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I was one of the people who said that it was possible to date while on the market, and I'll follow up on why I don't think it's necessarily impractical.

When the original questioner talked about the possibility of dating, they talked about telling a potential partner "must be able to work remotely, have no long term career goals other than to follow me around the country, be ready to bail on all of your friends, etc."

But this is not something that you *need* to do. Maybe you will start dating someone, and they will need to move for their career, and you will decide to move with them, at the expense of your own career. Maybe you will start dating someone, and both of you will decide to stay where you are. Maybe you still start dating someone, and one or both of you will need to move for your careers, and you will have a long distance relationship.

These are just various ways dating can go that don't require making the big ask to which the original questioner referred.

Anonymous Postdoc

I had a few years of self-consciously sacrificing dating (and a fair few great dating opportunities in particular) to push to obtain a job with some stability. Eventually, I got a 100% research postdoc with some job stability, but in a city where almost everyone speaks a different language from me. Though I've learned the local language to some extent, mastering it to the extent of being an attractive long-term partner isn't something I can afford to do, given the challenge of not being unemployed in 12 months time and the high probability that I'll be moving to another language zone with my next job.

While there are many aspects of my life right now that are great, (lack of) dating is a definite low point. It's not as bad as having my taste buds surgically removed for 5 years of my life, but it's not too far off.

My way of handling it is to avoid magnifying it: in one respect, my life sucks very right now, but in a lot of other respects things are very awesome. Some people have lives that are 60% in four vectors; I have a life that is 80% in three vectors and 0% in another.

a philosopher

It sounds to me like the way to reconcile these two perspectives is to look at it in terms of your mindset.

If you are on the job market with single-minded focus, you will put all your free time into research and teaching, you will unquestionably move to take the next VAP, etc, then like Marcus and Amanda say, finding a long-term partner (or engaging in that sort of dating) will probably be profoundly difficult.

But if you're a bit more relaxed, as anon suggests, then it's likely to work. Your dating situation changes if you are, e.g., willing to potentially stay put at the end of your contract to be with that person, and are willing to prioritize going on dates at the expense of writing or teaching prep.

If you're genuinely looking for a serious long-term partner, it seems extremely self-centred to do so under the former sort of constraints. Successful long-term relationships are about growing together and shaping each other's lives: you can't really do that unless you're willing to compromise and involve them in your major life choices. But if you're willing to do that, there's no need to find a partner who's willing to bail on all their friends and move half-way across the world, and no need to find a partner willing to date someone with a definite moving date in the summer. No need because you won't necessarily ask them to do those things.

A final thought: one thing I've learned moving around is that a year or two is much longer than we think. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking: omg, I'm only going to be here for a year, how can I possibly develop new genuine relationships, grow as a person, settle in, or whatever? But if you slow down, and reflect on life a bit more, you can do a lot in a year, especially in two years. The philosophy job market and the pressures of the discipline only make you think a year is a short time -- and only if you let it.

I mean maybe that could happen

Thanks for giving this issue airtime Marcus, I think it's really important and an instance of a more general challenge: making a life while on the non-tenure track.

I'll focus on the special case at hand, though.

Amanda is spot on when they write 'When I was moving around after my PhD, I tried dating, and became really depressed because I kept running into people who didn't want to "start something serious" when they knew I'd be moving.'

That is a very real reaction. People, quite understandably, do not want to wade into the swamp of maybes (maybies? maybees? whatever) that 'anon' mentions. Perhaps some people are willing to put themselves into a relationship in that context (maybe I'll move, maybe you'll move, maybe COVID-19 will make this discussion moot, who knows!?), but it is very understandable that people would not.

There is also another related hurdle: people not being willing to let you sacrifice on their behalf. Something to the effect of 'I don't want to get serious with you because that would involve my potentially asking you to sacrifice your career for me and I don't want to be in that position'. It's frustrating to be on the receiving end of that, especially when you are yourself open to that possibility, but it's also very understandable that people would not want to be in the position of having to ask that of a partner.

