happy for you that you’ve found that

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        lemongrass October 11, 2012, 1:58 pm

        Thanks! I don’t want mommy wars, I just want to be happy! And now I have “don’t worry, be happy now” stuck in my head.

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      • avatar

        quixoticbeatnik October 11, 2012, 2:33 pm

        I wasn’t knocking stay-at-home moms at all. My mom was one and I don’t think she was stupid for being one. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom and it is feasible for you to do it, then by all means be one! I honestly do not think that staying at home is stupid. I think people should do what they want to do, as long it’s something they can do without making life too difficult. You know what I mean? It has to be something that works for both people. I think that this is the problem with the LW – she’s not really thinking about what her boyfriend wants, just what she wants.

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  • avatar

    Megan_A_Mess October 11, 2012, 11:44 am

    I can actually sort of sympathize with the BF here. (Please don’t flame me.) I have a BF, who, like the LW, is holding their dream job. He was in a field he HATED, even though he was making damn decent money, he described it as “soul-sucking”. He quit his job, got a degree doing what he loves, and is now doing said job. While he doesn’t make anywhere near the money he used to (he’s a chef, working as a line cook, making $11/hour) he is so ridiculously happy going to work, and making food at home, I would never even think of suggesting he go back to what he was doing before. (Off and on design jobs for The Big Three.)

    But then he has to put up with me. I took six years and one failed attempt to get into the Military, to finally get my Associates Degree, and it’s not even in the field I am pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in. I keep whining to him about finding my passion, and how jealous I am of him, finding his, and living out his dream. His response is always the same, “You have things that you are passionate about. Maybe you won’t get to make a living doing those, but if you don’t let go of them, you’ll always be fulfilled.” And you know what? He’s totally right.

    While I am getting my Bachelor’s Degree in something that I really really really really like, I’m also holding onto the things I love, that might not make me any money, but make me ridiculously happy. I take pictures when I go wandering around the wooded areas around home and school, I’m starting a scrapbook just for myself and of my adventures. I’m also getting more involved in the Deaf Community (I’m working on becoming an interpreter for the deaf for my Bachelor’s.) And finding this perfect balance of homework, school work, meeting people within the community, scrapbooking, taking pictures, and working is daunting, but I love it. I’ve never been happier or felt more fulfilled in my life.

    And I sincerely think that’s the secret. You just have to find some balance. He might be way off base with what he wants to do with his life, but I think it’s a damn shame that you got to follow your passion, at whatever the cost, but he can’t find/follow his, because it won’t make up for your lack-there-of. You need to encourage him to maybe, sit down and make a list of things that he likes to do, things he’s go good at, things he could possibly turn into a career/job and maybe see if any overlap. If they don’t, maybe he just might need to take some time off of school, and work for a bit. Maybe he’ll find something he’s never thought of before. Just be there for him, with an open mind, and commit to support him in his journey. There are way worse things that could be happening to you both right now, and if this is what’s bugging you, I think you’re doing pretty ok.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar October 11, 2012, 12:17 pm

      I like this. Life really is about choices and finding balance.

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  • the_optimist

    the_optimist October 11, 2012, 10:56 am

    I’m with Wendy here, too. Even a graduate degree at a prestigious institution doesn’t guarantee you anything these days. I have one, and it means nothing except that I’m in debt and will be for a long-ass time.

    Anyway, that’s besides the point. Did you two ever discuss finances at all, or did you just quietly decide that you’d be the one who’d be able to pursue your not-so-lucrative career path? That’s completely unfair. And before you think I’m being all judge-y and not understanding you, know that I’m the breadwinner right now in my home as my boyfriend struggles with his [possibly failing] company and is seriously considering a new career path. It’s a difficult process, but I can handle supporting him right now, and I will because I love him and believe in him. And I sympathize with him, because it isn’t easy to admit that what you’ve been working toward isn’t making you happy or fulfilled (or, to be honest, making you any money) anymore. And being dismissive of the options that would make him happy is not helpful at all. And at the end of the day, I know in my heart that he’d do the same for me (and, hey, he may need to one day). Sorry to make it all about me, I’m just trying to give you a different perspective.

    I mean…would you rather have a happy partner or a maybe-miserable one with lots of money?

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  • avatar

    Sarah October 11, 2012, 12:08 pm

    Can I just say, I am APPLAUDING Wendy right now. In a quiet office. It’s getting awkward. But still, APPLAUSE.

    I honestly could not agree with Wendy more. The LW comes out and says it would be better for her (“us”) if he had a financially secure job so she can pursue her less financially stable careful and get to live her dreams and make out with unicorns and moonbeams, yet she doesn’t GET that completely hypocritical and selfish attitude would bother her boyfriend.

    That is some bullsh*t.

    Lemme….just….try…..to say this calmly…….IT IS NOT OK TO MAKE YOU BOYFRIEND GIVE UP ON HIS GOALS AND DREAMS FOR YOU (I tried). ESPECIALLY when YOU want him to give them up specifically so YOU can afford your goals and dreams!! Honestly, what the hell?? And oh oh oh, the LW is TIRED that he keeps wanting to talk about HIS pursuits, but somehow her shutting him down and pressuring him to keep his $$$ goals isn’t making him feel better? Wha?? How could that be??

    You are not married or with kids. As long as your boyfriend is providing his share of the rent and bills, he should be able to juggle dolphins in a rodeo show if that’s what he wants. He is NOT obligated to pursue a job that would make him unhappy for his live-in girlfriend. In fact, this is precisely the time he SHOULD be making this decisions and direction alters, before he does have responsibilities(but like Wendy said, it is still possible). You should be proud of him for really looking at what he wants in life! Do you know how many people pursue a career that they don’t necessarily love or even like because they feel they ought to because they get pressure from loved ones (HINT HINT) and end up seriously regretting those decisions? Do you know? Do you care?

