My husband suggested recently we move to a cheaper city so we could by a house in cash, free and clear. He also detests this area for a number of reasons, homelessness, high cost of living, etc. But the way I look at it, it would disrupt a pretty good situation we have right now, and there are other options that he refuses to consider.
We rent in a major west coast city with our adolescent daughter and two dogs. Cost of living is exorbitant and since I started my own firm it’s been a struggle to survive financially, but we have a very large reserve to tap for a few years. Also my firm is starting to show success and I’m seeing life at the end of the tunnel.
My husband has a decent contract with local government, loves his manager and has a good opportunity to get a full time job with excellent benefits. Finding a job he likes has been a major struggle the 14 years we’ve been married so the fact he loves management is huge.
Our daughter is thriving at her middle school where she’s one of the top students and beloved by many there. The school navigated the pandemic very well and our daughter made some very close friends.
So I was stunned when my husband became committed to leaving this area ASAP because he “hates what this area represents”, seeing how many people struggle with housing (he works with the homeless). I’ve tried my best to come up with alternatives:
- Move later, once my firm is stable enough to make a decent monthly income. He says that may never happen and he doesn’t trust that I’ll move if it is successful.
- He moves first, buys a house, either a) with our daughter or b) without our daughter and we’ll move later. That would require my finding a cheap apartment. Again he says we should stay together and he doesn’t trust I’ll move and/or having two homes defeats the purpose of saving money.
- I move first to establish my firm and he stay with our daughter here. Again we’re split up and two locations.
- Find a cheaper place here but it would not be as nice as we could get in another city. But this doesn’t work because he hates the area.
My husband says I’m unwilling to compromise because his true dream is to move to Europe where he’s from but will stay in the US since I can’t run my firm from there for regulatory reasons (otherwise I’d explore it). Since I don’t want to close my firm, his compromise is staying in the US. He’s furious with me for not making a definitive answer quickly and I admit I’m all over the place, saying maybe it would work and then changing my mind when I think about how:
- He’d have to quit and get a new job which he’s not good at doing.
- We have limited health insurance due to his contract situation but we’d have no health insurance if we move.
- He only has a network in our current home city and that took him ages to cultivate since he’s introverted
- His distrusting me, saying I’m not working with him and that I won’t “prove my love to risk” a move.
- That he has sacrificed too much by moving here to be with me and now it’s my turn.
My issue is not the moving part, it’s the timing and his attitude—all or nothing but seems to be characterizing me as the selfish one.
Do I risk it? Am I being too fearful? The ironic point of it is that he’s recommending towns where I have lots of relationships and could possibly build a client base (although premature). I’m likely to be the best off after a move but adding an unemployed, angry husband who doesn’t trust me and a teen who is totally against moving makes it less interesting.
He’s flipped out since our discussion that went really wrong since he won’t believe I’m willing to compromise and because I throw out different options he sees that as stalling. It ended with some really awful things said.
What do I do? I don’t want to split and we are in the best financial shape now so moving out for either of us would make things even worse. I said let’s make a decision next year and he said no it has to be in 3 months.
Torn to Pieces
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with your husband, TTP, but I’m betting that where you live isn’t the real issue he’s having.
Now there are a lot of causes or issues that are potentially in play, but I suspect that a key one is a classic: “I am not happy with some part of my life, so if something were different, everything would be better.” This is something that I’ve seen a lot, often from (but by no means exclusive to) people Of A Certain Age. The underlying belief is that one’s satisfaction is due to current circumstances, so if you make a significant change — usually something suitably dramatic like changing careers without warning, buying a luxury car, ending your marriage, redecorating your apartment, moving to an entirely different town etc. — then everything would be better.
The problem, unfortunately, is that this is often an article of faith, rather than one of experience. It’s the sort of thing that feels like a decision borne out of careful consideration, but in reality is usually a snap judgement that folks will cling to like a drowning man to a log in a river… usually unware that he’s about to go careening over Dead Man’s Falls and onto the rocks below. And, again, because it’s more of an article of faith, the person who comes to this decision will often want to act on it NOW NOW NOW NOW because it’s very clearly the solution to all of their life’s problems.
In practice, however, the reason why folks often will want to act on this as quickly as possible is because they want to act on it before further consideration causes the bloom to fade on this particular ill-conceived rose. If they stop to think about it, then they’d realize that no, this is actually a really bad idea and is only going to make things worse. In fact, more than a few folks have had moments like this before and have either seen their dream wither and die if they hesitate, or they’ve done it before and it didn’t help. But like someone convinced that the slot machine is finally about to pay out, they want to believe that this time it’ll all work out exactly as they’d hoped.
