“I Want to Move And My Wife Does Not. Will This End Our Marriage?”

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I read the column, “My Husband and I Can’t Agree on Where to Move”, as it’s applicable to my situation. My wife and I live in the San Francisco Bay area. My daughter and family live less than 45 minutes away (driving time), with the rest of wife’s family about an hour’s drive away. My only remaining family (siblings) live on the other side of the country. I am recently retired while my wife works but can get a job anywhere. The issue is simply this: I very much want out of CA. The reasons are many and important to me. My wife wants to stay where we are, and she has drawn a line in the sand, stating she must be within three-hours driving time of my daughter and family. To do that, one must live in CA. We are equally strong on our respective wants.

I have offered for us to periodically fly back to see family, or take 700-mile drives (one way) from neighboring states. I said that if we moved, she could take an easier job, retire sooner, and have more of what she wants, all while not compromising our standard of living and perhaps even improving it (with lower cost of living). She said “no”. She suggested we sell our house and buy two places, one for her near family and one where I want to be (not in CA). This is tantamount to ending the marriage since each of us would very likely spend 98% of our time where we live.

This appears irreconcilable, the gap between us Grand Canyon-wide in its breadth, too wide to meet in the middle and also because there is no viable “middle.” The marriage is suffering from other problems, but I never expected such a thing like “where to live” to be the wedge that could destroy decades of marriage. No matter if we live in or out of CA, resentment will live within the person who is not living where he or she wants. I feel very trapped, with no possible good “out”. — Looking for a Way Out

I like your wife’s idea of selling your house. Only, I wouldn’t buy new places just yet. I suggest you rent a small home for your wife to live in, near the family she wants to be close to, and you rent a small home where you want to live, outside of California. Give it a year, maybe two, and see if your hard lines in the sand wiggle a little. Your question, as any longtime reader knows, is one of the most asked about of any I get. Usually, the question arises early in a relationship, often before marriage or within the first couple years. What is different about your situation from most I hear about is the longevity of your relationship, and I would imagine that, after decades of marriage, if your foundation is not strong enough to withstand a year or two of living separately (with regular visits if you can manage) and your feelings for each other are not warm enough that you miss each other and feel more willing to find a compromise to be close again, then you will have a very clear answer about the future of your relationship and what the “right” path is for you. At the very least, you won’t feel trapped, you’ll gain a different perspective, and the distance — both literally and figuratively — should clear some of the confusion you’re currently feeling.

My fiancé and I have been together going on eight years. We have a three-year-old son and have been engaged for three years. We broke up about eight months ago and were broken up for six months. During that time, I moved to VA where we both work and he stayed in NC where we are both from. He told me about two months ago that if I wanted things to work, I should come back. Of course, I want my family. so I moved back to NC. Now my job is putting me in a 2-11 shift and I don’t feel comfortable driving the almost two-hour drive one way everyday. I got approved for a place in VA and I’ve asked him multiple times if he can please move with me and try it out. He works there, too. I don’t want us to break up, but if I move without him, I don’t see it working out. I don’t know why he won’t just move. He loves me and we are engaged, so I don’t see what the problem is. — Ready to Move

If you aren’t married after eight years together and three years of engagement, it’s not ever going to happen. My guess is he never wanted to get engaged in the first place but felt pressured into it (either by you and/or by having a child with you) and made some half-assed commitment of proposing/getting engaged, hoping that would be enough to keep you happy. He has no intention of actually marrying you. And if he won’t move to a place where both his fiancée AND his job are, then there’s something even more important to him keeping him where he is. Whatever that reason is, you can’t compete with it. It’s time for you to move on. The biggest challenge here will be figuring out custody and child support for your kid, and I strongly suggest talking to a lawyer about those issues as soon as possible.

My ex-boyfriend, whom I dated for five years, friend-requested my husband on Facebook, and I’m not sure why he did. They were not friends in high school but knew each other. I became pregnant during my relationship with my ex, I miscarried, and then we stayed together for two more years. It was a great relationship and very sad when it ended.

