Advice Column: Response to Separate Ways

Dear Hailey,

I am 57 years old. My husband and I have two children 21 and 17 that still live at home. My husband grew up in Maryland since the age of 3 with his aunt, uncle and cousin who is like a brother to him due to the death of his parents. His four siblings stayed in PA with other relatives. I lived in NJ when I met my husband. We both worked for the same company in different states. I left the company we worked for, my family and friends to come to MD to be with him.

About 11 years ago he comes home out of the blue and says he’s ready to move back to PA to be with his siblings. His aunt (now deceased) took him to PA (a four hour trip) for the summer while he was growing up. We take frequent trips to visit. I love his family in PA but I do not want to live there. I do not like the area at all and the culture is completely out of my comfort zone. I grew up right outside NYC. I feel like I would not be happy or comfortable in such a rural area. 

The towns that have stores and shopping nearby are run down and high crime but the nicer areas are a long drive from everything. It also puts me six hours away from my family instead of 3 like it is right now. It would also mean starting all over again in a new state. So I told him this 11 years ago and it caused a rift in our relationship. He said I didn’t love him because a loving wife would follow her husband where ever He wants to go. He also says it’s not fair because I got to grow up with my siblings and he didn’t. He still brings up moving there frequently. I suggested we could visit more often.

Now, he just took a visit up there by himself and he came home telling me he was looking at houses and how cheap they are. I have anxiety and when he starts seriously talking about moving there it literally affects my health.

It’s like it’s all about him and what he wants to do and he doesn’t even care or listen to my concerns and like we never discussed it. Our relationship really took a toll over this issue. He says he missed out growing up with his siblings, and missed out watching his nieces and nephews grow up (so did I!) and he doesn’t want to miss their children growing up. My daughter starts college next year so I know we can’t go anywhere for at least four years. 

I want to see where our children end up living. I would want to possibly live around our children and future grandchildren, not his siblings’ grandchildren. I know its going to be brought up again soon. He’s even discussed all this with our daughter when she was only 12 years old and too young to be caught in the middle of our disputes. Now to this day she tells me I am selfish because. I won’t go. I do everything in my power to make my family happy. I am not a selfish person at all, but in this case, I have to think of my own well-being. Do I just suggest we get a divorce and go our separate ways?

Separate Ways

Dear Separate Ways,

It is excruciatingly difficult when people that we care about want vastly different things than we do. It’s even harder when they aren’t willing to listen to your side of the story, and proclaim that it is their way or the highway. This likely makes you feel unheard, unimportant, and hurt. 

It comes down to what you want. Do you want to fight to keep your marriage afloat or is it not worth saving? Has this been a long time coming with other issues, or is this the only problem? You mentioned that your husband involved your daughter in this issue last time it came up and pitted her against you. This could be a symptom of abuse, especially if it is a regular occurrence. A healthy marriage doesn’t include using children as weapons to settle disagreements. Consider the past few decades you have spent with your husband, and is this a pattern, or an anomaly? If abuse and emotional manipulation are patterns in your marriage, consider that in your decision on how to move forward. 

From your letter, it sounds like divorce is definitely on your mind. I want to point out that divorce is the only course of action that you explicitly mention as an option in your letter. It doesn’t mean that you automatically need to get a divorce, but it’s something to consider.

If you feel your marriage is worth saving, I would recommend marriage counseling to help you come to a consensus, and to work through any other issues you might be experiencing. Individual counseling for each of you would be helpful as well, since it sounds like there is definitely resentment and pain present in your marriage for each of you. 

A helpful type of therapy is to individually see counselors, and then for couple’s therapy meet together with both of your counselors. This way you both will feel that you have an advocate, and someone who understands your viewpoints. This can help avoid one of you feeling singled out or supported less than the other. If you choose to get divorced, I would recommend individual counseling for you as well. It will be a big transition, and counseling will help you work through it.  

I want to say one last thing: Mothers and wives aren’t selfish. We give everything to our families and husbands, and keep small scraps for ourselves. I can’t imagine the pain you felt when your daughter told you that you are selfish, and when your husband told you that you didn’t love him. These are people you have sacrificed over and over for. You listed a few of these sacrifices in your letter, and I’m sure there are thousands of more examples. You aren’t selfish. Having your own preferences and sticking up for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t love your husband. You’ve done your very best for your family. Now you need to decide what course of action is the very best option for you. 

Good luck with your decision, with the future, and with the next chapter of your life, and with whatever you decide to do next. 


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