(Note to self: Before promising to post a follow-up the next day, I should either write the follow-up immediately or make sure that I have budgeted time the next day to write said follow-up.)
What wonderful comments all my readers have. It seems to be an extraordinarily common scenario.
First of all, let me say that you all seem to have "guessed right." In the caseI was thinking of when I wrote my post, StuDent is a woman and PartNer is a man. I think it's interesting that the stereotype of men being more stubborn about their professional goals is more pervasive, at least among my readers, than is the stereotype that the academic science world is male. I also think its interesting that many of you seemed to assume that PartNer had some sort of advanced degree. In this case, he has a BS - so the parameters of the job search are a bit different.
Second, StuDent has decided to accept the t-t job offer. I don't know all the personal details, but I know the post-doc turned out to be not quite as great as she initially thought and that she was able to negotiate for some better terms with the t-t university. She will move away in August (I'll miss her!), so that gives PartNer at least until then to figure out what a great woman he is letting slip away.
Third, in an amazingly parallel coincidence, this weekend my little brother and I talked for quite a while about his relationship. He and his girlfriend, both recent college graduates, have been together since high school. He has moved back to Hometown and started his own tech business; she is taking a 1 year at an outdoor school about an hour away. After next year, her plan is to go to U of Midwest for a MS and PhD in an -ology. But brother is very resistant leaving Hometown because he is making full use of his local network to get his business going strong. He denies that because he is self-employed that he is "portable." I think Brother and Girlfriend are at the critical break-up or get engaged stage of the relationship. But I know that Brother needs to realize that if he wants to stay with Girlfriend, he needs to be willing to move. There simply aren't any career opportunities for someone with a BS in -ology in Hometown. Brother says he wants someone with ambition, but with ambition comes negotiation of the two-body problem. It just comes with the turf. And somehow I think he's got to realize that if Girlfriend is the ambitious woman he wants, he has to be willing to compromise.
I wish more men were willing to move to support their partner's careers; I've certainly been lucky with BusinessMan. My guess is that feel emasculated when they are asked to down-scale or reframe their career plans for a woman. I think it's a hold-over from the days when men brought home the bacon and the woman fried it. On the other hand, women may be more willing to change plans because they are conditioned to acquiese to men, are grateful for a caring, enlightened partner, or simply don't see the benefit to being stubborn. But that analysis also ignores the issue of child-rearing. In an ideal world, of course, men and women would share child raising responsibilities without regard to gender. But many women expect or hope to stay home or work part-time with young children. Thus, they may feel that is important to maximize their partner's career potential even at the expense of their own. Not all women are going to think that way or even think about that issue at all. My guess, though, is that more women are going to consider the child-rearing issue when compromising on location and career than are men.
I don't feel like there are any easy solutions for women like StuDent and Girlfriend or for men like PartNer and Brother, but I suspect that it will become more of an issue as increasing numbers of women penetrate the ranks of graduate students and faculty. Gender issues haven't become any simpler to navigate with women in the workforce, but they have become a lot more interesting. I just wish I had some real answers as to give my friend and my brother.