“Should I Move for My Career or Stay for Love?”

I’m 25 and have been with my 29-year-old boyfriend for about a year and a half. We travel often, spend a lot of time with each other’s families, and have complimentary personalities. Over the last few months, things have gradually started to become more serious. He just bought a beautiful house a few towns over, and we’ve started to talk about the possibility of me moving in with him when my lease ends on my apartment. The problem is, I always sort of thought that once I finished with grad school, I would take that opportunity to try living somewhere different, to travel and take in new experiences.

Meeting my boyfriend was a happy accident, and I’ve loved every second of our relationship and could see it having real potential for the future, yet, I’m worried that if I stay here, I will regret never exploring the world and seeing what it’s like to live outside of my state. The stress of this matter is compounded by the fact that jobs in my field are few and far between in the area where I live. I do want to get married and have kids someday, and my boyfriend would be an wonderful person to start a family with, but I’m really at a loss for how to decide which path I should take — whether I should end my relationship and take the risk of moving somewhere new, or whether I should stay with my boyfriend and start building a future right here (Just as an extra tidbit of information: my boyfriend has clearly indicated in the past that he’s not open the idea of a long distance relationship). — Love or Adventure

First of all, this doesn’t have to be a choice between love and adventure, or even love and your career. It really is possible to have it all, even if it does require some juggling and a little compromise. If you and your boyfriend already enjoy traveling together, why couldn’t you continue exploring the world as a couple? Being single certainly isn’t a requisite for globe-trotting. As for living in a different state, is this something you’ve ever discussed with your boyfriend? Maybe he would surprise you and be open to the idea of moving with you, particularly if it’s for a short-term duration. Maybe he even harbors the same desire to see what life in another state — or country — might be like. You never know if you don’t talk to him about it.

As for your limited career options in the town where you both currently live, it makes sense to cast a wider net when looking for jobs. It’s much easier to think about the idea of moving — either by yourself or with your boyfriend — when there is a tangible reason to do so, and there’s nothing like a great job offer to make a hypothetical idea much more realistic. On the other hand, you may find that you have more job options in your current town than you originally thought, or that when the idea of relocating for work becomes more a reality than a fantasy, it’s not as fun as you imagined after all.

My point is you’re adding a lot of stress to your life by contemplating a decision that’s pretty premature to make at this point. You don’t have a job offer in another town, and from the sounds of it, you haven’t talked to your boyfriend about your desire to live elsewhere. You can further reduce your stress by letting your boyfriend make the decision with you. After all, at least part of your decision depends on the future of your relationship and whether you both see it moving in the same direction. Do you know, for example, that you both want the same things? Does he want to get married and have kids too? What’s your time-table for having children? Do you envision being a working mom or a SAHM? Do you want to raise your kids in an environment similar to the one in which you were raised? Making sure you two are on the same page in regards to these issues will go a long way in helping you plan the next couple years of your life. And if you aren’t sure what your own answers to these questions are, it’s probably wise to keep all your options open and not rule out paths that take you away from your boyfriend. Those paths might just be the ones that lead you to answers you can’t imagine just yet.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. ReginaRey says:

    I agree with Wendy, there doesn’t have to be a choice between your relationship and your career/adventure/traveling the world. Just yesterday Wendy posted an article about how to make a LDR a success, and there’s no reason that you can’t be one of those success stories. If your boyfriend is truly not open to having a LDR, then there’s a chance that this isn’t the right relationship for you. If someone is right for you, they usually want to be with you regardless of where you may physically be in the present.

    My gut feeling is that you should take this opportunity while you’re young and have the itch for adventure to find a job you love in a new city and to travel at your heart’s desire. If you already have a strong feeling that you would regret not doing that, then I certainly believe that you could end up resenting your choice to stay where you are (whether it was for love, or any other reason).

    I once had the choice to study abroad for a semester in college, but I chose not to because I couldn’t imagine being away from my boyfriend for that long. We broke up eventually, and I have regretted not having the chance to explore the world, make new friends, and become a more cultured person. If this person is right for you, and if you have the right attitude (which you seem to have), then this relationship can and will work if you choose to uproot yourself. I think that most people’s biggest regrets in life aren’t bad choices they made; they’re good choices and experiencse that they DIDN’T take advantage of. I say go for it!

