“I’m Intimidated By My Girlfriend’s Success”

I’ve been in a long distance relationship with my girlfriend for over 10 months. We started dating during the summer when she was back home from college. I’ve known her for nine years, and while we were never friends during that time, there was always some flirting every time we saw each other.

Since we started dating, the problem is that I feel like a failure. I live at home with my parents in the same hometown as hers (but she goes to school over 1000 miles away). I have a full-time job – a ‘real’ job too, but it’s not the type of job I was hoping for after college. I’ve started to work my way up, and am enrolled in grad school part-time, but it’s still not satisfying me. The reason I live at home is because I can’t really afford to move out while paying for school loans, other bills, and going to grad school at the same time. My work is going to reimburse me for school, but not until I graduate, which will be a while at the rate I’m going. That also means that I have to stay at my current workplace for a while if I want the reimbursement.

I work for a company that is one of the most hated companies right now, but I have to like it, so I don’t talk negatively about it too much. My girlfriend tries not to speak poorly of it, but she still does. Meanwhile, she has it all going for her and she’s only a junior in college. She has been getting several 4.0s recently, she’s highly involved in her school with leadership programs, she has many great accomplishments on her resume already, and already has an internship with a very top company lined up for the summer. I’m definitely proud of her and happy for her, but it makes me feel like a failure on the other end.

Not only will my girlfriend not be home this summer due to her internship, but I just feel like I can’t measure up to her, which makes our relationship suffer. Maybe it’s just a problem I have with myself, but I feel that the constant comparisons between us are too hard on our relationship. I’ve been so lost recently that I told her I wanted a break to figure things out, but she is upset and doesn’t understand why I need time, and to be honest, I don’t know what to do with her. I love her a lot and she is someone I want to be with for a long time, but I’m not sure if I can handle all of her successes while I feel like a failure in the meantime. The economy sucked when I got out of college and it still sucks, especially in my field. Am I being too selfish for not wanting to be with her because I don’t feel worthy enough? — Feeling Like a Failure

Pay attention to the first sentence of your second paragraph, which sums up your whole letter pretty succinctly: “The problem is that I feel like a failure.” This problem has nothing to do with your girlfriend. It is truly about you and your perception of yourself. You feel like a failure and you are projecting those feelings onto your girlfriend. If you think you’re a failure, then you imagine she must think you’re a failure, too. But nothing in your letter indicates that that’s the case. In fact, in four paragraphs you actually say very little about your relationship with your girlfriend. You say you love her and you’re proud of her, but that you “don’t know what to do with her.” We know nothing about what you do together, how often you see her, or how she makes you feel. And I suspect that’s because you can think of very little except how you compare to her.

The truth is, taking a break from your relationship isn’t going to solve anything, because your issue isn’t with your relationship; it’s with you. You’re not going to feel any less like a failure simply by taking a break from your girlfriend. If anything, you’re going to feel like more of a failure because you couldn’t even manage to hang on to the great girlfriend who loves you.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hang on to her simply by staying with her, though, either. A young woman like that needs someone who is secure in himself and can handle the success of the woman he’s dating. Because she may have many more achievements … or she, like you, may find the current economy unkind to her upon graduation. Either way, it’s not going to be in her best interest to have a boyfriend who welcomes her failures and fears her success.

If you really care about this person, you should consider setting her free. And then, instead of focusing on what a failure you are, you can focus on what you’re doing right — how you’re taking the reigns of your life and choosing a new path before settling too soon for one you’re unhappy on. It can take decades for some people to figure out they need a career change. It sounds like you figured it out quickly. And you managed to find a way for someone else to pay for your graduate degree. That seems like a pretty good success to me. But until you can see yourself that way, you won’t be any good to any woman. And the strong women of today need guys who can handle them, not ones who shy away in intimidation of their achievements.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.


  1. kerrycontrary says:

    Everything the LW described about himself is the opposite of a failure. He’s being financially responsible by living at home, has a stable job, and is getting a graduate degree (paid for by someone else). For being in your 20s you have yourself together a lot better than other men out there. But unfortunately no matter how much people tell him he’s not a failure he’s needs to figure that out for himself. Plus, your girlfriend’s success in school may not equal the same success in the real world, especially in this economy….

    1. My thoughts exactly. Wish I was getting grad school paid for, while I had a full time job!

      1. kerrycontrary says:

        Yeh, I went straight to grad school in a city. Looking back I wish I had done an online program, or at least something in-state to save money. You cannot underestimate the burden of student loans.

    2. Exactly – LW you are out of school right now working full time. And going to school. How are you a failure? You sound great. Your girlfried is still a student – doing well in school does not mean that she is better than you. Furthermore, when she starts working she’s going to be starting at the bottom too – just like you are right now. I’m just trying to get you to see that you are not a failure in comparison to your girlfriend.

    3. AndreaMarie says:

      Spot on with the last part. College and the real world are very different beasts. Studying hard and doing well on tests is not an intidicator on how someone will fare in the business world. If it’s worth anything I totally sucked in college. Like bad. Like just enough to pass. And guess what, I ended up in career completely unrelated to my major, learned as I went. My strength is people and being smart with working around/with office politics. I have business savvy. And now I’m a success in the real world. My good friend gradudated Magna cum laude and was president of the Student Government our senior year. I’m making $30K more than she is. Moral of my story is you can’t judge someone’s future success by college.

  2. Wendy’s response is excellent as usual. LW, you are not a failure, but you need to stop comparing your life to others. Everyone takes a different path in life and it’s futile to compare your life with anyone else’s. It’s normal to feel like a failure for fleeting moments, but not all the time. If you are really struggling to get over this, I would suggest seeing a counselor. Good luck!

  3. silver_dragon_girl says:

    Dude, from a female perspective you sound like a catch. FYI. I know it sucks when things are moving slowly and you feel “stuck” in a situation- I felt that way for half of 2011 and the first three months of 2012- but the truth is, time DOES pass eventually, and you DO make progress. Are there any small things you can do to make you feel like you’re making more progress toward your goals? Maybe take an extra class next semester or over the summer?

    Honestly, I think it says a lot of excellent things about you that you’re saving money and being financially responsible by living at home and using work to pay for your grad school. Plus, you’re in grad school! Do you know how many guys *say* they’re “going to go back to school” and never do? How many people talk and talk and talk about moving up and on in the world, and then go out and buy a new car instead? Be proud of yourself for what you’re doing.

  4. I don’t want to turn this into another generation debate, because god knows that’s a sensitive subject. But it sounds like this guy has a lot of symptoms of the generalizations we make for the 20’s crowd. He feels like a failure because he’s not raking in $100k the year after he graduated. He wasn’t handed the job he was promised as long as he went to college, and he has the impression his girlfriend will (which, she won’t, it just sounds like she’s worked hard for it and/or got lucky, plus it’s just an internship). He’s being forced to put in the grunt work for a few years so he can move on to bigger and better things. Guess what buddy, all the successful people of the world today started out right where you are today. Shit rolls down hill, and you’re still at base camp. You’re taking the right steps to build a better future for yourself, but that doesn’t come overnight. You are not looking at the bigger picture at all. You’re very much on the short game right now, and if that is going to be your measurement of worth, then you’re right – you’ll be a failure. But what about five years from now? Ten? Does that graduate degree and your current work history allow you to slide into a job you deem more successful? Probably. It is very, very difficult to be a true failure in your 20s. You just haven’t had enough time to reach that tipping point. You have a good 40 years of work ahead of you, fucking pace yourself.

    In regards to your relationship. Dude, have a little respect for yourself. Dumping a girl because she might have better employment prospects is like quitting at halftime because you’re losing. There are no measurements when it comes to relationships. It’s not ‘you’ vs. ‘her’. She’s not your competitor. She’s not one of the guys in the locker room where you all whip your dicks out to see who is bigger. She’s your partner. What’s good for her is good for you.

    1. “She’s your partner. What’s good for her is good for you.”
      This is just perfect.

    2. People tend to attribute those expectations to a sense of entitlement, but I think that lot of it comes from the fact that they were deliberately deceived. Colleges grossly overstate the value of their degrees. The media tends to depict a world in which all college grads are affluent suburbanites. And boomer parents don’t seem to have picked up on the fact that a college degree is no longer a ticket to the upper middle class. So it’s not surprising that people in their twenties are unprepared for reality, they’ve never been presented a realistic view of the world.

      1. I don’t think they were deliberately deceived in so much as what college stands for has just changed. An undergraduate study is essentially an extension of high school today. It has become necessary as the bare minimum in obtaining any sort of job with an okay pay, health benefits, and hopefully starting a 401k. College was different for our parents. A degree wasn’t necessary unless you really wanted to be a prized ticket. Today, finding someone with an undergrad degree is a dime a dozen. If you want to be specialized in a specific field, then you get your graduate degree in it. So I think the “value” in a college degree is that you at least get to stand in line to fight for a job. It was the same “value” as graduating high school for our parents. Times have just changed and expectations are just higher. I don’t think there was any deliberate deception, but just an evolution of society.

      2. iseeshiny says:

        The difference being that going to high school can be free, while finishing that “extension of high school” cost money that not everyone can afford.

      3. That is true, but I don’t think it makes the situation any less real. I think the reason student loans and tuition prices are hot topics politically right now is for that very reason – dropping $200k on college is an expensive proposition just to get you to a baseline where you can compete for jobs. And I think it is for that reason that people feel they should be getting more from a college degree – you drop that kind of money on something and you want to see results. But unfortunately, our generation is in a tough position because we are still adapting to this evolution of our society, and there is no answer to the difficult question of “how to keep up.”

      4. Well you know that, but schools certainly aren’t telling these kids that they should spend something in the neighborhood of $100K so that they have a chance to get the job their dad’s did out of high school.

        There’s already litigation emerging in this area because it’s evident that schools have been misrepresenting the earnings of their grads. Law schools especially are notorious for this.

