Dear Agony Aunt,
I met my partner at university five years ago. I graduated a year before him and so I was working by the time he then finished uni. We went to uni in my hometown, he’s from about 200 miles away.
As he finished a year after we decided to take a flat in the same city we studied in and for three years we had (what I thought!!) was a happy life. I climbed the career ladder quite quickly to a decent salary. However, he had trouble finding the work he wanted and so job hopped between contracts.
Eventually he found himself a job in his hometown and so he finally persuaded me to say yes and move to his home which he claimed was where he always wanted to be. During the period of finding a new place and actually moving, I received a promotion which I couldn’t have turned down. So now the arrangement is that I work from the new home twice a week and travel the near 200 miles on the first day of three and stay with family in my hometown for two nights, in said job.
I don’t resent the travel, I just desperately regret the move and I resent him for it — I fully understand I agreed and he didn’t force me but we are seven months in, no new friends, less cash as it’s a much more expensive cost of living and his family are still over an hour away! I see the resolution could be to find work here, but I’m in a position I can’t currently turn down so it’s heart wrenching every time I leave the place I call home.
He refuses to entertain the idea of moving back or even half way currently, but I’m the breadwinner (substantially!) so it’s a contentious issue. To contrast, I’m a small town person — enjoy the country side and sea side, we’re now in a bustling city which makes me feel completely anxious and I’ve become slightly agoraphobic! We’ve argued plenty about this issue and I’m out of ways to present the issues to him, so we spend most of the first evening that I return home sat in separate rooms! Please send help!
Thanks, Relocation Regrets
I recently heard an apt quote by Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, who said “Human beings are animals, and our nests are very important to us.” Right now you have TWO nests, but the one you share with your partner (whom I’ll call “Paul”) isn’t providing you with the vital level of comfort and stability one would reasonably expect.
I’m not surprised that you’re so comfortable in your old town that you hate to leave it every week: your family is there, your job is there, and the person you aren’t constantly arguing with isn’t there! Your old town has become your de facto nest: it provides you with the secure home base that you currently lack with Paul.
I won’t reproach you for moving to the type of locale you dislike when your preferences obviously lie elsewhere, because relationships by their nature require risk and compromise, and I doubt you knew just how phobic your surroundings would make you, or how hard it would be to make friends there with such a punishing travel schedule. I assume you both went into the relationship with the usual good faith and collaborative intent such an undertaking requires. Unfortunately, no compromise was ultimately achieved; only capitulation on your part, which has led to some understandable resentment. Nobody wants to feel as if they’re the only one making the sacrifices for their partnership.
I think you could probably both stand to be more open-minded. Why couldn’t you have turned down your current position? Although your job definitely sounds great, you don’t say that there are no roughly equivalent positions to apply for in Paul’s “bustling city.”
(I also wondered if your decision might have been, like Paul’s, influenced by a little bit of reluctance on your part to completely leave your old hometown?) There’s some room for give on your end, but I do understand that you’ve conceded quite a lot of ground already.
As you might expect, I see Paul as the squeakier of the two wheels in your dynamic. I think it’s flatly unreasonable that he won’t entertain the idea of moving to be any closer to your job, unless he got lucky enough to inherit his family’s sprawling ivy-covered ancestral manse, or some equally glorious home.
Absent such a compelling excuse, though, I think he should be expected to meet you halfway, literally and figuratively. It’s troubling that you two seem to have fallen into a pattern of either arguing with or ignoring each other. I can’t break that pattern for you, and I can’t help you ascertain whether this disconnect can be massaged into something more manageable, or whether it stems from fundamental incompatibility. I’m convinced that you and Paul would both benefit enormously from seeing a licensed couples’ therapist or counselor together.
With your wonky commute this will of course take some coordination on your part, but it still sounds a lot more proactive (and interesting) than fuming in separate rooms on the nights when you’re together, so I urge you to find one who does evening appointments and set one up without delay. I want better for you and Paul than separate nests and sullenness. You’ve lived harmoniously together before, and I think it’s possible that you could achieve it again, with professional intervention and a bit of capitulation. Regardless of the outcome, please keep me posted.
DEAR DEIDRE: WHEN he was 13, my brother was abused by a member of the family.
It ruined his life but he wants to take back control. He kept it quiet at the time but found the courage to tell the police when he was 19.
However, they said there wasn’t enough evidence and they left it at that. I’m his brother, two years older than him. It was awful to see him trying to cope with it all through heroin addiction.
It had a massive effect on the family. He is now 38 and decided to confront his abuser. I am scared this monster will simply deny it again and my brother will end up worse off.
DEIDRE SAYS: I get how he feels and I see why you are worried for him. It really is best if he gets some support first.
Urge him to contact organisations, which offers counselling for men who have been sexually abused at any age.