Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Boyfriend Still Hasn’t Moved to Be With Me”

I’ve been with my boyfriend, let’s call him “R,” for four years now. We met at university, which is in a small town, and dated for two years while we were studying. Then we both graduated (me with my undergrad in my chosen profession, him with his master’s), and I decided to move back to my home city to do a post-grad degree at another university.

We broke up when I left, but R stayed in that town (it’s where he was raised and he’s never really lived anywhere else) getting research work with the university when he could but mostly just working as a server at a local cafe while staying at his parents’ house. He did plan on going overseas to teach once I had left, but the plan just sort of fizzled out and he never did.

After a year of being broken up, we both still missed each other terribly, and so we reconnected (a choice I’ve never regretted), and we did long- distance, talking every day and visiting each other when we could while I finished my post-grad.

A few months ago, after thinking about it for a long time, I finally told him that I was tired of doing the long-distance thing and I was ready to do normal couple things, like seeing friends over the weekend togethe, or falling asleep in the same bed. We spoke about it for ages, and he explained that he had been feeling the same thing. Although both of us were prepared to move anywhere as long as it meant we’d be together, I found a beginner job in my field here in the city in July, so he decided he would start looking for a teaching job here.

Fast forward a few months, and I feel like he’s stagnating. I know this is so much harder for him than it is for me. I already have a job while he’s still searching for one (a daunting task, I know), I’m not moving away from home for the first time in my life, on top of moving to a massive city when I’m used to a small town. I have family and friends here, while he will be starting afresh (he does have a brother in the same city, but they’re not super close).

He suffers from anxiety, just like I do, and it’s stopped him from doing things in the past, like teaching overseas like I mentioned earlier. If I could, I would do this for him and save him the fear – but I can’t, that’s not how it works, and in the end this is something he’ll have to do for himself. I want to be mindful of the very real emotional (fear of the unknown, anxiety disorder) and practical (need for a good job) challenges he faces and have patience.

But at the same time, I worry that I might spend the rest of my life waiting for him to do something he just can’t (or won’t) do. He was originally going to go overseas, and he didn’t. He was going to move up by the end of September, job or not (he’d stay with his brother until he got on his feet), but then he didn’t.

I guess what I’m trying to ask you is: How long should I be patient and understanding? And when should I stop waiting in vain for our lives together to start and MOA? I think a part of me would want to wait forever for him, but I know that that’s not the best thing for me. Help!

I’ve discussed this with him too, of course, but I’ve stopped myself from phrasing it bluntly because: 1) I really don’t want to hurt him; and 2) I don’t want it to be like I’m blackmailing him by saying, “Move up by such-and-such a date or I’ll break up with you!”… Help? — Meg

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35 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ale October 11, 2016, 9:13 am

    How do you know he’s stagnating? Maybe he really can’t find a job?

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    • avatar

      MissDre October 11, 2016, 9:37 am

      He was supposed to move by September, job or no job, and stay with his brother til he got on his feet. And that hasn’t happened.

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      • avatar

        Ale October 11, 2016, 10:03 am

        Ups, sorry, somehow I missed that.

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  • avatar

    Rebecca October 11, 2016, 9:24 am

    One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that when people tell you something about themselves, you need to believe it.
    *
    Let’s look at what he (or his actions) have told you: He’s change averse. He’s okay with not using his degree. He values the current semi-stability he has more than the chance to be with you. His anxiety makes him even more change averse. His anxiety and reluctance to change make him pull out of things he claims to really want to do. Repeatedly.
    *
    This man will not move to be with you. If, by some slim chance, he does, he will be miserable and by connection you will be miserable. He may love you, but that’s clearly not enough in this case. MOA like yesterday and live your full and adventuresome life without someone whose very personality is incompatible with your goals.

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    • avatar

      Ale October 11, 2016, 10:04 am

      So true. And it happens with everything.

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  • avatar

    MiMi October 11, 2016, 9:26 am

    LW, it sounds to me that both of you are stuck in a fairly comfortable, default rut. You don’t mention whether either of you dated others during the year you were broken up; one assumes that if you had been living it up and meeting some great people you wouldn’t now be trying to imagine an underachieving-master’s-degree, never-left-home, doesn’t-follow-through guy as your dream man. His actions don’t match any of his words and he essentially hasn’t moved on/up/out since you’ve known him. At the same time, it sounds like you were making some unilateral decisions like moving away for graduate school and taking a job in your own town (not pulling out all the stops to find something in his town or in a neutral town?). Maybe your actions also speak louder than your words, eh?
    This is a mis-match made in heaven – move on (well, you already have, haven’t you?).

