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Difficult, but you must be supportive

Washington Post

Hi, Carolyn! My boyfriend and I live together and have decided to spend our lives together. We both are unhappy in our current jobs and want to live in a different area to have a different kind of lifestyle. We both agreed that he would look for a new job and once he found one, we would move together and I would find a job in that area.

The problem is that he’s had two job possibilities fall through and now he’s lost all motivation.

I have tried to give him some suggestions, but he’s just not doing them and I’m not sure why. I’m trying to be supportive, understanding and patient because I know it’s a lot of pressure for him. Is there anything I can say to him that will express my frustration in our holding pattern without making him feel bad about himself? – Anonymous

By your account, you’re saying plenty. What you don’t specify is what you’re doing on the “supportive, understanding and patient” front. Do you genuinely understand his frustration, or support the break he’s taking?

You are in a difficult spot. The way out of that spot, though, is rarely to find just the right way to goose the person who holds the reins.

Instead, your good humor and his depend on your finding something you can do independently to advance your collective cause.

The first is giving him a chance to say he changed his mind on the move, or is torn. It happens.

Second thing: Give him the break he’s apparently taking whether you give your blessing or not. If he’s going to quit trying, then the break might as well be restorative – and it won’t be if inaction chooses him, or if guilt dogs him throughout.

Next, list ways you can advance the cause of your own happiness besides wait for or prod your boyfriend to get a job. It’s the rare person under pressure who wouldn’t benefit from having one source of that pressure be productively distracted by something else.

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