Dear Dategirl,I've been with my boyfriend for about 18 months, and I've been unemployed for most of our relationship. When we first got together, I had just graduated from grad school and assumed I'd land a job quickly. It quickly became clear that despite all my education, finding a job was not going to be easy. I waited tables, but was fired three months in.Throughout, he has been incredibly supportive. He always encourages me and lets me cry on his shoulder. My parents help me out a little, but most of our expenses fall on him. Once in a while he'll break down and let me know he's concerned about our financial situation.I feel like unemployment is keeping us from moving forward. We've talked about getting engaged, but he certainly can't afford a ring. More important, when I get married, I want to feel like a partner, not a burden.I'm frugal and try to be helpful around the house, but I worry that it's not enough. I'm concerned that he'll eventually lose patience with me. I am applying for jobs and try my hardest to get hired. I've even sold jewelry and other belongings to generate a little cash.This has been the hardest thing that's ever happened to me. It's already ruined my credit rating and self-esteem and has strained my relationship with my parents. Now I'm worried that it'll eventually cost me the person I love. Should I trust that he'll stick by me no matter what, like he says?—Unemployed
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This may sound daunting, but the first thing you need to do is quit panicking. Much like prospective boyfriends, would-be employers can smell desperation, and once they get a whiff of that stank, you may as well kiss that paycheck buh-bye.I would also suggest you make an alternate résumé. Right now you need a job. Whether it's stocking shelves at Wal-Mart or pulling grande half-soy capps at Starbucks, you need whatever you can get. On this alternate résumé, remove all the grad-school info and make it heavy on any service-industry experience you might have. People don't want to give entry-level/retail jobs to people with graduate degrees because they figure—correctly—that you'll jump ship as soon as you find something better. Not to mention that nobody wants to hire an underling who's better educated than they are.You don't mention your job-seeking techniques, but it's time to be shameless. E-mail old professors—maybe one of them needs a research assistant. Tell everyone you meet that you're open to anything, including dog-walking and housecleaning. When you meet new people, cheerfully tell them you're looking for employment. You'll be surprised how many people are eager to help a pleasant, smart person find work.You might also want to reconsider crying on your boyfriend's shoulder every time things don't go as planned. I'm not saying you should keep him out of the loop, but he's taking on enough responsibility without having to play wet nurse every time you get shot down. Find a friend you can confide in. Or better yet, friends. It's unfair to put it all on him.Also, quit worrying about getting engaged. You're living together right now and haven't even been a couple for two years yet. He certainly seems like a nice, committed guy, so just put engagements and wedding dresses on the back burner and concentrate on getting your own shit together. You're getting way ahead of yourself.Perhaps this isn't the most delicate way to put things, but whether or not he dumps you has little to do with whether or not you're employed. How many jobbed-up folks do you know who have gotten the heave-ho? Plenty. Certainly, yours isn't an ideal state of affairs, but wasting time worrying about what might happen is going to take valuable energy away from what should firstname.lastname@example.org