        I work on a campus, so I am familiar w/ the sorts of promises that are made, and implied, to students. They really are being sold a bill of goods. I don’t blame the academics for this, it’s the administrators. Colleges have a perverse incentive to devalue their own credentials. But to do this they need to misrepresent the value of those credentials. Students are the perfect marks, because they don’t have the experience to know any better.

      5. My first year of school, the teachers said we could expect to be making no less than $30/hr right after graduation. Well, even after I went to grad school, my first job only paid me $9/hr. I had to fight to get $12/hr after a year, and now, 4 years after graduation I’m making about $17/hr. I’m trying to be grateful that I have a full time job with benefits and a retirement plan, but this is SOOOOO NOT WHAT I WAS LEAD TO BELIEVE! And yeah, sometimes it makes me feel like I must be a failure.

      6. What field are you in if you don’t mind my asking?

      7. I have a degree in Business Marketing and my graduate degree in Advertising Media Management (strategic planning and buying).

      8. Avatar photo dandywarhol says:

        I hear you, girl. I started out at my current job at $9/hour and now have been bumped up to $11/hour. Still sucks because i have no benefits. But yeah, we were lead to believe a totally different story too.

      9. AndreaMarie says:

        So true!! The amount one spends on college tuition has no baring on what one will make out of college. Alot of students think if they invest $100K on a degree that that some how qualifies them to a large starting salary. Someone who send $10K on college and someone who spent $100K are seen as equal in the job market. They are both entry level which gets you an entry level salary. I started out in 2007 with $38,000. And I owed $40,000 in loan debt. Employers do not care about your debt. They don’t owe you the money to pay it back.

        And students today truly have an expectation of making $60K right out of school. But we all start at the very bottom.

      10. “And students today truly have an expectation of making $60K right out of school.”
        Not if they’ve read 1 newspaper in the last 4 years.

    3. I 100% agree with you. It sucks to get out of college and get a crappy job making less than 30K a year (in my case), but you have to start somewhere! And frankly, in this economy, having a job at all is great! And to have a job that will reimburse you for college is even greater!! Everyone has to start somewhere, and where the LW is starting from sounds like a really good place, to me.

      1. Avatar photo dandywarhol says:

        Yessss I am in the same boat!! Phew its good to hear I’m not the only one, although it sucks. I make under $30,000 but I have to tell myself its a full-time job, plus its actually in the field I want!! (photography) But yes, you have to start somewhere right?

    4. this is SO TRUE!!

      I went to the culinary institute of america, and we at the CIA think that we are gods answer to the world’s food needs- seriously. they pump into us so badly how we are the best of the best, and we are gonig to be leading the industry someday, bla bla bla…

      however, i had some very good instructors who absolutely told us about reality. how we will be paid very little, work terrible hours, work every holiday, and never be thanked for the jobs we do. they spelled it out for us, and to those chefs i am so thankful! it gave me good perspective for the “real world” i entered after graduation.

      again, however, I only got an associates degree. I chose not to get my bacchelors at that school, and now my friends who stayed on just graduated a couple months ago. you would not BELIEVE what they thought they would be making right out of college. i actually had a friend call me and ask if there were any open positions available at the country club i worked at- but he wanted about $25 an hour. i actually, truely, laughed at him. openly. i told him that he was not going to find that anywhere. and i know he didnt!!

      its crazy.

  5. The LW may want to consider whether his expectations of the post-college world were out of whack.

    Even good careers are going seem mundane soon enough. The workaday world really isn’t very glamorous and it’s certainly not as enjoyable as college. It seems like a lot of people feel let down once they leave school, expecting that their lives were going to take off. But that’s not reality.

    1. It’s kind of like those people that had withdrawal symptoms after seeing Avatar in 3D, haha. Seriously though I do think people are let down about the work world post-college. The sooner people find hobbies outside of work the better off they’ll be! If it isn’t the subject matter it’s the people, if it isn’t the people it’s the politics…and so on.

  6. ReginaRey says:

    This really, really resembles my past relationship. And I can write a NOVEL about this, LW, but I’ll attempt to keep it as short(ish) as possible.

    First of all, keep in mind that your girlfriend is still in college. College is this amazing, beautiful little bubble. Your full-time job is studying, spending time with friends, and enriching your life in all of these new and exciting ways. Your girlfriend is excelling at something that honestly does NOT resemble the “real world.” It’s great that she’s a great student, very involved in activities, and has landed a stellar internship. I did all of those things, too, in college, and while it helped me land a job when I graduated…it didn’t prevent me from having most of the thoughts that you’re having now. So keep in mind, comparing yourself to someone who still lives in a bubble isn’t QUITE fair. She’ll learn the realities of the real world soon enough, and she’ll learn that it’s a lot less glamorous and exciting than college was.

    That said, I agree with Wendy that this has NOTHING to do with your girlfriend, and everything to do with how you feel about your current situation. What you’re going through is called a “Quarter Life Crisis.” There are books about it, and I recommend you pick one up. You’re out of college, living at home with your parents, working at a real job that isn’t all that exciting, and you’re probably thinking “Seriously? Is this…..it? Is this all there is?” And yeah, often that can’t exactly live up to the fun and excitement you had in college.

    I have, and currently am, experiencing these feelings. I LOVED college, and I loved being an overachieving student, and so the “real world” was a particularly hard adjustment for me. But what I’ve learned over time is that feeling like a failure is all relative, and you have the power to NOT feel that way. I think you need to give some long and hard thought to what you really want to do with your life. What inspires you? What makes you passionate? What would you choose to do if money weren’t exactly an object? It’s your life, and it’s yours to live, so you don’t need to feel confined to what you’re doing now, if it makes you feel like a failure. What would make you feel like a success? Spend some time brainstorming that, and figure out how you can incorporate that into your life NOW.

    So, what do you do about your relationship? Well, I know what’ll happen if you keep thinking you’re a failure. She’s going to start believing you. My boyfriend had the exact same issues. He couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do. He wasn’t happy where he was working. He envied that I had already kind of figured out what I wanted to do, and that I was so passionate about doing it. And guess what? It drove a wedge between us. I didn’t WANT to be with someone who thought they were a failure. I wanted someone with a healthy sense of direction and self-esteem, and someone with the ambition and motivation to get where they wanted to be. It was a HUGE turn off dating someone who was honestly so…pathetic about themselves! It’s not sexy to put yourself down. It’s just not.

    So yeah, maybe you DO need to be single. I think you need to spend some time working your way out of this quarter life crisis, and figuring out what would fulfill you in life. Work with a counselor, if that’s what it takes. Brainstorm and make plans and change those plans over and over again until you’re satisfied. If you’re not content to feel the way you do now, then light a fire under your ass. Because dude, THAT is what a woman will respect and love. Trust.

    1. ReginaRey says:

      And God, not to make this any longer, but it really doesn’t matter if other people tell you “You’re not a failure” if that’s how you FEEL. Success is really, really relative. For some, doing what you’re doing now is the height of success! And that’s great, if it makes them fulfilled and satisfied. But if the life you live now isn’t cutting it for you, then there’s nothing wrong with changing it up.

    2. kerrycontrary says:

      My brother calls the year-2 years after college the “dream crushing years”. I didn’t go through that thankfully, but I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with it.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        From what I’ve experienced, and from what I’ve seen of a LOT of my friends…it’s completely true. And quite sad.

      2. I always had a fairly good realistic assumption of what life after college was going to be like so I don’t think my dreams got crushed. For me the first few years after college were a period of mourning. Mourning over the loss of being out of college, mourning over the loss of having so much free time, mourning over having little of my own financial responsibilities, etc.

      3. I’m in law school. They are the soul crushing years

      4. Guy Friday says:

        Amen to that. And I actually enjoyed the law school I went to, but NEVER. AGAIN.

      5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I actually loved law school – LOVED IT. Best 3 years of my life. It’s been the actual practice of law that has been less rewarding. But I also have always loved school.

      6. Avatar photo dandywarhol says:

        Yep, I agree with that. I have described my current job as dream-crushing, and I am 2 years out of college in May. The real world blows.

  7. I’m not entirely sure why you consider yourself a failure. Nothing is your letter reads as anything less than a successful university graduate, gainfully employed and furthering his educations – eventually on someone else’s dime (magic). Honey it sounds like you are trying to sabotage yourself with unrealistic expectations. Your issues seem to be with your own self esteem and self worth. It’s time to see a counselor as to why you have unreasonable expectations on yourself. I have had ex-boyfriends have issues with my success and tell me that they were intimidated and for the love of me I couldn’t understand it. My success took nothing away from them or their own successes in life. But overridingly, I couldn’t understand it because if I thought I was too good for you I would never have been with you in the first place. If I picked you then it was because I considered you my equal – but if you are now telling me I was wrong then… eventually I’ll come to believe you. Is this what you want? If you are proud of your girl friend and happy for her then leave it there. If you are jealous or resentful then you are going to need even more of that therapy.
    As for comparing yourself to others – that is a loser’s game before you even hit the start line. There is always going to be someone smarter, wealthier, taller, fitter, more attractive, funnier – and there is always going to be someone less intelligent, uglier, less successful etc. And none of that has anything to do with YOU.

  8. “Am I being too selfish for not wanting to be with her because I don’t feel worthy enough?”Feeling Like a Failure

    I didn’t read “selfish” in your letter at all. I also didn’t get “failure” from it. You and your girlfriend aren’t even playing the same game right now so the comparisons between your accomplishments and hers are unfair.

    You’ve secured a full time job in an economy where many others are not able to do that. You’re already getting your bills paid off and furthering your education. You’re many steps ahead of your girlfriend and in a much more difficult phase of your life than she is. You can be proud of yourself and proud of your girlfriend.

    If it comes down to it that you’re just very unhappy with your life and having trouble viewing your current situation as simply a means to an end then it’s time to formulate a plan to change the things you don’t like. You’re young and life is full of options.

    But is being with the girl you love really one of the things you want to change? Will breaking up with her make you happier with yourself?

    1. iseeshiny says:

      And to the list of awesome stuff about himself he can add “has what it takes to land an awesome girlfriend.”

