How My Partner and I Decided to Move for Her Career
Before my girlfriend, Emily, and I started dating, we both wanted one thing: not to be in a serious relationship. But as life often goes, that’s not how things worked out for us. Cue six months of dating in New York, followed by a semi-break up when she moved to Austin, Texas for law school. Then, after a couple of “I’m going to be in your city if you’re around” visits, we found ourselves, despite our mutual protestations, in a serious and now long-distance relationship.
When dating someone in a different city, an obvious question eventually arises: Who moves? And an obvious consideration for both parties is work. So, when Emily entered her third and final year of law school this past September, we had to decide: Do we move in together, and where?
Focus on the Facts First
To create structure around this decision, we had to be incredibly matter-of-fact when it came to career needs and deal breakers. While my job as a digital content editor can kind of happen anywhere (so long as I have an internet connection), Emily’s career in movement lawyering is most effective when she’s tethered to a movement she’s connected to and passionate about—and where she can access that now is the South. After receiving a fellowship to do direct service work in Charlotte, North Carolina, it made sense for her next career move to dictate where we're going to live.
Work is part of life, but it isn’t the only deciding factor.
Being realistic about the circumstances, I was technically pretty free to move, and the where mattered less for me in terms of job security. Emotionally, I was feeling pretty ready to leave New York City in a post-COVID world, too. We also acknowledged that, rather than moving to a specific place for the rest of our lives, we were making a commitment to really try to figure out the next phase of our relationship and lives and see what would make us both happy.
Being honest with one another (and ourselves) about our career trajectories was the first step to getting aligned on what we wanted to build together, and where would be the best place to make that happen.
Consider Life Beyond Business Hours
As two compulsive list-makers, Emily and I came into a lot of our conversations with pages of bullets and headlines like Things That Are Important to Me or What I Want My Life to Look Like. While we already knew we were aligned on things like morals and politics, we started getting into the nitty-gritty of what we wanted from our lives beyond location or jobs. Did we want to live somewhere where we’d be able to have a yard? How often did each of us want to see our parents? How rural of a setting would I be comfortable living in after almost 10 years in New York City?
Work is part of life, but it isn’t the only deciding factor. And in the end, we were remarkably aligned.
Early on in our relationship, Emily and I agreed on the things we value most, like community involvement, access to nature, and political participation. Having more abstract conversations about our long-term wants and beliefs in the beginning of our relationship meant that we didn’t have any big surprises when making this decision together. That said, there were still new things that mattered to each of us in this move. I didn’t want to drive a car everywhere, so it was important to me that we find a bike-friendly city. Emily wanted to be near her sister, who lives right outside of Charlotte.
By returning to the fact that we weren’t unwillingly tied to these decisions for the rest of our lives, it made it easier to feel like the move was a collaboration with our shared interests as the end goal.
Remember: The Only Thing That’s Permanent Is Change
Moving can be stressful. (In my 10 years in New York, I’ve only moved a handful of times because I’ve so actively avoided it). Moving to a new city for love can be super-stressful, and those feelings can quickly turn into resentment if you’re not careful. Emily and I worked hard to combat stress and fear by reminding ourselves that we’re not locked into this decision forever, and if we ended up hating our new city—or each other—we could simply walk away. (At least I could do the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing and “find myself” on the other side of the world if it didn’t work out.)
By returning to the fact that we weren’t unwillingly tied to these decisions for the rest of our lives, it made it easier to feel like the move was a collaboration with our shared interests as the end goal, not just one person following the other’s career path.
While neither Emily nor I were naive enough to think that this move would be simple or easy, we were both willing to put in the work to create a shared life that makes us proud. Sure, I’m moving to a new place for my partner’s career, but we were able to make the decision together—without losing sight of what’s important to me and my career.