    Sometimes my boyfriend and I get in fights that go in a roundabout direction. We go in circles, over and over, and for awhile, we didn’t understand why. Finally, we realized it was because one or both of us (but usually me) wasn’t hearing the things that would make them feel validated, so even though the fight would seem to naturally come to an end at one point, one of us (me) would keep rehashing it because I hadn’t been “heard” yet. This is why you guys aren’t getting over your fight. You aren’t hearing him or validating his ideas about his career, which seeing as you care so much about YOUR career you know how close to the heart that subject is, and he’s not getting what he needs from you.

    You wanted a boyfriend to make enough money so you didn’t have to worry about making enough money for your career. Your boyfriend might not be able to do that. Tough. Either get a new boyfriend (understanding what that says about what you want in a boyfriend) or encourage your boyfriend in his pursuits. If you keep him from discovering the career that will make him happy, then please don’t pretend to be surprised years from now if he’s miserable because of it.

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    • SarahKat

      SarahKat October 11, 2012, 12:09 pm

      Oh sh*t I got signed into my old handle. *MAGIC HANDS* I’m SarahKat again!

      Reply Link
      • Roxy_84

        Roxy84 October 11, 2012, 3:22 pm

        Are magic hands like jazz hands? That’s what I’m picturing. I guess they could also be that thing people on TV do when they’re mimicking someone going into a flashback?

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      • SarahKat

        SarahKat October 11, 2012, 3:43 pm

        It’s just like Jazz Hands but with glitter.

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  • Diablo

    Diablo October 11, 2012, 12:13 pm

    I’m going to side with Wendy on this.

    Definitely the guy needs to make a decision or two, and then will himself to feel good about them. Definitely, he is confused and needs to work to clear this up for both of their sakes. Definitely we all need to realize that happiness does not come from a job or a partner or money, but from within. It is an attitude and an intent. If you need some particular thing in order for your happiness to be complete, you will always be very vulnerable. Any married person knows that.

    BUT:
    Likewise, she needs to realize that she cannot depend on his income for happiness. Won’t work for her. She needs to stop pushing him to be something he doesn’t want to be. Won’t work for him or her. Even if he is being a bit precious and tiresome, their problem won’t be solved by forcing him toward something that isn’t right for him. Spending any number of years servicing her needs while effacing his own will lead to the bitter end of this relationship. If his indecisiveness is a dealbreaker, then she needs to MOA. If she wants to be with him, she needs to support him in figuring out what he WANTS to do.

    My wife has been craving a career change for about five years. She left a job three years ago for one that was just as bad for her, in almost the same field. She’s still very unhappy. It wears on me. We have the same discussions over and over again. She has tried a couple of counsellors with not much success. It affects every aspect of our relationship. It impacts on our intimacy, because it impacts on her self-image. I want it to be over, want her to be happy, and want to get on with our life. But the only way i can get what I want is if she gets what she wants. No use for me to want to simplify her process for her, because if she doesn’t end up happy, I won’t be happy. So there are no shortcuts. We have to keep working through it until we get there. Even if wee don’t get there, we still have to keep trying or give up. Sorry, but nothing else will do. And she covered my ass when I was where he was, so i owe her that.

    Our deal is 100% effort all the time. This doesn’t always result in bread being won. sometimes she’s made more money, sometimes i have. Sometimes we’ve been unemployed, sometimes for a long time (almost 2 years for me once). But we both contribute our best effort to the program, and we don’t blame each other. The difference for us is a long marriage that trumps any MOA impulse. We know we have to solve things for the long haul, because not being together is not an option for us. The LW needs to decide whether she wants this man for real, and if so, work for what’s going to make them both happy for real, for the long term. You can’t fake it forever.

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  • avatar

    MiMi October 11, 2012, 12:13 pm

    LW, detach yourself from your boyfriend’s wishy washy ballet. You’re never going to be able to “solve” the mystery for him – it’s his problem to deal with so let him deal. When he starts up his periodic whining, just say, “Honey, I know you’ll make the right choice” or “I’m sure you’ll figure this out” and don’t engage. That way you preserve your sanity and he gets to be responsible for his “crisis.” Don’t dance the familiar dance with him any longer – if you change, he must change in response.
    Just be sure, for your own well-being, that his dithering doesn’t prevent him from contributing equally in cash and effort to the household. Anything less than 50% should be a dealbreaker; no one should have an aimless leech for a boyfriend.

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny October 11, 2012, 12:18 pm

      I was so with you right up until the very end part where you said that anything less than 50% is a dealbreaker. Other than that huge issue, great advice. Let him figure his own shit out. Her job is to be supportive, not to try to control him.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee October 11, 2012, 12:26 pm

        I agree with disagreeing on the less than 50% contribution. Real relationships and money situations are rarely an even 50/50. My husband makes an excellent salary. Unless my preschool really takes off, I will be bringing in less than 50% always. I don’t think that makes me an aimless leech.

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      • katie

        katie October 11, 2012, 12:34 pm

        Thirded.

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        iseeshiny October 11, 2012, 12:38 pm

        Right? While it brings up important issues that definitely need to be addressed (especially when they’re not married), I really don’t think it an automatic dealbreaker. I make more than my husband right now, and I don’t think it makes him a leech even a little bit. I think it’s important to stress the “effort” part of her statement.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        iwannatalktosampson October 11, 2012, 12:40 pm

        Right? I mean we would be super offended if a guy said this so how is it okay in the reverse. I am somewhere around 90% supported by Ethan at the moment and I hope and pray that someday I can return the favor.

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      • avatar

        MiMi October 11, 2012, 2:42 pm

        Let’s just say a guy who is probably racking up something like $50,000 in student loan debt while being unable to make up his mind on how he’s going to pay it back makes me nervous. It’s all dandy while the loan money’s there, but what happens when school’s out and he still isn’t clear? I’d want to know that he was planning to pull his weight, whether he had had an epiphany about his life purpose or not, so as his girlfriend, I’d want to keep a close eye on the household budget for sure. Clearly I’m not talking about anyone else’s situation, married folks who have agreements or plans or kids which make the bread-earning look differently – I’m only addressing this letter.

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    • avatar

      temperance October 13, 2012, 12:02 am

      This “leech” is giving you the dirtiest look ever.

