Making the best of a bad relocation

My husband and I moved across the country last year – from a city of  2,000,000 to a town of 80,000. I am finding the transition very difficult. Besides missing our family and friends terribly, our new town is, well, just quiet. I do not see anything interesting or positive in our new home town, and I am miserable. We moved because of a job opportunity for my husband, so moving back isn’t an option right now.

 How do I start to see the positive in the situation?  I want to make the most of this, but most days I just can’t change my mindset.
6 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I think probably you need to think of moving out of there as a option.

    If he needs to move to a terrible location for a job now, why won’t he have to do it five more times in the next 50 years? it’s kind of a mindset – like, if you think it’s an option to make a terrible move for work once, then you’ll probalby do it again. Job hunting is about discipline – not applying to jobs that will ruin your life.

    So i know this isn’t what you want to hear, but i think you and your husband need to reassess where catering to his worklife fits into the big picture. i think things are skewed right now. You are totally normal to feel bad about moving away from friends and family. If there is one rule about relocating for a job it is that almost no amount of money is worth doing that for.

    Here is the research behind that thinking:

    Now I am going to pre-empt some of the arguments you will have about why you can’t move:

    1. Your husband can leave this job after a very short time and not put it on his resume. So, in interviews he can say he’s leaving because he realized living in a small city won’t work. That is reasonable. And in the long term, he can leave this job off his resume and no one will even realize he did a short stint at a job that didn’t work out.

    2. I think your husband would be surprised to hear that high performers don’t need to take jobs that make their spouses miserable. High performers do not send resumes to places they don’t want to live. They accept that limitation and expect themselves to get great jobs anyway.

    3. If you husband truly is unemployable near your friends and family then it is probably worth it to you — for your own happiness and sanity – to move back to friends and family and get a job yourself and support you guys. Your husband can do something that doesn’t pay, or pays low. Many couples do this sort of arrangement. The point is for the breadwinner situation to be what’s right for the whole family.

    Good luck.

  2. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    I agree–best to start thinking of ways to get out now, otherwise the town will start sinking its hooks deeper and deeper into you and you’ll have more and more reasons why you can’t leave, all the while still feeling miserable. That’s how it’s been for me moving to a town of 5,000. I am finally taking the steps to move even though financially it doesn’t look smart.

  3. Burdell
    Burdell says:

    Amen @Colleen. I did a move just like the letter writer many years ago, so by now we have kids who were BORN in this town and this is all they know. At this point I realize I must forget about being near my own friends-family so that my kids can stay in their own hometown.

  4. Homesick
    Homesick says:

    Thank you very much! I really appreciate it. You give good advice, even when it isn’t what you want to hear.

    I had sent a second question in, which gives a bit more context for our situation (I separated the questions, because it became convoluted in my mind and I couldn’t phrase the questions properly), although your advice stands without the additional context.

    We are out here because my husband is a PhD in humanities – there are very few professor jobs that come up each year, so if you are going to do this career, then you have to accept that you are going to move around and live in less-than-ideal locations. The second question I sent in was around how to know when to quit your career and start over. One the one hand, he is in a good position to get a position closer to home (should one come up), he has been published in a top-tier peer reviewed journal. On the other hand, I feel like we are playing some sick gambling game – we keep putting more money (in our case time) down on the table, and are losing, but don’t want to quit because we are so invested, and the next hand dealt could be the winning one.

    But back to the original question and response:

    I didn’t give the whole story/history in the question – which makes your point #3 interesting. I have been the primary breadwinner while my husband was doing his PhD – and I still make more (double) what he does (being a contract professor is not lucrative – the money comes when you get tenure). So the back-up plan of moving back with me as the breadwinner is something we can do. I worry about how he would feel about this though – having made such an investment in his education and having it amount to little career-wise.

  5. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You have such a great handle on your issues. I mean, you lay them out really well, and I think that’s often the biggest hurdle to solving problems.

    I think your husband is going to have to admit that most people with a PhD in humanities are not able to use their degree to create a solid life as an adult. The only time you know you are staying in one place is when you get tenure. You basically give up all control over location, and the timing of your moves.

    Unless you are at the very very top of your field, the chances of you ever gaining control are slim. Especially in humanities where the glut of PhDs is the subject of huge discussion and controversy in the academic world. I think if your husband can see that this is the case, then he can start over.

    Your analogy to gambling is really good. You have an ability to support the family in a city you want to live in. Go do that. Your husband needs time and space to figure out a new plan for his life. But he doesn’t need to be in this dead-end job in a dead-end town in order to do that.


  6. Homesick
    Homesick says:

    Thank you very, very, very much.

    Its funny, deep down I know what the answer is, I just don’t want to admit it to myself. It is so logical. Talking about it with you makes things much clearer.

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