      To everyone who is insecure because of their awesome SO who is all, “What are they even doing with me? I’m not good enough for them!” I say: It’s cause there’s something about you they like, duh. You’ve got something going for you right there.

  9. I think this is time for one of those things that are so difficult for most men in relationships (including me): the open and honest talk with your girlfriend.

    As everyone above me has said, your situation isn’t one of failure at all. It’s one of perseverance and making the best of what you have. Obviously, though, you still feel like a failure because you haven’t met your expectations of yourself… and while it’s fine to have goals, it’s not fine to assume that not achieving them due to circumstances beyond your control and then adapting to what the world has thrown in your path is “failure.” But… that is how you feel, and that is to a large degree all that matters

    So, I recommend, instead of just “setting your girlfriend free,” that you tell her of these feelings, and tell her that, above all else, what you want to feel is worthy of her. Tell her that you’re not able to feel that way right now, but that you hope to feel that way at some point and that you are doing your best to get there.

    I am guessing that she will appreciate you being open about your fears but will not interpret them as a weakness, because instead of giving into a self-fulfilling prophesy of being unworthy of – and therefore losing – her, you’d instead be sharing your fears with her and assuring her that your goal is to be a man she’d want to be with. I think it’s pretty likely that she’ll confirm that, by having that talk with her and by doing exactly what you’re doing, you already are.

    1. But the goal of “being a man she’d want to be with” is misguided…she wants to be with him as he already is.
      He clearly has self-esteem issues he has to work out. I agree with you a conversation has to be had with the girlfriend especially since he has already suggested a break. Telling her he suspects he has set unrealistic expectations of himself and is working on a way to deal with them is one thing – sharing his struggle to fashioning himself into what he thinks she needs him to be is unnecessarily burdensome to her, and ultimately a waste of time for him. None of what is going on with him has anything to do with her.

      1. None of what is going on with him has anything to do with her.

        None of what is going on is her fault, but that’s entirely different than saying it has nothing to do with her. It is the core problem with the relationship (based on the letter, of course), and I think it is important that he share his concerns with her. His chief concern seems to be that he is not worthy of her. I don’t think he should say she’s too good for a poor fool such as him. I just think he should honestly explain why he’s feeling distant – surely it shows – and what his motivation is.

      2. I know that is what he wrote – but I think his feeling of ennui and dissatisfaction with his life would still exist if she wasn’t in the picture tomorrow.

      3. Of course it would, but it seems to me to be silly to just abandon the relationship because of it, so I’m trying to suggest an approach which might not only improve the bond between the LW and his girlfriend but also provide him some support.

        I don’t think moving forward by himself is going to make him more likely to feel better, and neither do I feel that he’d be doing the right thing to just break up with her. I think he should discuss it with her. What’s the worst possible outcome? Surely it’s better than just dumping her preemptively, which would lead to a life of what-ifs.

      4. Oh I agree with you – I don’t think he should abandon his relationship. The reason I don’t think he should is because the relationship is not the problem – what he is feeling has nothing to do with it/her. I know in his head his girlfriend is the epitome of what he is not… but his thinking is flawed. Address the reality of the situation – don’t try and rope the girlfriend into the illusion of inequity or the struggle to regain it.

      5. …don’t try and rope the girlfriend into the illusion of inequity or the struggle to regain it.

        But isn’t this one of the core benefits of a good relationship – the ability to share your fears and doubts with your partner and to have them at least be aware of them? I’m not suggesting that the gf would need to decide instead to start working at McDonalds or should find a way to get the LW into a better job. I’m just saying that, if there is any underlying foundation to the relationship at all, he should be able to share these feelings and concerns with her instead of breaking up with her, waiting until he feels 100% successful, then looking for a partner.

      6. That is why I said he can talk to her about the hit to his self-esteem when the real world didn’t match expectations – but couching it in terms of him trying to be a man deserving of her puts undue pressure on her and is a disservice to him since he is already the man she wants.

      7. It also gives her the opportunity to tell him how she feels about it, because the truth of the matter is that he does feel unworthy of her.

        Agreed, he feels disappointed in where he is in life and would feel that way even without her, but I think that feeling is magnified by what he perceives as a a gap between her “value to society” and his.

        I don’t see the “undo pressure” on her at all. He needs support, she is his partner, and honestly expressing his fears should not be a bad thing. If he told her it was all her fault – and he wouldn’t – then, agreed, that’s wrong and pressure. But nothing in the letter indicates that he’s going to dump some perceived burden on her. He’d just be vulnerable and honest, and she can reply in the same way.

        There is very little difference between this situation and one in which the person is clinically depressed. In both cases, I think it’s best for the partner to know what is going on so they can filter the behavior of the other person properly instead of growing to resent it or being confused by it.

        If he said that he were depressed instead of feeling unworthy, I don’t think the advice would be to dump the girlfriend.

      8. I never said to dump the girlfriend (???) I agreed with you saying he shouldn’t. I get what you are saying about sharing your woes with your partner but telling someone “I feel I’m not good enough for you and I want to make myself into a man that is worthy of you” DOES put pressure on the girlfriend. You are tying your woe to HER. Will she now have to lie about her ambitions to make sure she doesn’t add to his angst? Will she think twice about sharing her successes since now they carry additional baggage for her boyfriend? Will she have to second guess how he will take news of her accomplishments? Why go through that at all – how about the LW gets a handle on what really is at play with him? And share THAT with the girlfriend and let her support him in whatever way she can that does not have her diminishing her own achievements to save his feelings? But to each their own.

      9. “but I think that feeling is magnified by what he perceives as a a gap between her “value to society” and his.”
        here is the burden you are looking for. I agree with Firestar in that this isn’t at all about her and if he can’t unframe that in his own head or in this proposed conversation I don’t think it will be a productive ‘honest’ conversation. It will be what firestar says, an invitation for the gf to hide her accomplishments for fear of upsetting the LW. If he could talk to her about really what is going on, his fears about HIMself and his expectations I think that would be a more productive conversation.

  10. I love everybody’s responses so far, and yeah, LW…just so you know, if you’re a failure then so are a lot of other people. I’m in a steady job that has no advancement options living at home because of finances/because I want to find another job soon and don’t know where it will be (so should probably wait to move?)

    Like everyone’s saying, your girlfriend’s not in the real world yet. Maybe you’re looking at her college experience thinking “I should have tried harder…I should have been more involved in school a few years ago or found a relevant job…” But whatever you did or didn’t do in your undergrad years– it has little effect on now. Don’t worry so much.

  11. sarolabelle says:

    I really don’t know any hated companies right now….except maybe Wal-Mart but that might just be a southern thing.

    Anyway, it doesn’t seem like we can say anything to the LW to get his self esteem up. That has to come from within.

    1. Avatar photo call-me-hobo says:

      Maybe he works for a big time Wall Street company that also specializes in puppy coats.

    2. BofA or EA Games were my first 2 thoughts.

      1. evanscr05 says:

        My husband works for BofA. You are correct in the hatred for them, most of which I find unjustified from a customer view point and completely justified from an employee viewpoint.

      2. sarolabelle says:

        I used to work for BofA (teller) and I bank there now….I don’t hate them nor do I know anyone else that hates them….as for the others mentioned – well it looks like I need to watch the news more.

      3. evanscr05 says:

        My husband is a branch manager in a very understaffed branch, and as the only permitted salaried individual, where no other employee is permitted to work more than 40 hours a week, he ends up doing 2 or 3 peoples jobs IN ADDITION to his own (so, of course, it’s impossible to get it all done), working 6 days a week, and at a minimum 60 hours. His boss has actually had the audacity to tell him to “invent” time to get it all done. They cut their bonuses constantly but refuse any real salary growth. His pay is definitely FAR below what he, and other managers, should be making for as much as they have to deal with, as many hours as they put in, and as hard as they work. That said, he’s happy to do what he has to do, loves being a manager, and has a great team that he’s constantly trying to make sure feel noticed and appreciated, but his problem is the complete hypocrisy of the policies. They are completely inefficient but any suggested change in the status quo gets you nowhere. I’m appalled at the massive waste of paper they use on completely useless things for a company that supposedly wants to go green, the lack of IT support they provide for employees that would do nothing but enhance their producitivity and profitability, and the lack of support managers get from higher ups. They endure constant bitching by customers but have no real power, so he just gets yelled at from above and below. It’s draining, and I’m not surprised they have such high turnover. I spend a lot of time with him and his employees (and with his old coworkers from before he moved up to management) and there is a lot of hands up in the air in frustration because nothing they ever do is right. I don’t think he even knew the full extent of the bullshit until he was promoted from an assistant manager to manager.

        I’ve been a customer with them for many years, and as a customer, overall, I like them and have no desire to change. The products meet my needs and I’ve never had any major issues.

      4. How does one go about “inventing” time? Because I could really use some extra to get everything done.

      5. Lots of people hate BofA because of the morgage meltdown and hearing stories of bad foreclosures on the news and that kinda stuff. They’re viewed as being evil and greedy and sholdering much of the blame for the recession. Some of it’s justified and some of it is just exaggerated.

        I personally like BofA as a customer because they do a lot of things that are helpful to me, such as their bill pay service, 35% off turbotax, the shop safe thing with credit cards for online purchases, etc.

      6. EA Games ?? – why do people hate EA Games?

      7. because they churn out a lot of crappy games and are seen as being a greedy gaming company. Some of that hate is a little unfair, but some of it is also justified. The thing I don’t like about them is that they buy up good IP/franchises and produce lots of crappy sequels. Command and Conquer was the one that got me. After EA bought out Westwood studios the C&C games that followed were TERRIBLE.

        EA won the most hated company in the US this year (the beat BofA) according to a poll of 250,000 people (forget the website).

      8. Hmm. I have friends that work for EA and I always thought it would be one of those places I could see myself wanting to work at. But I don’t know the dynamics of the company too well.

      9. Right??

      10. Sorry, this was in response to Leroy! My first thought was why would anyone hate EA games? I was thinking more like….BP oil? (maybe if this was still 2009?)

