My partner’s situation here is quite different. He has two young children from previous relationships and doesn’t wish to leave the country until they are 18, which is understandable. He also has a 93-year-old father and a mentally-challenged sister, who live just up the road from us, whom he visits often. Unlike me, he is one of eight children.
I often feel torn between my life here and wanting to be with my family. This is something my partner doesn’t understand. Every time I try to talk about my feelings he takes it personally, accusing me of not loving him and not having affection for his family. This I find unfair and it hurts my feelings, considering I lived with him in his father’s house for two years to look after them and his children share their lives with us. As a result, I can’t talk to him about this matter anymore.
I definitely feel torn between my life here and my family back in India. I know that in 10 year’s time, I will deeply regret not being there for my parents and missing my god-daughter’s childhood. This bottled up feeling is making me very unhappy, and the fact that I can’t share it with my partner is making me resentful. Any words of advice? — Torn Between Two Worlds
What is it that you want your fiancé to say? He has made it clear that he is not leaving Melbourne — and for good reason. I assume you two got engaged with the understanding that you would be building your life in Melbourne. You even bought a house together there. But now you’re saying that, if you stay there, in ten year’s time you’ll regret not moving back to India? What is your partner supposed to say to that??
I suspect your fiancé does understand where you’re coming from, but he doesn’t understand what it is you want from him. Are you asking him to move to India with you? You already know he’s not going to leave his children or his elderly father. He’s just not. And, frankly, it’s unfair to expect him to when he has made clear from the start that he won’t. Either respect that and deal or… move on. But pressuring him or trying to guilt him into …into what — picking up his life, leaving his kids, leaving his father — because you don’t think it’s fair that YOU should be the one to choose one life over another isn’t fair when you’ve already started building your life together where you are.
If you’ve changed your mind, be honest about that. Own it. Tell you fiancé you cannot marry him knowing that you will regret not moving home to India. Tell him that you regret that you didn’t realize this before you got engaged and before you bought a home together and before you invested four years into your relationship, but at least you realized it before your wedding.
And if you haven’t changed your mind and you do want to stay in Melbourne and continue building your future with your fiancé, then tell him that you are willing to stay there but you need him to be more compassionate when you feel sad and homesick. And then be proactive in staying more involved in your family’s lives back in India. If you can afford it, visit more frequently. Schedule regular Skype/Facetime dates. Have some heart-to-heart talks with your parents about their wishes as they age and become less independent. Make plans together for their senior care.
As for your god-daughter, you have to appreciate that, for as much as you miss her, your fiancé would miss his own children so much more if he were to move away. Your god-daughter has parents. You may be close to her, but you are not her guardian; you are not her mother. You are not someone whose presence in her life is fundamental in her emotional well-being and happiness. Your fiancé IS someone whose presence is fundamental in the emotional well-being and happiness of his kids’ lives. He can’t leave them to move across the world with you. So, you have to decide whether to stay with him or leave. It’s not his decision to make. It’s yours. The only thing you can ask of him is to be understanding and compassionate with you. And if he can’t… well, I suppose that should help you make your decision then.
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Oneoff April 22, 2014, 9:31 am
I don’t understand why “my parents move to Melbourne where I can take care of them” isn’t on the list, since she’s an only child. Is it not possible for immigration legalities or is she forcing herself to make a choice between her fiance and her family that doesn’t really exist?
LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 9:41 am
I don’t think it’s quite that easy for two 70-something year olds to just up and move 5000 miles away from their friends and family to a different country.
iseeshiny April 22, 2014, 9:55 am
I’ll believe the LW if she says that’s not an option, but my in-laws did it. I probably wouldn’t want to do it myself, and I wouldn’t blame LW’s parents if they didn’t want to, but I was also a little surprised the LW didn’t mention it, if only to rule it out as a possibility.
LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 10:04 am
I’m not saying it’s absolutely not an option, I just don’t think it’s as black and white as Oneoff implied. Immigration issues would be the least of my concerns in this situation.