My husband accepted the friend request, and it makes me feel very upset and uncomfortable because of the relationship that my ex and I had. I’ve asked my husband why he accepted his request, and he acted like I’m being silly about it. I feel like my ex is checking up on me.

What are your thoughts and would anyone else feel the same way? — Request Should Be Denied

I think if you have a problem with your husband being Facebook friends with your ex, you need to make that explicitly clear. Instead of asking why he accepted the friend request — probably because he doesn’t feel threatened by the guy, they were acquaintances in high school, and he didn’t see any reason NOT to accept the request — you need to tell him that it makes you uncomfortable that they’re connected in social media. Explain that the relationship was an intense one, the ending was sad, and the clean break you thought you had from your ex feels compromised when he’s able to indirectly follow you on social media through your husband. If your husband continues calling you silly, the real problem you have is with him and not your ex, and that needs to be dealt with (with honest and frank discussion and possibly a few sessions of marriage counseling, especially if you feel equally dismissed in other ways in your marriage).

I’d also urge you to consider whether you feel truly “over” the relationship with your ex. The way you write about him, your relationship, and the breakup sounds like someone who has some unresolved feelings. It isn’t fair to your husband — or to yourself — to simply brush those feelings aside. To build a strong and lasting marriage, you’ve got to confront any pain that might still linger over your previous relationship.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. I am intrigued by LW1, and hope we are provided an update at some point. LW, if you are reading the comments, I would love insight as to why you want so strongly to move now. You give absolutely no indication of that in your letter, and your wife’s reasons for wanting to stay are quite explicit (wanting to stay close to daughter and possibly grandchildren + other family).

  2. I suppose it doesn’t matter to the advice given, but I really wonder what the many important reasons LW1 had to move. I mean San Francisco is pretty expensive and he’s no longer working so I can understand if he’s feeling financial pressure, but he doesn’t really say that’s a reason other than his wife could retire earlier, which she apparently doesn’t want to do. And he doesn’t mention anything else hes tried or thought of to ease the financial pressure while living in California so I’m a bit skeptical that it’s a big enough problem to break up with his wife over. And it really seems pretty reasonable to want to stay in the same place you’ve lived for decades which is also near your daughter and grandchildren.

    In any case Wendy’s advice sounds good. It doesn’t sound like he’s really that interested in staying married, but this way they can get people used to the idea and save face, because they “tried.” And, hey, you never know he may find that being alone isn’t so great after all.

    But yeah, i have “many reasons” I have to leave the state, but canl even if it means leaving my wife and daughter after living there for many years, but I cant actually say what they are just seems strange.

  3. dinoceros says:

    LW1: Wendy’s advice makes sense. I’m wondering if you’ve discussed your plans with your daughter. I ask because usually at this point in life, folks (parents or their kids) are moving closer together, typically for the eventual care of the parents or for proximity to grandkids. I say this as someone who expects to move closer to my parents in several years, as they continue to age. But they stayed within a couple of hours of my hometown, so I feel that the obligation is mine to move. If they moved across the country, I’d take that to mean that they felt confident that they could care for themselves considering the energy and expense it would require from me to do that.

    I’m wondering if you could rent something across the country and stay in part time? My stepmom’s sister just retired and she spends a month at a time in Florida several times a year. I think she gets her fill of Florida without having to live there full time and leave her whole family.

  4. Yes, letter #1 is strange. ‘Trapped’ in CA and living anywhere within the state will be unacceptable. CA is an awfully big state. If he has problems with neighbors or wants distance from ex co-workers, for some reason he is unwilling to explain, he can easily achieve that moving to daughter’s location. I’m going to take a wild guess that this is political — LW is an ardent Trump supporter who can’t stand to live in what he regards as an ultra-liberal state. If he is this hard assed about it, I suspect wife is secretly hoping he leaves.

    His explanation is just super glib and super selfish. He is just retired. His wife is still working. That is ample reason to stay where her job is until she is retired, at least. But… the super glib ‘she can do her work anywhere’. But… perhaps she enjoys the people she works with, perhaps she has a great employer, perhaps seniority there has perks, perhaps at her age she isn’t eager to start fresh with a new employer, in new location, with a staff where she knows nobody. Those are all very reasonable concerns, which LW just brushes away.