      11. Could be? could be? COULD BE?!?!? Don’t you know that I’m right about EVERYTHING?!?! Sheesh get a clue will ya?

      12. Good call. They are kind of cheap. I’d done some work for them, on Dead Space, and they acted like it was a charity project.

    3. AndreaMarie says:

      I don’t know why I immediately thought Goldman Sachs. And if thats the case then no sir, you are not a failure. Regardless of what you may hear in the news, amongst Wall Street, Goldman is still the golden child.And the perception is they hire the best of the best. And one who has worked there could work anywhere.

      And most of the haters would piddle in their pants if they received an offer.

  12. Avatar photo Cleopatra_30 says:

    Honestly when i read your letter, i didn’t see a failure, a failure would be someone who ISN’T in school, and/or DOESN’T have a job. But you have those, you are doing things you know will help you in the future. Yes you may not have the same opportunities/privileges as your GF, but you are simply reaching them in a different way. And to be honest i think it is better this way, as you will go through all kinds of trials and tribulations that will help shape you as a person and make you stronger. Now the one thing i did notice was that you have openly stated that you are proud of your GF and her successes, but has she said the same for you? Has she told you that it will all work out in the end, and that SHE is proud of YOU for putting up with a job you don’t enjoy and sacrificing some basic luxuries?

    The main premise of my comment is that, yes you may not have had the same luck as your GF, but at least you are making an effort to make your life better, and in the end it will all work out. You will be able to look back on your life and see that those challenges really helped you get to where ever you may end up in the future, and a good future at that! Good luck!:D

  13. iseeshiny says:

    LW, to what everyone so far has said I would just like to add that my husband can probably relate at least a little bit to where you’re coming from.

    I’m not as amazingly accomplished as your girlfriend, but I do have a decent job and good prospects, am pretty sharp, decent-looking, etc, etc, and anyone looking at me from the outside would go, hey, a success. My husband is seven years older than me and works a blue collar job. That’s not to say he’s not successful, but he is a man who works with his hands while his father was a civil architect, and I think he still has issues about that. One day while we still dating he asked me what I was doing with him, and outlined all the reasons I was amazing. I love having people tell me how amazing I am, so naturally I let him go on until it became evident that with every awesome quality about me he was listing he was depressing himself more and more, like all the amazing things about me somehow negated all the really fantastic stuff about him that had attracted me in the first place. So I had to interrupt him and remind him that by the time he was my age, he’d escaped a war zone, lived in three countries, visited more than a dozen, spoke three languages etc etc. and was one of the most interesting, funny, loving people I’d ever met. And he thought I was going to leave him because he wore a uniform instead of a suit to work.

    My point here is, her awesomeness doesn’t make you less awesome. When two awesome people get together, their awesomeness is exponentially increased. Don’t fear the awesome. Embrace it.

    1. Embrace the awesome, indeed.

    2. “My point here is, her awesomeness doesn’t make you less awesome. When two awesome people get together, their awesomeness is exponentially increased. Don’t fear the awesome. Embrace it.”

      That was one of the wisest things I’ve heard. It made me all chilly. I’ll pass it on.

    3. iseeshiny says:

      Shucks, thanks. Also he plays guitar. How awesome is that? 😛

  14. Guy Friday says:

    I get where you’re coming from on this, Wendy, and I don’t entirely disagree with the bulk of your response, but I feel like it may be a bit harsh to semi-categorize the LW as someone who “welcomes her failures and fears her success.” I didn’t get that at all from this letter; I got that he was happy for all of the great things she’s done but just wanted to raise himself to the level he perceived she was at, not lower her down to the level he sees himself at.

    Listen, LW, I get where you’re coming from. And unfortunately in this day and age there’s this societal perception, wrong as it may be, that if you don’t go from high school to college to grad school to high paying job one right after the other that somehow you’ve failed. But I want you to stop for a moment and pretend that one of your friends was at the point you are right now life-and-career-wise. If they asked you whether they were a failure, you wouldn’t even blink before you told them no. You’d point out that living at home while working a paying job and pursuing graduate school is an incredibly common thing for people to do, and that your friend is actually being very responsible by not incurring further long-term debt and screwing up his future. You’d note to him that he’s found a way to subsidize grad school, even if it means working at a crappy job, and that the positive of not having further student loans far outweighs the negative of working there. And, most importantly, you’d remind him that in 35 or 40 years, when he’s retiring from that dream job he got after finishing his graduate degree, he’s going to look back on the first 5 or 6 years out of college as character-building, as a frame to how much he wanted that dream job.

    I know that it’s probably going to take more than just a random post on an advice website to have you realize this, but I promise you that you are NOT a failure. In fact, quite honestly, I’d argue that you’re more successful right now than at least 80% of the population out there because you have the foresight to make smart long-term choices and the motivation and hunger to not be satisfied with your current status. So, seriously, give yourself a break, OK? Nobody’s expecting you to be a millionaire by the time you’re 30, or at least they shouldn’t. So the question you really need to ask is “Does my girlfriend genuinely look down upon me?” Because if she does, then, yes, you should walk away, but not because you’re a failure; you walk away because she doesn’t respect your (very reasonable and well-thought-out) choices. But if she doesn’t, if she loves you and cares about you and accepts that your place now is not where you’ll always be, then just let her care about you. If you weren’t worthy of people appreciating you, they wouldn’t. So if they do, it’s because you are.

    1. This is really good advice, but I just wanted to say, I don’t think Wendy meant anything bad about him with the “welcomes her failures and fears her success” comment. I don’t think anyone thinks that the LW actually wishes his girlfriend to fail, on the contrary he’s very happy for her, but the problem is that if he continues to feel this way about himself, then it is only going to get worse as she succeeds further. And eventually she may get to the point where she is afraid to tell him about things she as accomplished for fear of him feeling worse about his own situation.

  15. ReginaRey says:

    So the dialogue in this thread is proving a fascinating read to me. I don’t want to start a huge debate or anything, but I would like to point out something that, to me anyway, is significant.

    I think there’s definitely a lot of deflated expectations in college students graduating today. The real world is definitely not as fun or glamorous as college, and doing the grunt work to work your way up is just part of the game. You don’t get to graduate and *boom* be amazingly successful. So I agree with everyone who is saying that he shouldn’t consider himself a failure. He’s being smart — Living at home and saving money, working somewhere that will pay for his grad school education, etc.

    But, on the other hand, I think there’s a fine line to be walked between giving someone a healthy dose of perspective, and convincing them to continue on a path that doesn’t “do it” for them. I think the whole “You’re lucky to have a job in this economy! No one’s successful right away! You’ve gotta pay your dues! This is what the real world is like, so deal with it!” attitude is what has, and continues, to keep people stuck in a status quo that drains the life out of them.

    It took me quite a while after I graduated to realize that “I don’t have to keep doing this forever.” I HATE the office environment. I hate how meaningless it feels, and how people just come to work every day, go home, eat, sleep and repeat. It gives me anxiety. And for a long, long time, I just thought “this is the real world, this is how life is.” But my thought process has changed and evolved, and I now realize that if I’m not content to live a life that doesn’t fulfill me, why waste my time? To put it very bluntly, we live life for a little while and then we die. If we’re all going to die, then I don’t think we should be content to spend our precious life feeling bored or unfulfilled or discontent.

    I’m not advocating being financially irresponsible, and I’m definitely not advocating a sense of entitlement. For some dreams to be fulfilled, you’ve GOT to do the grunt work, and you’ve got to endure some shittiness before things get better. Maybe the LW has dreams of being a CEO, and this is how he gets there. And if that’s the case, then a healthy dose of perspective is what he likely needs. But if his sense of failure is more than that; if it’s a general dissatisfaction for being a “cog” in the “wheel of the real world,” then in my opinion, he doesn’t have to keep accepting it. It will require a lot of hard work, effort an planning to get somewhere else, but it can be done.

    I dunno, I’m just very, very disenchanted of late with “the real world” and all of the talk of “this is just how things are.” I mean, in a way, that’s an antiquated mindset. “The way things are” used to be “Women don’t vote. That’s just the way it is,” and “Gays can’t marry. That’s just how things are.” But I’m not really content to live my life NOT questioning some of that mentality. Anyway, just some thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      “Maybe the LW has dreams of being a CEO, and this is how he gets there. And if that’s the case, then a healthy dose of perspective is what he likely needs. But if his sense of failure is more than that; if it’s a general dissatisfaction for being a “cog” in the “wheel of the real world,” then in my opinion, he doesn’t have to keep accepting it. ”

      I think this is the real question. How does the LW define success? Or happiness? And everyone has their own individual definition.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        It’s very true. Everyone has a completely different definition of success. It’s really important to define yours individually…not in comparison to other people. When you do that, I think you’ll either be really dissatisfied (like he is) or end up getting stuck somewhere you might not want to be. It’s your life to live, so don’t spend your time worrying about if you’re a success compared to other people or compared to “society’s” notion of success.

    2. I agree. The LW clearly isn’t happy with his current station. If, after reflecting on it, he doesn’t think this is the right path for him he should decide where he’d like to be and formulate a plan to get there. It isn’t’t going to get any easier later on in life to make the change.

      And I think he needs to think long and hard about whether breaking up with his girlfriend is really a step on the road to where he’d like to be and not simply a knee jerk reaction borne out of frustration and unhappiness.

    3. Guy Friday says:

      . . . But you’re not bitter about your current lot in life at all, are you, RR 😉

      Seriously though, I get where you’re coming from. Every once in a while — especially with my wedding coming up — I get a little bitter about where I am now, and I feel like I’m not accomplishing everything I’m supposed to. I mean, my fiancee is a brilliant engineer working for a top company with a clear path of promotion ahead of her, making 50% more a year than I do. And, yeah, I’m a lawyer, and I’m only a few years out of law school, and I have to pay my dues, and I’m practicing in fields (criminal defense, family law, and adult guardianships) that I enjoy, but the firm I’m in has no upward movement to go with. I’m never going to make partner here, because that’s not what you do here. So, basically, I either have to switch to another subfield, or I have to go out on my own, both of which are terrifying thoughts to me.