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    • avatar

      Northern Star October 11, 2016, 9:43 am

      Good answer. It doesn’t seem like there’s any real commitment on either side here. Both parties should move on and find someone more suited to them.

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 11, 2016, 9:48 am

        I agree. This is a really good answer. Neither one are making compromises for the other. Neither obviously want to move. I don’t see this working out, long-term.

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  • Stonegypsy

    Stonegypsy October 11, 2016, 9:40 am

    LW – giving him a deadline isn’t blackmail. Have a blunt conversation. It might hurt him, but that shouldn’t prevent you from being honest.
    “I’m concerned that you are not really making any progress toward moving out here. Last I heard, you were planning to be out here already, job or no. Is there a specific reason that fell through? As much as I want to wait for you, at a certain point it just isn’t healthy anymore. I need you to share with me what is stopping you so that we can try to come up with a solution together, and if you can’t work with me on that, if you can’t make progress, within the next 3 months, I think we should accept that we just aren’t a match anymore and both move on.”

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  • avatar

    Morecoffeeplease October 11, 2016, 9:50 am

    I have a good friend who married a man with anxiety. He’s very attached to his parents (who also are clingy). They have kids together and he has a hard time finishing things (graduate school). He has a hard time getting a job. At his last postdoc he had so much anxiety that there were many times he could not go into work and now they can’t really write a good recommendation for him. It has been years now that he has been job searching. He’s a nice guy but she is going to be supporting him for the rest of their lives. An unfortunate side affect of his anxiety is now he has so many health problems (caused by stress). He’s young too…they are both only 35. Another negative is their son seems to be just like him…or copies Dad’s behavior because he is super clingy and filled with anxiety at age 6.

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    • avatar

      Ron October 11, 2016, 12:22 pm

      LW —
      Morecoffee gives you good advice. Do you want to be this guy’s partner and ultimately wife, or are you content to be his new mommy and constant support? He shows a profound inability to be independent and to get on with his life. Yes, anxiety is a legitimate medical condition and not a character flaw, but it is treatable. Choosing to just live with it, rather than dealing with it is a character flaw.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros October 11, 2016, 10:48 am

    If this were someone who had clearly shown that they are interested in moving (not just because he would have to stay with you) and that they are generally going to follow through with their life plans, then I’d say to give him time to job search. However, I think it’s going to be rather fruitless. Despite the things you mention, it might also be that he doesn’t want to. Not that he doesn’t want to be with you, but nothing in his life has indicated he ever truly wants to leave. So, a lot of people drag their feet when they say they’ll do something they don’t want to do.

    Beyond this immediate situation, what happens if he moves and doesn’t like it? Or you guys get serious and he says that he wants to move back when you start a family? Or he finds out that supporting yourself is more difficult than he thought and he can’t? (Which, btw, if he DOES end up getting a job, don’t move in together until he’s learned how to live on his own). I know these are hypotheticals, but I think you two have ignored the fact that you’re not that compatible simply because you missed each other and were still single (presumably).

    This just seems lot a lot of work on both your parts for something that in all likelihood is not going to last that long. (Also, it’s kind of you to give him the benefit of the doubt because of his fears and anxiety, but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of your own needs — aka, it’s OK to say that someone isn’t who you want even if some of the issues are caused by them being afraid. I am all for partners being supportive of their partners’ anxiety or other situations, but in the end, he is who he is whether it’s caused by something like that or it’s just his personality.

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  • avatar

    csp October 11, 2016, 11:01 am

    I get what everyone is saying here but I have one thought. When looking for teaching jobs, they are very school year oriented. So if you don’t get a job by September, it is most 6-8 months before you try again. So the idea to move jobless can be really daunting.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros October 11, 2016, 8:39 pm

      That’s true. But this guy doesn’t seem all that committed to doing a teaching job. He seems to be currently placing geographic location (his hometown) over career field. Maybe he could start as a paraprofessional or something? Or continue waiting tables? I mean, if he stays home, it sounds like he’s not going to be teaching either.

      But I agree that it would be daunting, and if it seemed like he were the kind of person who tried to get a job during the normal academic cycle or seemed like he was trying very hard, then I think he’d get more empathy for that.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros October 11, 2016, 8:40 pm

        I also meant to say there’s a host of other jobs that he could probably get with his degree that might be a better stepping stone to a teaching job than serving. Working at some kind of nonprofit for kids or teens or any kind of social-worky type role, etc.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy October 11, 2016, 11:37 am

    If he was motivated to be with you, he’d be moving to be with you. He already has a place to stay until he gets on his feet (his brother’s place, and I’d think you would also be open to letting him crash at your place for a while?). Why does it have to be a teaching job that he gets? He’s working at a cafe now, right? Surely, he can find a similar job in the city where you live? I assume he’s still living with his parents; has he managed to save any money while living with them? If not, why? Why isn’t he motivated to work a bunch of odd jobs and put money aside to move and to live on in your city while he looks for work? And if he does have money saved, why hasn’t he moved already?

