Dear Dr. Chani,
Your recent long-distance relationship article really intrigued me. I have been dating a guy from England, let’s call him Ari, for the past few months. I live in New Jersey so we took turns traveling back and forth. We talk on the phone a lot in between. Right now I am in the middle of deciding if I am willing to move to England for him.
When we first started dating, Ari was visiting the States. Things took off pretty quickly between us. We usually have a great time on dates and we laugh a lot together. He is really sweet, good-looking, and talented. I never thought I would find all of these qualities in one person.
After Ari flew back to England, we agreed to continue our relationship. Although it was difficult for me to pay for the flights, I flew to England twice so far. On my second trip, Ari asked me if I would consider moving to England. My heart skipped a beat because I had naturally assumed that he would move to where I lived.
Ari explained to me that he was in the middle of graduate school and he could not easily transfer his education to the States to be able to eventually work in his field. I understand it would be challenging for him, but I am in the same position. I would not be able to work in England without retraining in my profession. Why should I have to give up my career to get married?
Another reason I have serious reservations about moving to England is that I am very close to my family. My sisters are my best friends. Even my extended family is unusually close. All of my father’s siblings live in my neighborhood. I am very close to my cousins and see them all of the time. I cannot imagine leaving my close-knit family to live as far away as England.
This decision is so difficult because I really thought that if Ari wanted to marry me he would agree to live in the States. Now that I am so attracted to him, it is really difficult to break up with him over this. What advice can you give me?
It sounds like your relationship with Ari was progressing really well until he dropped a bombshell, asking if you would be willing to move to England. It is so hard to feel that you need to choose between Ari and your career and family.
When it comes to making a decision like relocating in order to marry someone, there are no objective rights or wrongs. There is no rule about dating that says that a man must relocate to where a woman is located if they choose to marry or vice versa. Every couple needs to navigate this decision and figure out what works best for them.
I am curious about what led you to date someone from England when it sounds like you felt strongly about living close to your family even before you met Ari. I am wondering why you did not mention to Ari that you would only live close to your family in the early stages of your relationship.
You mention that you had “naturally assumed” that if things worked out, Ari would agree to relocate to your area. Ironically, Ari seems to have assumed the same thing about you. Is it possible that you both entered into this dating relationship without communicating your priorities because you were hoping for the best? Or, could it be that, deep down, you felt it was possible that you might like Ari enough to be willing to relocate in order to marry him?
Even though you feel that you have just as much a right to ask Ari to move to where you have your job and family as he does to ask you to move, this decision is not about personal rights or fairness. Essentially, marriage is about being flexible and being willing to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good – your relationship as a couple. The hallmark of a happy and healthy marriage is one in which both partners are willing to put their partner’s needs before their own. Therefore, if you should decide to move to England, you should not tell yourself that you are willing to move to England “for him.” Rather, you are willing to move to England “for us.”
Right now it sounds like you feel you are being forced to give up your career and family in order to marry Ari. Entering into marriage with this feeling or breaking up with Ari suddenly over this is bound to cause you to feel resentful and frustrated in the long run. Try to give yourself time to sort through your feelings about what matters to you and see where it leads.
After you explore your feelings about your options, you will be more prepared to discuss your perspective with Ari. Explain to Ari what your career and family mean to you. Describe to him the expectations you had going into dating and your concerns about moving to England. The way Ari responds to your reservations may change your situation.
You may find that Ari’s response convinces you that your relationship with him is worth re-examining the future of your career and the way you will maintain your close ties with your family. Or Ari may decide that he is willing to move to the States in the short or long-term because it is important to you. It is also possible that your relationship with Ari will unravel and you will get clarity by seeing that you and Ari are unable to work this out in a mutually satisfying way. Who knows how your circumstances and feelings will develop as you go through this process and discuss the issues with Ari?
Take this decision one step at a time and allow Ari into your inner world so that he can understand why this decision is difficult for you. I hope that your self-reflection and communication with Ari get you the clarity you need to make this significant decision.
Wishing you much success,