Oneoff April 22, 2014, 10:38 am
I don’t mean to imply anything about how feasible it is. I’m only pointing out that the LW hasn’t considered all the possibilities. I’ve spent a lot of time in India and can imagine the pressure she’s under, internally and societally, not to mention perhaps also from her parents. That kind of pressure tends to limit people’s thinking. It’s a different situation to think “I have to choose between my parents and my fiancé” than to think “my parents don’t want to move, is it important enough to me to give up my fiancé and my life so they don’t have to move.” Giving up her fiancé and her life isn’t so easy either. It shouldn’t be a default assumption that she has to choose between two impossible choices, until and unless all the possibilities are on the table.
AmyP April 23, 2014, 2:04 pm
Yes. If they need her, they can move to Melbourne.
If they have lots of family and friends that they enjoy in India too much to leave India, they can stay there.
bethany April 22, 2014, 9:43 am
It sounds pretty clear to me that you want to go back to India, but you know that as much as it’s going to be wonderful to be home with your family, it’s going to suck to leave your fiance. This is one of those cases where both options are going to have major drawbacks, and to me, it sounds like you know which one will make your more unhappy. And that’s not being there for your parents. I think you should go.
Situations like this make me really glad that I’ve always known I wouldn’t ever move really far away from my parents. I know plenty of people do it and can stay really happy with their decision, but it’s just not for me.
LlamaPajamas April 22, 2014, 9:48 am
I was just about to post something similar. This really sucks but it sounds like one of those situations where the relationship won’t work out because of timing/logistics rather than the couple not being compatible. You know your fiancé can’t leave Australia and you resent not being with your family in India, so it sounds like you two might need to be thankful for the years you’ve had together and move on.
SasLinna April 22, 2014, 9:53 am
LW, I think this is something only you can decide – what’s more important to you, living close to your parents and god-daughter or marrying your fiancé and staying with him? That’s what it comes down to in the end. There’s no compromise since it seems you’re already maximizing your time in India if you’re there a few weeks of the year. There’s no wrong answer – if being close to your parents is more important than staying with your fiancé, then that’s your decision and you get to make it even if most people would decide otherwise.
savannah April 22, 2014, 9:53 am
“Have some heart-to-heart talks with your parents about their wishes as they age and become less independent. Make plans together for their senior care.”
Senior care in India is still largely the sole responsibility of the children. There is probably a lot more going on here culturally speaking than just making arrangements, including a whole lot of social/internal guilt about not being there for her aging parents.
veracityb April 22, 2014, 9:59 am
Totally agree. I also thought that part of the advice just wouldn’t work for some cultures outside of the West.
muchachaenlaventana April 22, 2014, 10:55 am
Yes especially since family structure and what is expected of children in Indian culture is a much much different concept than it is in American culture, especially given that the LW is an only child, I can’t imagine the pressure she is under to return and live with her parents.
Jill April 22, 2014, 12:27 pm
This is very true. My husband is Indian, and before we even got married, he made sure that I understood that should his parents want to, they will be moving in with us when they get older. He’s not an only child though, so the burden doesn’t fall entirely to him. There is an expectation though that one of them will be caring for the parents at some time in the future though. It’s not a maybe, it’s a when.
With his almost 90 year old grandfather, who still lives in India, all of his children (some live in Canada and some in England) have tried to have him move in with them. He doesn’t want to leave India though, so they’ve done the best they can providing for him from afar (including building a brand new house).
Cassie April 22, 2014, 8:55 pm
Yeah, the expectation in most Asian cultures is that the children take care of their aging parents since their parents took care of them when they were young. The pressure and expectations from family and society are vastly different than what it is in the U.S. Along with that, Asian cultures tend to be more community-minded and not as individualistic, so it’s not as easy to say something like, “Well, just do what’s best for you.” I really feel for you, LW. I can’t offer much advice in this situation… but is there the possibility of being in India for longer periods of time as your parents age? Can you send money to hire someone to care for them? Would they be able/willing to move, as other readers have suggested? Try to think through all the options, even if they seem unlikely. Perhaps there’s another solution you haven’t yet thought of. Sorry this isn’t much help. 🙁
Daisy April 22, 2014, 10:04 am
LW, I think Wendy has given you a wonderful response and a lot to think about, but I just wanted to say that I really sympathize with you and the decision you have to make. I am American and my entire family lives in America, but I’ve lived in Israel for nearly 10 years and recently married an Israeli man. I love my life in Israel and I of course love my husband, but over 10 years it’s never gotten any easier to be so far from my own family. In many ways, now that my parents are getting older it’s actually gotten more difficult to be so far away. I also just had a wedding that most of my loved ones were not able to attend, and that was extremely hard.