    I don’t know — I get that anxiety can feel paralyzing. But do you get a sense at all that he really WANTS to be with you and is willing to work through his anxiety to make it happen? Or does is seem pretty comfortable with how things are — living with his parents, working a pretty stress-free job, and seeing you on occasional weekends (keeping the relationship very low-maintenance, too)? After all, you were the one who brought up how much you wanted the relationship to progress forward, and it took a speaking about it “for ages” for him to say he wanted that too. But so far, all talk and no action, right? Action speaks louder than words…

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    • avatar

      va-in-ny October 11, 2016, 12:16 pm

      Not only that, but he could get himself on the Substitute Teacher list. It would likely help next year, if/when they’re hiring more teachers.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy October 11, 2016, 1:04 pm

        Definitely! I substitute taught for a couple of years when I was at an employment crossroads and then in grad school. It’s such an flexible, noncommittal way to make some money, and a great way to get to know a city’s school system and specific schools.

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    • avatar

      csp October 11, 2016, 3:05 pm

      I get what you are saying. I just think if I was the boyfriend, I would be scared of moving and being dependent on family or a girlfriend that couldn’t afford to support me.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover October 11, 2016, 5:56 pm

        He’s living with his parents though. If it didn’t work out he could just move back, and he’d only be out a plane ticket. It’s so low-risk, what with the LW *and* his brother living there.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 October 11, 2016, 12:08 pm

    I think you should resume your relationship when you’re both in the same city. You can say to him, “I love you and want to be with you, but this long distance situation isn’t working out for me. I’d love to give it another try when we’re in the same place.” Don’t say it as a threat though. Only say it if you mean to do it.

    Normally I’d ask both of you to look for jobs in each other’s towns, but in this case I don’t think you should look for a job in his place unless he’s really putting down roots there. I assume you have a beginner job in your field with opportunity for advancement, right? That sounds like you have a potential future where you are, and also like he’s temporarily living in his town while he figures his life out. I don’t think you should give up what you have for a temporary situation.

    If it turns out that he does envision a future in his hometown with family nearby, then you can look into jobs in his town. But don’t start packing just because he says “I see a future here”. Actions speak louder. If it were me I’d want to see him either getting a more permanent job, or getting his own apartment, or some other action that shows he’s building a life there.

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  • avatar

    Ron October 11, 2016, 12:15 pm

    If bf moves to LW, he’s living in a city. Almost every city has a crying need for substitute teachers. It’s not easy being a sub and perhaps his anxiety rules this out, but it is great resume material to land a job, whereas his current works shouts ‘not all that interested in being a teacher, and perhaps scared to stand up in front of a classroom of students.’ You know him, LW, — how did his student teaching assignments go. Was he able to stand in front of a class and teach or do you think he has already decided that teaching is not for him?

    He’s an adult. He needs to work to overcome his anxiety and move forward. If he is not being treated for anxiety, then he needs to see a doctor and consider medication. It is silly to spend 4 years studying to be a teacher and then just walk away without giving it an honest shot. Based on what you wrote, it sounds as though that is exactly what he has done. He is locked in place by fear and if he doesn’t deal with his fear and anxiety, then life will pass him by.

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    • avatar

      snoopy128 October 11, 2016, 1:16 pm

      Up here in Canada, there are many places where there is an over abundance of substitute teachers. My new to teaching friends are having a hard time getting a foot in the door through any means possible. I don’t know about the USA, but I’m assuming a blanket statement like yours above may not apply everywhere.

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      • avatar

        Ron October 11, 2016, 3:32 pm

        I don’t know about Canada, but here in the U.S. the number of education degrees granted in recent years has plummeted. I can’t vouch for the South, but throughout the NE districts have a very hard time finding substitutes. They have taken to hiring private companies to supply substitutes and still can’t cover all the requirements. As I said, the problem is especially severe in cities, such as where LW lives.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover October 11, 2016, 5:52 pm

        Really? I should tell my brother, maybe he can get a job down there. We have so many teachers in Canada who can’t get jobs, I’m surprised they don’t know about this.

