West Bank or U.S.? Boyfriend or job? Seeking two-state solution

Should I sacrifice the job for the boyfriend, or sacrifice the boyfriend for the job -- or can I have both?

By Cary Tennis
Published December 14, 2006 10:10AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

After graduating from college this past May with a degree in Arabic, I decided to spend five months in Beirut to improve my Arabic and freelance a few articles. I traveled to Beirut and then a war broke out. At the time, I was visiting my boyfriend in the West Bank, and he and his family forbade me to return to Beirut. Their persistence (and some common sense) prompted me to stay with them for a month and then travel home to the United States with my boyfriend, who has two years remaining on his U.S. study visa.

I returned to my home state and found that my job options in media were severely limited. After three months of rejection, I decided to apply for my "dream" job at a media company that was out of state. I did this thinking that I would immediately be rejected. The opposite happened -- they hired me immediately on a limited-term contract. I moved to a new city and have been working at this job for about a month.

My boyfriend and I were both very sad that I was leaving, yet he realized that my new job would open up so many doors. We also knew that my contract was only for a few months and that I would soon be returning to my home state. Well, that is what we told and continue to tell ourselves.

This job has not lived up to my expectations, but I know that if I renew my contract and stick with the job for at least a year then I would well be on my way to attaining goals that I had thought would take me years to achieve.

After my boyfriend's visa expires he is contractually obliged to return to the West Bank for two years. He is amazing on so many levels and when I think of us separating, it makes me sick to my stomach. He has often stated that he would love for me to move to the West Bank with him.

I don't want to move to the West Bank. I can't see our relationship lasting if we're on two separate continents -- it has been hard enough in two states. I want to spend our next year and a half together, yet I can't see myself moving back to my home state and restarting that agonizing job hunt. I have been given an amazing opportunity and feel the need to make the most of it.

Should I give up on this relationship now knowing that ultimately our futures are irreconcilable? Or should I give up this job and put my all into a relationship that I am not 100 percent positive will work out? I know that with time I would be able to find a fulfilling job in my home state, but the opportunities presented by my current job are too enticing to ignore.

Seeking a Two-State Solution

Dear Two-State Solution,

I would suggest that you let go of the boyfriend.

That doesn't mean you have to break up. It does mean that you let go.

What is this letting go? It is a decision.

You decide what is most important. You admit to yourself what is already apparently a fact: What is most important now is building your career.

In a way, you have already let go of your boyfriend. When you took the out-of-state job, you chose. You left your boyfriend for the job. You didn't leave him permanently. But you left. Work is more important than your boyfriend right now.

This is not complicated. But it is a little cold.

Companies are cold boyfriends. They are rich, mean boyfriends. They do not call you late at night and tell you how they wish you were there. If you're not there they just go get somebody else. They can do this because they think you could not live without them. As long as you believe you cannot live without them, they will dick you around.

So after you let go of your boyfriend, let go of your job.

Don't quit the job. Just let go in a spiritual way. Cede control. Admit that the job is running the show, but know that you could leave at any time, no problem. Let it run the show. Who cares? The show is a lot of work to run. Why pretend? Don't refuse them. Let them take you where they are going to take you.

Your relationship with your boyfriend will benefit from this letting go. Right now your relationship is a source of torment. It is suffering. You are struggling so hard to keep it, but you are not willing to give up the job to keep it, so you are not willing to do what you would have to do to keep it, yet you want to keep it and fear what will happen if you let go. That is why it is suffering. There is too much holding on. So let it go and see what happens. For all we know, your job will take you straight back to the West Bank in two years, where your boyfriend will be. We don't know. But whatever happens, your relationship will stop being a torment once you let it go. If it ends, then it ends in a dignified way: It could not compete with the job. But maybe it doesn't die when you let go of it. Maybe it just becomes lighter. Maybe your boyfriend comes to visit you when he can and you make love and celebrate your existence together, and then he leaves. Maybe you don't pretend.

And maybe, once you clarify your situation by letting go, maybe one of you decides that the relationship is, after all, the No. 1 priority and makes a move. Maybe one of you decides to put everything else aside and propose marriage. Maybe then you get married and marriage makes cohabitation possible, or maybe you do not get married and that clarifies things too. If someone proposes but you don't get married, then the relationship truly does die.

So tell your boyfriend that you are letting go of the relationship. If he asks you what that means, tell him that you're not sure. Tell him that your first priority right now is your career, and so the relationship is thus vulnerable. Tell him you don't know what the future will bring. Try to live with things the way they are, with the uncertainty and the vulnerability, with the powerlessness. That is the best two-state solution I can think of.

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