Dear Wayne and Wanda:
I’ve been with my girlfriend for about six years and we recently got engaged. First, I should point out that I’m just a few years older than her, and when we met, she had just finished college and gotten her first job out of school. At the time, I was working in the same office I work in now; I’ve had a couple of promotions, but my career and employer haven’t changed. Meanwhile, her job history has been totally up and down. That first job she took didn’t last long. Since then she has worked five other places — in six years — and in the middle, took a break to go back to school because she decided she was interested in another profession. That only lasted one semester. After that, she went to the Slope for a job, thinking she would like the schedule. She didn’t, and she quit that too.
We just got engaged, as I said, and are talking about a wedding in summer 2021. And she just came home from work Friday to inform me she quit her job — again — and she wants to go back to school — again.
I’ve tried to be patient through her work ups and downs but it’s very hard for me to relate. I don’t love my job every day, but it’s a good job, and I’m glad to have it, and I understand work isn’t always a joyride. Her reasons for quitting these six jobs since I’ve known her are pretty vague. For example, the Slope job, she just said she didn’t like the hours. But she didn’t like one 9-to-5 job in town because it was “too strict” and she wanted more flexibility. Another general theme is she complains she doesn’t like her boss or co-workers.
Now she is talking about going back for a business degree — her previous degree was in something completely different. I am frustrated and more than a little fed up. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that she just get a job and stick it out for a while — like at least a year. We already both have tons of student debt and with a wedding on the horizon, I don’t think we should pick up more. My friends joke that she’s just biding her time to when we’re married so she can be a housewife, and I am starting to wonder if that’s true. I need advice — I’m at the end of my rope here. I’m afraid to talk to her about this stuff because she’s already stressed and I don’t want to make it worse.
I’m going to guess that your fiancee is in her late 20s, maybe somewhere around 30. But the exact age doesn’t matter as much as the fact that by this point in life, she should be able to hold down a job already.
Do you want to be the pushover economic safety net that allows her to flightily bounce through life from job to job, quitting at the smallest inconveniences, flipping between academic pursuits with disregard for the mounting debt? Because that is where you’re at now. You’ve allowed a pattern to develop where she clearly feels safe and supported in doing, frankly, whatever she wants. Where’s the accountability? There isn’t any! She does whatever she feels like, and you bail her out. Heck, by your own admission, you don’t even sit down and talk to her in depth about her choices because you don’t want to upset her.
With marriage looming, it is time for you guys to have that tough chat but get on the same page. Actions have consequences, and she isn’t the only person stressed out here; you’re clearly struggling with how to support her but also set some expectations. I’m guessing you don’t want to pay the bills and insurance costs for the next several decades while she soul-searches her way through every company in town.
Some of these statements are ridiculously obvious, but she needs to hear you say them: 1. We all have worked with people we don’t like, and that doesn’t mean you quit. 2. We have all had bosses we don’t click with, and that doesn’t mean you quit. 3. We’ve all had jobs where we aren’t quite sure right off the bat if it’s a good fit — and again, that doesn’t mean you should quit.
Seriously, if this was her first year or two out of school and she was spinning indecisively, that’s one thing. But she’s a grown woman who’s had years to figure it out. Even if she doesn’t know absolutely what she wants to do for the rest of her life, she can certainly find a placeholder job in the meantime and commit to doing her part to support your life together.
Well, at least you’re testing out the “for richer or poorer” part before you even stroll down the aisle. And I’m about to test out your, and Wanda’s, take on your lady.
Maybe she isn’t lazy. Maybe she isn’t a flake. Maybe she isn't wired like the rest of us grinders and working stiffs. Maybe she just doesn’t know what the heck she wants to do with her life, is still trying figuring it out, and isn't going to settle. And maybe she’s just as frustrated about it as you are, if not more so.
Taking that view, perhaps consider showing a little more understanding, encouragement and support. First, yes, communicate how you feel, but remember you’re a team — telling her to grow up, tough it out, get it together, and deal with it isn’t going to help her or the situation. Pro tip: Good communication will also be an important tool when you’re married and making really big decisions together …
Second, help her find some guidance and direction. Before she enrolls in school, meet with a college counselor and try to dig into where her true passions and strengths, as well as dislikes and bad fits, lie. Heck, invest in a few sessions with a life coach, who can offer a different perspective and probably a constructive nudge toward some positive professional momentum.
And yes, I know: The reality is, you have a wedding to pay for, not to mention groceries and rent in the meantime. So she should take one for the team and at least get a part-time job until there’s some clarity on what she wants and needs to do next. That’s not too much for you to ask, and if she genuinely wants to be a partner, that’s not too much for her to commit to.