      My fiance brought in $85k last year. I brought in $4k. I’m in law school, so I guess I’m not an aimless leech, but his career is fast-tracking in a way that mine is not, and my dream jobs (public interest law fellowships) pay absolute shit, so I’m looking into working at a small firm.

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    iwannatalktosampson October 11, 2012, 12:19 pm

    Woah Woah Woah.

    Hey LW – If you wanted financial stability – why didn’t you go get that for yourself. Quit ruining this guys dreams and go make the future you want for YOURSELF. I’m not judging you for wanting to be financially stable. That is really important to me because I was raised in a financially stable house where we could afford vacations but learned that you would not get new shoes/new car/whatever while we saved for those vacations. I learned the value of a dollar. I never had to worry about whether or not my parents could afford to enroll me in sports. So I chose a career that *traditionally* would allow me to be financially stable FOR MYSELF. How lovely for you to get to make no money and love your job and make your boyfriend hate his life and make all the money. How lovely.

    And another thing – the whole point of dating is that you don’t have to make decisions based on someone else. So you know what? If money is so important to you go marry a 50 year old CEO. If your boyfriends wants to do some soul searching maybe he should. The point is neither of you right now should be revolving your lives around each other. That’s the GOOD THING about dating.

    P.S. In case I haven’t made myself clear – your attitude really irks me. If you want financial independence why don’t you go ahead and make yourself financially independent?

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    TECH October 11, 2012, 12:29 pm

    The LW and her boyfriend keep having to circle around to the same conversation because the decision about what to do with your life is a really big deal! It’s a conversation that needs be ongoing. The feeling I get is that the boyfriend feels a lot of pressure about what to do and how to provide financial stability, and the LW is saying, “Whatever, I’m just gonna keep going to school for art history” (or what ever she’s interested in) and not worry about making money. It’s a lot of pressure for one person to carry.
    LW, I think what your boyfriend is looking for is validation and support. It is completely normal to question what career path you want to take and try to reconcile that with how you will financially support a family. I think what would help your boyfriend the most is for him to realize he doesn’t HAVE to make any final decisions. When it comes to a career, nothing is final. Tell him he can teach English for a couple years and if he doesn’t like it, he can quit and sell hot dogs out of a food truck. Encourage him to pursue his dreams, no matter what they are. And tell him you can accept that those dreams can and will change. He just needs that pressure lifted.

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    j2 October 11, 2012, 12:34 pm

    I had a completely different take on LW.

    Some folk will NEVER find a career that they have a passion for, and that makes them go to work with a song on their lips every day.

    Instead, they find a hobby or a sideline, and their passion is THERE. However, such hobbies (say, painting jungle scenes, hiking in exotic locales, triathlons, backcountry hunting, etc) require funding. Thus, the lucrative job becomes the means by which such pursuits become possible, as well as raising a family, etc.

    In this case, I submit that LW is encouraging her SO to – in the persistent absence of a profession passion – to finish his current schooling and that will enable future opportunities. If nothing else, it will change the cash flow to positive from negative while he cogitates. It also benefits her, and that is the part that – to her credit – bothers her. But, and this seems important here, LW is not writing after a few months of this but, instead, after a couple YEARS of hearing it.

    Sometimes when the perfect choice does not present itself, one must simply choose from among the good ones and move on. Maybe a better one will show up later, but one must have the means, etc then to select it. Please note that having good work and credit histories help if one tries to shift careers later.

    Count me with LW on this one.

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    cdobbs October 11, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I feel for the boyfriend…i had no idea what i wanted to do with my life…i was good in the sciences so i went through school and ultimately got my PhD in microbiology…but i haven’t been completely happy with that choice since its not my passion, just something i happened to be good at in school…now i do have a good job (very lucky) but in the meantime i am taking baking classes at college part time as that is something i actually enjoy doing and i am passionate about…it sucks that you have to make choices like that when you are young and it can determine the rest of your life…think of how many people are stuck in jobs they can’t stand, not a good way to go through life…i guess if i could tell the boyfriend anything it would be find something you love and if you can make a living at it go for it! (oh and maybe MOA from the girlfriend who seems more worried about herself! not cool!)

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    csp October 11, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I agree and disagree with Wendy here. And it all depends on the mindset of the Boyfriend. If this boyfriend has one passion that he keeps getting drawn to, then I agree with Wendy. For example, if he wants to be a writer and that is what he keeps coming back to, then that is what he should be supported in doing.

    However, if he has a new idea every week and they are vastly different, then I have a problem with this guy. If one minute he wants to be a writer, then actor, then preacher, then lawyer. No, I don’t accept it.

    Here are some ideas to unstick your boyfriend.
    1.) have him take a personality test. Have him focus on his strengths and look at careers in that field.
    2.) List his dreams for the perfect life. I actually made a bulletin board and put things that I wanted out of life. This can help focus what he wants and see if your visions match up. If he wants a family, house in the suburbs, and big tv fancy car vacation home stuff. That is one thing. Another is if he wants to travel, help people.
    3.) Really have him understand that people who follow a “passion” have to work 20x harder than regular folks for less of a reward. If you listen to successful people, they are always doing a million things to make thier dreams come true. I was listening to the radio this morning, and this comedian said he would wait tables at a place that would let him leave for 30 minutes to do a “set” down the street then go back to work for another few hours. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were waiting tables, acting, and writing good will hunting on the side.

    I don’t mean to get off on a tangent but I dont’ believe you can be anything you want to be but you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Look at Dear Wendy as an example. She has posted on this blog about the hours of site administration that she has to suffer through to post a few things a day. She is also doing a million side projects. It is scratching and clawing and commitment day in and day out to go after something unusual. If he isn’t ready to put that kind of passion and dedication to something then he will fail.

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  • Miss MJ

    MISS MJ October 11, 2012, 12:47 pm

    I think the question the LW should be asking herself is how is she going to feel if the BF chooses a career in a low-paying field and loves it? I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but how she feels about it if it did will tell her what she needs to do now. If she would honestly be happy that he found something he wanted to do, even if it didn’t pay as much and even if they never were as financially secure as she thought they would be in his traditional field, then she should stay with him, be open to listening to him and just be more supportive generally. If she honestly, in her heart of hearts, would be disappointed and resentful that he took a lower-paying job when that isn’t what she had envisioned when she was with him for the last 3.5 years, and if she isn’t sure that is how she wants her life to go or she isn’t ready to let her ideal of a husband who is capable of supporting them comfortably go, then she should MOA.

