We started dating 6 years ago. 8 months into the relationship I finished my internship, moved to the state where he was living and working, left my family and friends and started a new life for the first time. It was difficult for me – I hated the new state, felt people were unfriendly, aggressive, and short in conversation. I’m introverted and that made it more difficult to gain whatever sense of belonging could be achieved in a state full of bedroom communities and highways. His job paid twice as much as mine, he came from a wealthy family and I came from a poor one. His role as breadwinner was obvious from the start. I didn’t hold much resentment, because I was just starting off in both my career and our relationship, and I did end up finding a fantastic job in my field where we lived.Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.
I lived there for 4 years. Last spring (just over a year ago) we bought our first house, and we were set to be married in April 2020. 4 months after the home purchase, my fiance was laid off from his job, and was unemployed for 8 months while looking for work. Financially, we were able to maintain the house, but I never got to “move in” or make it mine in any way. I kept most of our things in the boxes we moved in with because we didn’t know if/when we’d need to sell the house and leave. I worked at my job for 3.5 years, which I had to quit when he was finally offered a job in a new state.
The job is a great move for his career, the relocation package was good, the cost of living in the new area is lower. This was the first offer he’d received since being laid off and in the middle of pandemic we felt lucky that he found *anything*, and it didn’t feel like there was much of another option for us. We put our house on the market, and I felt like I was the only person saddened by letting it go. I left my job, after months of not seeing any of my coworkers or patients because of the pandemic, and I didn’t get to see anyone before I left. My goodbyes were all done over phone calls.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to find work in my field in the new state, as my field really only exists in/near larger cities, and our new location (and an hour drive in any direction) is all rural. Fortunately, we live in a college town with a small state school, but that’s all there is. I’ve been here for 3 months, have been trying to make the most of my “time off” by getting outside/hiking often. Before the move I’d been considering changing careers (wanted more opportunity for career growth and higher salary), but it was far too late for me to apply for a program by the time we moved, and now I have to wait to apply for Fall 2021. As I said, I have zero chance of finding a job in/related to my current field as it is extremely specialized and there’s no market for it here.
I have the “luxury” of staying home, and not needing to find an income immediately, and keeping myself safe from the virus. I have been struggling with mental health (for many years, but currently more than ever), have some other issues that need medical attention, and I have no health insurance after leaving my job. I’m currently waiting on a Medicaid decision. My fiance will have to pay for any care that I need. My fiance will need to pay for everything else once my savings have run out. I expect that to happen during the next few months. Right now I feel like I have to make a choice between getting a low-paying job for some small semblance of independence or staying sheltered while avoiding unnecessary risks. I’m upset because while I can focus on getting into school for Fall 2021, it’s an entire year away and it’s difficult to imagine an entire year feeling this useless and dependent. My fiance hasn’t been very understanding of my feelings – about the loss of our house, my career, our friends, the wedding. He is ecstatic about his new job, receiving tons of recognition and praise, and has already made some friends at work that he hangs out with on the weekends. It just feels like he’s winning at life and simply can’t see how much I’ve sacrificed/lost this year because of his situation, can’t understand the depression I can’t seem to climb out of because “we have it so good” and “I have nothing to worry about”. I’m happy that he’s happy, but I’m going to end up feeling like a “kept wife” very soon, and I’d rather have reasons to feel happy for myself. This isn’t it.
I want to make this work, and care about my relationship deeply, but I’ve been feeling so worthless that I’ve considered applying for my old position (it was recently posted) or applying for schools in my hometown where my family lives just to give myself a better shot at success. I know neither of these things are good solutions, but I’m just desperate to stop feeling so stifled.
There are several underlying issues at hand here. Each issues are both independent and interweaving, as the sources of the issues arise from the same spot but manifest in many radically different ways. We will first talk about processing loss as part of leaving your old state behind. Then we’ll get more into why there seems to be such a communicative disconnect between you and your partner. After that, we’ll discuss how you can amend that disconnect and lay out your potential next steps.
Let’s first talk about your headspace in this new transitional phase of your life, especially as it pertains to your professional career.
I gathered two of your core needs: a need to belong and a need to be self-sufficient. You first moved to a new state to be with your partner only after 8 months of dating, leaving behind all the support network you’ve built around your family and friends in your home state. And because of your introversion, it took you almost four years to foster and establish your own connections again in this new state. And just as you have found your own footing in this new state in a career that you feel deeply passionate about, you had to relocate yet again to start anew from scratch. That is a lot! It is no wonder you are going through a heavy mental load.
There is a real sense of loss and grief in the connections that you’ve left behind in the state you purchased your first house in. And because of your partner’s happenstance, you never really got an opportunity to nest in your new home to make it your home. Almost as if you were stuck in a state of transition. And the worst part is, you’re still stuck in this exhaustive, perpetual state of transition in yet another new state.
And that “stuckness” extends to the process of loss and grief, which leads to my next point.
