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how to support LD boyfriend through career crisis?


purple_monster

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(I apologize for how long this turned out.)

 

My boyfriend of 2+ years is having a very difficult time at work, and I can't figure out how to help him. I'm having a really hard time trying to be positive about the whole thing.

 

We had been dating for a year+ when he moved accross the country to take a new job. I encouraged him to do so, since it was a great opportunity and I'm a believer in taking leaps of faith. He's not really a risk-taker, and his family, who lives here, vehemently opposed him leaving the area (and me). He decided to take the job for two years to make more connections in the industry before moving back here and making a change into a related career (which he has been wanting to do for a while).

 

Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way I had hoped. He works 100+ hour work weeks, and he says that his coworkers hate him and think he is terrible at his job. At least three days a week he calls me near tears about how his coworkers have made snide comments or how he just can't get enough done. Of course, all I have to go on about his coworkers' behavior is what he tells me. On the other hand, I've seen glimpses of his work and I'm kind of disappointed. He is really disorganized at work, he is an extreme procrastinator, and he's had me review documents that are terribly written.

 

The entire time, his mother has been begging him to move back to this part of the country. At first, I thought that was no way to encourage him to succeed, so I tried to be positive about the situation, that it was just the shock of change. But it's been a year and I'm still hearing the same things from him. In addition, I'm having a lot of difficulty with him painting a picture of himself as a persecuted loser. In his world, everyone is always picking on him and he is always doing a terrible job. It's really getting to me and making me lose respect for him, since he doesn't seem to have any for himself.

 

I've convinced him to seek out a therapist, who he is going to see for the first time this week. (I've thought about doing the same, to work through some of the issues that this has brought up.) I am really at a loss for what to do.

 

Has anyone here had a similar situation? How can I best help him through this? It really kind of shocks me to see him be so miserable at work and not stand up to his coworkers. And that after being in the same industry for so long, he hadn't really developed essential skills like organization and writing. And I'm not entirely sure why this concerns me so much! Thoughts?

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If I had a job requiring 100+ hours per week, I'd quit in 2 seconds.

He obviously needs to quit this job and find a position without a crew of tormentors, impossible hours and pressure to perform.

Was his previous job any different?

 

I suspect his problems traveled with him.

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He seems miserable. Can't he return to the old job?

 

He sounds like someone I know.

Maybe he fears he's an imposter and afraid to make waves lest he be found out.

Therapy might help, but marriage could be a rough road.

You may end up as his mother.

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My dilemma here is: Should I be trying to talk him into quitting? Should I be trying to talk him into anything? Should I just make sympathetic noises until he figures out he should quit on his own? (or is all of this too much mothering?)

 

I think he's a little afraid of being a quitter, or that having a job for one year looks bad on his resume. Also he's afraid of change, and quitting is a big change. And requires a bit of a spine.

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Quite a dilemma.

If you push him to quit, you may be setting a precedent for the future.

If you push him to make his own decisions, he'll feel pressured.

 

I'd suggest asking where he wants to be, and let him come to his own conclusions. It might help him redouble his efforts or cut his losses.

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Also he didn't have much more of a backbone at the old company -- he never demanded a raise or additional staff in the years he was there. When he left, they had to hire two people to replace him.

 

Is it possible to help someone develop a spine? Would you be concerned if your future husband didn't have one?

 

This raises a couple of things. Firstly, a spine can be developed up to a point, but is fundamentally a personality thing, a part of who he is. To a large extent, it's a take or leave it situation for you in that regard; pushing him into doing assertive things will not only place a strain on your relationship, but is fundamentally contradictory; you can't make someone more assertive by pushing them around yourself.

 

The other thing slipped in there, and this fits entirely with the picture I have, is that two people were needed to replace him at his old company. In other words, he's not inherently bad at his job, or a bad performer in his industry. I strongly suspect his current poor performance is because he is (1) miserable, and (2) happens to be in a place whose approach to work is not suitable for him.

 

I'm a strong believer in sucking it up and toughing things out when on a relatively short work contract, so I'm not suggesting that he should necessarily quit (depends on the consequences, the view of potential employer's etc.), but certainly you should not judge him harshly in this situation, or push him too hard. He looks like the sort of guy who will operate most effectively, and even stand up for himself more, with someone trying to be supportive rather than challenging. It's just a personality thing.

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Thanks for your thoughts, karvala.

 

To a large extent, it's a take or leave it situation for you in that regard; pushing him into doing assertive things will not only place a strain on your relationship, but is fundamentally contradictory; you can't make someone more assertive by pushing them around yourself.

 

Yes, on a conscious level I know this is true. But on another level, I just don't understand how one can survive or succeed without more more assertion. It's just so contrary to how I see the world. Bit by bit I'm trying to realize that it's okay but it's just unfamiliar to me.

 

In other words, he's not inherently bad at his job, or a bad performer in his industry. I strongly suspect his current poor performance is because he is (1) miserable, and (2) happens to be in a place whose approach to work is not suitable for him.

 

This is essentially how I see the situation as well.. except for the little bits when he asks me to proofread documents and there are just so many problems with basic sentence construction. And when he tells me he causes huge problems by not returning phone calls for months. It worries me that these aren't things he's learned to deal with yet. It worries me that I care whether my boyfriend is good at his job -- I mean really, what difference does it make to our relationship? On the other hand, it might be reasonable that I'm worried that he can't seem to resolve a situation that makes him this stressed out.

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