Unfortunately, what folks often find out is that while surface may have changed, the underlying causes of their dissatisfaction haven’t. You can’t run fast enough to get away from yourself, not when the call is coming from inside the house. So all that has happened is that their solution means that now they have two problems.
There’s also a potential side issue here: a lot of times, this sort of impulsive behavior can be the result of conditions like ADHD. With ADHD, one’s hyperfocus may engage on a concept or an idea, rather than a particular activity or interest and it takes up all the available bandwidth in your mind. This means that folks will lock onto that idea like a pitbull on unattended rashers of bacon and get incredibly pissy if people don’t help enable them with this.
Under other circumstances, what your husband wants isn’t entirely unreasonable. Finding a place where your money goes further, especially with a lower or more sustainable standard of living isn’t the worst idea in the world. The potential benefits of a less stressful lifestyle or a region where you’re a better cultural fit can be immense. And depending on whether it is possible for you to run your business remotely, it wouldn’t necessarily be too disruptive to your career in the process.
Where this all goes off the rails is his insistence that not only does this need to be done in three months, that any resistance is tantamount to a personal insult and the fact that he has apparently done absolutely no prep-work to make this a feasible option. Any one of these would be a red flag. ALL of them at once isn’t just a red flag, it’s more red flags than the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. And this is unreasonable. It’s one thing to take time to consider the possibility of moving, to weigh the pros and cons and do some preliminary legwork to see how feasible it would be. It’s another to demand that everyone up stakes with no warning, like he’s Pa Ingalls and y’all just got kicked out of the Kansas territories.
The part that most sets off my Spidey-sense is his absolutist, all-or-nothing/with-me-or-against-me stance he seems to be taking. That… really isn’t good. Under the most generous interpretation, those ultimatums and insistence that you’re being selfish or unsupportive comes across as the result of long-simmering resentment about something. Under less generous interpretations… it comes across as quasi-abusive. His framing this as “you’d do it if you really loved me”, downplaying both your sweat-equity investment in your firm and the growing success and his getting hostile and abusive about any resistance to his plan is disturbing. His not trusting that you’d move to join him after things were settled is even more so. That might speak volumes to how he views your relationship… and not in a good way.
If this is a sudden change — something completely out of character for him — then I’d be worried that it’s a sign of an emergent mental health issue. If this has been building over time, then I’d be more worried that it is a “frog in a boiling pot” scenario, where everything seemed fine until it wasn’t.
I think that moving just to placate him would be a horrible idea. The potential disruption to your life, your career and your kid’s life would be immense, on top of the financial drain that would come from losing your health insurance and your husband’s income. Moving with no real plan in place and no groundwork (like a professional network, a job offer in hand, etc) is a hell of a risk under the best of circumstances. When your partner is throwing tantrums over it? That’s not just no, that’s a HELL no. That’s a very good way to ensure that your marriage won’t make it through the move. It may not die as soon as you get there, but you’d almost certainly be condemning it to a long, slow and lingering death, like an inoperable emotional tumor.
Honestly, I would suggest a cautious approach. Agree to consider the move (not agree to, consider) under two conditions: first, he has to have the preparations laid out in advance. That means at least a solid job prospect for him, investingating the housing market and availability, the infrastructure that would make it possible for you to run your business remotely and so on. That may also mean finding a way to let your daughter finish out middle-school where you currently live and then join you when she’s ready to start high-school.
Second: you go to couple’s counseling. That part has to be non-negotiable. The way he’s acting has damaged the relationship, and if you want your marriage to survive the stress of uprooting your entire lives to go back east, then he needs to put in the work to help fix things. And to be clear: that’s on him. He’s not acting rationally or reasonably, and his being this aggressive and hostile about it is reason to be concerned. And hopefully, couple’s counseling would encourage him to go to solo counseling, so he can get to the root of just what it is that makes it so vital that he flee the west coast.
If he fights you on either of those conditions, then the answer is an automatic “no”; you’re not going to be bullied or browbeaten into moving when the potential costs are this high. And if he continues to be this aggressively antagonistic about it? Then it’s time to put some very serious thought into whether you and your daughter can safely stay in this relationship with him. If it gets to that point, I’d say it’s time to tell him to get the hell out; maybe, maybe he can come back once he’s fixed whatever’s eating at him, but not a moment before.
And even that would still be under probation at best.
It’s a shitty situation to be stuck in, TTP. I hope you can resolve this happily and safely.