Relationship bids and communicative disconnect
The only way we can become “unstuck” is to express and process our feelings.
In the previous state, you likely had friends and coworkers who you depended on for emotional and social needs beyond what your fiance could meet for you. And when you and your fiance moved to this new state, the numerous channels all funneled into one singular person: your fiance. That is a Big Ask for one person, when in the past you’ve had a whole support network to rely on. In short, you’ve become isolated in your romantic entanglement.
In this short video above, Logan Ury explains in detail about Gottman Institute’s ideas about turning towards or away from relationship bids. In short, relationship bids are micro moments in your relationships where you make a verbal or a nonverbal request to connect to your partner. Your relationship satisfaction is hinged on how many of those bids your partner responds to, and how many of your partner’s bids you respond to.
So when you approached your fiance to process your current state of depression, he instead failed to acknowledge your headspace, discredited why you were feeling down, and got lost in his current career development. In this particular incident, he either could not or chose not to hear your bid. In rejection of your bid, your partner also rejected the substance of your reality and dismissed your feelings. That is a very troubling sign from your sole connection in your new state, as it continues to perpetuate your “stuckness”.
I also want to touch on the privilege of the neurotypical.
Chronic depression is near impossible to explain to someone who has never been chronically depressed or hasn’t had a clinical background to understand depression. That could be why your partner cannot understand why you feel so depressed. It is not within his agency to dictate whether or not your depression is legitimate, especially if he hasn’t had a personal experience with depression himself. Really, the only role he has in that particular type of exchange is to be supportive and understanding. To accept that you are having a difficult time with this transition. You cannot move forward with your next steps if there is no acknowledgement and a self-driven desire to understand.
Bridging the gap
Part of the resentment you are feeling toward your partner stems from that initial disconnect. A big part of it also arise from viewing the transition as an action that was implicitly out of your control.
There are two different decisions at play here. First is in his decision to accept his offer and relocate. Even if we assume that he would not have gotten an offer in the state you were residing in at the time, the inherent risk in this job going well in addition to you both being able to find your respective and mutual footing in this new state were immense. Fortunately, he was able to find his new footing and re-establish his self-worth through his blossoming career. So that risk might have paid off from his end.
The more impactful decision was in your choice to give up on your career and follow your fiance to this new state. You said that “it didn’t feel like there was much of another option for us” other than for your fiance to take this career opportunity in a different state. And I’m curious to dig deeper and consider if that really is true. Why did you feel so compelled to surrender your definite security at a chance at his? Based on your writing, I get the sense that you have a deep knowledge of the your own internal headspace as well as your partner’s.
It is true that you had a Big Ask when you asked your partner to be your sole source of support in this new state. But that was nothing compared to the Biggest Ask in assumed relocation to a brand new state where he would have to be your sole source of support.
And so, it might be beneficial for you to envision this transition not as a decision he made on your behalf but as series of implicit decisions that you two made together about each other. This is very important.
“Luxury” of convenience
Being able to take mutual responsibility for your respective decisions means that you two can make mutual plans that you two can proactively agree on.
If your career prospects are indeed dire and your next year is devoid of plans, why not go back to work at your old workplace? Almost everyone I know is currently working from home. And as you said, you haven’t seen your coworkers or patients since the pandemic started. Maybe you can reach out to your former employer to see if you can return to work from your new state. It is worth a shot, and the worst you’re going to get is a No at a place you already don’t work at anymore. Upsides seem immense as you get to keep working at a field you feel passionate about with income and health insurance you can use to support yourself.
Another option is to consider a temporary long distance relationship. I’ve been in a handful of deep and rewarding long distance relationships myself, and heard from many others who have survived long distance transition phases of their relationships. If you strongly believe that your professional development and career pursuits are integral to your own survival, temporarily relocating to a larger city where there is a demand for your field of profession might not be a bad option for you to consider. At the very worst, it’ll only be for a year. And depending on where you find your job, you and your partner can even make weekend trips to see each other. Otherwise, thanks to apps like Marco Polo, Netflix Party, and Between, facilitating relationships over long distance has never been as easy. Back in the day, I had to settle for grainy Skype calls with my girlfriend from London!
Developing and creating new connections also seem necessary. Everyone is sequestered in their own bubble at this moment, so most people can use a new friend in you. Your eloquence and thoughtfulness will bring something new and fresh to the table for most friend-seekers. Penpalling might not be a bad way for you to develop and forge platonic long distance connections, especially in times like these. Even if you don’t fully commit to a personalized stationery and colorful envelopes for snail mail penpals, email penpalling will help you get started.
In terms of the relationship with your fiance, perhaps have him explain to you what he thinks your current circumstance is like. Even if he isn’t you, being able to step into your situation and empathize with how you feel trapped in your current circumstance will help shine a light into what you two can work together on going forward not just in this transition, but for many more transitions to come in the future.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at email@example.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!