Love in the Urban, Modern World

Love vs. Economic Opportunity

In my posts I tend to focus a lot on the technical aspects of urban planning, but it is important to think about how our increasingly urban society actually effects us as people. Over the last 50 years we have become both more urban and more mobile; this can often present unique challenges to people in serious relationships, especially when children are involved. There was a time not so many years ago when men were expected to bring home all of the income for a family and things were less complicated as a result. If a job opportunity presented itself far from home, the man would take it and his wife and kids would follow. While moving around like this would still effect the family, the effects have become even greater today as more and more relationships are composed of two income-earners.

We are Increasingly Mobile People

Now more than ever before, Americans are likely to have a variety of jobs between the beginning and end of their careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person can now expect to have between 12 and 15 jobs in their lifetime. These jobs could all be in the same area, but that seems unlikely. It has also become much harder to find a stable job over the last ten years, which makes it harder for a person to turn down the opportunity to relocate for a new position. The Census Bureau estimates that after age 18, the average American will move 9 times. 

How Love Fits In

Imagine this. You are an eager college graduate ready to take the best job that you can find. You find one job that you are happy with but you know that every few years you will need to move to a totally new area and that you will have to do lots of traveling. This sounds like a great opportunity and you have always wanted to travel. It would be so easy for you to move from place to place and you are excited about the prospects of seeing the world.

But not so fast. Your significant other, also a recent grad, has a similar opportunity with a different company. Now what?

In 1950 the answer to this question would have been easy; the situation surrounding it would be in all likelihood very different. A man would have this great opportunity and he might already be engaged or married after college to a woman who he would expect to bear children and stay at home. The man would have taken the job and his wife or girlfriend would have followed.

But now that women and men have the same (hopefully) opportunities in the workforce, this is so much more complicated. Not to mention the fact that there are so many new relationships that were not acknowledged years ago. We could be talking about a homosexual pair or a pair with a large age gap. The world is no longer so black and white. 

Now What?

Right so it is extremely complicated. Both people have the opportunity to take jobs in different cities and both people want to focus on their careers. One person could follow the other, but they would likely have to give up some of their career opportunities. Many couples try to avoid this problem, but it is almost bound to come up at some point when the world has become so mobile.

In this situation you have a variety of choices, none of which are clearly better than the others and each requires a lot of sacrifice. You could both take the jobs and enter into a long-distance relationship or break up. You could try to prioritize careers by who will make the most money (what a depressing conversation). Or you could both skip out on your offers and continue to search for jobs in the same area. 

It comes down to a very dreary choice: for love or prosperity? There are many cases where you can end up with both, but you will have to make a leap of faith in one direction or another and hope that the other part will follow. No matter what choices are made, there is ample opportunity for resentment either of one's partner or of one's career. 

As of now, I cannot think of an efficient or reasonable solution to this modern love problem.