We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.
I liken this problem to one of us will be happy and the other of us miserable. We’ll either move or we won’t. Is there any possible way to solve this without breaking up our 30-year marriage? We simply cannot afford a home in both places, it’s definitely an either/or situation, and it breaks my heart.
— Here or There
Here or There: If the matter is as simple as different landscapes bringing you a sense of peace — the beach for you and mountains for him — then the compromise could be as simple as moving to a mountain lake with a beach scene, or to coastal mountains where the beach is still accessible. But presumably, he’s ready to move — and you hesitate to move — for reasons beyond that.
You say that you moved to somewhere with a lot more culture and a lot more people. And it sounds like your husband is pretty set on moving back to the area you both grew up in particular, not just any more mountainous region. Why?
Is he truly just missing the landscapes from his youth, and if so, would he be willing to compromise by moving to a mountain town that’s not too far from a bigger city or the beach? Is he missing family you may have left behind? Feeling nostalgic for his hometown? Does he just want to live somewhere quieter than you currently do?
And what about you? You say the beach is the most important thing to you, but you’ve lived in your current city for 30 years. Have you built a community there that you don’t want to leave behind? Is it still a priority for you to live somewhere with a lot going on? Do you have any fear of starting over?
The majority of couples’ problems don’t have a ready solution, but are what’s known as perpetual. You’re both bringing your own values and dreams to this relationship, and while it’s helpful when your goals overlap, this isn’t always the case. The more you can ask questions and figure out what’s really driving his desire to move and your desire to stay, the easier it might be to find a compromise. As painful as it is to want such different things for your next phase of life, it doesn’t sound like this is a “dealbreaker” for either of you. If there’s really no compromise to be found, then consider that you spent the first 30 years of your marriage living where you wanted to. Are you willing to let him take the lead for the next 30? If not, why? Try to approach yourselves and each other with curiosity, not defensiveness, to figure out what each of you needs moving forward. And if it’s really just the mountains and the beach, try Tahoe!
— Evan Green
Here or There: From my own experience, I think the first step is stop thinking of this as a zero-sum game — it’s not guaranteed misery for someone to live away from their ideal place, as long as they can find ways to mitigate what is missing in the non-ideal place. But (for me) getting past that initial panic of not wanting change and seeing alternative as catastrophic requires time and getting used to possible other options.
There are lots of factors that go into choosing where you live — beach vs mountains is just one. Maybe the two of you can list factors important to you and talk them over. Don’t assume any options are impossible until you’ve researched them. And don’t assume all the factors are immutable. Even a move doesn’t have to be permanent. Maybe it’s as simple as renting your current house out for a year, and seeing how life in your hometown feels. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe he’ll hate it. Maybe you will decide you can afford two homes if one has enough short-term rental potential. It may take a lot of talking and a lot of research. If the past 30 years have been good, it’s worth it.
— Been There
Here or There: First you need to decide if you are happy in your 30-year marriage and which is more important to you, your marriage or your life at the beach. If you aren’t happy in the marriage then stay at the beach and let him go back home to the mountains. If you are happy in the marriage, then maybe consider that for the past 30 years, the entirety of your marriage, you have lived in the beach community of your dreams while you know your husband would prefer to be home in the mountains. Maybe it’s your turn to live where he’d be happiest for a few years. And truly make an effort to be happy, not moping around because you miss your beach life. If you truly love each other you can be happy anywhere. If you love the beach more than you love him then just move on.
Here or There: I don’t see why it’s either/or. You say you can’t afford two homes but can you afford, say, two studios or two one bedroom apartments? If you are both working full time and you’re close to retirement, I would think that’s an option. Especially since you’re already facing a possible split: You would both have to find your own housing anyway if you break up. You can also look into other options like renting a room from someone who would love for you to stay where you are. Same with your husband in the small town. My point is, if this dilemma could lead to your marriage ending, it seems to me that either way you’ll need to find two separate places to live. Might as well try to do it together and split your time between the two locations.
Here or There: How do your jobs figure into this? If you moved back to your hometown now, would you both be able to find work there? If you moved five years from now, after you retire, would your husband have a job there for the next 10 years? Or is he thinking of moving after you both retire, in which case we’re talking 15 years from now? You don’t know what your health and your financial picture will be like in the future, and that may affect what kind of life you could have in a rural area.
Another consideration: Do you still have friends and family in your hometown? Do you know what it’s like now, as opposed to 30 years ago? I’ve known people who romanticized their “hometown,” but they remembered it as it was when they grew up, and when they moved back and tried to recapture that feeling they were sadly disappointed. Or they were seduced by the fact that real estate is cheaper there and didn’t realize how much they were giving up by moving — friends, good hospitals, sports, cultural events, shopping, etc.
What I’d suggest is, if you aren’t already doing so, spend a week or two in your hometown and scope out jobs, housing, medical care, etc. This may change your husband’s ideas about the desirability of moving back. And even if you can’t afford two homes, you can investigate ways that you (or he) could find an inexpensive rental there. (For example, if it’s a resort area, short-term rental properties are often very cheap in the “off season.”) In any case, good luck: You have a few years before you retire to work this out.
— Auntie P.
Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.