    And, I don’t fault her either way, to be honest. It’s not nice to say, but we all have expectations, hopes and dreams of how our lives will work out, and when you plan for one thing, and your boyfriend makes a U-turn, if it’s not what you want, then there’s no shame in just admitting that and moving on. They’re not married or even engaged and if their life plans don’t gel, then they shouldn’t be. There are plenty of women out there who don’t want to have a high-paying career. They want to do something less lucrative. They want to stay at home with their children. Or whatever. There are also plenty of men out there who still are fine with that, have no problem being the prime breadwinner and who chose careers that would allow them to do that and who are comfortable with that decision. Those men and those women need to find each other. Are there risks to it? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. Is it what I would choose? No. But if it makes them happy and it is what they want, then good on them.

    What the LW should absolutely, under no circumstances do is cajole, force, guilt or manipulate her BF into a higher-paying career he doesn’t want just so that he can give her the lifestyle she wants but cannot afford on her own. If he wants to take care of her and that makes him happy, I’m all for it. If she just wants someone to pay the bills with no regard for how he feels, that’s a problem.

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    Melancholia October 11, 2012, 1:02 pm

    LW, you are the textbook version of a dream killer. You don’t sound supportive of your boyfriend at all. Who the hell do you think you are to make choices for your boyfriend’s future because it will make YOU happier at his expense? He is expressing himself to you and you are shutting him down, you ARE being selfish. It’s your problem that you choose to be financially dependent on your boyfriend, COME ON! Let your boyfriend be happy because I promise you, if he winds up forcing himself to complete a career in something he feels no satisfaction from, he will be miserable. Have fun contributing to your boyfriend’s miserable future, unless he follows his heart and finds something he enjoys as a career.

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      csp October 11, 2012, 1:16 pm

      I totally disagree here. I will tell you that a good paying job with no satisfaction is a million times better than the desperation that comes from shocking amounts of debt. Being one paycheck from loosing everything is truely awful. Not being able to make the minimums on your credit cards will break even the strongest marriage.

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      temperance October 13, 2012, 12:04 am

      I grew up poor. Her boyfriend sounds aimless and like he’s living in a fantasy land and just doesn’t want to do anything. I’m glad she’s reality-checking him.

      He’ll be miserable when he realizes that social work sucks and you get paid shit, or whatever other low-paying job he’s interested in has a downside, too.

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    Brigitte October 11, 2012, 1:10 pm

    I think she’s focusing on what she wants him to do because, a year into this crisis, the boyfriend is no closer to making a decision about what it is he wants to do. Being supportive doesn’t mean yelling at him the second he brings it up, but it also doesn’t mean letting him be all scatter-brained about this, just sitting quietly as he runs through every potential career on earth (but never really looking into what it would take to do make it work.) I think both of them are not handling this very well.

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    FossilChick October 11, 2012, 1:50 pm

    I have a bit of a different take, and it’s likely to be wildly unpopular, but here goes:

    When I was making my career decisions, I made them in tandem with my partner at the time. He was older and had a fast-paced, high-earning career that also had a high burn-out rate. I was undecided on a firm career path but was interested in teaching. We decided, TOGETHER, that it made sense for me to go into a field where I wasn’t a high earner but would have a long career (which would still benefit him — health benefits, steady employment, etc.) and he would make more money but probably not work as long. Please note that we were NOT money-obsessed, but both came from backgrounds where lack of money = lack of stability, and hardship, and we wanted to avoid those challenges as a team.

    Then, 7 years later, we broke up, and suddenly the world looked very different. With my current partner, I am the higher earner, and it is very, very hard just to get by. I take responsibility for my choices and do have satisfaction in my job, but I can’t say I would make the decision over again 8 years ago. We make choices in the present that affect the future. When we’re committed to another person, our choices often reflect theirs. If one person abandons ship or changes course, it’s easy to feel ‘trapped’, even if you really aren’t.

    IF the LW is trying to force her BF into making choices he would hate but she would like, then of course I wouldn’t support that. BUT, if she made her choices one way with his support because he led her believe he was committed to this “businessman” path, then I do have some sympathy for her, because I have been there and it’s hard to find the upside.

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      csp October 11, 2012, 2:59 pm

      my husband and I are like you and your ex. My husband has a steady salary and I am commission based which changes wildly. We can ride out the highs and lows together but it only works as a team. We equally distribute into retirements regardless of who makes more and who makes less each month. Any other suggestions?

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson October 11, 2012, 4:51 pm

      I don’t mean this as a personal “wtf were you thinking” but this is one of the main reasons I urge people not to revolve their lives around someone unless they are married. Yes there is always the threat of divorce – but overall getting married is a huge commitment. It forces you to decide whether or not you are both going to make it the distance. Or at least have a shot at making it the distance.

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        FossilChick October 11, 2012, 8:17 pm

        I definitely see that point. On the other hand, all relationships require compromise and a shared vision, which then actually has to be lived out in reality. After five years together, owning a house, godparent to kids in his family, I was comfortable making those decisions based on our situation. Like CSP, it would only work if we were in it together. It worked, until it didn’t anymore and we both found that our decisions stemming from our team mentality did not easily translate into a stable life for two singles. I’ve had to really reassess in order to find happiness AND enough money to get by AND re-envision a future for myself. Whether marriage would have changed that outcome is open for debate, but for those who either can’t legally get married or don’t equate marriage with “huge commitment”, I think my situation could be quite likely, and if that’s what’s happening to LW, I feel for her, even if she technically should have known better.

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    Lindsay October 11, 2012, 2:15 pm

    I realize how annoying it probably is for your boyfriend to have no clue what he’s doing and be making no progress. But saying that you want him to choose a high-paying field because you don’t make a lot of money and want a comfortable lifestyle sounds really selfish, yes. How is that fair? As much of a future as you two may have planned together, it’s not his responsibility to choose a career based on how it complements your own income. If you force your boyfriend into a job he doesn’t like, he’ll likely resent you down the road, and I doubt that having a guy who’s unhappy at work all day is going to be a lot of fun for you to come home to.

