Q. I am a 64-year-old female married to a 69-year-old male. I happily moved to a different state to be with him many years ago. He retired due to a back injury 10 years ago and I am planning on retiring next year. The issue is that I want to move after retirement and he refuses. Any family and friends we had no longer live near us. I am afraid that if my husband gets sick, I will have no one to turn to for assistance — I want to move closer to my family for support.
He says, “They are going to carry his body” out of our current house, his way of saying, “No way am I moving.” I have tried to discuss this with him on many occasions and he refuses. I feel like my only option is to divorce him after 40 years. Any suggestions?
A. One option is to spend part of the year with your people while he stays put. Some couples do well with time in different locations.
Perhaps it’s also worth building new community where you are. It sounds like this would not be as urgent if your friends were still around.
Really, though, it sounds like you could use a session with a mental health professional, counselor, or retirement planner. At the very least, discuss this issue with a shared friend or family member who can be an impartial sounding board — maybe one of those friends who moved away.
I’m sure your husband doesn’t want to redesign his entire life based on the possibility he might get sick. That’s an unpleasant catalyst for making plans. This conversation might be more successful if you focus on what brings you both happiness, as opposed to your fears.
As you talk about what’s next, consider all the things I wondered as I read your letter: What do you like about where you live? What would you miss? How do you think your husband would fare if you moved closer to your people? Have you been feeling that a need for help from family is imminent? Would it be worth waiting to see how retirement feels before making big decisions?
Maybe divorce is the answer, but there’s a compromise in there if you both want to find it. It usually comes when two people really listen to the other’s concerns. Do that with a witness who can help you make sense of it.
Double-retiree commuter marriage might be the ticket for you two. You could be the “snow bird.” Only issue is when his physical decline begins, then you divorce him! P.S. How is he when it comes to compromising on other issues?
I know you are planning on him getting sick first, but what’s his plan if you get sick? Who will help take care of you?
^Good question. It came up in my mind, too.
Loneliness is very real in the elderly (or really at any age). When my husband was hospitalized years ago it hit me that I didn’t have a support system in the area. It takes a while to build that if you don’t belong to the things where those networks are in place (like having kids and knowing other parents, or belonging to a church). I don’t blame the letter writer for wanting to be closer to family/friends.
“I happily moved to a different state to be with him many years ago.” I see how you added this quip to make it seem like he’s not willing to reciprocate your selfless act of many years ago. Stop comparing those times with these times.
To read that his response to your request is that “the only way he’s leaving the house is by being carried out” means he is completely self-absorbed, and has no interest in participating in any kind of mutually accommodating resolution or compromise. What indicates the dysfunction to me is that you feel your only option for resolution is divorce. I have a hunch you might be looking for a way out anyway. If that’s the case, start packing!
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.