I am in a long term relationship (almost 9 years) and in the last half of my PhD. Inevitably I will have to move abroad for a postdoc, after that I will probably move abroad again, and I don't know what will happen next. After 5-10 years I will be able to find a stable position. In the mean time my girlfriend won't follow me wherever I go, as she wants to improve her promising career in the industry. I'm looking for stories of people who dealt with a similar problem and/or suggestions.

How do early-career researchers conduct their relationships?

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    This isn't really a question about academia. Nor is this a place to collect "stories." – Buffy Jan 11 at 16:21
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    It is a problem that must be very common for early-career researchers and suggestions may include changing my academic path, I don't understand why it does not fit this stack, as there are plenty questions concerning the mental health and personal problems here. – Pedro Harunari Jan 11 at 16:27
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    I agree that this is a very common problem in academia. It's specific to academia because you are explicitly expected to have spent time abroad in for particular positions. It goes by the common nickname "two body problem" and in certain cases you can expect a host institution to help out with solving it. – Peter Jan 11 at 17:31
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    It is, indeed, a common problem and there are no universal recipes except using your common sense, making compromises, asking your potential employers for help whenever possible, and patient waiting and incessant looking for various opportunities to decrease the distance between you at least part of the time. Usually (but not always) this strategy plays out eventually (with the stress on the word "eventually") but in the interim period the life may be quite frustrating and the relations rather tense, so it is going to be quite a test of your desire to be together. Good luck! – fedja Jan 11 at 18:49
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    There is a story, which I have no citation for. A famous researcher was offered a job at a big-name university. He said to them "good offer. But my wife?" And within hours, his wife had a job offer at the same university. So, to the OP, your solution is for one of you to win a Nobel Prize. :^) – puppetsock Jan 11 at 21:10

Long term, the two of you need to make the choice: Better in or out? This will require some careful, serious, evaluations. For example: Raising children is probably a poor idea while the two of you are living in different countries. Are children important to you? Is the financial situation acceptable? How about the in-law families? And so on. You two should sit down and figure out if the separation is worth the end goal. And what the end goal is.

Currently my sweetie is in London, UK. And will probably be for 4 years. I'm in Toronto. Previously she was in Shenzhen, China. The plan is, at the end of this 4 years she will retire and move to Canada. Since her retirement is at age 55, possibly she can get employment in the engineering specialty she is in demand for that sent her to England.

Meantime, what we do is cope. I take pretty much all my vacation where she is, and she does not take vacation when I am there. And she takes nearly all her vacation with me, and I don't take vacation when she is here. Plus we each take some unpaid leave. Taking advantage of built-in holidays in each country, this means we get nearly 3 months a year face-to-face. I have learned where the trails are through the sky between here and there.

Then there is WeChat. This is a video chat service. You can download it free for Apple products. WeChat lets us video each other for an hour a day. If your internet supports the data rate for YouTube, then you can WeChat.

NOTE: Don't do or say anything over WeChat that you would be unhappy to have various governments seeing and recording. Because they probably are.

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  • Why would you recommend WeChat if you are wary of their privacy practices? You could just say there are many video chat services around that you may explore. – 86BCP2432T Jan 11 at 21:12
  • @86BCP2432T It's free. It works well. It has about a half billion users. It's only an example. And there's no promise that other video services don't have the same problem. – puppetsock Jan 11 at 21:14

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