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    Oldie October 11, 2012, 2:41 pm

    I think the first question for LW to ask herself is whether her bf is a hard worker who simply hasn’t latched onto his career direction yet or whether he is simply lazy and allergic to work. One indication is what sort of student he is — serious or party animal who doesn’t crack a book. The second indication is what he does employment-wise, part-time work during the school year and a full-time job in the summer? If she thinks she is dealing with a guy who seriously wants to work at a career, rather than be a full-time, sort-of-student who is hiding out from adulthood, then there are other questions to ask.

    How did he choose the field in which he is currently enrolled in a prestige grad program? Was it based on parental or your encouragement, or did he really think at one time that this was a career he was made for? How does he know he doesn’t like this line of work? Studying something vs actually working in the field can be worlds apart. This seems like a facetious question, but does he know what people in the field he is studying actually do during the course of a work week? I know when I was in school, I really didn’t understand this and I studied engineering, which is very job-oriented. Yet, engineers do hundreds of different sorts of jobs with the same degree. Your bf may be making assumptions about his field based on ignorance and nothing more factual than a boring course or two. Has he worked in this field, either for money or as an intern? How many veterans in this field has he talked to? A degree in business can prepare you for hundreds of very different jobs. However, with the glut of MBAs and finance majors and the down economy, an MBA is not necessarily a ticket to a good job.

    Does bf expect that work in the career that is right for him will be like play all the time, if he only finds the right field? This is unrealistic. A good fit job gives you a higher proportion of exciting, fulfilling times than a poor fit, but all jobs in all fields have a lot of unexciting things that you just have to do, because they come with the job. It’s called work and you’re paid to do it for a reason. SOmething that is all fun is likely something that you yourself must pay for the priviledge of doing.

    What sort of careers is he thinking of and has he shown any aptitude in them. People do make good careers in acting, writing, singing, painting, dancing, etc. but they tend to be both the cream of those studying in the field and those with a drive and talent for self-promotion. Most people who major in theater aren’t going to make a career of it. If you’re in merely a ‘good’ theater program and don’t sense that you are one of the very best students in your program, it’s probably best to find your career elsewhere. If you are going to make it as a painter or writer, at your bf’s age he should already have a big portfolio of very good work. If not, odds not so good. Same for a lot of liberal arts fields like French lit, history, and English. Getting an advanced degree may be a joy as a student, but you are studying a program of courses that basically prepare you to be a college professor. So, if you enjoy studying English literature and want to go for your doctorate, better decide up front if you would enjoy teaching. Yes, you could be a novelist or a poet, but you can do either of those things without a degree. You could be a book reviewer for the NYT, but not a lot of openings. The key is to be realistic. It starts with what has your bf shown competence in and stuck with for an extended period of time and is he really talented enough to make a go of it in that field.

    Some of the guys I went to school with stayed, until the school basically threw them out, as in “you have one year to finish, then bye-bye”. They were the ones who basically found the thought of life in the work-a-day world frightening and were avoiding it as long as they could. About half of them eventually made good careers, the other half were pretty serious flops. Only one of them ever seemed to become truly satisfied with his life. The ability to be happy and satisfied is a talent that some people seem to lack.

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      Oldie October 11, 2012, 2:43 pm

      On the question of whether or not you are selfish, I think the big question to ask yourself is whether or not you would be happy if the salary you earn in your field were exactly half the income that you and your husband lived on. If the answer is yes, then no you are not being selfish. If the answer is that you expect your family income has to be three or four times your salary in order for you to be satisfied, then you are selfishly expecting bf to support you.

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  • KKZ

    KKZ October 11, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Wendy wrote: He’s having, as you describe, an “existential crisis” and turning to his girlfriend of three and a half years for support and rather than help him through it — like, by listening to him, brainstorming, offering suggestions and ideas, reminding him what his strengths are, letting him know you believe in him — you’re basically shutting him down at every turn, sticking your fingers in your ears and going, “No, no, no! Only one path will lead you to happiness and personal fulfillment and that’s a traditional, business-minded one!”

    OK, LW is supposed to offer suggestions and ideas – but she’s not allowed to suggest that he go the traditional business route because she thinks it’s a good idea? She’s not allowed to question or have reservations about the ideas he comes up with? If he does, as kerrycontrary suggested above, decide he wants to move to India and study yoga, she’s not allowed to say “Hold up, I’m not so sure that’s a good plan”?

    If they’re planning a long-term future together, I do think she gets to express her opinion on his career choices. If he’s all pie-eyed over his latest dream career path and she sees flaws in it – maybe it would require them to move, or he’d have to start over with his education, or it would set them back financially, or there’s low earning potential in that field – I think she’s within her right to express those concerns. I’m not saying she has veto power – she can’t just say “No you can’t do that because you won’t earn enough” – but she also doesn’t have to be blindly optimistic about whatever idea he suggests next.

    Not too long ago I was in a job I hated and was considering a bunch of different options for what move I should make next. If I had said “I’m going to quit my job and go to clown college and join Cirque du Soleil,” I think my husband would have been well within his right to say, “Um, no. I don’t think that’s a good plan and if you pursue it, you can’t count on my support.” If he disagrees with me or sees something wrong with what I’m planning to do, I want him to point it out. Because maybe he’s right. Maybe he has a point that the Cirque du Soleil path is going to be a lot harder than I’m dreaming it will be, or that clown college will cost me more than it will earn me, or that being a traveling performer with CdS would put a huge strain on our marriage. Maybe he’s trying to save me from my own blind optimism so I don’t waste my time (our time) and money (our money) on a venture that will get me nowhere. Or maybe he can help me find a compromise, a job that I like and a chance to clown around as an extracurricular. If he truly believes that, I’d want him to say something, not just “Whatever makes you happy, dear.”