    1. I agree with you, with one exception. I don’t really judge the boyfriend for not being into a LDR. Frankly, they are incredibly challenging, and with his life so nicely settled, that complication would be extremely unappealing. I respect him for recognizing that isn’t a viable option for him and communicating that to his girlfriend–at least she knows where he truly stands on the matter. It is not necessarily a reflection of his affection for her, but rather a representation of the life he wants to live. “Love conquers all” is a beautiful sentiment, but not always pragmatic for the real world.

    2. ReginaRey says:

      [Updating for Desiree since this posted after you comment!] I agree that he it isn’t necessarily wrong for him to not be into the idea of an LDR. But, if the LW sits down and tells her bf that she really wants to move to another city, explore the world, etc., because that has been an important life goal of hers, and he STILL is not open to the idea of an LDR, she may need to proceed with caution. The right partner should be a proud supporter of her goals, dreams, and ambitions. If he is unmoving (literally) in his stance, then she should very much consider if he’s the right partner for HER.

      1. That I understand-it doesn’t make him a bad guy, just maybe the wrong guy for her at this time. Which honestly makes it a little sadder for her, because he might be the absolute perfect guy for her five years down the road, after she has explored the world a bit. I hate that “right person, wrong time” thing, but it does happen.

      2. ReginaRey says:

        Agreed. I’m sure he’s not a bad guy, and you’re right – sometimes people find each other at the “wrong time.” Maybe after taking a leap of faith and exploring what she wants a bit, she’ll find he’s right at a different point in the future. But that’s hard leap to make, I know.

      3. Skyblossom says:

        The flip side of this arguement is that if she is a supporter of him and his goals, dreams, ambitions and his are to be in a committed relationship with a partner who is living in the area then she would stay. Their wants are conflicting and you can’t really say that it is the fault of one or the other or that the wants of one should supersede the othere.

      4. ReginaRey says:

        Very true. I guess I just saw in her letter that she seems at least somewhat willing to compromise her wants for him, but it’s kind of unsure whether or not he would do the same. Just trying to look out for the LW 🙂

  2. WI Repubs Suck deez nuts! says:

    I continue to be amazed by the premature cry of wolf to warrant letters to Wendy versus the likelihood of a proper talk with (in this and many cases), SOs, or trusted confidants or mentors on serious and petty matters.

    That said, I’m with Wendy on this. In this day & age, the difference in people when it comes to relocating either for careers or adventure ought to be a pretty big red flag. The world as iwe know it has changed significantly and such are the choices us young’uns face; sometimes…ya gotta go where opportunity abounds. Chances are, the SO will have a better or similar chance of career in the new city.

    But first, take a chance & speak with him. Give it a go… Really. It won’t hurt more than the agony you’re causing by self deliberating.

    1. it may seem premature, but I’m sure the LW gets stressed out an confused when thinking about this topic, and I think the advice Wendy is able to give will slow down frantic thoughts and help the LW approach her problem in a rational way. I’m sure Wendy also gave her a number of things to think about and ideas of how to approach the subject with her boyfriend.

  3. The advice to know what you want in life is a very good one, and I think a lot of people do not take the time to figure that out. Consequently, they end up making decisions that are in the moment, rather than looking at the bigger picture (for example, ReginaRey’s opportunity to study abroad).

    We do live in a fast paced world, but it’s extremely important to remember that this isn’t a race. Why are we so obsessed with automatically moving to another goal directly after achieving one? Your options don’t have to be a) move for a job, or b) stay for your boyfriend and get married. Feel it out for a little. Staying in the town with your boyfriend for a year is not going to turn your life on it’s end. Maybe you two will grow closer together and he’ll educate the notion of moving some place else with you. Or maybe you’ll realize you two aren’t right for each other and you can go your separate ways.