    1. Anon from LA says:

      CA is a big state but A LOT of it is very expensive with high costs of living. The entire Bay area is super expensive, even if you drive a ways from SF itself.

      1. Yes CA is expensive, but they’ve managed it for decades and LW’s wife is still working. No mention that they can’t afford it. Unless he just got tired of working and selfishly retired on his own without adequate retirement income/savings and now needs to move to economize, I’m not buying that reason. It is kind of selfish and presumptuous that if he convinces wife to quit job and move, that she would then be the one to get another job to make the finances work.

      2. Ruby Thursday says:

        I live in the Bay Area. While it can be significantly more expensive than the rest of the country, there are also lots of places that are more manageable and affordable the farther you get from San Francisco. I live in Oakland and my rent is no different than what I paid while living in an East Coast city. As for California’s politics, only the coasts are ultra-liberal. The Central Valley, for example, is incredibly conservative.

        It’s hard for me to understand how LW’s many important reasons trump staying in CA near his wife, daughter, and grandchildren. Nothing in his letter suggests any conflict that cannot be solved through compromise. I wonder what his deeper reasons might be.

      3. Yeah I’m guessing if they can afford to buy two places it’s not the money. It really would be a shame if this guy was so racist, and homophobic that he couldn’t live in CA anymore. That just isn’t a stable individual.

    2. CA’s liberal politics was my suspicion too. His wording is almost exactly how my uber-conservative parents talk as they prepare to retire and leave the state.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        That was my guess, too, especially since in the unedited version of his letter LW mentioned most wanting to move to the southeast.

  5. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    Wendy is on point with all of her answers for the LWs.
    Although, I have one minor quibble. LW #3 stated that her husband ‘acted’ like she was being silly. He didn’t call her silly. I don’t necessarily think husband is in the wrong here. Maybe if she explained why she no longer wants a connection with the ex, then hubby would have unfriended him but she didn’t. She just passively-aggressively implied that he needs unfriend him, so she is being kinda silly.
    I think she does have some unresolved feelings that she needs to work through but that’s not on her husband, that’s on her to fix.

  6. Rangerchic says:

    I don’t understand LW1 either. If he had given some (or at least one) reason why he wanted to leave, it would be easier to give advice.

    We moved 12 hrs from both of our entire families (mine and husband’s) 2.5 yrs ago. We have two daughters (17, 22). The youngest is a senior in HS and everyone is always asking if we will move back to the home state all the time. And honestly, it kind of depends on what my girls do. I want to stay close to them (within a few hours anyway). But it also depends on where my husband gets work. I’m sure the wife does want to stay close enough to visit regularly, especially if there are grandkids!

  7. Kitnkabutle says:

    LW1- I hear your pain. My husband is tired of CA too. And we have lived in the Bay Area for our entire lives and go back several generations here on both sides. To stay in CA, Sacramento is a great bet, up and coming, centrally located, many old beautiful parks and neighborhoods. Even the AAA Giants. If you leave and want to be close, Reno is the obvious next choice – similar to Sac. I like Wendy’s advice if you can swing it without getting whacked by the capital gains issue. Maybe roll the $$ over into a rental property you could live in for now and rent out later?

  8. artsygirl says:

    LW1 – Unless your wife is highly specialized with in-demand skills, you cannot guarantee she will easily find work elsewhere. Ageism is a real problem in the working world. If she is close to retirement age, many companies will be less interested hiring her since she might only be there a few years before leaving and they have to replace/train someone new.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Plus, losing her seniority would probably have a very negative affect on a lot of things, including pay, time off, job security, etc.

    2. ^^
      I am an IT recruiter and ageism is real. Really consider this.

  9. “Quote” He told me about two months ago that if I wanted things to work then I would come back (/)

    So basically LW2’s fiance said if you really love me you will move back, right maybe it’s time LW2 that you tell him the same thing.

    If he wants to make it work he will give moving a chance.

    I loathe ultimatums to be honest and I would MOA since he is obviously not that into you, but if LW2 finds that difficult and needs more proof then give that ultimatum.

