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I suspect I’m not the only wife who’s used those words when her husband has announced it’s time to relocate—again. No matter whether you support the new job or promotion, moving is almost always traumatic and demanding.
In our case, my husband told me early in our marriage that he worked in an industry (management consulting to nuclear plants) where he would be traveling a great deal and he would be asked periodically to relocate. Initially it sounded like an adventure, and since we didn’t have kids, I was excited by the prospect.
Our married life began in California and he had the opportunity for a job on the east coast, specifically Massachusetts. Since we had family there, I was enthusiastic. We found a nice house in Framingham. Jerry picked up a bus to Stone & Webster Engineering in Boston in Shopper’s World and I commuted by car to Chestnut Hill for my job at a Savings Bank. I enjoyed the changes of season (less so, the ice storms) and the chance to explore historic sites. We were there for 18 months. I had barely started my writing consulting business, so when we had the chance to transfer to Denver, I was ready.
In the Denver area, we moved to Parker, CO. I was doing well in my new business, so when my husband then had the opportunity to move us back to MA, I wasn’t thrilled. Unfortunately, that prospect didn’t pan out, to my husband’s great disappointment. We had already looked at houses there, but in the midst of his misery, I pointed out that if that job wasn’t going to happen, there was no point in moving to MA. After some time to think that fact over, he agreed. We had to admit that the laid-back atmosphere of CO (which has since changed), the gorgeous view of the Rockies, and having good friends nearby were incentives to stay. And then there was the skiing.
Then he received an offer to move back to CA. Again, I wasn’t thrilled, but it was a great opportunity for him. Back in those days, San Clemente, CA, was a beautiful town to live in, so I somewhat reluctantly agreed we should leave CO and go. But the caveat was that I would be very reluctant to move and start up my business again for another relocation. Those olden days when I had agreed to go anywhere with him blurred in my memory with our changes of opportunity and circumstances. Eventually he started his own consulting business, my consulting business grew, and we remained in CA, since he could travel all over the country for his work. He only needed to be close to an airport.
In time, we decided to move to Florida as our final stop. We had family here; I decided to retire and my husband eventually did the same. We love it here, and both agree it was a great decision.
* * * *
These kinds of relocation decisions raise many questions for a husband and wife, and for those who have children involved. In our case, my original consent to “go anywhere” became tempered by new prospects that I’d developed. Back then, it was understood that when a husband could relocate for a better job or promotion, the wife was expected to go along. But then life intervenes, disrupting plans originally made with sincerity but with limited life experience. In our case, I think that Jerry’s opportunities were a very positive experience: we lived in beautiful settings, historic places and made wonderful friends. We learned a lot about how to be independent yet interdependent; how to be flexible regarding life’s challenges; how to be accommodating and yet clarify what was important for both of us. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other. So I have no regrets.
But I do wonder how couples make these decisions these days. I’ve heard so often that some couples pretty much live apart most of the time. Or they have two homes and visit each other. That was not our idea of a marriage. A marriage means two people sharing a home, learning, and sharing their life experiences.
Have you had to work through these kinds of decisions in your relationships?
Did you grow up in a family where your family moved frequently?
What do you think about relocation?Published in Culture
If anyone is wondering, the little black blob I’m pressing against my jacket is Muffin. We had to keep an eye on her because she could easily have vanished into a snowdrift. (This was in MA.)
The challenge you raise is for the group that Charles Murray referred to in “Coming Apart” — two highly credentialed persons marrying. No longer is the assumption valid for them that the husband’s opportunities as a “provider“ should dictate location. I imagine such couples either not moving a lot, or having consulting businesses where any location near a transportation hub will do.
When Jerry brought up the possibility of moving to FL, he made sure to let me know that if I didn’t want to have to restart my business, that was fine with him. It was up to me. I did try for a short time, but FL was a completely different market; besides, I had pretty much learned and accomplished what I had wanted to do (at that point I was a consultant in team conflict (facilitating solutions, of course!) . So the timing was perfect.
When Andrew and I married, I was fortunate that my consulting work was 100% travel. So I could live anywhere. Having said that, I married late, when I was in my early forties. So I would have moved regardless of my work situation. At that point, my opinion was that relationships were more important – easier to find another work opportunity than another good man. Even if it meant moving to New Jersey!