    Just think about what you want long term and make decision now that are going to help you get there. If having a family is really important to you, see where this goes and then find your job. If having a solid career is more important, then pursue that knowing that there are plenty of other men out there for you to meet. You can have both. You can’t have both tomorrow, but you can have both ultimately.

    1. Excellent point. There is certainly no harm in feeling it out for awhile. But I think some women are bad at this-I know I am. As soon as I see even a *potential* fork in the road, I try to weigh the variables and sort out my path. That foresight can be beneficial professionally, but it doesn’t work so well for personal relationships. Time provides insight that no amount of cogitation can.

      1. Oh man I’m SO bad at this. I’m ALWAYS trying to solve potential complications before they even present themselves! I’m always thinking “but what do I do if…?”

      2. Me, too. I do this ALL the time, and get worked up over potential problems.

      3. Oh totally. I am even guilty of doing this too! I don’t think it’s unnatural, it’s very much an instinctive reaction to want to just fix the problem now. But it is important to sometimes take a breath, step back, and look at the whole problem. Problems consist of two things: a) things you have control over, and b) things you have no control over.

        Right now, in her given position, she doesn’t have to choose between staying with her boyfriend and a job offer. She has to choose between staying with her boyfriend or the _prospect_ of a job offer somewhere else. In light of that, I say stick with what you know your situation is:

        1. She could leave and likely lose her bf, and _maybe_ find a job. Or,
        2. She could stay and keep her bf, and _maybe_ find a job.

        Here, the job issue is a big maybe. What she is feeling for her boyfriend is not a maybe, it’s a definite. If she actually had a job offer, then it would be an entirely different situation all together. She can still search for jobs that are in other locations if she stays. If an offer actually comes up, then she’ll need to decide. Fortunately, that’s not the context of her letter, because that would be a tough decision of which I don’t know what I would do.

        What is unclear from the letter, however, is whether or not she wants to just bounce around for the sake of traveling and seeing new places, or if she wants to move somewhere else to start a career. Those two situations bring with it very different opinions on how she should proceed. I’m assuming the latter. If it’s the former, the job issue is irrelevant and she _does_ need to decide whether to stay or to go.

    2. I LOVE IT!!!! “You can have both. You can’t have both tomorrow, but you can have both ultimately.” I cast my vote for this for comment of the week!

  4. WatersEdge says:

    I agree that technically this is premature. However! This is definitely a very real issue. It boils down to “My awesome boyfriend doesn’t want to move and I do, and I don’t know which I’ll regret not keeping more”.

    I may be biased because I have a professional degree and I met most of my close friends at said professional degree program, but young women often do have to start choosing between career and family life from a pretty young age. I see my friends make these difficult decisions every few months: Should I apply to that awesome job opportunity that’s 10 hours away? My boyfriend/husband won’t go… or… my boyfriend/husband already moved for me once, it’s not fair to ask him to move again. And they try to find jobs in their ideal location but entry-level jobs are the ones that have been cut the most in this economy and it’s not always that easy.

    The relationships I see working the best in these situations are ones where each person compromises and makes concessions. Make a plan together and have an endpoint. For me, the compromise was: I moved to be with him once. He will move with me this summer, but out of the options I had available I chose the one that would benefit my husband the most, not my favorite choice professionally. Then when this is over, we will move back to a city that is near our hometowns. We’ve had a 5-year plan to get ourselves back there since before I moved to be with him. If your boyfriend won’t budge an ounce, then he’s maybe not right for you. But if you make a plan along the lines of “We’ll move together to a place where we can both work, and in 3-5 years when I’ve established some seniority I’ll apply for jobs back home”, he may be more amenable to renting out his house and returning to his hometown in a few years.

  5. Drat! She should have had this convo with her bf before he bought the house. Unless he wants to rent it out, he’s probably not going to be too keen on moving, esp if he would have to lose money selling his brand new house.

  6. JennyTalia says:

    I was offered a job in my dream location (Charleston, SC) but I declined for love. That [3-year, cohabiting] relationship ended a few months later, and I will never choose a guy over a lifelong dream again.