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      • avatar

        Ron October 11, 2016, 8:13 pm

        I imagine that it’s difficult to get a work permit. Perhaps some of the contract suppliers of subs would be willing to apply for H1B visas.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover October 11, 2016, 9:48 pm

        Yeah, you’d think if they’re that desperate, they’d help get Canadians down there. I’ve had multiple offers to work in the US and my field isn’t particularly hard up. They all offered to get me a visa and then help me get citizenship.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros October 11, 2016, 8:30 pm

        I’ve had friends who had difficulty finding full-time teaching jobs. Or at least it was just as competitive as any other industry. The only people I’ve known who’ve tried to be subs were people who didn’t need full-time work for whatever reason and were fine with being called randomly for extra money. Is it possible that they are hard to find because it’s not really great pay or benefits? Or is substitute teaching more stable than where I’m from?

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      • avatar

        Ron October 12, 2016, 7:40 am

        Around here you can be a full-time sub. It is a lot better than minimum wage, but well below what a permanent, even first year, teacher will earn. More like what one might be paid at a private or parochial school. It’s a rough job because you aren’t generally with the same class more than a few days and the kids don’t have the same respect for a sub as they do for their regular teacher. In our state, by law, we also have something called a ‘permanent sub’ which is a half-year or full-year job at basically starting teacher salary, where you are filling in for a teacher on sabbatical or maternity leave. The teacher on leave owns the job so you have no guarantees beyond the year, but if the administration is happy with your performance, you have a leg up.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom October 12, 2016, 10:02 am

        Most teachers around here start as subs. They will sub in various schools in various districts. If they do a good job they will often be recruited as a long term sub or as a tutor and then if they do a good job they will be offered a teaching position. It helps the schools figure out who is good and who isn’t and they can do that because there are so many more people certified to teach than there are teaching positions. It also is a bonus to the person who subs because they get to see the different schools and meet the teaching staff and principal and accept an offer from a school that is a good fit. If they do a good job as a sub a teacher will request them as a sub again in their classroom and recommend them to other teachers in the school and they will become a regular sub in that school and build connections that will often lead to a full time job. It is about the only way to get a full time teaching job in this area. If you are willing to teach in the inner city you can get hired much more easily and for higher pay.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie October 11, 2016, 12:53 pm

    Ron beat me to the punch but this guy either has to get control of his anxiety or you need to let him go. We all have our anxieties but your bf is letting it control his life to the point where regret is likely inevitable. I get not doing something because you don’t have the funds or you lack the knowledge. But if you really want to do it, you figure out a way. Letting anxiety dictate all of your choices is limiting and as someone noted above, impacts everyone else.

    You can ask him what steps he needs to take to make the move. And break those into smaller steps. “Finding a job” is hard. “Updating my Resume” is less hard. “Signing on with a Recruiter” less hard. “Sending out 25 resumes” a pain in the tuchas but achievable. But you can’t do this for him forever, he needs to learn how to manage life.

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  • avatar

    SherBear October 11, 2016, 1:29 pm

    Yea, he’s not moving to be with you now or ever. Is he actively working on his anxiety or passively living with it? Has he been medically diagnosed or self diagnosed? A lot of people have anxiety (I myself have 2 disorders) but it’s not an end all be all to life. There are meds and therapy and other treatments available – but he has to WANT to get better, and as of now it sounds like he’s just using it as a crutch.

    With regards to the job search – it’s going to be challenging getting a position when he hasn’t had any actual work (besides the occasional research work) having to do with his Master’s degree. Employers like to see ambition and drive and it doesn’t sound like he has either.

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  • avatar

    Museum_Nerd October 11, 2016, 1:44 pm

    As someone who deals with anxiety (and my husband does as well) it is a BIG DEAL to get to the point where you are managing your anxiety and embracing your responsibility for your own life. It takes a lot of personal work and therapy frankly, possibly medication too, but it’s not at all impossible. But it is okay to not wait for him to get his shit together. Tell him, “I need to be with someone who is willing to put in the work – to make a good life for themselves and be a good partner.” You telling him that may be the kick in the pants he needs, but he still may not be ready. Do not base your life around him, if you need or want a partner who is available now then start dating again and find them.

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  • avatar

    Ashley October 11, 2016, 2:12 pm

    Don’t let the sunk costs of this relationship make you put more effort than it’s worth. I think y’all are very comfortable with each other….and that’s it. You mention his many faults and failings but what does he bring you that makes this relationship fulfilling? Furthermore, is this really the type of man you want to be with? By your telling he has little to no ambition, the inability to take action, and is OK being a server for the foreseeable future. To me it matters little why at this point. You are setting yourself up with a man who sounds like he is not going to be a good life partner, and you’ve given him plenty of time to prove otherwise.

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  • kare

    kare October 11, 2016, 6:24 pm

    I wouldn’t give him a deadline, but I’d mentally set one then stick to it. By that time if he hasn’t taken any steps to move, end things.

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