      But then I think to myself, “I go to work every day with lawyers I love hanging out with, and I get to do a job that matters and that I love doing. So what if I’m not raking in the big bucks?” I have friends that are still several years post-graduation practicing a subfield of law they can’t stand, but they do it to pay the bills. I’m living the life I’ve always wanted to live, albeit without the salary I secretly hoped I’d get 🙂 I can pay my bills, I can sock a little away in an IRA, and I can come home every night to the woman I love more than anything else in the world. And while the job doesn’t pay well, my boss only cares that the work gets done when it needs to get done, meaning that if I score last-minute tickets to a baseball game I can leave work to go if I want. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what matters? Being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say “What I did today matters”?

      I’d never advise the LW to simply suck it up because of a bad economy. I WOULD, however, note that there’s nothing wrong with sticking at his current job long enough to have them pay for his grad school. I don’t know exactly how crappy his job is, but I’d definitely do a cost/benefit balancing test on it. And in general I’d say that it’s not as hard to balance dreams and realities as everyone makes it out to be. The “real world” is a huge place with lots of room for fun and business at the same time. You don’t have to be defined by the job you do; it could just be the thing that gives you the money to use on the thing you really want to be defined by. Plenty of people are office workers who front bands 🙂

      1. From the sound of your second paragraph I’d say you’re a huge success because for me success is defined by the quality of your life, not how much money you make or how many people rank above you at work.

        If you seek out a job where you can make partner do it because being a partner fits in with what you want out of life.

        Best wishes for your up coming wedding.

      2. Guy Friday says:

        Thanks for the well-wishes on the wedding 🙂 And your point was exactly what I meant; by the traditional definition of the legal field I’m far from a success; I work ridiculous hours for very little pay, deal with (for the most part) incredibly ungrateful clients, and have absolutely no prospect of making partner because my boss doesn’t promote anyone that way. But I consider it a successful place in life because the rest of it is clicking so well, so who cares if I’m not where I want to be in my job? If I was making boatloads of cash doing, say, corporate mergers and acquisitions — not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, but it’s TOTALLY not for me — would I really be happier? Probably not, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to take off the 2 weeks I’m about to take off for mental health and honeymoon purposes. I’d rather focus on all the positives than on the one negative.

      3. This is totally the way to look at life. I have yet to meet anyone who wants the epithet to include their occupation.

      4. oops – * their epithet

      5. ReginaRey says:

        Haha! Nooo, I’m not bitter at all! 😉

        In all seriousness, I’ve spent the last 2 years since graduation “paying my dues” at a job that I’ve gradually come to loathe. I’ve definitely become bitter over it, but I’m grateful for it. Without having experienced this, I may never have summoned the motivation to get to where I REALLY want to be (being a life coach/counselor/therapist and owning my own practice). And where I really want to be is no walk in the park, clearly — It involves a shit ton of hard work and sacrifice and intelligence to get there — but to me, it doesn’t SOUND like work because I know I’ll enjoy doing it immensely.

        So yeah, I certainly don’t advocate NOT working hard. But I DO advocate working hard *toward the right thing.* And I think this LW should, in particular, make sure what he’s working toward is really what he wants.

      6. Not to hijack the thread or anything, but a lot of what you’re saying hits close to home for me, and I’m going through the same things right now. 
        Long story short, I went to art school, worked for a few years as a graphic designer at a couple of sign shops, and somehow stumbled into mechanical design. I work for NASA, making/drafting the pieces and parts that make up instruments, test equipment and whatnot. This is probably someone’s dream job, and while parts of it are really, really cool (something I worked on will one day be in space! I get to see the inside of a cryogenics lab?!), long-term, it’s just not for me. I don’t like being in an office, have zero desire to do this level of math/engineering, and if I could figure out some way for people to pay me to sit in my studio and melt glass all day, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 
        Which goes back to how you define success. To some people, just saying “I work for NASA” automatically equates success.  For me, this is the day job that pays the bills so I can do my art in my spare time. I’d be much happier and fulfilled  in a shop/studio space, buried up to my elbows in whatever medium I happen to be working in that day.  Maybe one day…

      7. lets_be_honest says:

        criminal defense, family law, and adult guardianships

        Wow! I can’t decide if those are dream fields or just frightening, life sucking fields. You must have an interesting caseload every day.

        Anyway, love your advice. I wish more people looked at life like that.

      8. Guy Friday says:

        You know, here’s the thing about it:

        -Family law is, of the three, the most soul-sucking, only because I usually end up representing one party when the other one is unrepresented, so I always get accused of trying to screw everyone over no matter how I do it.

        -Criminal defense (by which I mean all felonies but rape, murder, and armed robbery; misdemeanors, juvenile delinquencies, appeals, and revocation hearings) is my passion, and it can be tiring sometimes, but the vast majority of my cases — I’d say with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 in the last 3 years — are all public-defender appointments. So generally speaking my clients are poor, uneducated, and struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. Occasionally I’ll get clients who are just douchebags, but by and large we’re talking about either (a) people who are so addicted to some substance(s) that they can’t even stop themselves from committing crimes to feed their habit, or (b) people who commit an act of domestic violence in the heat of the moment and, by the time I’ve gotten appointed, realize what a terrible thing they’ve done and are terrified of losing everything they’ve worked to build in the relationship. I’m not saying I condone crime or criminals, but when I get to be the one person in these people’s lives who isn’t going to judge them or hate them, who’s going to help them become better versions of themselves, it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. And when clients know that they can trust me to be on their side, that’s when they’re going to call me when they screw up, which lets me be the middleman to help them turn themselves in or fix the slip-up before it gets too bad, which benefits everyone. And, frankly, it gives me peace of mind to know that the people I help aren’t getting lifetimes in prison when what would help them most is treatment and a probation agent looking over their shoulder to give them someone to lean on when they screw up in the future.

        -But adult guardianship cases, THAT’S where I really get to help. I’m talking about people under guardianships or in protective placements: elderly people with dementia, those with mental retardation, etc. In every case I’ve had, they’re always so glad to see me and be friendly with me, and they’re honest, and there’s no hidden agendas because often times they’re simply incapable of doing it. And it lets me have hearings like the one I had this afternoon: an 85 year old woman who was too proud to admit that she needed help and wasn’t as sharp as she used to be, who got evicted with her 83 year old husband from their apartment and were living in their car. The County put her and her husband in separate nursing homes, but all she wanted was to live with her husband. So, I found a nursing home (technically a community-based residential facility, but whatever) willing to take both of them, did all the legwork in getting the paperwork filed so their benefits would cover it, and presented it at the hearing today. It gave the County cover because it was a facility committing to keeping them (meaning they didn’t have to supervise it), and it gave my client and her husband the opportunity to live together again. Everyone won. You should have seen the hug she gave me after the hearing 🙂

        (Sorry. I know I’m long-winded about this stuff, but I REALLY love this stuff!)

      9. Oh oh oh! I know this is completely OT and has nothing to do with the letter (sorry lw) but can you give maybe just a general explanation of adult guardianship? I know it probably differs from state to state and whether it’s guardian of the estate or guardian of the person but just a general idea of what a guardian for a developmentally disabled adult can do would be great. I’m trying not to be too specific so it doesn’t come across like I’m trying to get free legal advice. If doing this ventures into the territory of doing for free what you get paid for though then just ignore.

      10. Guy Friday says:

        Not a problem 🙂 Adult guardians essentially step into the decision-making role of the adult — who, for the sake of using the terminology I’m supposed to use, I’ll call the “ward” — who can’t make decisions for him or herself. The breakdown of what rights the ward gets to retain versus what rights are given to the guardian vary for each individual case, and can vary even further within the case depending on whether it’s decided that the ward has enough coherence left to have input into the decision or whether it’s solely the guardian’s call. By “rights”, I mean the kind of basic decisions we make every day: what to do with our money, what kind of medical care we get (and what medications we do and don’t take), whether we get to vote or get married or divorced. In some cases, guardians may even take over the authority to decide whether or not the person can even apply for a license or sue another person (which, coincidentally, is why we have so much elder abuse in this country: guardians abuse the ward and then decide not to file against themselves).

        Essentially, if you’ve ever seen a Power of Attorney or Healthcare Power of Attorney before, that’s what they’re for. We have guardianship and protective placement hearings when either (a) the ward has no PoA or HPoA available, or (b) those documents exist but are defective in some way (as was the case for yesterday’s client, who had an HPoA where the agents — her kids — had disconnected numbers and couldn’t be found, and where the HPoA prohibited placement in a nursing home or CBRF, making it effectively unexecutable)

        Sadly, that’s about as bullet point-ish as I can manage to get on this. But if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

      11. Thank you so very much. I’m going through a complicated situation with a developmentally disabled family member right now and have so many questions. Your information has definitely given me a better understanding of guardianship.

    4. I agree ReginaRey, but I think it’s a balance between “this is how the real world is” and “you can change it if you want to”. If the LW is saving money living at home to move to a place he loves and is in grad school and going for free essentially for a path he loves, then he’s going to have to come to terms that working for a company with a bad reputation for a little bit is just a step on his way to better things. I think the disillusion some young twenty-somethings have is that every step in your career is going to be “amazing! inspiring! just perfect!” and it’s not. Sometimes you have to do stuff you hate to get to a place where you can do something you love.

      I also hated being a cog in the machine. I worked in marketing and advertising for three years after college, and cried constantly about how much I hated it. However, during that time I saved up enough money to go back to school and leave that career path and go back to school to open a preschool. I’m in community college after getting a BA which I had to struggle with, because people made me feel like I was going backwards. However, I only need 30 education credits to become a licensed owner so why would I pay more for a graduate degree or second bachelor’s when it’s unnecessary. My path is less than glamorous and I used to be embarrassed to admit what I do when I’m with my lawyer or med school friends, but now I own it, because I know I’m going somewhere.

      So, basically, that’s my roundabout way of saying I think people can tell you to “accept the real world” and still understand that paying your dues sometimes get you to where you want to go.

