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Career vs. Love

illest_brotherillest_brother Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
edited April 2008 in Graduate School
I am currently deciding between two graduate programs. One is in Denver, and the other is in Los Angeles. My girlfriend and I have been together for over five years since high school and all throughout college. I have known her for almost a decade. I can definitely see myself marrying this girl later down the road and we have an extremely good thing going on right now. All of my family and hers are in Denver, as well as our friends. I have two choices:

1) Stay in Denver and be with my girlfriend. Attend the graduate program at a great school, but one that does not offer the type of research I want to study. This means later down the road, I may never get a chance to get into a field that I highly desire.

2) Leave my family and friends, go to LA, and attend a graduate program at an equally, if not better, school. This school, however, does offer the type of research I am interested in and truly excels in it. The downside? My girlfriend will not be coming with me, meaning the end of our great relationship. She wants to stay in Denver for a few reasons: to look after her parents and siblings, not wanting to leave her life to start a completely new one, and several others. I have asked her numerous times to come with me to LA, but she just won't budge... A long distance relationship will not work, and it will take me at least five years to complete the program.

I have to make this decision in less than a month and it is tearing me apart. I just simply cannot choose one over the other. Sacrifice my career interests to be with the love of my young life...or go to LA and follow the direction of my desired career, as well as grab the opportunity to live in a thriving, fun city during my mid-20's. This is a life-altering decision that warrants a great deal of consideration, but I just can't come to the best decision. I know I am young and will meet plenty of other women, but I really feel like this is the one person I would like to settle down with, even though I would have to accept the reality that she isn't willing to sacrifice for the sake of my career interests.

I feel that I'll be happiest with her in Denver rather than by myself in LA.. but then again, there is always the possibility of something happening to our relationship down the road that will make me regret not going to LA forever. If I go to LA, I may have missed out on being with someone who I can truly connect with and is just perfect for me in every way, even though I might never know it.

I know this decision is ultimately mine to make, but I could use some other perspectives in this situation. As corny as it may sound, would YOU choose career or love?
Post edited by illest_brother on

Replies to: Career vs. Love

  • WilliamCWilliamC Registered User Posts: 785 Member
    Welcome to the "two body problem". It is never easy. This is going to sound harsh, but here are some things to think about:

    1) Your young lady refuses to go with you (though honestly 5 years is not that long and LA is not that far) to "look after her parents and siblings". That is, to be frank, the job of her parents (they are adults) and siblings. NOT her. Unless both parents are disabled, or something equally unusual, her attitude is, well, a bit selfish. She is putting her short term comfort ahead of your future career AND your current relationship.

    2) If you do choose to stay in Denver for your education how will you deal with passing up your opportunity to pursue your career? Will you be able to let it go, or will you, deep down inside, blame her for stealing your opportunity.

    3) Say you stay in Denver, get your degree, marry this girl, and start work. What will happen if (when) you are transferred? Can't find a local job and have to move to Cleveland? Will she follow then or force you to choose her family or you career? The reality of the 21st C. job market is simple - odds are you WILL change jobs, perhaps even career fields, several times in the course of your work life.

    4) If you are looking at academic jobs after you get your degree, #3 goes from merely likely to almost certain. Will your young lady be able to cope with the life of a newly minted PhD? A couple years post-doc in "town A", maybe a VAP in "Town B", possibly one or two more positions before you finally get tenure? (Obviously, there some fields where demand is high and you'll get a good position right out of school, but most fields are badly overcrowded.)

    5) The PhD process is arduous. Is your girlfriend also planning to pursue graduate studies? The sad fact is that people (even those dear to us) simply do not understand the level of comittment the degree requires. Does/will she understand that even if you stay in Denver, your relationship will, at least for a time, take the "back burner" to your studies?

    You might want to look into the "Grad-School Life" forum over at CHE for some thoughts from people "on the front line" so to speak. You're not the only person going through this: http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?board=42.0

    Good Luck!
  • New_UserNew_User Registered User Posts: 222 Junior Member
    I have to agree with William here. It is a tough choice, but what concerns me the most is that you say she wants to stay in Denver "to look after her parents and siblings, not wanting to leave her life to start a completely new one, and several other [reasons]." To echo William, unless there is a distinct reason she needs to stay close to her parents, that does not seem to be a very valid argument. More so, as has been said, in your career you will have to leave your life and start a completely new one many many times. If she is not willing to do this now, will she then? It really is not feasible to think you could do your PhD, postdoc (?) (I am not sure what your field is) and land a tenure track job all in Denver. Even if you do not stay in academia you are severely limiting yourself in any field by only looking in one area. You are going to have to leave sometime.