    That said, if you don’t even have a job lined up out of state, it is really a non-issue for now. Like Wendy said, you could try to travel with your man more, or depending on your field get a job that sends you on travel a decent amount. I think leaving your boyfriend to struggle in a new city (alone and jobless) will end in depression.

  7. AnitaBath says:

    “The problem is, I always sort of thought that once I finished with grad school, I would take that opportunity to try living somewhere different, to travel and take in new experiences.”

    I couldn’t help but be struck by this line. The LW *thought* she’d try living somewhere different? Maybe she didn’t mean to word it the way she did, but shouldn’t she *want* to live somewhere else? Is this something she truly wants to do, or is it something she feels like she needs to do?

    1. iI read it as, she wanted it so much that she’s been planning on doing that all along. Like she “thought” = “assumed” = “has been imagining/planning”

      1. AnitaBath says:

        I just found it odd that nowhere in her letter did she say that this was something she was excited about, has always dreamed about, or would *love* to experience life elsewhere. Instead she said she’s “always thought” she’d experience life somewhere else, and that she’d “regret” not getting the experience. It all seems to be focused on her feeling like this is something she should do, not that she’s particularly passionate about it and loves the thought of. That’s just what I took from it. Maybe I read too much into her word choice.

    2. I get that she assumed she’ d be traveling the world. But her reasons are…? Because most of her friends are doing so and without it she’d be confined to a provincial existence at home? Or because it’s been her dream? Or maybe it was her dream and now everyone expects LW to be ‘that person that travels.’ That’s how I read AB’s comment. Although it seems like the LW really does want to leave and go on an adventure. I’m just throwing out reasons because I have no idea. 😛

  8. My boyfriend and I are in an LDR and have discussed moving. There is definitely compromise involved. Because of his job, I would have to be the one to move but he also asks me for my input and opinion when he’s making his decision of where to be posted. We try to find someplace we both enjoy and that has good opportunities for both of us, and we’re going to try to make the move together–start a new adventure for both of us.

    That said, there’s no reason why he couldn’t rent out his house. And like Mainer said, you don’t have to get a globetrotting job right out of the gate. A year or two to save up globetrotting money funds and feel out the relationship might be just the thing.

    I also don’t fault your SO for being upfront about not wanting an LDR: It’s hard and it can definitely be lonely at times. If you don’t have an endpoint like Wendy said (which would be when if you decided to travel the world?) the separation can feel neverending.

    1. Clarification: I mean by make the move together, move at the same time to a new place. Not sure if that was clear. Too morning-ish for me today.

  9. I had a really big itch for travel/adventure after I graduated. So I moved to europe for grad school and have now traveled all over the place. I really got rid of that “restless” feeling- being jealous when see/hear about other’s travels, wondering what you’re life would be like somewhere else, wondering what you’re missing out on and just feeling bored… Now I feel really ready to go home and know I’ll be satisfied and ready to take on other goals.

    So the itch can be scratched in even a short period of time. It can be something as small as a 3 month trip to Europe after you graduate, or volunteering for a few months building churchs in Africa. It doesn’t have to be a year long thing, or a permanent move that would require a break up. Maybe you should plan something for after you graduate. I’m sure your boyfriend wouldn’t mind being long distance for only a few months. (if he does, it’s probably not a good sign anyway)

    1. missarissa says:

      I totally agree. When I was 25, (all 11 months ago) I had the oppurtunity to take a year off after graduating from grad school, and set up an amazing internship in Paris for 5 months…when wouldn’t you know it, 4 months before I’m supposed to leave, I meet the man of my dreams. The whole time before I left (which was hectic because I had to take professional tests and was living in two states) we tried to figure out what to do, seeing as we would be together, at the longest, for the same duration of time I’d be gone and that seemed like an inauspicious beginning for a real relationship. We hemmed and hawwed about long-distance, or “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” or breaking up for 5 months, etc,trying to figure out what was right for us. If he had ever, even once, suggested that I shouldn’t go, I would have been out of there, both physically and relationshipwise.

