Dear Prudence, Relationship at work problem: My significant other and I work at the same company but in different departments. I have been experiencing envy in a way that is detrimental to our relationship. She is young, been working here for four years, and has seen a promotion and outrageous raise every year she has been here. She has a relative in a high position at the company and has had the chance to work with certain people who have given her more opportunities than most here. I have been struggling to get out of my entry-level position for two years to no avail. Long story short, last year I wanted to apply for a new position within the company but was blocked for political reasons, and she got the job with no prior qualifications other than being familiar with the company and the person who hired her. She is getting all the skills, knowledge, salary increases, and networking opportunities to set her in a promising direction, while my own boss seems to be doing everything she can to prevent me from learning anything (while at the same time praising my work). It has caused a bitter rift between us, and I’m not sure how to handle it. I know leaving this company is a step in the right direction, but now I see my significant other as the competition, and it frustrates me to no end that she is “winning.” I worked hard at a graduate degree at an Ivy League institution while she went to a humdrum state school. I know that if the universe were a fair place, our situations would be reversed, but it isn’t. How can I work toward letting this go before it ruins what we have?
A: I am not nearly as confident as you are that in a wholly fair universe you and your girlfriend would swap places! I am also not confident that this attitude of yours has not already started ruining what you two have, especially if you consider the fact that you went to an Ivy League to be some sort of evidence that you deserve to best a mere state-school graduate for the rest of your life. That’s the sort of misguided sense of entitlement that makes a person sound like a villainous boyfriend from Gilmore Girls, and is not going to serve you well in life. I suggest abandoning it.
Your girlfriend’s success is not coming at your expense. You two are not, and never have been, in direct competition with each other, especially since she works in a different department, and if you continue to think of her as somehow “beating” you by being recognized and promoted at her job, it will only serve to further distract you from finding a solution to your actual problems. It’s good that you are starting to recognize that any solution will necessarily have to begin with letting go of this irrational resentment, but I’m troubled that you still seem committed to some sort of belief that you objectively deserve what your girlfriend has. Maybe you weren’t blocked from that promotion for purely political reasons. You might also have a genuinely bad boss, but I’m guessing that if any hint of the attitude from your letter shows up in the way you treat other people at work, there’s a reason you’re not being promoted. Focus on what you need to do to take care of yourself, whether that’s applying for other jobs outside your company, finding a mentor, asking some of your colleagues for advice on how you could be doing your current job better, seeing a therapist, or even just starting every day by reminding yourself that professional success is not a zero-sum game and having graduated from Boat Shoes Academy is not a guarantee of anything.