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Foreign Service vs. The Families

The following letter appeared in today's Dear Abby:


DEAR ABBY: Last year I decided to pursue a career as a foreign diplomat. My wife and I weighed the pros and cons and concluded that the opportunity was worth the separation from family and friends. I'm proud that I'll be able to provide the kind of life for my family that we have always wanted, and I'm set to begin training soon.

We have begun spreading the news, and most of our relatives and friends share our excitement. My wife's sister, "Lucinda," however, is furious. Her objections started with snide little "jabs" but have grown into a full-blown assault. She is accusing me of ruining her life and threatening to cut off all contact unless we reconsider. My wife is distraught from the badgering and I'm afraid their relationship is on the verge of collapse.

Should I bow to Lucinda's threats or follow our dream and risk being disowned by a member of the family? I'm afraid I have inadvertently ruined my wife's relationship with her sister. -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN MINNESOTA

DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: Unless you want the remainder of your marriage and your career to be dictated by your wife's sister, do not back down. Lucinda appears to be an insecure, and possibly troubled, woman who is trying to control you and your wife through emotional blackmail. You have a bright -- not to mention fascinating -- future ahead of you. So follow your chosen path and do not allow your sister-in-law to continue to interfere. To fold now would only be the beginning of your problems.

  First, it sounds like the husband/wife authors of the Dear Abby letter are 100% in this journey together so I hope they don't allow this selfish sister's guilt trips to sway their decision.   But sadly, "Second Thoughts in Minnesota" is not the first Foreign Service officer who has had to deal with family backlash to their career decision.

I recently heard a sad story about an FS candidate who passed every test and hurdle, got his security and medical clearance, got placed on the register with a very high score, and that's when his wife FREAKED OUT. You see, the wife never believed her husband would get that far in the process, so she never raised objections until the offer was sitting in their laps. Wife wants no part of living overseas or being separated from family. Husband is gutted, and has to decide between lifelong dream job with unhappy wife, or happy wife and husband with lifelong feelings of resentment. Either way, the conclusion won't be pretty.

 The moral of this story is this: If you are considering a life and career in the Foreign Service, you MUST talk to your family and close friends about this BEFORE you begin the long candidacy process. The Foreign Service is not just a job, it's a way of life. Not everyone is cut out for the life of a globetrotting diplomat. Are your immediate household family members prepared to live abroad for the better part of the next 20 years? Are your family, friends, significant others in the States prepared for you to be gone for 2-3 years at a time, knowing they may not be able to visit you due to financial or security constraints? Are you prepared for guilt trips from grandparents, parents, siblings? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask before you even complete the online application form for the FSOT. If your spouse/partner/kids are not 100% on board, the Foreign Service is probably not for you.