      She’s been with her bf for a year and a half and I’m sure he’s amazing, and as an amazing boyfriend, he is surely he would be ok with “long distance” for a short amount of time, preferably with an enddate, a webcam and a skype login. 5 months in Paris felt like eternity to be away from him, but also away my friends and family. I loved it, I got to go on this great adventure which furthered my career, and then I GOT to come HOME. It was win-win-win. (I won, he won[full on LTR, no somethin’-somethin’s allowed], and WE won[we now live together).

      So my advice is, go try to see if you can do something totally out of your comfort zone far away (preferably in the area of your profession) for a set amount of time. Then when you come back, you’ll be happy to be home. If you still don’t want to live in your bf’s city, then you’ll know it isn’t wanderlust, its a real aversion to the location and its actual (not imagined) limitations. Then, you’ll be in a better position to understand yourself and your needs better, as regards to where you want to live and grow your career.

  10. Skyblossom says:

    At this point in your relationship you don’t know whether it will last a lifetime. Many relationships fall apart between 18 months and 2 years so that makes this decision even more complicated. Have you discussed with your boyfriend what he wants from your relationship and where he sees it going? Does he want to get married? Does he want to have kids? If so, where does he want to raise them? If he moved with you is his job portable? Some fields are very specific and have jobs clumped in a few geographic areas other jobs are abailable anywhere. Is your job portable? How portable? Would your boyfriend be willing to make a temporary move to a foreign country? Would that ruin his career?

    If you moved to a foreign country where would you go? Your wording in your letter where you say you sort of thought sounds tenuous at best. It doesn’t sound like a strong drive to go so do you really want to go or not? How long did you think you would stay there? Where would you live when you came back? Have you looked into the situation enough to know how to get a visa that allows you to work? There is a huge difference between a fleeting fancy and a true determination and I’m not sure you’re determined.

    Ultimately, you could regret either decision. You could stay only to end up broken up and regreting your choice. You could go and find yourself at 35 unmarried and only dating divorced men and regreting your choice. You might be happy with either decision and you might regret either decision. Ask yourself which loss would give you the greatest regret, losing the boyfriend or losing the life abroad. Which choice do you feel would be the most rewarding? Which life goal is stronger, marriage with children or travel? If you married your boyfriend would he be willing to travel with you for vacations? What is his ideal vacation? We live a long distance from both our families and have had no family support while raising our children. We have friends who can call their parents when they need someone to watch their kids or can leave their kids with grandparents for a weekend or a week. We don’t have that. If children are important to you would family support be important to you and if so where would you need to live to receive it?

    There are so many variable paths in life and any one of them might make you happy or unhappy. Every decision will have some gain and some loss so make your best decision and then accept that it won’t be perfect but know that it was the best decision you could make at the time. Don’t beat yourself up later if it didn’t work because you don’t know how well the other option would have worked either.

    1. Skyblossom, I usually agree with your posts, but I take issue with one tiny thing in this one: “find yourself at 35 unmarried and only dating divorced men”. (And I won’t even give you a thumbs down 🙂 )

      What is wrong with dating divorced men? IMHO, nothing. Plus, there are plenty of men who have never been married at 35. As a divorced woman in her 30s trying to date, I wonder what’s wrong with them? How come they haven’t found someone until now?

      I could go on with this, but I’d stray way too far from the topic. Maybe on another of Wendy’s posts.

      1. Skyblossom says:

        Sorry! I knew when I wrote it I should redo it! I’m thinking of different relatives of mine who have married divorcees or been divorced themselves and getting remarried. Their own relationships with the second spouse were great but the addition of stepchildren into the marriage added far more stress than you would otherwise have. I have always rooted for my own relatives who are divorced to find a second, happier marriage but have also watched the added stress of those relationships and I do feel their pain and know it isn’t easy. If there are no children involved then I think a second marriage can be much easier and both partners may be a bit older and more mature than the average first marriage.

      2. Skyblossom says:

        Just wanted to add that you are so polite to call that one tiny thing.

