Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, chats with readers weekly. Starting June 10, the live chat will be hosted here on Slate. An edited transcript of the chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon. I look forward to your questions.
Q. Job vs. Dude: I’m very unhappy with my current employer, and I’ve just been offered my dream job—except it is in a rural backwater town where I know nobody, far away from my friends and my city. Career-wise it would be a great choice, and I could probably come back to the city in a couple of years, but I am hesitant. Part of my hesitation is that I am a lifelong urban-dweller scared of leaving my city to move to a small town where I might not meet any likeminded people. The other part is that a couple months ago I started seeing a man I really like and respect. We have long-term potential, which is really exciting to me after a string of dead end relationships in my 20s. I feel like I won’t meet anyone like him in a small Podunk town, but on the other hand, I have only known him for like, two months. I have until the day after Memorial Day to give my answer, and feel pretty lost, I’d be grateful for any and all tips.
A: Oh, this situation is the perfect setup for a remake of Sliding Doors. Do you stay in your miserable job, but marry the man you love, eventually to find happiness in both work and life? Do you move to the backwater, have great professional fulfillment, and discover that the guy in the next office is your destiny? Or do you stay in the job you hate, only to have the new romance fizzle? Or do you follow your work opportunity, find the job wasn’t as promised, and you feel so lonesome you could die? And your deadline for resolving this is ... today! Get out the legal pad, make a list of pros and cons, add them up—and then see what your heart says. Another good technique in such situations is to flip a coin. Heads you stay, tails you go. Then when the answer comes up, do you feel relief and certainty, or do you want to flip again until you get an answer you like? One thing I suggest is putting the guy out of your mind (it’s a wildcard as to whether the romance will flourish) and see if that clarifies your choice. Also know that this dream job is not the only better job for you. You were able to get this offer, so potentially there are other offers out there in more amenable settings. But flip that coin now, and tell us what happened!
Q. Office Dilemma: A couple of months ago, my father passed away. Around the same time, in an odd coincidence, one of my colleagues, who is about my father’s age, was diagnosed with the same illness. I feel very bad for my colleague and his family, but I am also having some trouble with how his illness is being handled at work. A number of us, including me, have been asked to cover the work that he cannot do. In addition, because he is working part time but is so often in the hospital, some of our meetings are now being held in his hospital room so that he can be involved. Seeing my colleague at the hospital really upsets me, as it reminds me too much of sitting in the hospital with my father. I am really struggling to keep up with my own work right now, and having additional responsibilities on top of that is really overwhelming. I spoke to my supervisor, but he implied that my own experiences with my father should make me especially empathetic and willing to help this colleague out. I do admire everyone’s willingness to support this colleague, but I find myself dreading going to work. I am in my mid-20s, and this is my first job, so I am unsure of what is common or appropriate for them or for me to do in a situation like this.
A: It’s one thing for everyone in your office to divide up the duties of a sick colleague, it’s another to force someone into a distressing hospital setting. You will be far less productive if you are having to relive the heartache and grief of your father’s decline and death every time you have an office-wide meting. Your boss, while being sensitive to your ill colleague, is being grossly insensitive to you. You also are a junior worker and a novice in the workplace, so you don’t want to be seen as obstructionist. The next time a meeting is called for the hospital room, go to your supervisor and explain that you perhaps have not made clear that while you have all the sympathy in the world for what’s going on, your own father is only recently dead, and being back in the hospital and seeing someone fight the same disease is just too painful and raw right now for you to handle. Say that since all of you are doing extra duty, you would appreciate being able to stay in the office to attend to your work, then will catch up with what was said at the meeting. In addition, if all of you are struggling to keep up with your own workload, talk to colleagues about the best ways to parcel out the work of your ailing colleague, and what to do when you feel you’re falling behind. There likely needs to be an office-wide meeting in the conference room, not the hospital, to address what sounds like a long-term issue.
Q. Open About Being in an Open Relationship: I’ve been married for 25 years, have two kids and all my friends are similarly long-time married couples with teenagers. My friends don’t know that my husband and I have an open relationship. Right now, we both have girlfriends, and the relationships are all going extremely well and we couldn’t be happier. I am thinking about telling my friends that we are not monogamous and that we have these two wonderful women in our lives. The two women have met many of our friends at various events and parties, but no one knows the nature of our relationship. I’m tired of hiding it, but afraid we will lose some friends. Should we come clean?