For the most part, I don’t think of home a lot, but I’m usually sad when I go to visit my family and have to leave them. At my age, I feel like I shouldn’t get homesick; I am not dependent on my family, but we are very close. My question is, should I stay here with him or move back? If I was married, there would be no question where I should be, but for right now we are just dating. I want to be with him, but I think about my parents. I know I need to live my life, but I think about how my parents are in their 60s and 70s, respectively, and would love to have me around. They don’t have much money and visit when they can, which is, on average, once every 3-4 years. I visit twice a year, so, as long as I’m saving money, I can get back to see them. But seeing them for a week or two twice a year just doesn’t seem like enough to cure my homesickness. And if we get married, I could be seeing them even less than that. One day I’m happy to be here with my boyfriend, and the next day I miss my family (by the way, I don’t live with my boyfriend).
Some people I have gotten advice from tell me getting married means leaving my mother and father, and then some say to me, “How could you just leave your aging parents?” I feel torn. I don’t know if I am struggling with this because I will be a stepmother and a wife all at the same time and it’s a big change, or that I know that, once I get married, I can never go back home. It’s just a lot of change. Maybe I just need to grow up, but I’m struggling with it all. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! — Homesick and Lovesick
It sounds to me like you’ve got a lot of anxiety about taking the next step in your relationship, which is totally normal, and you’re projecting it onto other issues in your life, like living far away from your parents. Committing your life to someone is a huge deal, especially if you’re already in your mid-30s and have lived alone most or all of your adulthood and are used to doing things your own way. Add a stepkid to the mix and you’re really talking big potential changes. Suddenly, you have not just one other adult to always consider, but a child too, not to mention the child’s mother. It’s a lot, and it makes sense that you long for the comfort and stability of your youth when such responsibilities were nonexistent.
But you have to decide whether you’re longing for home for that reason alone, or whether you feel guilty for being away from your aging parents, or whether being close to your parents, geographically-speaking, is necessary for you to have a happy, full life. If it’s the former — if you’re letting the anxiety you feel about potentially committing your life to someone affect your perspective, know that that will pass. And if it doesn’t, then you need to examine the root of the anxiety. Maybe this man isn’t really the one for you. Maybe being a stepmother is a deal-breaker and you’d rather wait for a man who isn’t already a father. Maybe you just aren’t ready to be tied down (in which case I would ask: what’s the rush?).
But you said yourself that you’ve waited a long time to find a man like your boyfriend and you decided pretty quickly that you wanted to spend your life with him. If you still feel that way, and you know that spending your life with him means spending at least the next ten years where you live now — or close enough that your boyfriend could see his son regularly — you have to figure out whether that life is worth the sacrifice of missing your parents. And you have to be realistic about what “missing your parents” actually means. I’m confused about why you think you’d suddenly see them less once you got married or why getting married would mean you’re “leaving” them. You “left them” a long time ago, didn’t you? And why do you feel like once you’re married you could “never go home”?
My guess is that you feel like by becoming a part of a new family — you, your boyfriend, and his son — you are turning your back on your family-of-origin. Like, you’d be severing your loyalty to the people who raised you. And, it’s true, getting married, does change family dynamics a bit. Your “immediate family” is no longer the family you were raised in; it’s you, your spouse, and whatever offspring you may have (individually or together). It’s a shift and one that can feel bittersweet. But there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Surely, your parents understand that you’re an adult and you have to live your own life. And it’s not like they’re in their 90s and need constant care. They’re in their 60s and 70s! They’ll be fine.
I’m sure your parents miss you, as you miss them. And maybe two one-week visits a year really aren’t enough for you or for them to maintain the closeness you wish to have. But with modern technology, there are ways you can feel close without actually being in the same town. Do you guys Skype/Facetime/Google video chat? Is it possible to add another visit each year? Could you each drive 7-9 hours and meet somewhere halfway between your homes for a 4-day weekend?
My advice to you is to sit and talk with your boyfriend about all of these concerns you’re having. See if you’re on the same page as far as getting married and when you both see that happening. Discuss what your life would look like once you’re married. Would he expect you to stop visiting your parents? Would he come with you sometimes? Would he understand if you spend a week with your parents without him? When you start feeling anxious, make a list of all the unanswered questions that are contributing to your anxiety and then start hunting down the answers. Some you may be able to answer yourself, but it sounds like quite a few will need to be discussed with your boyfriend and even your parents. What are their expectations from you as you all get older? Are they counting on you to take care of them in their “Golden Years,” and, if so, what does that mean?
Right now, it seems like you’re letting the unknown make you a little crazy. Some things will remain unknown until you take the plunge — wherever that plunge takes you. You’ll have to just trust that you’re making the right choices. But some of the unknowns that are driving you bonkers don’t have to be such a mystery. You can get guidance and reassurance from the people who love you. You just have to communicate and ask for it.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.