Breaking up with your job is like breaking up with your mildly okay boyfriend

Your job treats you decently. It only makes you cry once a month or so. It provides you shelter and food. That’s all you should want, right?

In the layer upon layer of conversations I need to have at the giant bureaucracy where I work, I’ve come to understand that quitting is very unusual. The generation before me has had these jobs for 20-30+ years. So the idea that I would NOT want this life is entirely hard to swallow.

I’ll admit, these coworkers and bosses make persuasive arguments – until I talked to my friend, and she said:

“It sounds like you are trying to break up with a bad boyfriend.”

Amy Poeler wrote in her book Yes Please that you should treat your job like a bad boyfriend. Your job won’t be there to comfort you when you need it. It will just suck everything it can from you if you let it.

I am weak here – I keep getting sucked back into the conversation with my mildly-okay-boyfriend-of-a-job and have spent days going in circles.

imagine listening to this nearly every day. it’s a miracle my friends haven’t broken up with me.
imagine listening to this nearly every day. it’s a miracle my friends haven’t broken up with me.

I am on to the game. I’ve broken up with mildly-okay-but-clearly-not-right-for-me boyfriends before. It’s just really hard because once you start that breakup, mildly-okay-boyfriend sometimes switches to clingy, bad boyfriend to get what he wants.

Bad Boyfriend/Job Argument #1: I’m as good as it gets, baby.

You’re here, I’m here. I treat you decently. Yes, I demand most of your energy and don’t leave you time for doing things other than what I want, but that’s what a job is, sugar cakes.

This job does treat me well for the most part. Maybe this IS as good as it gets – aside from the occasional flash of misogyny. Am I kidding myself by thinking there is a different way? That I too can live like a Swede and work only 30 hours per week and have a better-balanced, full life?


Bad Boyfriend/Job Argument #2: No one else is going to want you like I do.

Pumpkin muffin, you can be a little difficult at times, but I put up with you. We’ve been together so long, I know your quirks and I accept them. But do you really think you’ll find someone else who will put up with all your stuff?

This is the ultimate fear: If I quit, no one will ever hire me for a job ever again. How can I possibly explain this gap on my resume in the 25 seconds a recruiter will spend looking at it?

bad bad boyfriend.
ok you’re not THAT great, bad boyfriend.

Bad Boyfriend/Job Argument #3: Others want me real bad.

Honey bun, I already have five others in line who want your spot. If others want me so bad, it clearly means you should want me to. What’s wrong with you for not wanting me?

Don’t you need me in the long run anyway? You know you’ll just want me back.

And they are right, it is possible! Maybe I will want this job back again! How can everyone who wants this job be wrong vs. just little ole me who isn’t sure if I’m right?

The Washington Post wrote in today’s paper that maybe a recession is coming. What if I quit and there’s a recession and I can’t make this work and I never have a job again and I have to go back and live with my parents!?! Maybe I SHOULD stay.

can change

Bad Boyfriend/Job Argument #4: I can change, I swear.

Baby, what if I change just this one little thing about me? What if I promise I’ll let you go home at 5 every day, or even let you work from home some days? Just tell me what you want that’s different and I’ll do it. Mostly. Kind of.

Hold up! Deep breath.

I’ve done this before. I can do this again.

I know the only way through a breakup is to gather close as many supportive friends as you can find. You buy them drinks in exchange for having the same conversation over and over again.

So when I talk to my friends about my daily doubts, they say:

“Stick to your guns. Affix said guns to your hands with glue.”

“You deserve better. Just because others want it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. When you do find the right fit, it’s easy and wonderful.”

“You don’t want to disappoint your whole 48 readers on pentraveler by going back on your awesome plan.”

Re-read your Post No. 1.”

“You’ve planned for this. You know you can do it. No decision is forever if it does turn out to be a mistake.”

“I’m so proud of you. I support you.”

And lo and behold, I can breathe again.

Nine weeks!

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