This is a rather personal post for me, as I’m getting set to follow my wife abroad, while still seeking a research or lecturing position of some kind, whatever may happen. The situation is sometimes known in academia as the “two-body problem,” and is occasionally lamented as a fact of life for the challenging life of a researcher.
In searching for stories that I could relate to, given my situation, I came across one in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Helen Atwood (a pseudonym) mentions many of the emotional and stressful points of my situation, although the details are of course different. I don’t know whether my story will turn out as well as hers did, but I would rather take the chance than lose my marriage.
Atwood offers some advice, that I’ll try to follow, and others might be interested in as well:
Remember that you are a team. Be honest with one another about your wants and needs, and do so early and often. Try to work out the acceptable scenarios in advance. My husband and I have a mantra when things aren’t going well, or when we are faced with a difficult decision: “You and me.” Bottom line, that’s what matters.
Be prepared for some sacrifice along the way. Ours consisted of significant time apart, accepting a less-than-ideal temporary position (for my husband), and taking jobs in a foreign country. Talk through all of the options.
Consider applying overseas. And do so, even if the move is temporary. If you are considering a move, talk through the cultural, financial, and professional aspects with your spouse and others who can shed light on life abroad.
Keep an open mind. Let your friends and colleagues encourage you to apply for jobs that you might not consider initially. You never know where you might end up.