      1. “people made me feel like I was going backwards.”Mandalee

        You’re headed in the direction that your happiness lies. That all that matters. This notion of forward, upward, etc is ridiculous because it assumes that everyone’s happiness is waiting for them on the top floor in a corner office.

      2. Very true! I know that now, but when I pulled the plug on my fast track, promotion focused marketing career, people weren’t too kind about it. I learned to shut them out and realize that a 80+ traveling, money hungry corner office job is my idea of personal hell. In your 20s I think it’s the struggle between what society and everyone else *thinks* you should do and where you should do, and where you know you’ll be happiest.

      3. ReginaRey says:

        I definitely agree. As I mentioned above to GuyFriday, I’ve also had to learn that not every step toward what you want is going to be awesome or inspiring. As much as I’ve hated the job I’m at now at times, it’s come with benefits that have helped me get where I really want to go.

        My issue is more so in allowing certain status quos and blanket mentalities to get you down, or discourage you from really working toward what you want. I’ve seen a lot of people, particularly those in their young 20s, think that they can’t do what they might really aspire to do, because “That’s not how things work,” or “I couldn’t do that…that’s not what you’re supposed to do.” In my opinion, screw what you’re *supposed* to do! If you really want to do a certain thing…then make a plan to get there. Don’t wallow in self-pity or resign yourself to a certain way of life. But yes, work hard in getting where you want to go and accept that some of it will involve doing things you don’t enjoy at times.

      4. Yes, I agree, especially with this: ‘If you really want to do a certain thing…then make a plan to get there. Don’t wallow in self-pity or resign yourself to a certain way of life.” I think the LW is doing a little bit of wallowing without focusing on where he’s going next or what he wants to do. Instead, he’s focusing on what he hates about now, instead of where he’s going to do next. His girlfriend still has the world at her fingertips, because she hasn’t dealt with rejection or letdown yet, so it’s probably messing with his psyche to be around someone who’s had some relative success in college and still thinks the world is a pot of gold waiting to be claimed when he now knows it’s a more complicated than that.

        He needs to focus on his path and what’s going to make him happy and not let his girlfriend’s success affect him. Easier said then done, obviously, but it needs to happen.

      5. I’m sure some of you have seen me say it before but I always encourage people to strike the word “supposed” from their vocab as best they can. It generally leads to suffering.

      6. quixoticbeatnik says:

        Do you think it is okay to get a certificate from a community college rather than get a Master’s degree? Because I am thinking about going to the local community college and getting my certificate in GIS once I graduate. But I feel like getting a certificate from community college is kind of a ‘step backwards’ since I could get my Master’s in GIS as well. Thoughts?

      7. I think it depends on your area. I spoke with a few old bosses that operated daycare/preschools to see what kind of educational background they had and did research of my own. Everyone pretty much told me they had an associate’s and that’s all they needed. So, in my mind, it made no sense to go to the more prestigious route and get a master’s, because it made no sense financially. I would have only been doing it, so it “sounded better” to absolutely no one who mattered.

        I would ask someone in your field what they think. If a company is looking for the specific skills you acquire through the certificate, it might not matter where it comes from. However, if you’re looking to get your master’s, a master’s certificate program could count towards some of the overall credits needed towards the degree.

    5. Loving your responses today RR, your persepctive is very much where I’m at in my head these days on a lot of things, its nice to see I’m not alone.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        Thanks, that’s heartening to hear. I’m all about challenging “the man” these days, haha!

  16. Your gf isn’t even in the real world yet and you are comparing successes. That is like apples to oranges. Don’t get me wrong, your gf sounds like she has a good shot at success post graduation assuming the economy cards are laid out well for her, but your problem (as Wendy said) is within you. Things don’t happen fast. They take time. You are being proactive in your situation and you just hate the stagnant feeling. I can empathize with that (I had ~$100k in school debt when I graduated 5(?) years back)…but get over it and change your attitude.

    Decide if you can stick it out where you are….who cares about your companies rep…really it’s all political bs anyways…if you can’t, then stop letting that company pay for grad school and find a company you are happy with before finishing your degree…which may take time too! You have the hand you were dealt – you pick how to handle it.

    Also, as a guy that has been single since college it doesn’t get any easier to find someone that you actually want to date (the whole package we’re talking)…maybe it’s my degree in science (highly male dominant here) and my geographical area (not a lot of 20-30’s women in the area), but don’t take a relationship like that for granted due to what should be a short-term insecurity on your part. You may regret that too.

    1. iseeshiny says:

      I was thinking the whole time he was describing her: Um, she’s an undergrad! Wait till she’s working her way through grad school – then compare. Or better yet, don’t compare at all.

      1. silver_dragon_girl says:

        For real. I had a 3.9 in college, worked part-time, did internships, studied abroad, tried to get involved (not much of a leader)…then then I graduated and got a job pushing paper making 25K per year. Most of my friends were the same way. College does not equal real life.

      2. Yeah I graduated college with a lower GPA than that and some of my friends and I’m making more than they are and they were more involved than I was. College success has some impact on life after college, but not as much as some believe. Networking was by far the more important thing and is what set people apart.

      3. so true! i just landed my dream job that i have very, very minimal qualifications for because of networking. seriously!

      4. Me tooo, to a T pretty much. I thought I had the world in front of me, life was going to be great. My boyfriend (now husband) was stuck in our hometown living with his parents. he got an excellent job, I graduated and got a 27K job where I got verbally harassed everyday. College is not the predictor LW thinks it is. The real world sucks.

      5. AndreaMarie says:

        So true. No matter how well someone does or what club they were president of, employeers see all college grads on the same level. Entry level. Everyone has to start at the bottom. Even graduating with a 4.0, and entry level employer will start their career making copies.

      6. I was thinking the saaaame thing.

    2. Well-said. Undergrad is so safe, and often, no one realizes it until their out in the real world looking for anything in their field, even if it means making less than your average bartender.

  17. LW, the other issue in the relationship is the long distance – long distance relationships are their own breed of hard (this site has some great articles on coping with them). You are both young, and if you don’t have a plan and an end-date to the distance, that in itself may be a reason to go your separate ways for now.

  18. Wendy is right. Don’t blame your girlfriend. Not to mention that doing well in college and having a good resume doesn’t really mean she’s ridiculously successful yet. She has just built a good foundation, which is what you’re doing. Look, you’re not a loser who lives with his parents because he is lazy. You’re working toward a good future for yourself. As a woman, I don’t care so much about where a guy is at in life as I do about where he is trying to go. Besides, your girlfriend sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders, so she wouldn’t be with you if she thought you were a failure.

  19. LW, lemme tell you–success in undergrad does not translate to success in the workplace. I was envious of a classmate who was stellar in school. She was involved in clubs, did high level research, was granted a fellowship to get her master’s degree and did all her schoolwork easily while I struggled with the same material.

    After gaining her master’s degree, guess which one of us is working in her field and who couldn’t find a job in hers? Life is not a straight line and it’s not always what you expect. It’s silly to compare your girlfriend to you, and the workaday world will rarely be more exciting than college. You sound like a catch. Slog through it! But if you hate your job and it’s going to be more than 2-3 years until you get your degree, heck, I’d move if that’s what you really want.

  20. Maybe the difference between you and your girlfriend isn’t that she’s a success and you’re not. It’s that she’s happy and you’re not. To quote from the movie City Slickers “Go find your smile.”

  21. As an outside and someone who’s (I’m guessing) about ten years older than you, I can tell you that you don’t sound like a failure. What you sound like is unhappy!

    What I hear from your letter is that your life right now isn’t what you pictured it would be. Not only do you not have the independence of living in your own place but you’re not doing what you wanted to for work, work for a company that you don’t support and yet can’t publicly complain about, and you feel trapped working there because they’re paying for graduate school. First off, though it feels like you don’t have options it’s important to remember that you are choosing to stay at your job, and it’s absolutely the right decision! Even if you don’t like the company as long as you’re not doing or witnessing anything unethical you are getting an unbelievably good deal with the tuition reimbursement. I know that you know this because the student loans for your undergrad are already putting a huge dent in your finances! Is your company using the tuition reimbursement to keep you from quitting? Yes, but you’re using them, too, and it’s a good deal.

    When I was in my mid-twenties, I finally finished the undergrad degree that I had been doing part-time, had no idea what I wanted to do for work or graduate school, and wound up working in a soul-sucking company that I didn’t like at all. All my co-workers were a bit older and had relationships, houses and kids, and I felt like a total fish out of water. What helped me was to have hobbies in my spare time and to do things at work that felt a bit transgressive so I still felt like myself. On my lunch hour I would drive to a nature area for short hikes or practiced photography in an old cemetery nearby. I started guitar lessons that I’d go to right after work. I kept all the circles from my three-hole punch to make confetti and had a zip lock bag of them in my desk drawer. I read William S. Burroughs novels at lunch and listened to local bands I’d discovered on my iPod while I worked. None of this interfered with my work, but it was my little way of proving to myself that this job and company didn’t define me.

    The bottom line is, you really are doing well, but it’s going to take a few years before you start to reap the rewards from what you’re doing. Just knowing what you want to do and having a plan puts you way ahead of a lot of people your age! So, do what you have to do to keep your sanity in the meantime. For starters, you might want to come up with a hobby that’s more fun and confidence-building than comparing yourself to your girlfriend. Why don’t you compare yourself to people your age who have no idea what they’re doing with their lives, or how about you compare yourself to where you were five years ago? And if you feel crummy about living at home, why don’t you help more by cooking and cleaning so it feels like you’re earning your keep? You’re paying your dues right now, but it won’t always be like this.