    It’s incrediblyn strange he refuses to live where he works especially when his partner needs the accomodation with work and why woukdnt he want to be with his lover and child, sounds fishy to me.

  10. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    I appreciate your prompt response. It makes sense, albeit somewhat scary. Sounds like a trial separation.

    I read the comments, noting the focus on my not explaining why I wish to leave CA. The answer was I wanted to stay well under the 500 word limit. In hindsight, I could have been ultra succinct and explained in under 500 words, but frankly, did not see how it was relevant. Thinking about it, I should not have mentioned my wife’s reason for wanting to stay in CA. Revealing the reasons behind the respective positions results in speculation, uninformed assumptions, unfounded judgment, and the taking of sides, something no better illustrated than with Ron’s comment. It distracts from from the question at hand…how to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable. You did offer a solution…thank you.

    I find the reasons behind our positions only relevant if those specific reasons can be addressed in a way to reach an agreeable compromise. When the primary “reasons” are born out of one’s core values and priorities, they become all but impossible to substantially compromise on. It should be said that my wife and I both have a complete understanding and respect for one another’s desire on where to live. Our critical priorities are simply not the same.

    I will update you as you request. If you want more info, I will share, but do not wish to unduly burden you.

    Thank you,


    ps I am a good negotiator, and use this tool efectively, but even it cannot solve the aforementioned problem.


    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Yes, more info, please! We’re very curious…

    2. dinoceros says:

      The reasons do matter. Depending on your reasons, there may be other ways for you two to compromise. The only way that reasons wouldn’t matter would be if you had decided that you’re leaving no matter what, even if that means divorce.

    3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Reasons do matter because it is easier to give specific advice based on the given situation.

      Obviously living near your daughter isn’t a primary value or priority for you. It is hard to give you advice without knowing your primary values and priorities. In a committed relationship you try to meet the needs of both partners but you refuse to let us know what you need. Why would living in the Southeast US meet your needs but you can’t meet them anywhere in California?

      Ultimately you and your wife may have such different priorities and needs that there is no compromise. You can’t negotiate your wife into having different values and priorities than she has.

    4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I’d try to get an apartment and live there for a year and see if it pans out. I have two uncles and their families who live in the southeast. The uncles didn’t grow up in the south and so they aren’t considered southern. One has been there for over 40 years and he still isn’t considered southern. For both families all of the parents friends are from somewhere other than the south. Their kids have southern friends but not them. They are successful there and happy there will never fit in entirely because many southern communities don’t fully embrace people who didn’t grow up there.

      Don’t assume you will be embraced in the south, especially coming from California. You may arrive only to find that you are ostracized by the south as far as friendship. You may find yourself lumped in with all of the others who aren’t southerners.

    5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Since you don’t want to give your reason for moving all we can do is speculate. I wouldn’t drag your wife along if the move is for anything that is in conflict with her values or fundamental beliefs.

      If you want to move to join a white separatist movement and your wife isn’t a white separatist don’t push her to go.

      If you met someone online that you would like to meet in real life don’t push your wife to go.

      If you want to become a Southern Baptist and your wife doesn’t attend church don’t ask her to go.

      Ask yourself if your wife would fit into your new life/lifestyle. If the answer is no you should go alone.

    6. I’m going to echo everyone else– the reasons absolutely do matter.

      I don’t understand why you seem to be, in your mind, already thinking in terms of separation “sounds like a trial separation” and “tantamount to ending our marriage”. Long-distance is totally workable for many couples, with in-person visits and video chatting, texting, and phone calls. I did it for several years in a new relationship, and we’re still together. I feel like maybe you’ve already checked out of this relationship.

      1. dinoceros says:

        I agree that it seems like he’s checked out. Without a compelling reason, it sounds kind of odd to be so ready to just dump your spouse and move across the country. Most couples I know would be sad at the thought of leaving, but the LW just seems angry that his wife doesn’t want to quit her job and move away from their daughter.