    Maybe she is just being stubborn because you still have a choice and she is hoping she can sway you in her direction (admittedly still a selfish and immature attitude). Maybe if you choose LA and sign the paperwork she will decide to come with you after all. But honestly, if she is not willing to ever move, I guess it is good you found out now and not 5 years from now when you have to choose between a 10 year relationship and actually getting a job.

    Good luck with everything!
  • jmilton90jmilton90 User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 561 Member
    Choose the girl. The prestige is all dust and air. Plus LA isn't all that awesome in my opinion.
  • GopherGradGopherGrad Registered User Posts: 128 Junior Member
    The characterization of the girl as selfish or immature is at once unfair and innaccurate. The demands she has put on the relationship are equal to those originally raised by i_b. The ideal situation for one involves a nearly paralell sacrifice for the other. Why should we (much less she) leap to the presumption that i_b's career is the one that 'deserves' sacrifice? Why is her refusal to uproot herself any more selfish than the request that she do it? The same questions i_b would ask himself if he stayed in Denver, his girlfriend will be asking if she moves to LA.

    If she is selfish for staying in Denver (not following his needs), wouldn't he be selfish to move to LA (not following hers)? In either case, one puts outside concerns above the relationship.

    It is true that changes in career can tear a relationship asunder, but it's important for i_b to see this from the right perspective. If i_b views his girl as selfish and immature for her failure to support him by moving herself for his career, he is more likely to break it off for the wrong reason. She is a woman whose ambitions and desires deserve respect. If differing goals make them incompatible, so be it. But he should not make the mistake of leaving her because he finds her wish to place her life before his childish. That would be hypocritical, considering his request to her.

    After all, who wants to be with someone so bereft of ambition as to simply acquiecse whenever a demand to move is put upon them?
  • cm85cm85 Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    so.. what happens after the degree when you have to move for a job?
    Will she give the same excuses then, (and no, being married will not suddenly make her more easy to sway), and you just prolonged your ending by 5 years?

    I'd choose the school hands down. I choose a school over a relationship before, and it was worth it. You will have to move eventually, and her reasons for staying in Denver will not change. Perhaps she really does have a good career/family there and staying is the best for her.
    If you stay, you'll be spiteful and blame her for any problems you encounter. And that will mess your relationship up bad. Try long distance if you want, but DONT let a relationship sway your school choice and career if its something you love and are passionate about. You'll find someone else in LA.
  • cm85cm85 Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    oh and I agree with GopherGrad, anyone who asked me to uproot for their school would get a swift boot out the door... (I had an ex tell me I could only apply to schools in areas he'd likely find work... needless to say we didn't last...). I think you're both selfish in the end... and it's best to end it and do what you want, you'll both be happier in the long run.
  • New_UserNew_User Registered User Posts: 222 Junior Member
    GopherGrad makes a fair point, and I did consider it. I could be being too unfair to make that judgement about someone I do not know and have only heard a tiny snippet about. I apologize if I offended anybody.

    That said, I still stick to my opinion. The fact is (assuming the OP gave us all the information) she is not staying because she has a great job she cannot leave or that doing so would hurt her career, she is staying because she does not want to move someplace new. And the OP will have to move someplace new many more times if he wants to pursue this line of work.

    I am glad that I am single right now and was able to be entirely selfish in my school decision. I have seen others resent their significant other for essentially forcing them to pick someplace they were less happy at and I have seen other relationships end so that would not happen. We have to face it, given the amount of time and energy we put into our chosen field by pursuing a PhD we have to look at relationships a little differently. Either we find someone that is able to move around a bit with us (or better yet someone that also has to) or we find a relationship that is strong enough to last as a long distance relationship for awhile.
  • Blah2009Blah2009 Registered User Posts: 1,337 Senior Member
    Thats why ideally, you get a smart significant other that is also looking to pursue graduate studies and can apply to the same schools you are or at schools nearby as in my case.
  • aibarraibarr Registered User Posts: 4,249 Senior Member
    Food for thought... My husband and I met in college, were together for four years, got different grad school offers. We were sad. Neither of us asked the other one to give up their dreams for the sake of our relationship. We dated long-distance (easier now with the internet, by the by) for three years. I even took a job after my masters program that was across the country from him because it was the best offer. Finally I got a great opportunity that allowed me to move closer to him (5 hours driving! Finally, within driving distance!) and we got married in January after SEVEN years of dating. His grad program is done in May and he'll be moving to where I am after that, and from there, we'll weigh benefits and disadvantages as a couple when we decide where to go and what to do.

