Carolyn Hax: Advice

Wife/mom misses her ties out West

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn: Twelve years ago, my husband and I moved from my much-loved West Coast to the East Coast, where he was raised. His family lives about an hour from us.

At the time, our son was a year old, I was in between jobs and my husband got a job offer (procured in part by his family) for more money and a professional step up. The original idea was two to three years, but the recession hit hard, another baby was born so we stayed.

Now, I desperately want us to return to my home to be near my mother and sister, friends and the type of life I loved living out there. My husband says he doesn’t want to move and there is too much at stake financially and the schools are better here for our kids – one in elementary and the other starting high school next year.

He speaks to his parents occasionally but hardly ever to his siblings. I am very close with my sister and her wife, and my mom is widowed and aging. It has been very hard for me to only see them a couple of times a year if I am lucky.

Part of me feels like I have paid my dues back here (a decade longer than planned), and the other part thinks I sound like a brat. Although we both work full-time, he is the breadwinner and uses this as leverage against moving. He’s a status-quo kind of guy, I am more restless and passionate. I have applied for jobs out west and have employers interested in me.

I am kind of reaching a breaking point, and I resent my husband for reneging on the two-to-three-year deal. What now?

Now Who’s the Brat?

“Brat,” really?

That’s like calling yourself stupid when you don’t understand something. It promotes a “shut up, give up” mentality exactly when you most need to trust your brain, work ethic and refusal to quit.

So, first and easiest, stop negating yourself. You want something, you have good reasons to want it, and you were promised you would get it. By all means, sure, question and challenge your position in the light of your current conditions, including your kids’ needs and husband’s reservations – but if doing so brings you to the same conclusion of wanting to move back west, then respect yourself enough to see that as valid.

Then, respect your husband and marriage enough to be completely honest about where your mind and heart are. Resentment might start with a wrong that’s done to you, but harboring it in silence is a wrong you do to others. Air it, air it, air it: “This was supposed to be a two- or three-year move. A recession delay made sense but now it’s 12 years, and I am growing resentful that we’re not even discussing what I would like to do.” Own it.

To do so won’t guarantee your husband will agree to move, of course, but what it would guarantee is his awareness of the true stakes of his decision to dig in unilaterally: losing your trust in him as your partner.

In this conversation, please also explain to him that you see his breadwinner argument as more dismissive than persuasive, as if earning less gives you less say in the course of your own life.

Being clear on the stakes here isn’t just about emotional honesty, either. It opens a discussion of real options for getting past any resentment: Will only a move suffice for you, and only now? Can you wait X amount longer to achieve Y goals first, with the guarantee that achieving Y moving? Would longer and more frequent visits work, in the meantime or permanently? Can you get creative – say, to spend summers near Mom as you telecommute?

You have important talking to do, and to encourage by listening as intently and openly as you’re hoping he’ll listen to you. Otherwise resentment will follow wherever you two choose to go.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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