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      MMcG October 11, 2012, 3:47 pm

      Thank you!! This lays it out so much better than I could have… at the end of the day she says she’s in it for love and will support him, seems like she just wants him to make up his mind so she has something to cheer for!

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      • KKZ

        KKZ October 11, 2012, 4:50 pm

        I agree – I think her preference would probably be for him to go the business route, but in the end she just wants to stop facing this question over and over again and never getting it resolved. I didn’t get the sense that she would refuse to support him if he did anything else than her preference, or that she refused to entertain any other ideas. She’s allowed to have a preference.

        I mean, my husband has been making a career out of IT contracting for the past few years, ever since he got outsourced out of his last full-time regular job in 2009. My preference would be for him to find another permanent, local job (his last contract had him traveling all the way across the country every week), and whenever a contract is over and he’s looking for new work, YES, I push him in the direction of the kinds of jobs I would want him to have. I know that contracts pay more, and a short-term contract is better than no job at all, since we can’t go for very long on my income alone. And he likes being thrown into a new environment and a new project and a new team every six months, while that would drive me absolutely batty.

        But I still hold on to the hope that his contracting days will eventually end, and I have several good reasons for that desire, which I have expressed to him. I feel no guilt about nudging him in the direction I’d like to see him go, but I also don’t throw a hissy fit when he accepts whatever contract just landed in his lap. He always comes to me with his potential job prospects for my opinion, which I appreciate, and I would do the same in his shoes.

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      6Napkinburger October 11, 2012, 4:54 pm

      Totes agree! If her boyfriend decides that he is going to become breakdancer on the corner with a hat out, she isn’t selfish to think… um, what about that future we used to have? That isn’t to say she shouldn’t get behind risky projects (like a start up) or lower paying fulfilling jobs (like preschool teacher) if he decides that that is his passion and what he wants to do with his life — and sticks with it. Some jobs might be dealbreakers (wandering minstrel) but most won’t be. But before he settles on the idea, she gets to voice the pros and cons. Especially when its been so long and he is so indecisive and this new idea might just be a flash in the pan.

      Your point about veto power is also huge — she gets to have feelings about his decisions and she gets to articulate them, but that doesn’t mean she gets to (or is trying) to choose his job for him. of course, he gets to make that call- but she doesn’t have to rah rah sis boom bahwhen he tells her his new passion if she’s not on board. Someone above said that she basically isn’t allowed to care about what he does from 9-5…. I totally disagree. People’s job/careers have HUGE impact on their lives and the people around them. No one is saying they are deal breakers but you get to care if he is an IED tester versus a loan shark versus an accountant. No one leaves their job 100% at the office and that effects her. She gets to notice. And she gets to feel “enough already” when its been over a year and he has a “new best idea ever” that will be gone in a week.

      And she gets to be selfish. And so does he. We all get to( and should be) selfish when making huge life decisions. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t be there for him or that she should demand what she wants regardless of what he wants. Not at all. But it’s her life and she’s allowed to care about their socioeconomic status enough to encourage him to consider more well-paying jobs during his voyage of discovery. He’s being incredibly selfish by abandoning the track he was on to find his passion with his GF along in tow. But that’s great! Way better than if he suffered through a life of hating his career and resenting her for it when she was never asked to support him doing anything else. The goal, LW, is the find the balance where you both will be happy– you get to share your opinions and you get to suggest things for him to consider and he gets to figure out what he wants to do– to a point. It isn’t unreasonable for you to say: ok, its been a year and a half– you really need to figure out what you’re going to be doing for the foreseeable future. You didn’t fall in love with an aimless person and there’s no reason why you should have to accept one without comment.

      Finances aren’t nothing — you aren’t a horrible person for wanting your smart, capable boyfriend to use his intelligence and capability to create a secure life for you both. But you should consider what is acceptable as a future and what is not and if it seems clear that he’s going to land on the unaccepable route, you owe him to let him know of YOUR dissatisfaction with that future. You both have a right to decide what you want your future to look like and to communicate well enough so you can enjoy it together.

      (yes, I said totes).

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      • KKZ

        KKZ October 11, 2012, 5:42 pm

        I’ll forgive the “totes” because you agree with me. 🙂

        And it doesn’t even have to be as extreme and out-there as some of the careers we’ve been suggesting – underwater basket weaving, clown college, breakdancing. It could be something as simple as he wants to open his own business, let’s say a restaurant. That’s a big risk, especially in this economy. There are no guarantees of income, profitability, or even survival. I can see being freaked out if my boyfriend of several years wanted to abandon his graduate degree program for a big risky venture like starting his own business.Because who exactly is going to support the two of them financially while he’s getting the business off the ground? The LW, who already admitted she’s not a high earner. Yeah – that would make me feel “trapped” too.

        And now that I think about the business-starting idea, I’m guessing this might be closer to reality than the crazy job dreams, because it is exactly the sort of thing people do, leaving jobs to strike out on their own – and a large number of these ventures fail. So if that’s the case, I don’t blame her for being skeptical, or for feeling she’d be trapped if she went along with his plan.

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      • KKZ

        KKZ October 11, 2012, 5:51 pm

        Whoa, your comment got longer while I was replying! Applause for the additional thoughts about socioeconomic conditions and the choices that affect them, and that it’s OK to be selfish when making the big decisions. The common sentiment seems to be that sacrifice is noble, but as Sue Jones said below, you gotta draw the line somewhere.

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      LW October 11, 2012, 6:44 pm

      Man, its been such a rough day (having nothing to do with this stuff above, just my life) so its probably for the best that I just got a chance to look at the comments now, but thanks for generally hitting on the points that I wanted to get hit…

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      Lindsay October 11, 2012, 8:58 pm

      I think there’s a big difference between giving suggestions and ideas and what she’s doing. Giving your idea over and over when it’s clearly not what they want to do and then getting into arguments over it seems to be going a little too far. I was recently telling a friend of a friend about my plans to change careers. She launched into a whole thing about how I should really check out this other field, and when I told her why I’d chosen the path I was going down, she kept telling me to look at the other one. I know that she was just trying to be nice and it’s different because I’ve already made a decision, but it annoyed the crap out of me. I’d heard her the first time, and telling me repeatedly wasn’t going to make me feel any different about it. Obviously, when it comes from an SO instead of a near-stranger, it’s different, but suggesting is not about wearing someone down or persuading them.