    1) You're not married. She's not bound to you, you're not bound to her. It would be nice if she'd go to where you are, but she's got every right to keep her life as it is. What does LA offer her, aside from the fact that you're there? Will *her* career have a chance to advance?

    2) Long-distance relationships can and do work when there's a long-standing history between two people. They *ARE* difficult, but if you're truly committed to this girl, then there's really no reason why you guys can't continue your relationship.

    3) LA... not so thriving and fun as you might think. Do remember to look at cost of living out there before you commit to it...

    4) All that being said, you're going to have regrets either way. Try to weigh which regret will be the biggest. I personally believe, after years of doing what's "best" for me and being miserable in the process, that choosing what will make me *happiest* is the way to go.

    Edit: What's this about a "smart significant other" who will choose the *same* program? My husband and I are in dramatically different fields. Why should one person have to sacrifice? There was little-to-no overlap, so that wouldn't have worked for us.
  • Blah2009Blah2009 Registered User Posts: 1,337 Senior Member
    i meant the same schools but different programs..=).
  • illest_brotherillest_brother Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thanks for all the comments!

    This girl has a very bright future ahead of her. She has secured an extremely well-paying job in a top accounting firm. Relocating to different offices around the US is also not a problem for her, as the firm is very understanding in the matter. So no, going to LA will not sacrifice her career at all or hurt it in any way. I know that going into the research field I desire will require lots of moving around for different positions before securing a permanent job. In this aspect, her career path and mine fit together very well. Going to LA and finding someone else, I do not think it will work out this well. I am almost positive that down the road, say after I graduate, she would be willing to follow me. She just isn't ready to drop everything in her life and move at this very moment.

    Keep the advice coming!
  • aibarraibarr Registered User Posts: 4,249 Senior Member
    Any words as to why a long-distance relationship won't work? You're not moving to Timbuktu... Presumably, you'll head home for visits every now and then, and since your girlfriend and family are in the same location, you're at least lucky in that regard (H and I weren't so fortunate).

    Bottom line, your girlfriend's not willing to come with you. Harsh, but if she's not willing to make a major life change for *you*, maybe you need to talk with her to see if she's committed enough to the relationship in order for *you* to make a major life change for *her*.
  • ticklemepinkticklemepink Registered User Posts: 2,764 Senior Member
    I would choose LA. She should've seen this coming- that you could be moving elsewhere in the country for your grad studies. What if you hadn't gotten into Denver? What would she have done?

    Also I agree with WilliamC's #5. I'm already trying to maintain my own close friendships around East Coast and having to live far away from them and there are times that I just throw them in the back burner. They are all ambitious, bright people with futures ahead of them too. But equally to my own family, they're clueless as exactly how would my life be like once I enter in grad school. I'm sure that friendships aren't the same thing as love but...

    It's all about support network. Your GF needs to be support of you regardless of what happens if you go to LA.
  • snowcapksnowcapk Registered User Posts: 338 Member
    I'm with ticklemepink, cm85, aibarr, WilliamC et al. If you stay, your relationship may or may not continue. She may not realize how large of a commitment graduate school is, or she may overestimate her own ability to cope with your long work-week.

    If the relationship does make it through your doctoral studies, you have no reason to expect that she will accept a cross-country move for your next job, even though her accounting firm may have offices around the country. Why are you positive that she would be willing to follow you five years from now, if her reasons for staying now (her family and friends) will remain?

    My advice is to go to grad school in LA. Long distance relationships can and do last for many years. Besides, it sounds like she could transfer to LA whenever she feels like it - maybe that would be in less than five years. You really shouldn't consider this a relationship-ending move.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Registered User Posts: 12,374
    In line with what snowcapk is saying above, I think you should ask yourself: if you stay in Denver and the relationship breaks up, how will you feel? Are you happy enough with the choice that it wouldn't faze you, or would you be angry and resentful that you gave up your spot at UCLA?

    (I'm with Blah2009, though -- you have to pick a significant other with a compatible field. ;) Luckily for me and my hubby, the great schools in biology and the great schools/jobs in aerospace engineering are basically colocalized. Thankfully.)
This discussion has been closed.