Dear Wendy: “Is A Bad Performance Review A Sign Of A Character Flaw?”

I’m a 23 year old female in my last semester of my Masters and have been with my wonderful boyfriend for 3 1/2 years now. We were planning to get engaged and move across the country together this summer after graduation. We both did internships in Ottawa with government agencies there over the past year and would have jobs waiting for us. Unfortunately, my boyfriend just got an email from the place where he completed his last two internships saying that there would not be a job available for him there due to poor performance reviews from both of his previous supervisors. This was a surprise to me as he is a really smart guy in a really elite program in our University. He claims he did a great job and his supervisors are just out to get him, however I am not sure what to believe as this came from two independent departments. This has put a strain on our relationship as the performance review had some pretty serious accusations including plagiarism and poor attitude and I am not sure what to think of him now. I do love him very much and want to marry him and start a family one day, but it bothers me a great deal that this happened. Am I making too big of deal of this? Or do you thing this signifies greater trouble down the road? — Want to believe him

While I wouldn’t suggest necessarily breaking up with your boyfriend over his poor performance reviews, I definitely would think of them as a red flag. If your boyfriend is unable to impress employers and hold a job, what kind of provider and husband is he going to be? If you’re considering marrying this man, that’s an issue you need to consider, not to mention that these poor performance reviews may very well speak to a character flaw you haven’t been privy to, or haven’t yet allowed yourself to see.

You don’t say whether you definitely have a job waiting for you in Ottawa or if, like your boyfriend, you just assumed you did and are still awaiting an official offer. If you do get the job and decide to make the move, I’d think long and hard about inviting your boyfriend to come along with you if he doesn’t have his own job lined up. As a 23-year-old, brand-new graduate, the last thing you want is to be weighed down by a guy who can’t find a job or support himself. In fact, I’d definitely hold off on moving in together and getting engaged until both of you have some more real-world experience. I say this not only because you’re both so young and have your entire lives ahead of you, but if the poor opinion from two employers shakes your confidence in your boyfriend that much, clearly you don’t know him well enough or have enough trust in him to make a life-long commitment.

Marriage is about being partners. It’s about having each other’s back when life throws challenges your way. If, when bumps in the road come up, you can’t trust the person you’re with to help navigate those bumps — or worse, you question whether he’s responsible for them — you aren’t ready for marriage yet. So watch how your boyfriend handles this challenge and continue to keep an eye on how he conducts himself professionally. Consider the poor performance reviews an early warning. Whether they save you from making a big mistake is something only the future will tell.

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