Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I love my boyfriend dearly and we are starting to talk about building a life together. However, we live in a certain place due to job opportunities for him. I don’t like where we live.
I feel guilty for saying that because we live in a beautiful house and have wonderful friends. I have always wanted to live in a certain place; it’s a city I love, have family ties to and is great for my career, where here I have none of those things. I want to plan on when we can move there. Boyfriend wouldn’t mind living there, but he keeps saying it will happen eventually or we have time to figure it out.
I’m terrified of waking up 20 years from now in the same place. At what point is this a big enough issue to break up over? Or should I try to make my peace with living here? How do you decide?
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Whether this is big enough to break you up depends on how strongly you feel about your city of choice versus your city of now, and how open your boyfriend really is to moving.
I do think, though, that dealing with problems by saying, “It will happen eventually,” or, “We have time to figure it out,” without seriously intending to resolve the issue out of respect for you and your needs, is a break-uppable offense.
When you next talk about your future together, explain to him that, no, “eventually” and “we have time” are not answers, because they’re how people end up in the same place 20 years later, angry. Is he willing and (professionally) able to move, or not? His (in)actions say no, so don’t take “yes” for an answer unless he responds with a thoughtful level of detail and until his actions say he’s sincere.
If instead he admits he has no desire to move, then you both get to decide whether you’d accept a second-choice location because you’re putting togetherness first. I wouldn’t advise marriage unless both of you would make that sacrifice for the other.
It’s going to sound like a parlor game, but, I suggest this: Talk about the implications moving would have on each of you personally and professionally. See whether one of you makes a compelling enough case to get the other to agree to that location – there, on the spot, with planning to start that day.
That could very well be the solution, where you both agree X place makes sense, end of story. But if you’re both stuck on your preferred place, then flip a coin – the winner is where you settle. Then you'll really see whether both of you are ready to put person above place.
Remember, you could end up in a third location for reasons you can’t now foresee, or for one we could easily project here: What if he’s as unhappy in your love-city as you are in this one now?
Unless the answer both of you come to for such hypotheticals is “Whatever the other needs, I will help provide,” you’re just building lives separately and asking the other along for the ride.
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