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Move for a Job, or Stay for Love? How to Choose and Not Regret It

Deciding whether it’s worth the risk isn’t easy, and there’s no right answer for everyone.

by Gretchen Brown
December 6, 2019 | Love

Love can bring together two completely different people with different backgrounds, professional goals and personal aspirations.

That’s what all those rom coms are all about.

And that’s all great and romantic, but what the movies leave out is what happens when those goals are wildly different. When an upward career move might pull you away from your partner. A career move that might be worthwhile.

Do you go for it? Or do you stay (cue romantic music) for love?

Even though technology has made it possible for more couples to date long-distance, it’s still not easy, or guaranteed. Moving away will change the relationship. It could put a major strain on it.

If you’re newly together, it might not even make sense to date long-distance.

So moving away, then, means you’re prioritizing your career over the relationship, which isn't a bad thing. But it can mean the future of the relationship is up in the air.

Deciding whether it’s worth the risk isn’t easy, and there’s no right answer for everyone. But there are productive ways to think it through so you don’t regret whichever decision you make.

1. Start an open dialogue

Hopefully, you've talked with your partner about your career goals before. But if you haven't, it’s a good time to start a dialogue with them about what you want out of your career — and your life.

It’s important for the person you’re dating to understand your long-term goals. It’s part of your long-term compatibility.

“Listen openly to each other’s words and actions during this time,” said Carrie C. Mead, a professional life coach. “This will be the first test of the strength and integrity of the relationship.”

But it’s not just your partner that needs to understand your goals. In the process, you should understand their long-term goals as well. Knowing your partner well will help you make a better-informed decision.

“If you don't know them well, and decide to leave (for the job but stay in the relationship), time will tell if you are dating someone who is jealous and untrusting,” certified health and wellness coach Lynell Ross said.

“On the other hand, if you decide to stay for what you think is love, you could risk losing a great job only to find out you are dating someone who turns out not to be a good match for you.”

Couple in long distance relationship text on couch. REWIRE PBS Love career
Even though technology has made it possible for more couples to date long-distance, it’s still not easy, or guaranteed. Moving away will change the relationship. It could put a major strain on it.

2. Listen to your gut

You know that gut feeling you get when you’re on a really good date? That sense that tells you to see them again? If you’re on a bad date, it might be telling you the person isn't a match.

Chances are, your gut is also telling you something similar about this job offer. It’s best to listen to it.

“Creating space to listen to this voice within you can help you figure out whether you might have regret for taking the job,” licensed mental health counselor Rachel Elder said. “Or if you feel that it truly aligns with the value you are seeking in your career.”

Just as you should be listening to your gut with your career, you should also be listening to it when it comes to your relationship. That doesn’t end after the first few dates.

Are you feeling good about where things are heading? Can you see yourself in a successful long-distance relationship with this person?

Relationships start by gauging interest, and then determining if you two are a good fit. Elder says your job search isn’t all that different.

“During this whole process, we are assessing whether the job or individual fits into our non-negotiables and our values,” she said. “We look to see if we can envision a future and whether it's worth the risk.”

3. Figure out your personal values

You might know what you value offhand, but it can also be helpful to write what you care about down on a piece of paper, in a Google doc or in your notes app.

A visual representation of what you care about can be helpful during the decision-making process. Pick your top three to five values.

“If your top values are wealth, career and autonomy, your decision will be intuitively guided towards choosing your career,” Mead said. “On the other hand, if your top values are faith, family and nurturance you may prioritize the relationship.”

Working through them might involve determining what attracted you to this potential job, and your partner, in the first place.

What about the job makes it fit into your long-term career goals? Is it just the check, or is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

Similarly, does the relationship fit with your idea of a healthy relationship? Is it aligned with what you want in a partner?

That’s hard to think about, but worthwhile.

Mead said it’s important that your decision doesn’t come with conditions. You shouldn’t make your partner promise you’ll get married, or that they’ll change in some way, if you stay.

In the end, that just leads to resentment, which can be just as damning for a relationship as distance.

[ICYMI: 'What Are We?' Here's How to Define the Relationship]

4. Make a pros and cons list

Sick of lists yet? Hopefully not, because there are two more that might be helpful as you make this decision.

Write down the pros and cons of this new job offer. Now do the same thing for your relationship.

That might seem like a crude way to put it — a list might not show how much you love your partner, for instance — but it’s a way to clear your head when you’re thinking through things.

Mead recommends sharing this list with a few trusted friends. Your own judgement might be clouded by stress and how much you love your partner. It’s important to make a decision based on what’s best for you, and an outsider’s perspective might do the trick.

Unfortunately, neither decision is going to be neat or perfect or exactly how you want it to be. You’re still going to be making a sacrifice no matter what you choose — either a sacrifice for your career, or a sacrifice for your relationship.

“Just like we say some battles are not worth fighting, the same goes for sacrifices we make to further our career or relationship,” Elder said. “This goes back to slowing down and reflecting to know how you truly feel mentally, emotionally and physically. “

The thing you have to decide is which sacrifice is worth it. And that’s something only you can do.

Gretchen Brown
Gretchen Brown is an editor for Rewire. She’s into public media, music and really good coffee. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @gretch_brown.
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