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How a married 30-year-old can achieve adulthood

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Growing up isn't going solo, it's opening your mind

Q: I turned 30 this month and, though I've technically been an "adult" since age 18, I'm having trouble adjusting to this very palpable sense that I now really have to be an adult — i.e., be financially responsible and not call my parents every time something goes wrong.

I am happily married, but my husband has a very stressful job, and sometimes it's incredibly trying to help him sort it out. Add onto that my increasing feelings of homesickness, and more and more I'm bringing up the idea that we move closer to my family.

My husband sees it as a crutch so that I don't have to deal with being an adult. I see his point, but I also have realized that, although I thought I was a city girl, I'm more of a small-town girl after all, and also that my family is one of the most important elements of my life. So why am I living thousands of miles away from them?

Every time I bring this up with my husband, he either shuts down or says that, although he would hate living anywhere that I've been suggesting, he would do it because he loves me. In this whole morass of figuring out how to be an adult, how do I grow up yet still work toward a happiness that I thought I had relinquished?

Washington

A: Being an adult doesn't mean you force yourself to walk through this cold, cruel world all alone. Certainly it involves accepting that you are ultimately responsible for your own decisions and your own well-being — but why can't one of your grownup decisions be to live your life in proximity to people who make a difficult day just that much more pleasant to live through?

I actually had reservations about getting "involved" here and answering your question, because it's possible both sides have a good point. Your argument: You're lonely. Hard to argue with that, especially if your husband himself would agree that he has a stressful job (i.e., is not as "available" as a less strenuously employed spouse would be) and that he leans on you to help support him in his work. If so, the least he could do is make his support system happier while he's at work all day.

His argument: You're more committed to your parents than you are to your marriage. I think that's a common enough problem most of us have witnessed firsthand, and it, like your loneliness, can't be dismissed. And if you are overinvested in your family, then the least you could do is make a conscious effort to invest yourself in your married life.

Which brings us to the problem that has to be reckoned with before you can deal effectively with anything else: the gap between your and your husband's perception of your life together.

It may be that neither of you will come around to the other's viewpoint, but it also may be each person's willingness to see things the other's way will tell you all you need to know. The willingness to step outside your own wants and needs to get a full appreciation for someone else's — that to me is the mark of a true adult.

How a married 30-year-old can achieve adulthood 09/29/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:08pm]

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