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Author Topic: Unsupportive Partner...  (Read 4583 times)
chalkdusttorture
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« on: December 02, 2012, 9:43:26 PM »

Just wondering if anyone else with a partner outside of the academic world has dealt with this. My partner of nearly 10 years is flagging in his support of my graduate studies. I'm starting my dissertation and have a 2 year plan to finish and get on the market. He thinks "it's just a big paper" so I should be able to finish it in less than a year. I'm failing in my attempts to explain that even if I finished more quickly, the timing wouldn't be right for the market so I'd lose my financial support and be SOL. Not to mention I have a committee who is suggesting taking my time, publishing a few more papers, and even a post doc.

Any suggestions? How do I balance these competing demands without going crazy?

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watermarkup
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2012, 10:07:22 PM »

Get ahead of the game and start on couples counseling now, rather than later. If you've gotten this far into your grad program without your partner understanding what your career entails, it's only going to get worse. The articles, and the postdocs, and the one-year jobs across the country, and the TT job, maybe, at a dodgy school in a state that consistently votes the wrong way--if he doesn't understand your dissertation, he really won't understand any of that. And if you don't get a good job the first time out of the gate, how supportive will he be then? It's time for some long talks and, probably, professional intervention.
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sockknitter
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2012, 10:16:43 PM »

My former (non-academic) partner of 14 years was very unsupportive of my studies and subsequent career plans, and he showed it in a million small ways similar to what you are describing.  With the help of an excellent therapist, I eventually realized that he had no respect for me as a human being and his only interest in life was to forward his own needs and desires.  There was no reasoning with him, he just wanted what he wanted, when he wanted it, and I was supposed to fit into his life's plans, regardless of what it meant for my own well-being.

I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you, other than that his failure to accept your reasonable plans and expectations might be a sign of another issue.  I went through several years of complete misery before I was able to rebuild my life, and I would never want someone else to experience that. 

You have already attempted to explain the reasoning behind your plans.  Unless he is somehow mentally incompetent to understand your explanations, he may be playing dumb to try to manipulate you.  I sincerely hope that isn't your situation.
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prof_smartypants
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You're getting hosed by small minds with no game.


« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2012, 10:17:21 PM »

"Well, obviously you should be a [insert promotion position here] in one year. How about we race and see how that goes?
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2012, 10:20:54 PM »

OP, we've had a few threads about precisely this in the recent past, as well as several more about unsupportive family members who can't seem to "get it" (who we are, what we do, the graduate/job-search/tenure-track processes, etc.).  I don't have time tonight to use the blasted search function to excavate them, but you should know that (a) they're there and (b) you are so not alone in this.
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chalkdusttorture
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2012, 10:26:28 PM »

*sigh*
Thanks for all the responses. I think I do have some difficult soul searching to do. I'll also check out the search function on the forum and see what I can dig up. Keep the advice coming!
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larryc
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2012, 10:57:38 PM »

If he is this unsupportive now I wonder about his reaction when your only job offer is in [insert least favorite region here]. You guys need to talk, perhaps with a professional, about the academic career path.
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dr_prephd
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 5:45:01 PM »

I had a totally supportive partner, and we still ended up getting divorced by the end of my program. Not saying it'll happen to you, but... couples counseling is probably in order.
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westcoastgirl
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 8:21:14 PM »

I'm sorry. My former spouse was not very supportive. We had a lot of other issues; I don't think he really cared what I was doing (academic or not), but he certainly didn't make things easier. He would not agree to move closer to my graduate school, help shuffle the kids around, etc. I have to laugh now because I used to think that he was so selfish for not moving 20 miles. My current partner lives 2,000 miles away.

I'll simply add to this and say that even when both spouses are in academia, there can be varying degrees of support issues, especially when one spouse is nearly consumed with work.
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fiona
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2012, 4:11:32 AM »

I've never seen an unsupportive partner change. They tend to sabotage your work--by interrupting your time, demanding attention when you're most deeply involved in research, and even picking fights before your oral exams or thesis defenses. Often they'll refuse to consider moving to a Remote Location for your job.

They don't change.

If you want your career more than anything, be aware that an unsupportive partner is like having a weight clinging to your leg, continually pulling you back and reminding you of a difficult burden.

Many people with unsupportive partners wind up hanging out in library or lab and not wanting to go home.

If you really want your career, you need to dump unsupportive partner. He doesn't fit in with the purposes and pleasures you want for your life.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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prof_smartypants
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You're getting hosed by small minds with no game.


« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 10:02:12 AM »

Look, it's hard to be an academic with a non-academic partner.

It's hard to be an academic with an academic partner!

If your partner is cool with what the next few years will bring (moving or being separated by thousands of miles) and is aware of what the job itself is like (nonstandard hours; weekend work, esp in the first couple of years on the job), then that's really all that matters.

He/she doesn't have to fully understand WHY it is the way it is. He/she just needs to understand and be OK with the fact that it is the way it is.

If you approach him or her and say, "look, I don't need you to understand why it's going to take me another two years, but I need you to accept this as a fact of life and support me." Maybe that would work.

