Dear Carolyn: My fiance’s father has offered him an “in” to a job in the investment world, which would offer us great financial security, insurance, etc. My fiance is throwing away a master’s degree and wants to be a carpenter.
I’m seriously considering walking away because I think he is being really selfish given the long-term prospects. I am a professional and have supported us through his two-year master’s program. I am at my end here – what do you think?
– Fiance Needs a Job
You want him to choose a career path that doesn’t interest him just because it would finance a specific lifestyle to which you’d like to become accustomed. How is that not “really selfish”?
I’m making a point, not taking his side – or yours – because the whole idea of “sides” is uglier here than usual. So is the “selfish” tag.
He is deciding who he is. It’s taking him a while, and costing you both a lot to get him there, but those are just details. The barest fact is that he’s doubting the white-collar path. I think that’s his prerogative, especially as a still-unmarried person, but that’s just a detail too.
You, meanwhile, have made the who-am-I decision to your own satisfaction. That’s great -- it’s no small feat to reach that point -- but its being an accomplishment is also a detail. The barest fact is that you’re settled on who you are and where you want to go next.
So both of you are just being yourselves, doubting and settled. Layering on motives or value judgments or expectations only complicates what is simple.
Laid bare, the question you face is: Can his searching plus your certainty work? Can you, as you are, be happy with him as-is?
Anything can if you both want it to badly enough, I suppose. But you don’t want to love him as-is. You want him to be who you envision, so you’re seeking validation for the idea that he should white-collar himself to your liking.
You won’t find it here.
I can, though, sympathize with your frustration about the master’s.
I can validate your concern that carpentry is just the next thing he’ll try and abandon. That can exhaust a partner who doesn’t have the temperament for flux.
I can remind you that you get to decide what’s important to you. If financial security is your priority, then no one gets to overrule that ... just as you don’t get to tell him what his priorities are. Partnerships add an asterisk, but you’re not fully in one yet.
And I can underscore that it’s your prerogative to break the engagement, for any reason. Just don’t succumb to the temptation to make him the bad guy. “This isn’t right for me” is harder to admit but ultimately so much classier – not to mention accurate – than “You’re wrong.” You can love him and even encourage his quest for fulfillment and still veto marriage.
Maybe we’re ahead of ourselves on the engagement. Being “at my end” means you have to tell him – but instead of saying what you want to happen, let him volunteer what can happen. Then, together, weigh the chances it’ll work. The next step, be it toward or away from each other, goes best if it comes from you both.