I've been dating my girlfriend for about a year and a half, and for the most part, things have gone great. We have so many inside jokes and genuinely enjoy every moment in each other's company. What I'm (only somewhat) concerned about are the differences in our life goals. The woman I met in 2017 (when I was 25, she was 24 at the time) was mostly committed to finding a career that would allow her to truly help others. Like so many people in our generation, she has to stay at a job that pays decently well to pay off her student loans, rather than a job that’s more in line with her social justice orientation. It saddens me that the passion and fire she had for making this cruel world a little better is seemingly gone, and her ambitions of having a career that might actually help people has almost been crushed by the cruel reality of student debt and being stuck in a monotonous, meaningless job.
I'm still on a career path where I very directly and positively impact the lives of young people, though. I'm going to get a ton of flak for this, I’m sure, from some people, but looking long-term into something like marriage, I really want the girl who had that passion and desire to find a career with meaning, rather than be content with a job that pays that bills but leaves her feeling like what she's doing doesn't matter. We're both 26 and nothing is set in stone, but her goal these days is to essentially be a secretary for her friend in a medical office. This was a girl who had all these ideas for possible career paths that would let her fight the corrupt institutions in our society. I'm going to be educating students on how to become better global citizens, with strong critical thinking skills and empathy (traits that education has failed to instill in most people), and she wanted to do something along these lines, too. So my question is: How do I bring up my feelings about where her career goals are now, where she imagined they'd be, and if she's truly content with her rather unambitious career goal?
You're expecting criticism from the comments section today ... and you'll probably get a lot of it. Your letter suggests that you want your girlfriend to be a perfect, evolved partner right now. You want her to be a finished product at 26. That's a big ask – especially when you know the exact reason she's on a specific path: "Like so many people in our generation, she has to stay at a job that pays decently well to pay off her student loans, rather than a job that's more in line with her social justice orientation."
Your girlfriend might want some stability and money right now, but that doesn't mean she won't seek change or take some risks with her career. She might decide she wants a day job that allows her to volunteer. There are so many ways to be a person who cares about the world. Give her time to get there. Also know that your own path might change. The point is to experience this growth together.
If you have reason to believe that your girlfriend is unhappy, you can talk about that. Just remember that the conversation will be about her, not you. Also know that she might be getting a lot out of this job. All work is an education. Do not belittle what she does or assume it isn't important.
You say you're teaching kids how to develop empathy. You could use some more of that right now. Consider what you need from her and why, and remember that she's a lot more than a résumé.
Readers? Thoughts on the girlfriend's career path?