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Career Jealousy - Can They Make It Work If He Says She Can't Be More Successful Than He Is?

Updated on August 18, 2011

Dear Veronica,

My boyfriend and I have been together for 1 1/2 yrs. We are professional school/ grad students and he was held back one year. This past year as he is repeating a year of class, I am excelling and on track for graduation. Upon graduation I have to relocate to take a job. My boyfriend on the other hand is struggling and is in danger of being dismissed from the program. I have wanted to get engaged for the past 5 months or so but I understand that he is currently struggling day to day and can't see that far ahead into the future. He says that if he were facing the transition and graduation I have coming up soon he would no doubt want to plan to move together into the next stage of our life (possible engagement, house, etc). The problem is that he is not there but is barely passing his classes. We can't graduate together and he may not be graduating at all. We have an honesty policy in our relationship so the other day he told me that he is not sure he could continue to be with me if I got to pursue the job of both of our dreams and he couldn't. It would be a reminder of his failure every single day. I get that. I think I might feel the same if I were in his position. I love him and have made it clear that no matter what happens I will stick by him as long as he wants me... in your opinion is this something a relationship can overcome? Do you have advice of how to handle this? Because right now my heart is breaking that I can't do anything to help him succeed and the consequences of failure are just so awful for our relationship and his career.

- what to do

Dear what to do,

Oh sweetie you are not going to like my answer. 

Now is so completely not the time to be advancing your relationship. Graduating, and career starting is one of the single most crucial times to your development as a person, and it is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times of your entire life. The pressure, the excitement, the self doubt and self respect - you can't even imagine what the next couple of years are going to be like. And in today's world it's 100x's worse. Jobs are scarce, bills are high, people are cut-throat to get and hold a position in a company. Even my happy-hippie life-loving docile little marine biologist friends are throwing each other off the pier just to try to land a $15 an hour zoo job picking up penguin shit.

If everything between you and your beau were hunky-dory and you wrote saying you want to plan on living together, buying a house, etc, and asked my advice I would say unless you are already living together, don't. And don't buy together. Not a house, not a car, not now. Now is not the time. You both should be focusing on yourselves and your careers. The relationship will pay the price if you step it up now. You need to wait, at least a year, until you're both acclimated to the world and life outside of college and school, and you're both well on your way to personal happiness and success. 

You can not be a good partner until you can be a good YOU. And right now is the time for YOU to truly take a step. It's so important.

But you two are no where near hunky-dory. He has revealed something very disturbing. And frankly, so have you.

This is all bad. There is a reason why it's just never a good idea to marry before a person goes through their Saturn Return around age 28. (I'm guessing at your ages.) But I won't get into that here. I will focus on the exact issues you've spoken about. 

I'm glad he's admitted that he has a problem with your being more successful than he is. So many marriages end in hateful divorces for exactly this reason. He is not at a point in his life where he can celebrate you. He is actually at the opposite point in his life, where he admittedly can not be supportive of your success because of his jealousy and failure.

This will always be the case. If you two stayed together, he will always have this chip on his shoulder about this. I guarantee it. Every job offer you get. Every piece of praise you bring home from work. Every new career opportunity, every promotion, every step, he will resent. No matter how far along in his career he is, this will always be at the base of his views.

This will translate into all aspects of life. If you run faster, make dinner, clean, play a trivia game - whatever it is, it doesn't matter how small or inconsequential, he will play the "Of course you're so much better than me" card. 

Where this will get really painful is in child rearing. 

I know you are shaking this off and thinking this is isolated to the moment, because of the pressure of failing out in school and not graduating. Another piece of proof of the state of mind of someone at this point in their lives, and why taking on additional responsibilities and stepping up commitments is such a poor idea at this time.  

But this isn't momentary. And it's not the norm. Which brings me to my next area of of concern.

You said, you think you might feel the same way if you were in his position.

There is no way in hell I'm buying that.

You wrote this over-the-top vow of sticking by him no matter what. If you are capable of that kind of love and loyalty, than you are not the type to resent the person you've professed such love for in their successes. 

The fact that you said it though, shows a very bad sort of rationalization on your part. It shows that kind of unhealthy excuse-making for your partner. Did you ever hear of a woman getting hit by her husband and when asked about it, she will try to rationalize it and defend him by saying, "Well he did always say not to push him when he gets like that, so it's technically my fault for pushing him."

What you're doing is a version of that. No where near that extreme of course, but it's still the same type of thing. This man that you're saying you'll stick with no matter what, actually said to you that your success will only remind him of his failures. You should have stood up tall and saying, "My success should be something you celebrate, it should be about me. Not you. It shouldn't be about how that makes you feel, because you failed." But instead, you rationalized that self-absorbed thinking. 

Right now you're rejecting everything I'm saying. And that's ok. It's a sucky situation and you don't want to be in it, and you certainly don't want to hear how this is only the tip of the iceberg, as this goes to character and the ability to celebrate others. You would much rather hear some coddling and "there there" advice.

But, if you've asked this question of me, it's because you've read my no-nonsense three-martini advice on Hubpages, and you know I'll give it to you straight. You may need to walk away from this and come back to it later. But deep down, you wanted the truth. And here it is, as crappy as it is.

"what do do," you sound smart and you also sound like an awesome girlfriend making such a huge commitment to stick by him when he's down, even when he is clearly stating he will not stick by you when you're up. You deserve to be celebrated. You should want to be with someone that is happy for your successes, and doesn't measure all you do against what he does. Not now, and not later. 

Take this time to focus on your career. On your steps. On your graduating, and your moving, and your getting a job, and your self. Be happy about them. Celebrate them. This is such a crucial and critical time in your life. Do not let it be dampened by someone who can't be happy for you, and can't support you when you need it. My advice to you is to go out there in the world and be fabulous. And do not weigh yourself down with a relationship that is not mutually supportive.

Do you have a relationship question? Email me through the link in my profile. Thanks!



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