My husband and I are actually considering moving to the US for a few years, and whether we end up really moving or not, I have to say that I’m not sure I could’ve married him if moving hadn’t been a possibility. I hate the fact that one of us will always be far from our family and home culture, but for better or worse that’s just our situation.
As for your own situation, I think you answered your own question with this statement:
“I definitely feel torn between my life here and my family back in India. I know that in 10 year’s time, I will deeply regret not being there for my parents and missing my god-daughter’s childhood.”
Leaving your long-term partner will of course be very difficult, but you specifically say you know you’ll regret not being with your parents and god-daughter. In my case, I knew I’d regret not marrying my husband and spending my life with him — even if that means never actually moving to the US and being closer to my family.
iseeshiny April 22, 2014, 10:14 am
Awesome, compassionate answer.
Daisy April 22, 2014, 11:01 am
Aw thank you! I’m always impressed with everyone else’s advice and rarely feel like I have anything to add, but this is definitely a topic I understand and feel passionate about!
GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 10:14 am
How was your wedding??!!
Daisy April 22, 2014, 10:29 am
It was wonderful! And for all the people who weren’t able to come, we actually had 18 guests from the US — which was pretty freakin’ amazing! We got the pictures back from the photographer last week and I just uploaded a bunch to fb — so if we’re friends, feel free to stalk! 😉 You can find my name in that thread on the DW page.
GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 10:35 am
That is a great turn out for international guests!! Glad it went well! I’m off to fb stalk!
GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 10:44 am
Oh I want your wedding!! It looks amazing! (That was me who just friended you.) Was that a ketubah? Do you hang it in your home? We signed a similar thing and it’s hanging in our living room.
Daisy April 22, 2014, 10:47 am
We haven’t hung it up yet but that’s definitely the plan! A friend of ours designed the invitation, and then we ended up having the ketubah and also the cake all match. Wedding cakes aren’t even really a thing in Israel, but I said I could give up having bridesmaids but I couldn’t give up my wedding cake! I love the way it turned out 🙂
GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 10:57 am
It took us about 6 months to finally get ours hung! But now it is and I love walking by and reading it. The photos are beautiful!!
SpaceySteph April 22, 2014, 12:28 pm
Ah the post-wedding procrastination. Everyone seems to do a bit better than I have, though…
Been married 14 months and our ketubah is still in a closet. Also I never dry cleaned my wedding dress and we had an outdoor ceremony so the underside is black.
daisy April 22, 2014, 12:42 pm
My mother-in-law took care of dry-cleaning my dress right away (the bottom was also black!) so that was great, but our apartment still has wedding stuff lying around everywhere. It’s only been a month though, so I think that’s still legit! 😉
GatorGirl April 22, 2014, 12:58 pm
Oh, my dress hasn’t been cleaned. Mine ended up covered in beer thanks to some interesting dance moves by a friend. Oh well.
applescruffs April 22, 2014, 10:46 am
Daisy April 22, 2014, 10:55 am
Thank you! I am really pleased with how they came out. And I was sooo worried before the wedding about looking fat (or even worse – pregnant), but my shapewear seems to have done its job! 😉
LW, sorry to hijack your thread to talk about my shapewear – I’ll shut up now!
Texas Annie April 22, 2014, 10:15 am
LW, please minimize as much as possible your complaints to your fiance. It is a man’s nature to fix things when we bring up an issue. This is not a situation he can fix, so he is lost. It is hard for some men to be supportive without giving advice, finding a solution or recommending a course of action.
While I know you wish him to just listen, it is probably not that easy for him. Knowing that his life in Australia is the reason you cannot see your family is doubly hard.
If you choose to stay, you will need to stay happily. At least happily when talking with him.