Smart woman–on all counts!
Mrs Tex did her summer internship (mechanical engineering, Syracuse U) at Stone & Webster. Then she flew jets and never used her degree again. My decision to leave the military was driven primarily by mandatory separations. We spent months 4 through 20 of our marriage a thousand miles apart.
Was it the Boston office? Did you mean “months” four through 20 or years? It can be so hard.
One time I realized that every time my husband, who’s an engineer, would come home from a trip, he would reorganize at least one cabinet–the linen closet, the pantry, etc. I was a bit annoyed because I thought he was showing me how sloppy I was. (I actually wasn’t as tidy as he was.) Then one day it hit me: he was “nesting”–the term that came up for me. He felt a bit estranged on returning home, and this was his way of settling in. Fortunately I told him about my theory before I got angry and he loved it! He hadn’t consciously realized it, but that’s what he was doing.
Yes, the Boston office. Summers of 79 and 80.
We were there 77 through 79.
When I was twelve years old, my best friend Tommy told me that his family would soon be moving to Colorado, 1500 miles away. It was hard to accept, but the part of it that seemed strangest to me was my friend’s attitude about it. He was sad about the end of our friendship, but he also told me he was looking forward to the move. His family had always moved every few years; I have no idea what his dad did for a living, but I assume his job regularly took him somewhere new. Tommy said that after two years living in the same place, he had started to feel restless.
I’ve known other people whose lives have been like that, and my reaction has always been an odd mixture of envy and gratitude that my life has been completely different. My life has been defined by stability. My family moved once (from Louisiana to South Carolina) when I was five, too young to really be affected; I spent the rest of my childhood in that same house, and I still sleep there every time I visit my mother.
My wife has a similar story: she spent her entire childhood in the town where she was born, and indeed where her parents and grandparents were born. After we got married we ended up moving three hours away from both of our families, which was a huge deal for both of us. But that was it. We built a house in 1992, and we still live in it today.
As far as the husband/wife dynamic is concerned, I suppose we follow the traditional approach, though that was never any kind of explicit arrangement. I’m the one with the career. My wife has had several different jobs, jobs she’s been good at, but has never really been committed to any particular calling. As it happens, I have stayed with the same company, at the same location, for 31 years (and counting); but if my employer had transferred me elsewhere, she would happily have gone with me and found a new job. But it never came up.
A few years ago, after our first trip to Japan, I found myself infected with a powerful feeling of wanderlust, and a regret that we’d stayed in one place our whole lives. I wished that I’d spent some time abroad when I was young and unattached, and I felt somewhat trapped by the weight of attachments and obligations I now have, which make it essentially impossible to make such a change today. I still envy people who have had such experiences.
But some of them probably envy people like me, who have had such stability. You only get one life, and whatever kind of life it is, there are things you miss out on. I guess part of living is coming to terms with that fact.
My parents left MA when I was 5 years old, and I spent my growing up years in CA. We had no relatives around and I regretted that lack of connection. We moved around a few times in So.Cal. and my folks finally settled down in southern Orange County. And I did travel to Israel in my junior year of college and saw some of Europe on my way home. My husband and I discussed looking for work abroad, but we never wanted it enough to seriously pursue it. Fortunately we have traveled abroad together, but I would never live anywhere else but FL.
I was born in Illinois, moved to Ohio for my first job after college, relocated to Georgia due to my expertise in a system tool I built. I was there for a year and change, left that job for one in Los Angeles for a couple of years. Then it was six years in tropical Connecticut, then back to Illinois for – good grief – twenty years. Then the life of a hired gun beckoned, and it was Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois again, Michigan, Iowa again, Michigan again, and Indiana, before coming back like the proverbial bad penny to Illinois.
I liked most of them just fine. People were easier to meet in the Midwest. Another way of saying that is that the United States government has not yet printed enough money to get me back to either California or Connecticut.
Totally agree. That’s how it worked for us.
I’m glad you’ve come to your senses! Wow, that’s a lot of moving . . .
I usually give this advice to young married couples with children, but I think it applies to childless marriages as well.
You can have two people with jobs. Or one person with a career, and one with a job. But never two careers.