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    Lucy October 11, 2012, 5:22 pm

    I have a lot more sympathy for the LW than many people. I reread the letter several times and I actually don’t think she’s trying to direct her bf into a traditional field just because it will make them more financially stable. I think she genuinely believes he would be happiest that way, but in the back of her mind, she knows it would also be better for them as a couple if he made more money, and she feels guilty for thinking that.

    I also don’t think that’s even the main thrust of the letter, despite how people have latched onto it. I think what she’s saying is that she’s worn out from listening to the same conversation in an endless playback loop for two years. I totally sympathize here. Haven’t we all had that SO or friend who seems to derive some perverse pleasure from going over the same ground, obsessively, for weeks or months? Maybe that’s her bf. And two years – TWO YEARS! – is a long time. I know in her place I’d have compassion fatigue by now, no matter how much I loved the guy.

    My advice to the LW is, detach yourself from this ongoing conversation and the outcome. Don’t argue, don’t give your opinion, don’t advise or instruct. You could say as lovingly as possible, “I will love you no matter what career path you choose, but this topic always ends with us arguing, so I’m not going to engage on it with you any more.” And then follow through. There’s a technique called active ignoring that might help. When he brings up the same old topic again, don’t react, even to tell him you don’t want to discuss it. Just let him go on without any response from you. See what happens. He may go on to reveal stuff you never knew about.

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    Sue Jones October 11, 2012, 5:40 pm

    I agree that listening to someone mindf*ck about their possible career options over and over and change their plans all the time would drive me crazy. It DOES drive me crazy! My husband had a bit of this and luckily for us I was the breadwinner, but when I was getting ready to have a baby I didn’t want to BE the sole breadwinner anymore. It had to change. He eventually, after 5 career changes and false starts in school, went back to something that he likes well enough. Then he said he wanted to be a teacher and go back to school for that and I told him I just wasn’t up for another change and that enough was enough. And while he was all starry eyed about teaching children, I had to remind him that there was a lot of other administrative stuff that he would probably hate and not be good at. I had to draw the line. And it turns out that he could not do the program he was interested in because he never finished his Bachelors… so here we are. It is true that at some point one has to pick a path and stick with it. It is one thing to go and have a midlife crisis and make a big change, but if someone is always wanting to change or never really finding the right thing, then it is more to do with THEM. Maybe he needs to be treated for depression? Maybe ADHD? And it is in my opinion, perfectly within your right to say ” I need (fill in the blank) in my life and if you cannot give it to me, then we need to MOA.”

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    LW October 11, 2012, 6:38 pm

    Wow, I’m glad that my letter turned up so many responses! I’m not going to have a chance to answer everyone, but I figured that I’d put something together quickly here to answer some questions:

    1. Me as a gold digger: My career path is a good one, I’ll be fine, and I’ll make a solid pay check (eventually), it is in a career that I love and one that I chose based off of my desire to pursue it indefinitely. I chose this path knowing full well the type of money that I would be making. I chose it anyways long before I met my boyfriend. If we were to break up tomorrow and I was to be single for the rest of my life, but I still got to do my job, I would be happy.

    However: I mentioned that part, partially because my boyfriend likes nice things, he loves to travel, eat well and buy things that he likes. So do I and we both chaff under our current budgetary restraints, although I would argue that he more than me. Considering who he is, I honestly believe that he (and to be honest his ego) needs to be financially successful to be happy. Would I mind it if he made real money, no, of course not, but like I said above, I’m happy that I’ve chosen that I have for myself.

    Also, did no read my last line?

    2. My boyfriend: First off, he’s brilliant and unbelievably hard working – he could succeed at anything he put his mind to. He’s been pursing this particular career since college, but over the past couple of years he’s realized that he hates it. However, given the above descriptors, when we talk about his career goals, they become increasingly circular which is frustrating for me, because I like to find problems and fix them, not endlessly obsess over them.

    3. Thanks for the kick in the pants to remind me to listen more. I’ve been super stressed at work taking up all of my waking hours and I think that this endless cycle of misery and obsession has begun to ware on me and its made me rather cold. (This particular letter was written after a fight we had had btw). I do love, and I honestly will love and support him no matter what career he chooses but in the meantime I’ll make sure to listen more.

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      emphasisonem October 11, 2012, 8:20 pm

      Hey LW. I feel for you.

      Here’s the thing everyone seems to be missing out on. These days it takes two regularly contributing salaries for a successful relationship to be financially stable. If you’re on your own, no biggie, it’ll be ok, you have your own benefits and enough to pay rent, and you have a career trajectory in mind that sounds like it won’t run into any severe hiccups along the way. Not everyone can just hop into a super lucrative career and make it work financially, so the fact that you found one that was stable and good enough is a sign of your commitment to contributing. In other words, you can hold up your half of the bargain to achieve a life that will really take two people to support. Kids are damn expensive after all, and so are the luxuries it sounds like your boyfriend is used to having.

      But, if a boyfriend who I’m assuming gave you the impression that he was also going to hold up his half is suddenly looking like a wildcard, well that can make you feel like the whole house is at risk of falling down. Those casual conversations that are to him just a whirl of “what about this, what about this” to make *him* feel better about the effort he put into a dissatisfying career to you can be extremely anxiety-inducing. What if he picks something and it doesn’t work out. What if he cant pay off his own debt without needing you to be the sole provider for two people, something your salary just wont be able to do if he wants to support a certain kind of lifestyle. What if you can’t afford to have kids for ages and ages because he’s had to start his career over from scratch and the money’s just not there. Or, what if he picks one of these idea-farmed jobs and is miserably unhappy without the financial buffer that make be the difference between frustration and depression.

      Each time he comes up with yet another dream to follow, you are forced to recalculate, to re-envision what your life will end up looking like in ten years. And sure, life is variable and things happen and people lose their jobs, but usually you can count on you being a pair helping each other against what life throws at you both. Now it feels like he is stabbing ahead on uncertain ground ignoring that if he sinks, you do too. Your selfishness is born of fear, and is, in my opinion at least, totally understandable.

