Should you follow your college boyfriend if you're not sure it will work out? What would George Eliot say?

November 07, 2019
Should you follow your college boyfriend if you're not sure it will work out?  What would George Eliot say?
Myles Tan
Matcha Green TeaStrauss, the Blue Danube

Dear Erica,

My college boyfriend is moving to DC after graduation. I love him very much and am considering following him there. However, we are both very young and he is not ready to get married yet. I know he loves me, but he does not want me to give up my comfortable life in California while he tries to establish a career in DC. I am nervous about making this difficult move, but I love him very much. What's your advice?


Confused in California.

Dear Confused in California,

You are faced with a very difficult choice, but not so different of a choice as the one facing Esther Lyon in Felix Holt the Radical.

In this novel by George Eliot, a curious twist of fate causes the heroine Esther to find herself in possession of a fortune she never earned or expected. While deciding what must be done about this fortune, Esther deals with warring emotions, her romantic love for the idealistic and passionate Felix Holt, and her more tame affection for Harold Transome, a wealthy landowner. Esther recognizes that the only way for her to marry Felix would be for her to renounce her fortune. Felix is brilliant, noble, and intense (if you haven’t noticed yet, I have a thing for intense young men!). However, Felix’s principles and noble ambitions would not allow him to live the life of luxury that Esther’s potential fortune would entail. He refuses to sit on his hands and live the life of a lord when he could be working and doing good in his community. For a modern day perspective, it would be like you choosing to marry a inner city school teacher who wants to make a difference, instead of a rich materialistic banker(I'm sure they are not all materialistic, but you get the analogy).

In making this choice, Esther realizes that if she renounces her fortune, there is no guarantee that Felix will marry her.

As George Eliot writes,

“What if she chose the hardship, and had to bear it alone, with no strength to lean upon – no other better self to make a place for trust and joy? Her past experience saved her from illusions. She knew the dim life of the back street, the contact with sordid vulgarity, the lack of refinement for the senses, the summons to a daily task; and yet the presence and the love of Felix Holt – was only a quivering hope, not a certainty."

Esther decides to give up the fortune and pursue the harder life, even if there is a possibility things won’t work out with Felix, because she could never be happy if she didn’t take the chance to make things work with him. In looking at your situation, I think you should think about Esther as you consider a move to DC.

You do not want your decision to move to DC to be wholly dependent on things working out with your boyfriend. You can certainly hope…Esther definitely did, and it worked out for her. There is nothing wrong with taking a risk, but you need to understand that a future with your boyfriend is only a quivering hope, not a certainty, and you need to be happy about moving to DC even if things don't work out. Sit down, have a cup of tea, a naughty treat (I find chocolate particularly helpful when I’m forced to make a difficult decision), and have a good long think about what you want.