This last point relates to something 'a philosopher' said regarding how people tend to view a year or two as being not very long. True, a lot can change in that amount of time. But in my experience it is not enough time for a relationship to develop to be so much as of the kind that could be weighed against a career or other sufficiently weighty considerations. Of course you go with the career you've been working on for a decade rather than the 7-month relationship you've been in that is now starring down the barrel of a one year NTT job in wherever-is-1500-miles-from-here.

So I guess I'm with the Marcus/Amanda view (apologies to either if I'm not getting their view quite right): I'm pretty skeptical about the 'real world' possibility of entering into a long term romantic partnership while on the NTT.

On a more positive note, if you are in this predicament you have a job. At least for this year, anyways.

a philosopher

"Of course you go with the career you've been working on for a decade rather than the 7-month relationship you've been in that is now starring down the barrel of a one year NTT job in wherever-is-1500-miles-from-here."

I think these are fair points, but I do want to push back a little. It depends on the job and current situation, right? This might come off as overly judgmental, and I'm certainly not aiming it at IMMTCH specifically, but I think if you're in a place where you *can't* imagine a situation in which you do turn down that one-yr NTT job to stay put (w/ a new romantic partner, but also presumably w/ your new friends, etc), then you're approaching this whole philosophy thing with an unhealthy perspective and bad work-life balance.

To imagine such a situation just a bit: say you're the average Joe or Jane on the market: you're a few years out from the PhD, on your second VAP, you're sort of competitive but not a top candidate, and you happen to now find yourself in an attractive (to you) location to live. You also now have a new romantic interest. That one-yr NTT job you've been offered is in a worse location. You're odds of it being a step towards a desirable TT job are, what, 5%? Perhaps where you live there's reasonable employment for you in some form or another. So, your choice: stay put and develop your life (outside philosophy, w/ a new romantic partner and friends), or take the one-yr job that means ending a promising romantic relationship, leaving new friends, and moving to a worse location, all to keep the slim dream of a TT job alive? If you've already taken a few VAPs, odds are this next one is just another step in a road leading nowhere anyway. It's not crazy to end that road at this juncture, in a desirable city with a new romantic partner and (presumably) other new friends.

All I'm saying is that there are plenty of contingent philosophers who, posting here and other places, recount horrible personal stories of the miseries of the pursuit of a TT job: finding themselves crying in their office, dealing with exploitative departments, spending thousands out of pocket to move year after year, etc. I don't think it's hard to imagine situations where it's rational to get off that train to stay put with a new romantic partner.

a philosopher

"Of course you go with the career you've been working on for a decade rather than the 7-month relationship you've been in that is now starring down the barrel of a one year NTT job in wherever-is-1500-miles-from-here."

A final point: This sounds a lot like a sunk-cost fallacy.


In response to a philosopher, those are good points and they are well taken.

However, it strikes me that they speak to the very problem at issue: entering into a romantic relationship of the relevant kind while on the NTT.

You are totally right that there are plenty of situations in which it makes a heck of a lot of sense to bail the NTT for a promising new relationship, or for many other reasons. You are also right that in some cases something like what you call the sunk-cost fallacy is at play. Best to Laurie Paul yourself off that ship.

But I think what Certainly had in mind, as well as Amanda and Marcus, was the possibility of a relationship of that kind alongside a commitment to the NTT (presumably because one thinks it will terminate in a TT job). The compatibility of those things was what I was skeptical about.

All of that aside, thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. Like much else in philosophy, while resolution is unlikely it still feels good to talk about it.

a philosopher

"But I think what Certainly had in mind, as well as Amanda and Marcus, was the possibility of a relationship of that kind alongside a commitment to the NTT (presumably because one thinks it will terminate in a TT job). The compatibility of those things was what I was skeptical about."

Agreed! And, it does feel good to talk about things.

a philosopher

Another thought: If you *are* single-mindedly set on a philosophy career and pursuing it where ever it takes you, that attitude and reality will come through to any potential romantic partners, who are then apt to quickly distance themselves from you. But I don't think this is unique to philosophy: people who are solely focused on a high-stakes career often turn off potential romantic partners anyway. If you do have a more relaxed attitude about your job (philosophy), I suspect you'll turn off fewer people, and more people will take you seriously as a romantic partner, even if they know moving might be a thing for you down the road. ... but, I am just speculating.