Lemongrass April 22, 2014, 11:59 am
*don’t feed the trolls, don’t feed the trolls, don’t feed the trolls*
Miss MJ April 22, 2014, 10:45 am
The LW is in a tough place, but I think the fact that she’s not articulating the other side of the coin as a regret – i.e., if she leaves her fiancé, in 10 years’ time, she would regret not having the life they have been planning – kind of indicates that her decision is made. Believe me, I know it’s not easy, but in this case, I think the LW just needs to accept the decision she’s already made and end her engagement and move back to India to be with her parents and restart her life there. Dragging this out and resenting her fiancé is just causing everyone even more pain.
Daisy April 22, 2014, 10:53 am
Exactly — it also stuck out to me that she’s only articulating regret with one of the options. And that of course doesn’t mean leaving Australia will be easy, but it does kind of seem like the decision has already been made.
I agree completely with Miss MJ that as hard as it will be, at this point it’s probably best to make the move as quickly as possible so that both you and your fiance can begin to heal and move on.
findingtheearth April 22, 2014, 11:14 am
You need to figure out what you really want.
I have a mother who is diabetic. I know I will end up taking care of her and she will live with me some day. Now that I have a daughter, I cannot imagine moving more than few hours away from my mom.
Living away from family is hard, but you cannot expect him to move away from his either. Wendy provides plenty of ways to compromise and bridging the gap is easier these days with technology. As a fellow only child, my heart feels for you and the choice you will make.
Bittergaymark April 22, 2014, 12:39 pm
I am with Wendy, but most especially with her sentiments that she has no idea what the LW expects the poor guy to say…
veracityb April 22, 2014, 1:41 pm
She has said she’s completely torn about it, and I think she hasn’t quite reconciled herself to the fact that it may be one or the other. I guess when you’re trying to make sense of your feelings and about what to do, you generally try to talk to your partner about it to see if there is any leeway, so it certainly doesn’t help if he shuts down discussion by “accusing” her of being unloving and uncaring about his family.. I think she was trying to point out that he is one of eight, unlike her, who is an only child, and therefore, he need not stay there for the parents (but will until his kid is of age). I think it a little unfair to almost accuse her of renegading on her life with him. Circumstances/feelings change, and a partner should be more responsive than shutting down even the start of a conversation. That said, perhaps she should try a different tack of engaging him in a discussion of their future together.
SpaceySteph April 22, 2014, 2:25 pm
” it certainly doesn’t help if he shuts down discussion by “accusing” her of being unloving and uncaring about his family”
I can’t believe more people haven’t seized on that point. His response is very controlling and inappropriate. He should be trying to talk to her about this, discuss ways she can feel closer to her family or whether more visits are possible or whether the parents can move to Melbourne… rather than shut all conversation down with these ridiculous accusations that she doesn’t love him.
“Do this or you don’t love me” is not how adults deal with relationship problems.
Oneoff April 23, 2014, 6:40 am
LW, if you’re still reading the comments, I have some thoughts for you:
As I said in my previous comment, I’ve spent a lot of time in India. I know hundreds of people in India (many of whom have family abroad) and Indian expats. As I’m sure you realize, your problem is virtually universal for Indian expats. Among the countless people I’ve known in your situation, no one has ever truly faced a situation of having to choose between abandoning their new family and abandoning their parents in their old age. Everyone has always been able to find a way to do both. There are solutions to this.
The reason I asked about immigration is that a very common situation among my friends is that the children have jobs & families abroad, but the parents are retired. So the parents spend part of the year visiting the children in the new country, during monsoon season/summer heat/winter freeze/whatever the unpleasant season is in their part of India. They get involved in the local temple and Indian community where their children live, make friends and develop their own social support system, get to watch their grandchildren grow up and still keep their life in India. They live very happily in two countries. Everyone wins. Another advantage of this approach is that when the parents become so frail they can’t live on their own anymore, or when one dies and the surviving spouse doesn’t want to live alone, they move in with the kids full time in a place where they already have a happy life and a support system. Loving parents don’t want their children to sacrifice their lives and abandon their families just to take care of them for a few years in their old age.
I live in a city with an enormous Indian expat population. It’s pretty standard for people to bring their parents to visit for several months of the year. And then the parents often move in with the children when the time comes, even though it’s the other side of the world and the parents are in their 80s.
