Carolyn Hax: The pros and cons of moving for a spouse’s job

Carolyn Hax
Columnist July 20

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I almost always agree with your advice, or don’t strongly disagree, but this is an exception, [about moving two hours away for a husband’s promotion]. What’s the big deal? Nine of the 11 members of my women’s book club said of course they would move. Of the dissenters, both are caring for ill family members. Three of us have moved to support our husbands’ careers and one husband has moved to support his wife. In this day of Internet communication, this is nothing. To her question of whether she’s overreacting, our response is, absolutely.

Moving

Here’s why I disagree:


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

I have moved, a lot. I have a career I love. So does my husband. I have young kids. I have worked from my home and from an office. I have worked from home while having small kids, with both in-home and center-based child-care. I have lived in extremely welcoming communities; ones that took a little time to break into; and one where the flippin’ neighbors didn’t even wave hello. Not an exaggeration.

So I don’t have any one experience or bias coloring my answer.

The question touched on 1. Career; 2. Childrearing; 3. Community; and 4. Marriage. It is absolutely perverse to me — yes, perverse, I feel very strongly about this — that one consideration among these four would get some kind of automatic pass as the thing this person should value, and therefore agree to. This move might be a no-brainer to your book group, but someone else could rightly say the whole point of jobs and kids and marriage and etc. is to root oneself in a community that provides support, companionship, laughs, whatever else.

Being two hours or even a split-the-baby one-hour drive from this community is so emphatically not the same thing. It means you can’t grab a 15-minute cup of coffee, or reciprocate kid care, or do any such minute community transactions. It means you can have dinner once a month, maybe, but please can’t we agree that’s very different from living right where you want to be?

And so the only people who get to decide which of the Big Four to prioritize are the couple in question.

That was my advice in the original column, and I stand by it.

Hi, Carolyn:

My husband and I made this decision five years ago. I work at home — toddler and baby in day care — and it is TOUGH to be so isolated in a community where we haven’t had the time/opportunity to establish bonds. It has strained our marriage and we’re having to seriously reevaluate if this decision is the right one for us now. When I share any of these feelings, we’ve received several of the same comments. I don’t understand the strong judgment.

Anonymous

Obviously I don’t either.

I think this issue hits squarely on a common bias, the I-did-it-and-I-was-fine-so-what’s-YOUR-problem? tendency that so commonly encroaches on childrearing questions. What worked for one family/marriage/career/child does not work for all. There are too many variables for one “Oh, just shut up and move” answer to fit all.

It’s no less than a “What’s the meaning of life?” question, and I doubt anyone would want to live by someone else’s answer to that.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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