Alternatively to a philosopher, your focus on a high-stakes career will turn some people *on* to you, i.e. those who value such a pursuit. I think a philosopher is unreasonably pessimistic - maybe the people turned off by your gamble are not the sort of people you want to be in a relationship with. That said, it is probably good to have an eject button on your back pocket if you've been in temporary positions for too long -- the lack of stability is likely to make you miserable, and no one wants to stay in a relationship with a miserable person.


It seems like some of the posts here are forgetting that relationship are a two way street. People on the job market can be open to sacrificing their job to a partner, and they can be open to the possibility that "stranger things have happened" and that somehow you will find that special person who, with you, together, will make it work.

The above said, it is not enough for the job market person to be open to all of that. The *other* person has to be open to it as well. And I ran into a lot of people who simply weren't. They were very interested, and then I told them my job situation, and then they said what the OP mentioned, either that they didn't want to risk getting into a relationship when I might move, or that they didn't want to make me sacrifice my career. You are at a dead end at that point.

Is it worth trying and hoping you find the special exception? I think that depends entirely on the type of person you are. I thought it was worth it, at first. I even dated someone for a while who did have a job that made moving possible. But I just wasn't feeling it. You see, you don't need to just find one person who is willing to move. You need to find the *right* person. And most philosophers are a bit quirky which makes finding a match harder, and then the instability increases the difficulty 10-fold.

Eventually, I gave up and didn't date again until I found a permanent position. Dating takes a lot of energy out of me. I found it draining. And with the odds of finding someone being low, it wasn't worth it for me. Others like the process of getting to know people and dating, and they are okay with short term relationships. For them it could make a lot of sense to date. But I'm just not that person. I don't like short term relationships. I get attached and hurt and meeting new people is hard for me. So we all need to weigh those factors and make our own decision.

I will say that finding a permanent position makes things so, so, much easier. Especially if you have a job with a flexible schedule. My partner is, ironically, pretty far from me. But we both have flexible schedules and (it seems) like we can make it work. But if I was moving again in 6 months, it just couldn't have happened. Maybe persons who are offered permanent non-TT or outside of academia jobs who are single (and don't want to be) even more so those who want children.


I meant to say "Maybe single persons (who don't want to be) who are offered permanent non-TT jobs, or non-academic jobs, need to seriously consider what life goals are most important to them, especially if someone wants children."

lucky in work, not love

As a (hetero) woman who went through this (several postdocs, plus being haunted by the inevitable move during grad school), I want to flag that it can be especially rough out there for women looking to date seriously while being location uncertain. I found that men who were interested in dating me (a woman with a phd) were also very career-driven or ambitious. Those men, in particular, were not open to moving for a partner's career. The expectation that women sacrifice first is still very strong (even in liberal coastal cities!). I was open to making that sacrifice, in part because I thought there was a good chance I'd have to leave philosophy anyway. But I couldn't build a life with someone who *expected* that I would be the one to do it.

Even though I had zero luck trying to date seriously, I'm still glad I kept trying. It reminded me that I care about more than just my job. I had to set boundaries for how much effort to put into it, because dating can be as emotionally taxing as the market. I put myself out there and was honest about my position (and open to seeing what could happen). Now I'm at a TT job in a nice but small city with a population that has a very narrow pool of folks I'm compatible with. Most new faculty moved here with partners. Dating didn't get markedly easier now that I know I'll be here for awhile because of where here is. But again, I try anyway, not because I know it will work out but because I care about building a life with someone as much as I care about doing philosophy.


Lucky: Yes, it can be very hard. And the importance of finding a partner is why I did try for about 18 months. I then planned to date again once I started my TT position, but then I moved to a new TT position! For me, the big difference having a permanent job, was simply in being able to say "I have a permanent job and I live here." I would no longer see reactions of, "I can't date you because you're moving."

If you keep running into men who expect you to move (and I agree this is very gendered in the worst kind of way) yeah, that sucks. But I think at least some guys you meet, at least eventually, will be settled. And if they are settled, then it seems it would be easier, or at least advantageous, to have a permanent job as you don't need to deal with "what happens when I move?"

As far as a small town....that makes a big difference too. But that makes a big difference whether you were in a permanent position or not. Living in a town with less people means less people to date, less odds of finding someone, etc.

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