Alternately, I know a lot of children who have arranged their careers to enable them to spend part of the year in India. One friend persuaded her employer to let her work remotely (which is very easy now), and spent 6 months in the winter in Mumbai and 6 months during summer/monsoons in Europe for twenty years, until her father died. Even now she goes back to Mumbai for a couple of months every winter just to visit. A school chum became an expert in outsourcing to India, so he travels there routinely for work and can visit his parents every few weeks. My tax accountant became a tax accountant purely because it’s a seasonal business, since he knew he could always find employers who would be happy to give him unpaid leave during the slow months of the year. When business is slow, he takes unpaid leave and spends several months in India. I know a lot of teachers/professors who do the same thing during school vacations. I also know several families where the mother stays home with the children and takes them to visit family in India for the school holidays.
It’s not necessary to abandon the new family and the new country to be a responsible son or daughter who loves his/her parents and takes care of them. I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but when my friends start saying things like “If I don’t move back to India I’ll regret it later” it is never their heart talking, it is always family pressure. If I ask what’s going on, it always turns out someone in the family has been saying “If you don’t come home and take care of your parents in their old age, you’ll regret it when they’re gone!” That’s never a true and objective statement of their situation, it’s always someone in the family trying to manipulate my friends into moving home. No one has ever succumbed to the pressure once they realize what’s happening, and no one has ever regretted not moving home.
I know that a lot of the comments have said, “You need to decide which is more important to you” but I don’t think that’s right. I think that advice is well-meaning, but I think it reflects a lack of experience with people in your situation and is not a true reflection of the situation you’re actually in. I think you have a lot more choices than your letter mentions. Maybe you’ve considered all of them, but if you haven’t, please do. I’ve never known anyone who truly faced the impossible choice your letter seems to describe. There have always been solutions.
I would ask you this: If your parents were gone, where would you live? If you decide that’s India, you miss it and want to move back there even if your fiancé won’t go, fine. But if you want to live in Melbourne with your fiancé, there are ways to make that happen and still live a full life with your parents and your obligations as their only child. Good luck.
LW April 24, 2014, 10:25 pm
Thank you Oneoff. This is the kind of support or suggestions I was hoping to hear from my partner. Unfortunately, I think most comments misunderstood what I said. I have no intention of leaving my partner and returning to India, as I’ve lived abroad since was 18, and that was my choice. But the fact that my partner has no sympathy or understanding of what it feels like is what makes me angry. For example I once said, like you mentioned, that maybe I could travel to see them 3 times a year. His first reaction and response was, “fine but don’t expect me to pay.” Also he himself makes no attempt to enrich my family ties: I do all my trips to India alone and when forced, he’ll say a brief hello to my folks. Not just that he won’t ever travel with me but when I go he makes me feel guilty by saying that I’m deserting him and his family and being distant. This is despite the fact that I am always by his side for all family events and even lived in with this father and impaired sister for 2 years to look after them. I am always by his side for all family issues, not because I have to but because, as a supportive partner, I want to. But after 4 years of all give and no get, I’m beginning to now feel that I’m expected to step into all roles but he wants no part of being an only son n law. He’s a good man in all other ways, kind caring appreciative, but this family angle has become a huge sticking point.
Thanks for your time in writing such a extensive note. Much appreciate it.
SasLinna April 25, 2014, 8:25 am
What you’re describing is definitely a problematic dynamic. It sounds like he’s very dismissive when you bring up your needs. I’d give some serious thought to whether you want to go forward with marrying him.
Oneoff April 25, 2014, 1:21 pm
LW, thank you for both your kind words and the further explanation of your question. I’m glad my reply was useful, and I also didn’t fully understand the focus of your question. Now that you explain your concern in more detail, it sounds like you hit the nail on the head with “all give and no get.” I confess I’m floored by your fiancé’s responses, especially when you have been so supportive of his family obligations. It sounds to me like the family issue is functioning as a mirror in which a deeper issue of equity in the relationship is being reflected. Obviously we don’t understand all the dynamics with your fiancé, but I agree with SasLinna’s concern. If I were in your situation, I would definitely put the marriage on hold and take a hard look at the question of how equal a place my needs have in the relationship, and not move forward with a marriage where my needs were not as important to my partner as his are. The rest of your life is a long time to play second fiddle. My heart is with you in your reflections on this situation.
