Should I apply to PhD programs if it means leaving him?

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Dear Meredith,

I'm writing to get some advice on whether I should pursue a PhD. I did my master's degree in the US, which I finished in 2016. The stakes were high, and I got severely depressed and developed an eating disorder. I made some friends, but I felt isolated and miserable most of the time. Since returning to my home country, I have worked as a tutor at a local university. Even though my work can be interesting, I feel undervalued (I've not had a raise since I started working here) and there are no growth opportunities. Since we are in a severe economic and social crisis, the chances of finding another job are few.

I have been wanting to flee to pursue a PhD for some years now. I am very passionate about the topic I'd like to research. However, I have been in a relationship for two years now and am not sure what will happen if I apply for a PhD and, by some lucky chance, manage to get funding. I love my boyfriend very much, but we argue constantly. Part of the problem is that I have jealousy issues, although he gives me no reason (I do not believe he has cheated on me, but I feel retroactive jealousy of his former partners, most of whom he has stayed friends with). When I mentioned my plans to study abroad, he made it clear that he wasn't willing to move to the US with me, and I don't blame him for that. So we'll have to try to have a long-distant relationship, which I've never had (only thinking about that makes me anxious). Of course, given how traumatic my previous experience in the US was, I am afraid that something similar will happen again. Anyway, should I apply for a PhD?

– The Indecisive

Apply for the PhD because you want to. Do it because you're passionate about the work and want to improve your life.

As you take next steps, work on all the other stuff too. Your question isn't about choosing between career and relationship; it's mostly about you being concerned that none of these paths will bring you happiness and peace. I assume you've had some mental health treatment (maybe?). Either way, find a counselor to talk to about all of these feelings and how they affect you ability to get the most out of what you love.

Because even if you don't get into a program, you'll want a better relationship, which requires some self-discovery. If you do you get PhD funding, you'll want the skills to adjust to a new place and handle isolation that comes with big change.

Therapy won't magically make you a joyful person all the time, but it can teach you skills to deal with discomfort. That's what this is, right? A bunch of discomfort all at once, with your boyfriend’s past, with the idea of leaving, with the memories of your last degree ... it's a lot to be stressed about.

Do you future self a favor and start the work on all fronts. Take care of yourself and yes, submit those applications. I don't see another option. The status quo isn't working anymore.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on next steps?