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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Move must be acceptable to both partners

Move needs to be acceptable

to both husband and wife

Q: If I am not the primary earner in our family and I don't want to be (so that I can spend time with our son), is it fair of me to refuse to move from a city that I love to a new, possibly isolating place — i.e., no friends or family in sight, little ethnic diversity — where my husband would have his dream job? This dilemma is really tearing me in two — please please please help.

Boston

A: I am of the mind that no spouse would be living a dream if doing so would make the other spouse miserable.

I also don't think the amount of money each of you earns matters. Unless the breadwinner can get work ONLY in one location (which certainly does happen, so it's a legitimate and important exception), both of you have equal say in where you live. His job is to be primary earner, your job is to be primary caregiver, and both are serving the greater cause of family. Right now, you are in your dream job, apparently — raising your son in a city you love, amid friends, family and a rich culture.

This isn't to say you shouldn't move. I could argue, for example, that you've had your dream job, so maybe you and your husband will agree it's his "turn." There's just a lot of room between refusing and insisting, and you and your husband need to find a comfortable spot there together.

Propose to him that you both have equal say, and that all elements of the equation are open to discussion. Including: How undreamy is his current job? If he were patient, could a dream opportunity come up in Boston? Is he sure of the "dream" part of this job, sure enough to bet his family's happiness on it (since we could fill a week of columns with the unknowns about new jobs, and the fallout thereof)?

Are you overstating how bad the move might be for you — are you better at making friends and making do than you think? Or are you right to worry — are you slow to make friends, easily isolated, fragile of mood, a creature of familiarity? Would your husband agree with your assessment? Are these things he loves about you? (Adjust this line of thinking as needed to measure your husband's temperament.)

If you do move, are you willing to put everything you've got into making it work, or are you going to hold on to your sense of loss? If he agrees to stay for you, will he put everything he's got into making it work, or will he hold onto his sense of loss?

Finally, is there a mutually agreeable third location that would boost his career, albeit a little less, without stranding you quite so much?

In all this haggling, the important combination is to say what you mean, listen to his side, and always have the greater good of the family in mind. This is true of day-to-day life, not just of major decisions.

In other words, this is not about agonizing privately, but instead functioning together. And if it isn't turning out that way, please assert to your husband how important that is to you. Marriages don't have compartments.

Advice

Move must be acceptable to both partners

06/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:38pm]
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