LW April 26, 2014, 12:10 am
Thank you for your responses and I’m happy that I’m finally able to talk about this. I can give more instances, but I fear that I’ll lose sight of the positives in our relationship. But yes, this particular family issue is becoming one that I can’t seem to find a way around. He himself has never lived more than 3 kms away from his parents house, and even when we met he was living with his father, at the age of 43. His 2 kids are with 2 previous exes (the complications of which are another story, but as his partner I believe that I need to be there for him).
For instance after we bought our 3 bedroom house a year ago, 2 bedrooms are for his son and his toys and when I mentioned that I’d like my parents to visit (they have never visited me here in all this time) he said we have no space and can put them up in a lodge. This after my parents helped finance our house.
This year I wanted to spend my birthday with him, my cousins and my friends, but he wanted me to spend it with his nieces and nephews. I think I’d at least have the right to spend my birthday the way I wanted to. When I said this, he again accused me of not having any affection for his family.
It has now reached a point where I can’t even talk about them without him changing color. This is what is making me feel like my poor parents are isolated and just because they have no expectations, I have no right to any feelings or concerns for them. They have their own challenges living in a 3rd world country and sometime I just wish I could be there for them. But if I talk about my feelings just a form of expression, I cut short, saying “ah well, you have a life here.”
Reg. my god daughter, I agree that I am not her primary care giver, unlike him to his kids, but I see her for only 4-5 days a year, and this year he questioned me if I really needed to see her for 4 days?
You’re right and I have been putting the wedding off for 2 years now. I still want to make this relationship work, but I need balance. It can’t always be his side of the family and never mine.
Lw April 26, 2014, 12:20 am
Let me add that we have talked, discussed and argued this several times. He always apologises and agrees that he’s being unfair, but an apology is only as good as the change it brings, and in 4 years there has been none. I believe that as a supportive partner I’ll want to do anything for the person I love, but I also want the same commitment in return. Am I asking for too much? Is his indifference just a “man thing” that I should reconcile myself to?
Oneoff April 26, 2014, 5:21 pm
Dear LW, I am always hesitant to state anything categorically when I don’t have first hand knowledge of a situation, but I can answer your final question categorically: “Am I asking too much? Is his indifference just a “man thing” that I should reconcile myself to?” The answer to those questions is categorical: NO and NO. A good partner, male or female, is as supportive as you have been. Gender is irrelevant. You have a selfish partner who is taking advantage of your good nature and commitment to the relationship. A man who genuinely cared about your feelings would not behave like this. That much is categorical.
This is my strong opinion: This relationship cannot be fixed. Someone as selfish as your partner doesn’t miraculously change and become loving and supportive. I suspect that if you thought about it a while, you’d find this is not the only situation in which your needs are not as important as his, and the dynamic of “all give and no get” is not limited to this one topic.
If I were in your situation, I’d end the relationship, chalk this up to a painful lesson, and move on. In fact, when I was in your situation, that’s exactly what I did. It took several years for me to see how much I had been used, and how I had been slowly, quietly eroded. I now consider ending that relationship one of the smartest decisions I have ever made, and a bullet dodged. Please MOA. You deserve much, much better than this.
If you want an expert opinion, you might consider asking a marriage/family therapist (or two or three) their opinions. I suspect it will be eye opening. (I do have a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but this format is very limiting.) At the risk of sounding insensitive (please forgive me if I do), this type of behavior may be more common in India where, as one of my married friends phrased it, “men have all the power.” But in a more equal country, your boyfriend’s behavior is a deal breaker.
Oneoff April 26, 2014, 6:00 pm
Just to be careful in my phrasing, I should say that I can think of several possible explanations for your boyfriend’s behavior, from ordinary selfishness to certain types of mental illness. (I’m not suggesting mental illness for a moment, I’m just covering all possibilities.) But the underlying cause is largely irrelevant, because none of them is readily fixable and the conclusion is the same: MOA. Please don’t let anyone treat you like this.
Oneoff April 27, 2014, 6:56 am
If you’ll allow me to make a practical suggestion, I’d encourage you to read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I think it will answer a lot of your questions and provide some helpful insight into your relationship. I’d also suggest “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker and “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans. I think if you read all three, you’ll have a new, clearer view of your situation and your options. My heart is with you. Good luck!