Hey Dr. NerdLove,
I tried online dating again since meeting up is relatively safe again around here and I noticed something which turned out to be also true in my non online dating related chats. I suck at keeping the conversation going and the conversations always end up to be in my responsibility.
IRL, I am a pretty social person but the moment it turns online, I am totally at a loss of words. If the other person and I have interests in common, like a show we both like or a game I can speak about that but the conversation then only is about that one topic which quickly starts to run dry, and even then I am always the one having to initiate it.
With a new Lockdown coming up and a few longer stays in foreign countries on the horizon I would love to know if I can do something to improve this to better stay connected with people.
Sounds to me like you’re making one of the classic online blunders, the most famous of which is “never go to Reddit for legal advice”, but only slightly less well known is this: you aren’t showing any interest in the other person you’re talking to.
To be fair, it also sounds like you’re having problems of compatibility. If you only have one point of commonality and that’s the only thing you can connect over, that’s going to be a problem in and of itself. One of the mistakes folks will make is that they’ll assume that similar taste in pop culture or entertainment is enough to start or maintain a connection over — especially a romantic one. But while that certainly helps, what you really want to look for are deeper, more significant commonalities: shared values and backgrounds, similar life goals and ambitions, and interests beyond what you consume. Otherwise you end up with the situation you’re currently facing: you’ve milked the one conversational topic dry and now you’ve got nothing else to pivot to.
But, again: it also sounds like you’re only directing the conversation to places that focus on what you find interesting. And that’s like talking to an opera singer who’s always warming up: “Me me me me me me me”.
If you want to keep the conversation going — and even better, never run out of things to talk about — then you have to make sure that not only does the other person get to participate in the conversation, but that it goes beyond your waiting for your turn to talk. Part of what makes someone fun to talk to is when they show genuine interest in you. After all, it’s increasingly rare to find someone who actually wants to know more about us, what we think or feel; most of the time, people are waiting for their chance to talk about themselves. This means that if you want to keep the conversation going and keep the connection alive, then you have to show genuine interest in the person you’re talking to.
You want to make a point of asking them questions — not just bare-bones surface questions, but the kinds of questions that lead to deeper and more stimulating conversations. Ones that can get to the core of who somebody is and what they’re all about. If all of your conversations stick to the factual (“Today I did x, y and z”) or surface opinions that don’t get to core values (“I wasn’t a fan of Falcon and the Winter Soldier“) then those conversations are going to end up fizzling out before long. They’re just not that stimulating or satisfying. You want conversations that have actual emotional content. Start by asking questions that can’t be answered with a couple of words. If you’re asking something that can be answered with “yes”, “no”, “fine”, “not much” and so on, then you’re asking the wrong questions. Ask something open-ended, things that naturally lead towards more questions. Part of how you never run out of things to talk about is by using people’s responses as springboards for other questions or other topics.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you want to leap in with deep and penetrating questions about their relationship with their parents or something right off the bat. Part of the point of small-talk is to act as the on-ramp to the conversational freeway; without it, you’re heading straight for a twelve-car pile-up. However, you do want the conversation to escalate in terms of depth and emotional connection — getting past surface likes and dislikes and into feelings, desires, ambitions, etc. Asking about challenges, travel, politics… even just asking for advice about something all help lead to interesting, illuminating and satisfying conversations that people enjoy having.
One thing that I find helps is to try to find a person’s “insert-coin-recieve-rant” topic — a topic that they will go off about if given half a chance. This may be the socio-implications of the Steward of Gondor vs. a king, the fact that the crab-shape has developed so many times that scientists have a specific name for it, fascinating crime stories from history… anything. Finding that topic and then engaging with the person on that has two benefits: first, it means that keeping the conversation going gets profoundly easier. Second is that they’ll enjoy the conversation more and want to keep talking to you. The more they enjoy talking to you, the more they’ll want to see you in person. After all, we prioritize relationships with people who make us feel good; this is what’s known as The Reward Theory of Attraction. Knowing how to get someone talking about a topic they love and showing that you actually want to hear about it means that you’ll never lack for people to talk to.
And the nice thing is: more often than not, this ends up working both ways. Someone who finally gets a chance to talk to someone who wants to listen will usually return the favor. They’ll usually make a point of trying to find your favorite topics or want to know more about you. Not just out of a sense of obligation — “oh no, I’ve gone on and on about me, I’m being rude!” — but because they’ll be more interested in you. Because here’s the neat thing: interested is interesting. Show interest in what someone else thinks or has to say, and they’ll find you more interesting and fun to talk to too… and they’ll want to know more.