  11. MellaJade says:

    You are 25. Follow your dreams and challenge yourself. I was attached to one man for all of my 20’s and we are no longer together. Now I am 35 and trying to catch up on all that life has to offer that I missed out on before. From my situation, I can only advise you to see what the world has to offer. You have the whole rest of your life to settle down in one place with one man. If you take your chance and realize that he is what you want you can go back to him and try again. If you stay but keep your eye on the horizon always imagining ‘what if’ then you may have done a disservice to both you and he. I say, go for it, cast your net wide and see how much life has to offer and what you want to do with it.

    1. I agree with most of this except for the line, “If you take your chance and realize that he is what you want you can go back to him and try again.” He has a life, too, and he’ll move on. Maybe if they’re lucky they’ll meet up at the right time again, but that’s no guarantee at all.

      1. MellaJade says:

        You’re right, there are no guarantees that he’ll still be available. Rarely in life are there guarantees to anything. There’s no guarantee that they’ll stay together if she moves in with him and there’s no guarantee that he’ll want to try again if she leaves and then comes back. She needs to decide which is more important to her. Myself, at that age, I would take the chance on the career – but that’s just me.

    2. Skyblossom says:

      He sounds like he is ready to settle down or else he wouldn’t have bought a house. If she moves he’ll probably find someone else who is also ready to settle down.

      1. MellaJade says:

        You are also completely right – he may move on if she leaves. But if he’s able to do that so quickly, perhaps they weren’t the right fit to start?

  12. BeckyGrace says:

    I guess I’m a bit confused that they have been together a year and a half and she has never had any of these discussions with her boyfriend. Aren’t future goals, dreams, ideas usually a topic that gets discussed in relationships? The boyfriend went and bought a house after being with her for over a year, without even considering his relationship and where it might be going? Doesn’t seem like he gave the relationship any thought and did what he wanted. Maybe she needs to consider this aspect of their relationship. Do they really have much beyond traveling and having fun? Relationships get a lot harder when its day to day, laundry, dirty dishes and not all fun and games. If she was able to write a letter to Wendy and share her hopes and dreams easier than with her own boyfriend that is a red flag. I say, maybe give it a shot when her lease is up but keep a safety net of savings put aside so that if in a couple of months its not what she wants… hit the road and start exploring.

  13. sobriquet says:

    It doesn’t sound like you’re ready to settle down yet. However, right now you’re focusing on an idea instead of something tangible. When you figure out the details (where you want to travel, for how long, what jobs are available there), you may have a better idea of where you see yourself in a few years.

    1. Skyblossom says:

      Definitely, there is a huge difference between going abroad for one semester and going abroad for a regular job. One has a definite and short time limit and one is open ended. She needs to decide what she means by travel and then talk to him.

  14. RoyalEagle0408 says:

    What Wendy said. Discuss this with your boyfriend, wait until you have a job secured and then figure things out. I’m a firm believer that people who are are meant to be together find a way to make it happen. Even if it means a lot of compromise and time.

  15. fast eddie says:

    Those other places will continue to be there and experience. A good match will disappear if your not available. I wanted to work in Europe and did but as fun as it was for a month but my longing for McDonalds and KFC overrode adventure. One can only eat at fine dinning restaurants and ski trips at company expense for so long before it becomes boring. Great Italian wines however will continue to lure me. As Wendy said those adventures can be enjoyed as a couple and frankly a lot more fun to do with someone that doesn’t include a struggle with languages.

  16. LW, I’ve been in your situation twice now. the first time, I rewrote my goals for a guy and it bombed. the second time, i was upfront about the goals and we worked it out together. I’m not sure what career path you’re interested in, but if its geographically limited to a few locations, it’s something you two should talk about. You’ve got sometime before you graduate and start applying for jobs, so start the conversation now. Maybe it might take longer than you’d like to land a good job, but it IS possible to have love and a career – but your BF should be in on the discussion. Think about it this way, if you’re worried you’ll end up resenting him for not following your dreams, he could end up resenting you for following your dreams and not his. There’s going to be some compromise, you might not end up living abroad, but if you’re both open to it, it could still work out for both of you!
    On the other hand, if he is unwilling to move, then you need to be willing to move on.

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