Hi, Carolyn: When I was first dating my husband, I told him I wanted the opportunity to work overseas for a few years and he adamantly didn’t want to live overseas.
It was almost a deal-breaker for us a few times during the first three years we dated, but things were going well at work and I loved everything else about him, so I thought I would be OK without this goal of mine. We married three years ago and overall have a very happy marriage.
However, I’ve grown increasingly unhappy and frustrated with my job and really enjoy the short stints I do overseas for my work now. I’ve tried looking for jobs that excite me based in the U.S., but the market is still terrible. I think I can really only be happy working overseas, even for just a few years, and I’ve talked to him about it.
After begging and pleading, I eventually got him to compromise on living in developed countries only, but I don’t know if that’s a realistic constraint for the jobs I’m interested in. He’s never been to a developing country, and he’s unwilling to visit even for a short vacation to see what it’s like.
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I’m considering accepting an overseas position, even though I don’t know where I’ll be posted, and asking him to decide whether to come with me or not once I’m assigned.
I feel unfair and selfish for wanting to pursue my dream — especially after I told him I was OK with not doing it — but now I’m also faced with feeling “stuck,” and feeling that he is unwilling to grow with me in a new life experience by just giving it a try.
No, no – no laying this on him.
We can all have opinions on his refusal to consider developing countries, but they’re not relevant. He has a right to be exactly who he promised to be.
You’re the one who chose with eyes open to change for him; that doesn’t entitle you to get annoyed that he now won’t change for you. You can’t eat your cake and then resent the laws of physics for not letting you have it, too.
You made a (mis)calculation, a loving one, that a lot of people make: thinking you could prioritize a relationship over your own nature, believing short-term happiness was an accurate guide to long-term prospects.
But as you’re now learning, what feels inconsequential at first can be agony over time. More analogies for the taking: Try to hold a pose for 30 seconds, then an hour; be alone in a room for an afternoon, then a year. Cross the street in tight shoes, then walk the length of Manhattan. A blip, then agony.
It is time to admit to yourself and your husband that you cannot happily deliver on your promises.
It is time to stop badgering him to undo this mistake for you.
It is time to stop making excuses for why the compromise he offered – quite generously – can’t work. Either job-hunt in earnest in a developed country, or admit you’re unwilling to compromise and accept the marital consequences.
It’s time to honor either your vows or your nature, and see you’re not retroactively entitled to both. Tough, yes – the vengeance of pain deferred.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.