  22. Sue Jones says:

    As a highly ambitious and successful Alpha female woman I ran into this sort of thing a lot when I was single. Guys would be too intimidated to ask me out, or they felt the way you did, or the worst was when they tried to tear me down by being critical and mean to “put me in my place”. It made me very lonely and sad to go through so many relationships like that. So I feel for your girlfriend. I suggest that YOU go to therapy for yourself. Frankly from what you are writing you do not seem like a “failure” to me. You are moving ahead with your life with the resources that are available to you. And like Wendy said, success is not always linear. When one is in college there are so many opportunities available, and when you get out into the “real world” it is often a rude awakening. Even with a job at a “top company” one still has to deal with petty politics, bad bosses, etc. What a top notch girl like that needs is a nice sweet guy who can support her emotionally while she deals with a lot of crap. And a nice sweet guy like you who is no slouch would be PERFECT for her. So I suggest that you saddle up and round up some self esteem, support your GF, feel good about yourself, be OK with perhaps for now being the Beta-male. This may likely change if and when you decide to have kids together as, let me tell you, it was NO PICNIC trying to work full time while raising a baby – so I didn’t. Then she may very well decide to stay home for a few years (you cannot know this yet) while you are the successful breadwinner without as much debt since you were smart and lived at home while you got your grad degree. And I married a nice sweet guy. I am still a bit “Alpha” but he brings a LOT to the relationship. So I say STOP the pity party and round up some SELF ESTEEM brother!

    1. Beta-male? Where do you get THAT from? Every man with a successful woman is not a Beta to her Alpha. He doesn’t have to support his GF and feel good about that alone. How about he realizes he isn’t a failure, that he doesn’t have to swallow any of his ambitions in order to support anyone else’s successes, that he finds a way to be happy in his own life and they can support each other in all their respective successes?

      1. Sue Jones says:

        Well sure, but the beta male/alpha female is a very real phenomenon. And perhaps it fits in this case. Alpha-alpha relationships tend to compete with each other. What I find is that people sort of take turns being the alpha.

      2. I don’t see anything that indicates the LW is any type of Beta male happy in his support of a successful woman – just the opposite. The Alpha/Beta paradigm seems very dated to me – just rewriting the 60’s with different characters perhaps. In my experience, like attracts like. I run my own law firm and my husband has a PhD in engineering and runs his own R&D firm – both of us type A and Alpha, if you must categorize, but he is the one man I can say with certainty that has never dreamt of competing with me since he is secure in his own successes. Neither of us take turns at anything – we get to be ourselves at all times.
        The LW sounds like a successful young man with his act together – which is how he probably attracted a successful girlfriend in the first place. His self esteem took a hit when his expectations didn’t match up to the real world but that does mean he has to be relegated into the role of supporting actor. I don’t think any young man OR woman needs to be placed into that role unless that is what they choose for themselves – and I don’t see any of that in what he wrote.

      3. I agree, it’s a lot of quack ev. psych babble wrapped up as a ‘theory’ of social types. I’ve never seen a consistent, reliable, definition of the terms, except that Alphas dominate Betas and so in many situations – viola! – you’ve got an Alpha and a Beta. That doesn’t make them intrinsic types.

      4. Exactly. All it does is create some imposed hierarchy for no good reason. Though admittedly there are people who want to run things and want it to be known that they run things. At a guess (and a hope) I’ve got to think they are a minority though.

    2. bittergaymark says:

      Telling somebody who already feels like a major loser that they should somehow be happy in what they feel to be a very disappointing life because — really — that’s the best they can hope for as they are doomed to be a “betamale” for the rest of their existence probably really wasn’t all that much help. But thanks, Samantha…

      1. Sue Jones says:

        Um I think it could be helpful. If a guy always thinks he has to be “better than” or “more than” the woman or he is somehow inadequate, he is setting himself up for failure. Or say, he breaks up with AMAZING WOMAN (hurting her) so he can be with a less accomplished woman who does not threaten him… look I am at least twice as old as some of you here so I have SEEN this! I have seen what happens to people years down the road, who they end up marrying and divorcing etc. etc. etc. I have experienced firsthand being dumped for the reason that they thought my butt was too big or whatever ( and I am skinny – size 4-6 ) by insecure exes … when the real issue was that they were threatened by my success and my career prospects, and I was even told by a few of them that this was the case years later when we were all married to our mates so it is not just my projection. And chalk it up to my own at the time low self esteem from being an ugly duckling as a kid and not realizing that I was a swan yet for dating too many of these guys who were WAY worse off than LW here…

        I do not mean to be defensive (maybe I am a bit) but I do empathize with this guy’s girlfriend. And with more and more women than men graduating from college ( a real demographic statistic) we will see more of this. But at lease LW has some great things going for him. He is going to grad school, he has a decent job. The house and income will come. Be patient and keep plugging away.

      2. Sue Jones says:

        And let me tell you what NOT to do. This actually happened in my life. I am a physician. During my last year of med school I met a guy who seemed to fall head over heels for me. I was flattered by the adulation and attention since I had been so busy with school that I did not date much my 3rd or 4th year. He seemed like a sweet, yet mild mannered kind of guy at a lower level tech job but I thought it could maybe work. Things seemed fine and I was having some fun finally…. then shortly before I graduated he cheated on me. After graduation he broke up with me. Then he decided he wanted me back and for some insane reason I took him back ( I was young and stupid – this was over 20 years ago), then while I was studying (hard!) for my boards he tried to get me to “party” with him a lot. I passed my board exams first try and he immediately cheated on me again. He kept trying to hurt me and “take me down a notch”, especially when I had successes until I finally ended it permanently. This took longer than I care to admit. This also seems to be the curse of the Best Actress Oscar winners who get divorced within the year after they win. Don’t be that guy!

      3. I’m Samantha, and I don’t use the phrase “beta male.” I think you’re talking to Sue, BGM. 😛

      4. bittergaymark says:


      5. especially considering his reaction to his girlfriend’s accomplishments, as a college Junior. I really doubt that he’d be happy as a ‘beta’.

      6. Sue Jones says:

        The curse of the Best Actress Oscar Winner…..

  23. quixoticbeatnik says:

    I kinda feel the same way you do, LW. My boyfriend is an engineering major and he’s applying for all of these internships right now. He actually got one, and he’d be making good money. But he’s still looking because he ‘might get something better,’ which I don’t understand. I can’t even get the internship that I really wanted! Not only that but he’s also involved in everything at school. I don’t really like my college, and I am barely involved, but I am the VP of the Irish Club (barely, we don’t do much) and I did get asked to join the International Studies Honor Society. I feel like a failure now because I don’t have many friends (but I’m working on that, with some success 🙂 ) and I still live at home. For the moment, I feel stuck, but I know it won’t always be that way, and I try to keep that in mind.

    I think you need to keep that in mind, too. I also think you should really talk to your girlfriend about all this, because it sounds to me like you haven’t talked to her about any of this. Do you know how she feels? She may seem like she has it all, but she could secretly be depressed or overwhelmed. I am struggling a lot this semester with feelings of depression and despair, waiting for graduation so I can really start my life. I think that you are pretty successful because you’re being financially responsible. You have a job, you’re saving money living at home, and your grad school is being paid for. That’s good. I won’t have any debt when I graduate and I am SO thankful for that, because I don’t see myself making a ton of cash when I graduate.

    Do you have a social life outside of work and living at home? Do you see friends a lot or is your girlfriend the only person you talk to? Having an active social life really helps, especially for me. I feel SO much better and less depressed when I see my friends and do stuff. If you want to make a career change, is there something you can do to pursue that goal? Some kind of volunteer opportunity or something? Networking events?

    Also, maybe you should consider therapy to get to the bottom of your feelings about failure. Therapy helped me so much last semester. Just to have someone to TALK to about everything. Good luck.

  24. LW, is there potential to change the way business is done in your company/field eventually?
    I work for a production company in Evil Hollywood – the industry responsible for damaging our culture, for a bajillion eating disorders, for racism, for sexism, for rampant ageism – and sometimes it can be soul-crushing. But there’s also huge potential to do good, and that’s my goal.

    Is it possible to “feed your soul” in some small way while working for this company? Can you focus on a particular field in your graduate degree that will help you change perceptions? I mean, even BP could be capable of doing good if young, passionate people like you can work their way up the ranks to create new forms of energy or something. It might make you feel a little more successful and boost your self-esteem if you know you have some bigger purpose or some goodness in your work life.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      Please tell me it doesn’t produce reality TV!

      1. Mercifully, no.

  25. bittergaymark says:

    You’re too hard on yourself. Your girlfriend isn’t even THAT successful… She’s still in school. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a very hard worker, but even she doesn’t meet your own standards of success for yourself… At my college, student leadership was nothing more than a big popularity contest… Lots of people do well in college and then go nowhere… Trust me on this…

    Still… Long distance is hard. And people change and grow. The reality is that most couples that meet in college simply don’t wind up together… Are you maybe simply feeling this? And now looking for an excuse that won’t cast you in the role of the bad guy? One that makes you feel noble?

    Really, there is nothing wrong with deciding that things aren’t working out for you. There is no need for excuses…

    Conclusion: it sounds to me like you are jealous of the fact that your girlfriend is simply still in college — rather than her accomplishments. Trust me, I get it. Even today, I am STILL jealous of those in college. What can I say, college truly is a magical time and space where everything seems possible and you have so much time… Then you graduate and watch all your dreams turn to shit…

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      I was student body president… and now I have no career and am laying on the floor of my apartment in the middle of the day refreshing Dear Wendy and Facebook and Hotmail. Oh, and I still use Hotmail. I peaked a long time ago apparently and am feeling…. a little lost today. I need a pick me up. Someone pick me up.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        This might sound dumb. But coming back from Bali, I was about ready to kill myself. I just had – nothing to come back to… Nothing. So, I wallowed for a week. A really long, really bad week.

        And then I signed myself up for a solid month of comedy improv. Now I knew this would tie me up for all of april in that I now couldn’t work a real job. But, surprise, surprise! There aren’t any jobs anyway!!! So, rather than wallowing, five days a week, from noon to 2 pm, I’m focusing my comedic abilities. And having a blast. After one day, I was so inspired creatively, I started a new screenplay and after not even two weeks I have a solid fifteen pages already.

