I’m a single male, 34, living and working away from my family, at a turning point over my future.
I’ve been doing post-graduate studies in the medical field and working part-time.
Now I’m thinking about switching to a more practical, needed occupation, as an essential health worker. The pandemic has made me want to be part of those who help others through this kind of health crisis.
Also, I’ve met a woman very different from my family’s background. I’ve developed strong feelings for her.
Our basic values are the same. She fully supports my switch to a different path of study and work.
But I wonder if I’m being carried away with the romance of it all - me as the hero with a lover at my side.
How can I make sure that I’m making the right decisions, though they’ll create a new set of challenges?
Mid-Thirties Turning Point
If possible, visit your closest support people (parents/best friend?) and bring your girlfriend. Or contact them virtually online, discuss your switch in work interest on its own. Then also introduce your love interest.
Those steps will give you, and them, awareness of how strongly you’re determined about your feelings and plans.
If they try to dissuade you from any of your decisions, that’s actually helpful too, because it’ll push you to be very sure that you can handle these changes in your life.
Meanwhile, look into what’s needed to make the studying and job-seeking moves required. It may take more time than you imagined, or be less complicated than you think, especially since your post-grad studies were already in the medical field.
Also, ask to meet your girlfriend’s family. They may need to be assured that you’re serious about her, and committed to a shared life despite any mutual adjustments needed on behalf of background differences.
So long as you’re both certain of the love you share, and both willing and capable of compromising, you’ll then have an idea of family reactions, and of personal strength/willingness to meet any challenges.
Dear Readers - A September 16 column that focused on the total family split between grandparents and siblings, including in-law spouses that ended up excluding one couple and their young children, brought many feedbacks:
Reader #1 – “A great deal of the time (in these kinds of situations) it’s about conflict between mothers-in-law (MIL’s) and daughters-in-law (DIL’s). And it’s about power and control.
“But it’s so sad that so many children (in this case, they’re now 10 and 12) are deprived of loved ones (grandparents, aunts, uncles), some for an entire lifetime, because of this.”
Ellie - The following is an example of how upsetting, confusing and divisive such inter-family disagreements can become:
Reader #2 – “My sister-in-law (SIL) had a milestone birthday. She had a get-together celebration that included her sister, her sister’s husband and family.
“My husband and I weren’t invited.
“I’d bought her a gift but I now don't feel like giving it to her. What do you think?”
Ellie - Look at the example above. Yes, families have squabbles that can become major feuds. That obviously didn’t happen in your case, or you wouldn’t have expected to be invited, the family split would already be a fact.
So, here’s still time to try to keep an open door, for the sake of the larger family and especially the youngsters who need the security of family support.
Give her the gift.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the man who’s annoyed that his illicit lover won’t leave her husband till her kids are a little older (Sept.15):
“What about this “douche’s” wife? If he feels his marriage is over why keep wasting her time while he’s waiting on someone else?
“Talk about having his cake and eating it too! Pathetic!”
Ellie - That’s an inelegant but dead-on conclusion of a reader tired of people only seeing their own needs.
But, for a relationship advice-giver, people’s feelings do matter.
I wrote: “She’s been a mother a long time, so this decision weighs heavily on her. It’s as much about her love for her children as it’s about her feelings for you.
“... tell her that if the feelings you two shared these past six months, and, if her marriage to her husband had already been unhappy... and warrants leaving her husband, then you two can survive a period apart that she finds necessary.”
Tip of the day:
Follow your heart and mind on making major life changes but first learn the most significant adjustments involved.