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Relationships I moved abroad for love, but left my dream job behind. Which one do I choose?

The question

I’m a 23-year-old from Canada living overseas in Norway with my girlfriend of five years. We met online when I was 18 and she was 17 and fell quickly for each other. We visited each other several times before deciding to try living together. She is very close to her family, so she felt she couldn’t leave Norway. Even though my dream job was in Canada and I love my family a lot, too, I decided I should be the one to move since I really wanted to be with her. It’s not so often you find someone you love who’s also your best friend. My dilemma, however, is that I’m not happy here and I’m starting to resent the fact that I am missing out on my dream job. I love her and want to be with her, but I also want to follow my dreams. She said she can’t leave any time soon. I don’t know if I can wait. I want to have a career I love, but I don’t know if I could walk away from love just like that. Any advice on how to make a decision with as little regret as possible?

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The answer

My favourite type of question: complex and very Gordian-knotty.

Love versus career: what a terrible, difficult choice. Especially at your age because who knows what’s going to work out, or not.

Let’s paint a picture of each way it could go. As always, worst-case scenarios present themselves to my imagination, but perhaps that can be instructive too.

You choose love over career and stay in Norway. Eventually, your Norwegian girlfriend becomes sick of you – possibly precisely because your career sucks.

I’ve seen this happen: A person relocates for the sake of the spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend’s career then the spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend winds up struggling in the new locale and his/her spouse/girlfriend boyfriend winds saying to him/herself: “Why am I affiliated with such a loser?”

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But it’s true that if you sacrifice your career goals for the sake of another person it can come back to bite you in the derrière –with the horrible double-irony top-spin that the very person you sacrificed for loses respect for you.

At the same time, I’ve seen people sacrifice love for career, saying to themselves: “I’m not ready for a commitment yet.” Then, when they decide they are ready: whoooooo (i.e. sound of desert wind, accompanied by visuals of tumbleweeds drifting by and bleached skulls in the sand under an unforgiving sun).

The good news, I think, is basically the same as the bad news: your age. True, it makes for uncertainty in both love and career. But at the same time, say you choose career over love, or love over career: Either way, your mistake will probably be revealed in about five years, when you will only be 28!

At which point, I think, you need to make a firm decision, especially if the love-piece is a mistake. Me, I mistakenly (as it turned out) moved to New York for love, tried to make it work for a couple of years, realized it wasn’t working – and got the hell out of there – when she was 28.

I even borrowed money from my then-girlfriend to leave her, I’m ashamed to say. But I put it to myself thus: “Don’t waste her prime child-bearing years.” She’s not sending me any thank-you notes, but I could have shilly-shallied a lot longer, wishy-washily hemmed and hawed and wasted another decade of her life – at which point she could have legitimately pointed to me and said: “There goes the cad who ruined my life.”

So don’t do that. That is the primum mobile here, I believe. And the older I get, the more I think that is the worst sin you can commit: wasting another person’s time.

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So bottom line: If you are not serious about this woman, the sooner you release her the better.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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