  11. Lady Lake says:

    LW#1 – I suggest looking into the Reno / Tahoe / Carson City areas. I live in this area and find it very easy to take day / weekend trips to SF all the time. The cost of living is much lower and the mind set is a bit more conservative than in CA. There are tons of new apartments being built mostly in Reno. I agree with Wendy to try to find an apartment. Maybe one that would do a month to month lease. You could see how it works for you and your wife and then commit to your living situation then.

  12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW2 In a committed relationship the two of you work together to find a solution that works for both. Your fiance isn’t willing to compromise on a place to live so that the situation works for you. He is refusing to let you be a partner in a basic decision that directly impacts your life.

    I think he is trying to drive you away. He gives you an ultimatum and either you move away anyway and he can tell everyone you left him or you try the driving and it doesn’t work and you give up and move closer to your job and he tells everyone you left him. He is going to get his wish either faster or slower because he knows his ultimatum doesn’t work for you and can’t work for you.

    Do you have a date for your wedding? I’m assuming you don’t or you would have told us how many months until the wedding. If you haven’t managed to set a wedding date after three years of engagement you aren’t going to get married.

    Figure out how to live your life without your fiance. Who takes care of your son while you work? Take your son with you if it works.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Yeah. The fiance cares more about getting his way than being together. It’s not inherently a bad thing (it’s his right), but it’s a very bad sign for any sort of future together. LW, you compromised because he’s important to you, but found that ultimately it’s the wrong thing for you. He’d rather break up with you than move. Not someone I’d really want to build a life around.

  13. LW1 – This sounds like my parents a little bit. We moved my whole life and my parents always talked about moving to South Carolina or Naples Florida when they retired. But my siblings landed in the north east and we now all are married with children. My mom does not want to leave the grandkids and the aging parents far away from their children is a real burden down the road.

    So here is what my parents do. They downsized their home here and are renting snow bird homes for the time being. They didn’t want the upkeep of two homes and like the flexibility of traveling to different locations. Until you know exactly where you want to go, I think it is a great option to test out places and test out communities before you commit.

    One other thought. My parents have friends that have moved 3 times since retiring. They thought they knew what they wanted but got there and realized it wasn’t for them. By renting for long periods, you can see if you really want to live in “The Villages” or you would rather be in a more remote place. Without knowing you, I can say you clearly have an itch and are feeling confined. Find a way to scratch it without blowing up your whole life.

    1. This is a great point! My aunt and uncle have been all over the place since retirement. They lived in Florida, but since retirement, they have:

      Owned a place in FL and NC
      Rented in FL and owned in NC
      Moved in NC and built a new place and still rent in FL
      Rent in NC, Owned in SC and occasionally rent in FL
      Now they’re thinking about downsizing in SC too… and still rent the other places.

      This has all been over an eight year period. What I learned from them for when I retire? I’ll wait and see where I want to buy before committing. Luckily, they have money, so they’re all good.

  14. OK so you have numerous reasons for wanting to leave CA…but you can’t tell us? I feel oftentimes when men don’t want to list out their reasons for something it’s because they are complete bullshit and they know it. If you are near retirement age, I think you are vastly overestimating your wife’s ability to get another job. (Age discrimination???) Even if she is self employed, its not so easy to just up and move a business. I like Wendy’s suggestion, but one thing is missing here, which is if you waited until she retires, you could live in one place part of the year, and another a part of the year, without the need for two households. This is totally a thing, (ever hear of snowbirds?), and I think a pretty good compromise. You could stay in CA this time of year, for the holidays, and then spend the rest of the year in another state, or country even. The options are endless really, but it sort of sounds like you are looking for an easy way out of this marriage. In addition, there is no rule you can’t go on vacation yourself, if you are that tired of CA, and retired, why not just go and see if being somewhere is really what is keeping you from being happy. Less expensive than a divorce I bet.

  15. Desr LW2: please move where you work. It is unreasonable to have such a long commute and I suppose you can’t really enjoy a family life this way, can you? You showed motivation to make an effort. Your boyfriend’s turn now. He can sleep at your place twice a week at the start, you can move to his place one or two week-ends a month, but on an everyday basis, be close to where you work. Your health, and mental health, and quality time with your son, are at stake. Eventually, the facts will show you if you really have a future with your BF.

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