        My suggestion, Addie, is to go out there and sign up for something you really want to do. Maybe something that doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with your longterm goals. Just treat yourself. You’ll be amazed at the pick me up that can deliver…

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Thanks for the pick me up, you guys. You know, I’m a short walk from Second City – and I’ve always wondered if I’d be good at improv. … Maybe I’ll walk by there and see what the classes are like. And then maybe I’ll get discovered and then BAM – Tina Fey and I will be best friends! I think a Bikram class this afternoon is definitely in order – that helps me think and get perspective. And it makes me so damn tired that I don’t have any energy left to think about “what it all means” – the most depressing question, ever. I think the problem with today is that I have been being lazy all day, with too much time to think. I gotta stop that. I start to really hate myself when I do that. Ok, I’m peeling myself off the floor now. I’m going to go arrange my pots and pans now.

      3. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Oh and hey look at that – I just got an email from Twitter saying they’ve miss me. That’s sweet. I feel I have more purpose today already. In other good news, I found a shoe box full of cleanser samples. Gift from the dad of my last serious boyfriend, which was 7 years ago, people – SEVEN YEARS AGO – since then, kids were born and grew up and learned to read chapter books and ride bikes. Anyway, his dad was a dermatologist, and I have been wondering where those samples were. Do you know how much money I can save by never having to buy cleanser? And if anyone is wondering one way to pick a boyfriend, pick one based on their dad’s profession. It’s really cool to get free samples from dermatologists. There, I’ve dispensed enough wise advice for today.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        Eh, go smoke a doob. You’ll be fine.

        I kid. I’m with Mark though (who to be honest is the last person I thought would have truly uplifting advice, no offense BGM!). Any time I’m in a funk and force myself to do something, it always pays off.
        I’ll finish with the obvious and cliched advice of ENJOY this time! You won’t get it back.

      5. ReginaRey says:

        I’m going to send you a surprise pick-me-up. Be on the lookout.

      6. I’m not sure how to break it to you… but you are too young to even know where the peaks are yet! You left your soul-sucking job and now have the freedom to choose your own trajectory…all from the comfort of your beautiful apartment with the amazing view. You don’t seem like you are behind the eight ball to me – this kind of seems like a “the world is my oyster” moment in time for you..though as I type it I’m not sure what oysters have to do with the world exactly…

      7. lets_be_honest says:

        You left your soul-sucking job and now have the freedom to choose your own trajectory…all from the comfort of your beautiful apartment with the amazing view.

        Yes, just keep reading this. Over and over.
        My brother’s one of those people who never has down time. If he has 5 minutes, he’ll pack 20 minutes worth of fun into it. Fill up your day a little more. Too much time to think is similar to…ok, can’t think of anything funny…nothing good. Stop thinking.

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        Or get a pinterest account. You will never move from the computer again. And you’ll feel crafty just by looking at pictures.

      9. Sue Jones says:

        You need a big Earth Mama hug today too! (((hug))))

      10. Guy Friday says:

        Wait. WIthout going too deep into it (I really wish we had personal messaging capabilities here), when did I miss the transition from “big firm” to “no career”?

    2. Sue Jones says:

      Awww BGM, you are making me sad. Earth mama here wants to give you a hug. Yes it is HARDER out in the real world. College was fun. The transition out of college into the real world was rough. Life can just suck sometimes. I have a really nice life and even I have pity party moments … midlife crap mostly in my case. I go do some yoga or I just go out into the garden and start planting seeds. Watching seeds sprout and later eating the vegetables is fun for me these days….

  26. EricaSwagger says:

    As I was reading this, the problem became a little fuzzy to me. It seems like the only person comparing you and your girlfriend… is you.

    Your girlfriend is still in school, so you have absolutely no way to judge her “success” as you put it. Good grades are not everything, and actually, (as someone who does a lot of hiring), a perfect GPA and tons of extracurriculars and volunteer work generally indicate someone who hasn’t had much experience working for a living. I’d choose someone with experience and 3.0 or 2.5 over someone with none and a 4.0 every single time. Good grades do NOT guarantee a job, and as Wendy mentioned, they don’t mean you’ll automatically be a huge success. Success in school does not equal success outside of school, and it’s going to be rough going for anyone who assumes it does.

    As for you, while you may not love your current position, there are people who would do a lot of really questionable things to have the opportunity you’ve been given. I am not attending grad school simply because I can not pay for it. If my boss were to offer that, I’d jump at the chance, and I’d be grateful every single day. When you’ve received your degree and been reimbursed for it, you’ll not only have gotten a free education, but you’ll have a masters degree in your field and will be so much more valuable (valuable = money = moving out on your own) to your company, or others, if you choose to leave. This, to me, screams SUCCESS. You, for whatever reason, can’t (or choose not to) see that. You are very lucky. Your inability to see how great you have it is almost insulting to the thousands of jobless people in every state, wishing for an opportunity even half as amazing as yours.

    I suggest you wait until your girlfriend is out in the real world before assuming she has it so great. It could take months or years for her to find a job in her field. And while she looks, will you still feel inferior to her if she’s working any job she can get for $8 an hour? You need to look at your situation and realize how successful you are, and how successful you’ll be once you’ve graduated. In a year or five, you’ll have a masters degree, and that’s a huge success that most people will never have. It’s not all about what’s going on right this second.

  27. I’ll try to give you a little perspective from someone looking back on a career from which I’ve already retired. First, you are not responsible that your company is currently hated. It is a tough market and you don’t want to be switching jobs if you don’t have to. The big question to ask yourself is whether or not you are doing your work for that company in a manner which is consistent with your personal ethical standards. Your company may be much less unpopular a couple years from now. In the meantime, as long as you are staying true to your own conscience, then you are supporting yourself, gaining valuable experience, and gaining an advanced degree. Having that big pot of money for all the tuition you’ve paid is a lot of incentive to hang in there and get that degree. The good news is that although a lot of companies hire in a manner that favors recent graduates over guys a few years out of school, you will be a newly-minted advanced degree holder, with real-world experience, and in a great position to hunt for a new job, probably at a time with a stronger economy.

    As long as you are behaving ethically, your gf should not be talking down your company to you. Please ask her to stop.

    All jobs start with the tough-slog work. You have to prove yourself and pay your dues to be rewarded with the more important and interesting work. I had more interesting work as a summer intern than in my first three years of employment. The secret is that the companies use summer internships as recruiting tools and want to make a good impression on prospective hires. Thus you get interesting, but not all that important in case you screw up, work that is challenging enough that they can assess your work habits, creativity, and problem solving abilities. I’m quite sure your gf will love her internship. Don’t feel bad because of that. Her first years on her first permanent job won’t be as rewarding.

    I’ll tell you another secret. Some people are upbeat and proficient at picking out and describing the more interesting and impressive things in their family and whatever they happen to be doing at the time. Your gf seems to be one of those people. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her own boring moments to live through and her own insecurities. Being able to construct an interesting, positive persona is a plus. You should try to copy some of that from her. Pick successes from your work to discuss with her. Pick interesting things that you’re learning in your graduate work. Talk about your plans for what you want to do next, once you have your degree. It will make you less of a downer in her eyes, make it easier for you to truly share and enjoy her successes, and likely brighten your mood by focusing your attention on what is right about your life, rather than what is wrong.

    Comparing yourself to your gf’s success at school is a losing propositon. It sounds like she is a better student than you were. Think of that as making her a more interesting person to live with and don’t be so repetitive. Enjoy her successes with her. There is not a huge correlation between success at school and success in your career. Hard work, the sort of free-thinking creativity that school often doesn’t value, and staying positive and self confident value more. The more you practice selling the positives about yourself, the better you will perform. People instinctively avoid negativity and are not going to buy an idea from a guy who has no self conficence.
    Know that as the member of the duo with years of job experience and an advanced degree, you will likely be ahead of her, rather than behind her, when she graduates.

    Know that your gf chose you, as you are today. Also know that the easiest way to lose her is to begrudge her successes and display your lack of self confidence. There is no shame in living with your parents in your circumstances. You are certainly not slacking.

    Finally, you might be depressed. Talk to your doctor.

    1. Your third paragraph, regarding self representation is great advice. That’s something that I had to learn, and it’s significantly benefited my career.

  28. Sue Jones says:

    For all of you who feel like losers today because you are not yet married or in a good LTR, here it is – the true unedited version or the LTR:

  29. Wendy is right – your issue really is your own self perception.

    In this economy, few get their dream job right out of college. It’s tough. It’s easy to lose your enthusiasm. But don’t lose sight of the accomplishments you’ve already achieved. You’ve graduated, you have a real job, you have direction, you have goals, you are pursuing a graduate degree and your company is willing to pay for that degree. These are not accomplishments that all can achieve. Remember that. Remind yourself of that. Be proud of what you have accomplished.

    Your accomplishments and dedication are likely some of the key traits that attracted your girlfriend to you in the first place. If she didn’t have respect for where you are in life right now, she wouldn’t be with you.

    Embrace your own accomplishments and goals as well as that of your girlfriend’s. By being each other’s cheering section you will both likely find it easier to stay on track and achieve both of your goals. Not to mention having a great relationship along the way. It’s a win-win situation.

  30. Temperance says:

    Honestly, you sound like you’re going all the right things. If you said that you were living with your parents, working part time bagging groceries, and playing a lot of video games or something, I might feel differently … but you’re in a full-time job, taking grad classes, and saving money. RESPONSIBLE.

    I’m achieving a lot in school right now, and it’s things I wouldn’t probably be able to access in the professional world. She loves you. Don’t break up with her over this, you WILL regret it!

  31. Sue Jones says:

    So… thinking more on this subject which is near and dear to my heart (sarcasm)… Is it that he is intimidated by a successful powerful woman, or is it that he is unhappy with his own life? Or a combination of both? Sounds like he has stuff going for him, but if he would rather have a woman who is less ambitious in order for him to feel good about himself, they are out there I guess… I guess it depends how strong of a person LW is since it takes a strong man to be an equal partner to a strong woman. A lesser man goes for the low hanging fruit…

  32. This is why girls pick beta males so they will feel more powerful against him. Not bitchy, whiny alpha males like you who want power over a girl.

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