I say this because my husband is the type that wants to understand the minutiae of everything. Always asking "but why". If I didn't know him better, I might think that he was being skeptical of unsupportive. But he's just curious. Sometimes I just say, "it is what it is", and that's that.

Perhaps your partner is similar?
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lightningstrike
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2012, 9:28:39 AM »


Many people with unsupportive partners wind up hanging out in library or lab and not wanting to go home.


Ouch.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2012, 11:47:40 AM »

Many people with unsupportive partners wind up hanging out in library or lab and not wanting to go home.

Ouch.

Maybe ouch and maybe not.  Some people seem to choose unsupportive partners because it's easier to deal with that than with being apart from people they like.

How many people will always choose the familiar because it's easy instead of choosing the new where anything could happen?

Think about this situation:

You (generic person) want regular sex, but don't want to pay for it or spend a lot of time in pick-up joints.

You also want someone who will be around a couple times a week so you aren't always alone, but you don't want to have to be home every day at 5 pm to spend every evening doing whatever people always do together as they share lives.

So you choose someone who can be counted on to fight with you regular basis and still make up every time.  Yeah, the drama can be a bit much at times, but you get free time to do your research and all you have to do is make apologies to get a romantic evening or a pleasant afternoon.

In contrast, a supportive person is going to insist on regular time together.  Almost no one in modern American society is supportive in the sense of doing all the work at home for years in exchange for being married or similar situation.  A supportive person might say, "Oh, yes, honey, go to that conference and I'll be fine here with all six kids for the week" once or twice a year.   A supportive person might make a deal so that Sunday afternoons will be spent at the library/lab, but Thursday night dinner is always together.  That level of support is reasonable to expect as part of the deal of being married.  However, only a complete doormat would say, "Yes, I agree to see you only four hours a week for the next ten years while you work on that degree."  That's not being supportive; that's abdicating responsibility to be someone in a shared life.

When many people say, "I want a supportive partner", what they really mean is "I want someone who will not complain too much when I spend most of my time on my career instead of at home contributing to a shared life."  Support goes both ways.  Some of the people who complain the loudest (I am not commenting on the OP's particular situation) are those who refuse to be supportive of a shared life and do choose to spend a lot of time on research as part of a not-quite-conscious plan to optimize human companionship with few restraints on career.  For those people, inharmonious homes are an effort management strategy, not a bug.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2012, 11:48:26 AM by polly_mer » Logged

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prytania3
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Prytania, the Foracle


« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2012, 11:53:30 AM »

Many people with unsupportive partners wind up hanging out in library or lab and not wanting to go home.

Ouch.

Maybe ouch and maybe not.  Some people seem to choose unsupportive partners because it's easier to deal with that than with being apart from people they like.

How many people will always choose the familiar because it's easy instead of choosing the new where anything could happen?

Think about this situation:

You (generic person) want regular sex, but don't want to pay for it or spend a lot of time in pick-up joints.

You also want someone who will be around a couple times a week so you aren't always alone, but you don't want to have to be home every day at 5 pm to spend every evening doing whatever people always do together as they share lives.

So you choose someone who can be counted on to fight with you regular basis and still make up every time.  Yeah, the drama can be a bit much at times, but you get free time to do your research and all you have to do is make apologies to get a romantic evening or a pleasant afternoon.

In contrast, a supportive person is going to insist on regular time together.  Almost no one in modern American society is supportive in the sense of doing all the work at home for years in exchange for being married or similar situation.  A supportive person might say, "Oh, yes, honey, go to that conference and I'll be fine here with all six kids for the week" once or twice a year.   A supportive person might make a deal so that Sunday afternoons will be spent at the library/lab, but Thursday night dinner is always together.  That level of support is reasonable to expect as part of the deal of being married.  However, only a complete doormat would say, "Yes, I agree to see you only four hours a week for the next ten years while you work on that degree."  That's not being supportive; that's abdicating responsibility to be someone in a shared life.

When many people say, "I want a supportive partner", what they really mean is "I want someone who will not complain too much when I spend most of my time on my career instead of at home contributing to a shared life."  Support goes both ways.  Some of the people who complain the loudest (I am not commenting on the OP's particular situation) are those who refuse to be supportive of a shared life and do choose to spend a lot of time on research as part of a not-quite-conscious plan to optimize human companionship with few restraints on career.  For those people, inharmonious homes are an effort management strategy, not a bug.

OMG! This sounded so like Hedgepig and I--
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lightningstrike
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2012, 12:33:16 PM »

In all seriousness, OP, ask your partner bluntly for an honest answer to the question "What exactly do you want/need from me?"

Then negotiate and see if he/she will accept some kind of substitute for that want/need in exchange for whatever it is that you need to advance your career.

I speak only from experience. After much angst and communication then more angst, my partner accepted less time commitment from me in exchange for an opportunity to uproot our lives and take a fabulous non-academic position in a galaxy far away. I got time to finish, and my partner got a career opportunity that I was yet to have. We are still together, today, despite the fact that my partner will never understand what it is that I do and why I have to spend so much time on research. We also really got to know each other during those arguments, and our relationship grew by leaps and bounds.

In short, for your relationship to work in tandem with your career(s), you will both have to give something and you will both have to give up something in order not to give up the most important things which I am assuming are your career(s) and your relationship.
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