Making Your Relationship Work During a Career Transition

Young couple has conversation over coffee in kitchenThree is a crowd in most relationships, but if there are shared financial goals and obligations, your job may be an important part of the party. When your relationship with your job turns rocky or unfulfilling, it can be hard to break the news to your partner that you may need to break up with the steady paycheck that comes with it.

If you’re in a relationship and thinking about making a change in your job or career, here are three recommendations:

1. Communicate Early and Often

Maybe you are an information technology professional who dreams of designing sets for TV shows. Maybe you’re an accountant who wants to become a full-time artist. Whatever your goal happens to be, it may take time, multiple steps, and a lot of support to get there.

If you’re seriously having doubts about your job, career direction, or both, express what you are going through and let your partner be there for you. Stress from work tends to make us short-tempered, depressed, illness-prone, and just generally miserable. Be as honest as you can about how work is making you feel. Your partner may be grateful for the assurance they aren’t the source of your bad moods.

I have noticed that a lot of people tend to believe they are so miserable about their work situation that it’s obvious to everyone, and they feel guilty openly expressing those feelings to their partners. It’s important to keep in mind that your partner has their own stuff running through their head, too, and may not intuit the extent of what you’re experiencing. You’re better off being as open as possible, at the risk of boring them with the details, rather than expecting them to know what you’re going through. No matter how much your partner loves you, they can’t read your thoughts.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue Something Better

Many of us have had a well-meaning boss say something like, “I can tell you’re not always happy to be here, but I just want to let you know every workplace has its problems. Sure, some may not have our problems, but if you’re looking for nirvana, it doesn’t exist.” I’m pretty sure nirvana is a state of mind rather than an employer, but that’s beside the point.

While it is true every workplace has its challenges, it is also true that some environments are more toxic than others.

While it is true every workplace has its challenges, it is also true that some environments are more toxic than others. (The same could be said for relationships, of course.) It’s not ridiculous to want to find a better fit for you, and if your partner truly cares about you, they will recognize being happy with your work can have positive effects on other aspects of your life—including your relationship.

Being open to a new opportunity that may be more fulfilling is the responsible thing to do. You are owning the reality that your time is worth something and you don’t want to waste 40 hours (or more, or less) a week doing something that makes you miserable. That is not a decision you need to justify to anyone. Be proud of leading a mindful existence.

3. Be Patient—with Yourself and Your Partner

Be patient with yourself. Changing jobs or careers is a difficult and time-consuming process. You may feel discouraged and frustrated at times, even with professional help and social support. Sometimes, doing something as simple as making a lateral move in your current field can allow more time to take classes, volunteer, take on side projects, plan, or just reflect. Not every move you make is going to be dramatic, and that’s okay.

It’s important to not take any resistance and difficulty you encounter as a sign you shouldn’t be making a change. If you are having a bad day, accept that you are having a bad day, but keep in mind you may not feel the same way about your transition in a week or after you get a good lead. Career transitions can happen suddenly after putting in months or years of effort.

Be patient with your partner as well. If you are living together and your finances are combined, it’s natural for your partner to be anxious about any changes you’re planning that could affect your income, where you live, etc. Try not to conflate your partner’s concerns about the practical matters associated with your transition with how they feel about you. As I recently mentioned to someone I’m counseling, if you need assurance your partner wants to be there for you and believes in you regardless of what you decide to do, ask them directly. Don’t infer how they feel based on how nervous they seem about the status of your retirement accounts.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC, MCC, LPC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sienna

    May 9th, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    All of this sounds all well and good until you are forced to make a change and you don’t really have the money to support that change. Like right now my boyfriend is really unhappy with his job and I think that he just wants me to tell him to quit and that we will be okay. But how are we supposed to pay the bills while he is off finding himself and his passion? Sorry but you should have done all of tat and had that taken care of before deciding to settle down and buy a house with someone. Nope, you sometimes just have to stick with it until something else comes along. And if nothing better comes along? Then at least be thankful that you have a job to pay the bills.

  • Amy Armstrong

    May 9th, 2016 at 8:40 PM

    Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do to make ends meet. I’ve worked plenty of jobs myself past the point when I wanted to be there because I couldn’t afford to leave. It’s a situation where it’s important not to make assumptions about your partners concerns. If you look at your finances and know that it’s just impossible to cover expenses on one income, that’s how it is. Given that information, it does give the two of you the opportunity to figure out what he needs to earn to cover expenses. So, if it means taking a new job that’s less mentally draining (or combing jobs) you at least have a target income to work with. Suffering at work doesn’t garner bonus cash.

  • Carmen

    May 9th, 2016 at 4:28 PM

    I say always go for your dream, no matter when you may actually figure out what that is. The other stuff, if it is the right move, there will always be a way for it to take care of itself]f. But you don’t want to have to live the rest of your life in a job that is simply going to do nothing but make you miserable.

  • lora

    May 10th, 2016 at 9:46 AM

    I watched my husband struggle with this, and it really did emasculate him in a way. He felt so diminished after months and months of being unemployed so I guess it was a little different since it wasn’t by choice.

  • beth

    May 10th, 2016 at 2:06 PM

    I want to be able to spread my wings and fly so why would I not want the same for him?

  • Gregg

    May 11th, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    I had to learn the hard way that fear was holding me back, but when I finally learned to take the plunge and just do it, I have never been happier. Yeah, things are tight right now financially but I feel better than I veer have when I have worked jobs that I hated. I am hoping that in the long run this is going to be a very good move for me.

  • Paisley

    May 11th, 2016 at 11:05 AM

    Sometimes this kind of transition is something that one of us has chosen and many times it is because we have lost our job for whatever reason. I know that it is easy to try to place some blame on someone and feel like they are not doing their part but I can assure you that no one who has ever been in this position is never going to feel all that great about not being able to help out financially.

  • bonnie b

    May 16th, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    how about just break up until both of you are back on your feet again?

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