It isn’t unusual for two scientists to become a couple. It is obvious really; we spend most of our time at work, so the majority of people we meet are also scientists. Plus, our partner then understands our focus on our research and the long hours we work towards our ultimate goals; tenure, professorship, the high impact journal publication etc.
However, there comes a time when a large obstacle in your domestic bliss rears its ugly head. One of you has been offered a position far away and it involves a move. What does the other partner do? Should they be the devoted companion and follow? Should they continue where they are currently working? Or should they look for the perfect job for their career, regardless of where it is?
In an ideal world both parties will have discussed the possibilities of moving and will be happy to either relocate or have a long distance relationship. The question may be as simple as what is more important, your career or your relationship?
I speak from personal experience when I say that even if this appears like an easy question, you’ll want to really think about the implications of your answer. If your relationship ends, will you regret leaving your current job, or will it be a greater regret to stay where you are at the potential risk of your relationship? If the partner decides to move, will they be happy if they have to change research fields or take a demotion? Is it worth putting your career on hold (or potentially ruining your tenure track prospects) to be with your loved one? Hopefully neither party is selfish enough to make these important decisions without a full discussion and willingness to find a compromise beneficial to both individuals.
These are all terribly important questions which are very common and pertinent in the current economic climate. I have faced this problem before and participated in discussions on these topics.
So what did I do? I moved from a highly regarded university in the UK to where I currently work in Los Angeles because I put my relationship before my career. As it happens, it may have been the wrong decision as that relationship ended, but I am still enjoying the wonder of southern California. I have met some wonderful friends and colleagues; changed my research focus which is interesting and challenging; and had opportunities which I would never have been given had I stayed where I was. I do not regret moving to the USA, however I can imagine other individuals would not feel the same way if they were in my shoes.
I hope that, should this be a hurdle you have to cross, both parties can come to a compromise you are both happy with. It would be nice if you didn’t have to choose between your career and your heart, and could have both.