      So what to do about it. I truly think you need to have a talk with him to suss out just how much support you need him from him financially in the future in order for *both of you* to have the lives *both of you want*. Is he ok with not living comfortably at certain points because of his career, and are you? Would either of you be ok if financial reasons put off you starting a family? Would you be ok moving to a different part of the state, or country? Once these things are settled, and he has a more concrete idea of what he should be shooting for based on *both of your needs*, I’m sure there will be a wide range of opportunities he’ll still be able to look at. And you can agree not to cringe and worry when he explores them, and he can agree to let you ask important questions about how he intends to go about getting there. Because you’re in it together, and he will indeed need your support.

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      • KKZ

        KKZ October 12, 2012, 8:37 am

        This. Is. PERFECT.

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      Brigitte October 12, 2012, 11:18 am

      Ya, I never got the impression that you were counting on him to pay the bills, so I hope this clarification will make sense to more people.

      As someone who went through an existential crisis of sorts myself, it was really useful to come to realize that I wasn’t the job I did. It’s a struggle, or at least it was for me. You’ll meet people who are so freaking passionate about what they do, and you’ll compare to how you feel about your mid-management job and think “Wait, I’m supposed to be passionate? I’m supposed to have a job that completes me?” Well, not everyone can have that, but you can have a job that covers the bills and leaves you time for your family and friends, that gives you left-over money for evenings out and shows and trips and nice clothes. And yes, we spend a lot of time at work, so it’s nice to find something you enjoy, but it’s doesn’t have to be the end all and be all of your life. You can find and do something you are passionate about part-time, or in your spare time. It’s about finding a balance. It’s about being honest about what’s important to you (for example, for me, financial security, time with family, and flexibility are more important than a nice title and a super stimulating job)

      I think it’s ok to tell your boyfriend he needs to come at you with more than ideas. He needs to have more info to back this up. He needs to have googled some stuff a bit, he needs to have looked into tuition costs and what his life and yours would be like a bit before he continues with these plans and with the brainstorming. Or maybe he can continue with the brainstorming, but it will only be at specifically designated times (you know, so you can have a drink and prepare yourself!)

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      MMcG October 12, 2012, 11:26 am

      Thanks for reading everything LW, and providing some additional info (not just because it seemed to reinforce what I was reading into your letter, but that was good too ;)).

      Listening more will help, but please remember that you are entitled to your feelings and frustrations too… maybe venting to someone else every once in awhile instead of your BF will help as well. There was some good advice provided here amongst the golddigging remarks so I hope that you and he can take some of those steps… whether it be online tests (personality/Myers-Briggs/5 love languages) or counseling or whatever you may need. your BF might be the type that waits for the perfect — and ignores the good — maybe he can’t envision way into the future but he needs to start to figure out what next year or 3 years looks like so that you can decide whether the relationship is a train you still want to ride.

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    Meredith October 11, 2012, 6:57 pm

    I’m totally on the opposite side because I know for a fact I could not sit there and listen to my significant others’ existential crisis over and over for 3 freaking years. I’ll give you a year. 365 days for us to talk it til your blue in the face and me be supportive and suggest all sorts of things. And if you can’t figure it out, then from there on out, the topic is going to annoy the shit out of me. Because damn, just figure it out already! Or waste tens of thousands of dollars getting an advanced degree you may never end up using, all because it didnt inspire you or what not. I’d be a bitch and just say “Shit or get off the pot, you’re being a drama queen with all this ‘What is the meaning of my life???’ crap.” But then again I’m super pregnant right now and probably not giving rational advice lol!

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    Gill October 13, 2012, 9:44 am

    I think you be as supportive as you can possibly be. After all, you are one of the most important people in his life and he is looking to you for support. And if you can’t be supportive now, how would you be as his wife? I’m sure that there are plenty of times that you look to him for support and you certainly would not appreciate a response of frustration. Regarding his career choice, this is a very important crossroad and his choice will have a major affect on the rest of his life. It’s certainly not all about the amount of money he will earn; it’s also about his happiness and fulfillment. I would suggest that he talk to people who are already working in the fields that he is considering to learn more about what it is actually like.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark October 13, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Whoa, sure are a lot of materialistic folks around here, surprise surprise. How very feminist of all of you.

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    Friend in Rhode Island November 9, 2012, 3:39 pm

    Hello everyone, I was reading the beginning segments…my pen pal friend sounds familiar. He is male, and I am female. He has been sending me some existentialist poems, etc. This, of course, after he sent me a song from Bob Dylan on “It Ain’t Me, Babe”. Well, I believe he is slightly or more depressed. I am not sure. He is a retired war veteran now. We have known each other for over 20 years. Maybe the boyfriend is depressed. I know that some of our vets do get PTS, post traumatic syndrome. You don’t have to be a war vet to suffer from it.

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    Dawn September 5, 2017, 11:15 pm

    I’m surprised by most of these responses, disappointed by Wendy’s response as well.

    The selfish one is the boyfriend. She’s been more than patient and supportive over his decision to be consistently indecisive; I got the impression that she’s planned her future and is moving along in her life pretty well, sounds like she won’t need him financially either, maybe she won’t make a ton of money a year, but she can support herself financially. She needs this guy to become a man and make a decision so that they can both move forward. It’s not fair for her to be in a limbo of indecision.

    She wants him to step up and make a decision, grab the bull by the horns and get on with it already. it’s callled being a man. I can understand how this generation may not really comprehend what that looks like nowadays, but men make decisions, they plan, they take charge and they lead. She can lovingly support him by stepping back and getting on with her life, maybe then he’ll figure it out real quick if she wasn’t there to hold his hand 24X7 and letting him know it’s okay to keep procrastinating. He should be taking action and seeking guidance of a Life Coach, Career Counselor, or a Mentor and work on setting goals.

    That’s what this girl is waiting for… and there’s nothing wrong with her wanting him to be financially stable, either. It’s being smart and confident and knowing what she wants and deserves.

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