As I sit here drinking my coffee, I’m having a hard time thinking of a two-career couple that has lasted. (Not saying they don’t exist; just not in my circle)
That said, it’s no guarantee. But it removes what could otherwise be a constant bone of contention from a marriage.
Thank God I’ve never had to relocate. We established roots and embedded into the local culture, a culture both my wife and I grew up in. It would have been a culture shock to relocate, and to do it often is from my psychological viewpoint rootless. Personally the modern concept of constant relocations seems unhealthy and even unnatural. I’m a New Yorker based on over fifty years of living here. That identity is important to my psychological makeup. I feel part of my environment. Just my thoughts. I’m sure others feel differently.
That picture is so funny. I have similar ones from our time in MA – snow drifts in the plowed out driveway or streets. I agree that it should always be a joint decision. Sometimes the timing is right and sometimes not. In a marriage the job and main bread winner usually wins out and that is what happened with us. Sometimes its all a blur but it works out.
Beautifully said, Manny. It makes sense to me.
BTW, a guy with a frontend loader was driving by and Jerry waved him down and paid him $20 to dig us out. What a relief!
Funny how life is. I moved a lot as a child (after the first move to California, not far. But always requiring a new school and new friends). Didn’t bother me a bit. And I have always been open to a move if circumstances demanded.
My best friend grew up in one home, and was so grateful. She hoped and prayed she would provide the same home for a generation to her family, like she had had.
I think she’s on her 8th house, and 4th state.
JY have been in the same house since 1987.
When my wife and I married we lived in the DC area where we thought we would establish careers. Once we had children, DC became too expensive a place to remain so we looked for opportunities elsewhere. I got a job offer in Texas and we decided to move there. When my wife told her boss that she was resigning to move to Texas, he asked if she could stay on and work remotely from Texas. I always thought that spoke to how highly they valued her and how much they wanted to keep her on board. For some years she traveled regularly (more than we expected) back to DC. Eventually it became too much and she decided to move on. She got a masters degree and started her own consulting business which has been successful.
About six years after moving to Texas we started a side business that grew into a full time business. I left my career in politics and public policy to grow our business and she is slowly extricating herself from her consulting business to focus more on our joint efforts.
In all of this we have tried to operate as a team, each supporting the other’s endeavors and choosing to live wherever made the most sense for our family. The options available to us (due to the modern ability to work from home in such a wide variety of jobs and careers) are so much broader than the options available to most people even as recently as the early 2000s. Not to say that it is easy, and we have both made many sacrifices for the other, but it is much easier than it would have been in any previous generation.
An interesting side note: a friend today told me that her brother, who I believe is in his late 50s, has never been on an airplane and never traveled more than a four hour drive from home. That level of isolation from the world is something I just cannot fathom in modern America.
What a journey you two have taken! It sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story.
It is a journey that continues. Who can say where it will end?
Oh, Susan… I think about all the issue concerning relocation a lot! Big relocations as a child and now being an “expat” (a term I hate) in another country. My thoughts are often connected with family. For years, I’ve been big on the topic of pro family issues. A big big supporter of the nuclear family. Recently, someone posted what I thought was an amazingly thought-provoking tweet. I didn’t fully agree with him as you can see from my lengthy reply but as someone who experienced the loss of my extended family as a child, who I was very close with, and then thinking about the fact my parents don’t get to spend nearly as much time with their grandchildren as I would like, I certainly question the rush to relocate so quickly. A bit hypocritical coming from me but stuff I definitely ponder on often.
It is the life of the military family. The spouse has to put his or her career on the back burner. No choice. I suspect this affects retention. When both spouses are in, sooner or later they must endure a separation or one must leave the military. We are the rare ones where both survived until retirement. There were separations, his year in Korea, my year in Korea, my year in Honduras. It isn’t easy to uproot and move.
That’s unusual unless you’re a part of a religious community that encourages it. Most of them are aware of the world, but choose to not be a part of it.
I consider it a positive if she’ll share my life of action and adventure. Ideally it’s you and me against the world.
You are the kind of person who would ponder these things. Life’s challenges.
I mean this sincerely, RH. Thanks to both of you for your service and sacrifices.
I made my family move way to many times for me chasing the ideal job. I truly regret the damage it did to my kids not having stable friends for more than 2-3 years at a time and switching school. I wish I could have a do over.