What's your problem?

My employer has just offered me a job overseas. The placement would be for at least 18 months. It would be great for my career and it's something I've always wanted to do. But my husband would prefer for me not to go.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

His own career ties him to the UK, and he has no desire to travel anyway. I feel trapped, not least because if I turn this job down it might affect my future prospects with my employer.

A: To put it bleakly, if you ignore your husband's clear wishes and accept your employer's overseas offer, no amount of emollient prose will obscure your true position. You value your career more than your marriage. There need be no shame attached to this decision; and since you appear to have no family, you could take it with unusual impunity.

But I do hope that you'll think hard first.

You and your husband are both ambitious. You will never encounter circumstances and job locations guaranteed to be equally favourable to you both.

Acquiring a partner immediately and inevitably introduces a limit to selfishness. In this instance, the sacrifice you ask of your husband greatly outweighs the sacrifice he asks of you. And please don't jump to the conclusion that as a man, I'm naturally siding with another man. Were your positions to be reversed, my advice would remain the same.

But if eventually you decide to decline the tantalising offer of an overseas appointment, you may find yourself with another enemy on your hands: bitterness. The most glittering jobs are the ones we're denied by circumstance from accepting. Because their reality is never experienced, they remain forever in our minds as being without flaw and disappointment. Unfairly, we then contrast these technicolored, fairy-tale jobs with the black-and-white, documentary reality of the jobs that we actually do. Inevitably, this comparison means that the jobs that we do will always come in a bad second.

Unless you recognise this danger quite openly, and fight its consequences, you could end up living with, and constantly refuelling, a corrosive sense of resentment - and holding your husband entirely responsible for it. Allow yourself even a smidgen of self-pity here and you could find yourself not having magisteri-ally put long-term personal happiness before medium-term career, but having comprehensively blown both.

Only if, once having made the decision, you trust yourself to put all those what-might-have-beens behind you, should you make that decision in the first place. And I'm not talking about putting a good face on it, you understand. You've got to believe and feel and behave with an absolute certainty. You've got to be seen to be enjoying yourself.

That's a pretty tough requirement. Do you think you can meet it?

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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