Posts Tagged ‘Leading Spouse’

Just about anybody who was on the job market last year, and especially anybody on the job market this year, can tell you that getting an academic job is hard.  If getting one academic job is hard, the prospect of getting two jobs in the same area (referred to as the two-body problem) appears to be exponentially harder.  My purpose is not to downplay the difficulty of finding two jobs in the same area or at the same institution.  Rather, I want to bring attention to the plight of the trailing partner.

Long ago (over a month and a half!) when I discussed the emptiness of a new location, I concluded by noting that this time I did not have to face the emptiness alone.  Enter the trailing partner.  In my case, as in countless others through the history of academia,  the trailing partner is a wife.  Although I tell myself that I would be happy to earn less money or stay at home full time, the fact is that I do not and I do not.  Years ago, I went to graduate school and my girlfriend eventually followed.  Then I got a job and my wife (the same person, despite the change in marital status) followed again.

For her, neither transition was easy.  No matter how hard the transition is for a leading partner, the fact that you are in control of your own future is comforting.  Trailing partners get no such comfort, despite efforts to include them in the decision-making process (my wife had veto power over the locations of the jobs I applied for and visited our current area with me before I accepted).  The fact is that the job market is difficult for everybody right now, making the prospect of leaving a job and a familiar place for the uncertainty of the new especially daunting.  Luckily, my wife was able to find a job more quickly than we anticipated, giving her a reason for being in this strange new place other than the noble but unfulfilling role of supporting my new career.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers regarding how couples can jointly make a decision that is determined by the job prospects of only one.  For now, I am glad that things have worked out as well as they have.  My only advice is that if you find yourself with a partner who is willing to move across the country, leaving everything and everyone he or she knows, so that you can accept an academic position, be grateful.

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