Q. I recently moved from a large city to a rural area for a fantastic job that offers a combination of happiness and security I’ve never had before. My boyfriend joined me a couple of months later. He really didn’t like the city we lived in before, loves me, and can work from home, so he was excited to join me.
Renting here (especially when there are pets involved) has not really been tenable, so I recently bought a house. Six months later, I’m doing great in my job and loving it. I grew up relatively locally so I have friends and family nearby. Meanwhile, he’s deeply unhappy here, and I can understand why. He’s at home alone all day and having a very difficult time trying to develop any sort of friendships or anything resembling a social life of his own. Nothing that he enjoys is available here. He feels deeply isolated, lonely, and angry at himself for misreading exactly how difficult it would be for him.
My friends visit and that is good, but not the same as him developing his own support network. I love him and want him to be happy, so we came up with a plan. If he’s still feeling the same way at this point next year, he will start looking to move to a place where he knows he can be happier (maybe back where we moved from, or some other more urban place where there is more activity, better health care availability, and a wider support network for him). I will, at that point also start looking to find other jobs and eventually join him, but that will take longer for me since I would need to find a decent job before moving. In that interim, I would continue at this job and rent out a room in the place I bought to help with mortgage payments. Eventually, when I move, I believe I will be able to successfully rent out the place I bought. However, things just keep getting harder for him. He’s grieving for a life he feels he lost, and often gets very visibly angry and upset (at himself and the situation, never with me, to be clear).
He talks with a therapist about things, but I don’t think the therapist is very good. And I don’t know what to do or how to best support him. I’m trying to balance giving him space and time to feel upset along with suggesting activities to do or places to visit, but it’s also a struggle for me. If I weren’t in a relationship, I’d want to stay in this job for as long as they’d have me — that’s how much I like it. But I also love him and want us both to be able to be happy. Do you have any advice for how to navigate this situation — for him, and also for me?
A. Please know that it can be difficult to evaluate the quality of life in some new places for like ... a year. I’m not saying he should suffer for an unnecessary amount of time to find out if things will change, but it might look better many months from now. This was a massive shakeup, and it sounds like you both assumed the emotional part of this would be seamless. That’s not how it works (usually).
If he also believes his therapist isn’t good, he can seek out another; there are so many counselors who offer online appointments, so it doesn’t have to be someone local. I imagine he’s frustrated because he doesn’t know where he’d like to be, in general; there has been no perfect place. He didn’t love the last city either. He could be feeling lost, which is something bigger.
It might help to bring in some people you love from out of town. I remember my move to New England so many years ago. Even though there were great things to do in Providence, I didn’t have familiar company. I couldn’t replicate any of my old routines. I felt like everything was wrong — until friends came from out of state and we wandered the place together. They saw awesome things I didn’t. Your boyfriend could use time with a great friend — someone who isn’t you — to make his own memories there. Even if there’s no plan to stay, it’s good practice for the next location.
Make sure you continue to enjoy yourself, and don’t feel bad about showing your happiness. In very long relationships, sometimes one person has it easier. The other partner might be more isolated for a bit. That’s life — just ask any partnered person with kids. You can be supportive without feeling terrible about your own joy.
Let him grieve, ask if you can help, request visits from loved ones, and give it time. Honestly, by the time I had to leave Providence, I was clutching a Del’s Lemonade, in tears. It took me about a year to fall in love with that place, but I did.
Gut reaction here: I’d let him go back and then break up with him. He sounds resentful now, you’ll probably be resentful if you move back. You’re both probably better off apart. Sorry.
This doesn’t sound like some random move for a job. You’ve returned to your roots, and you’re happy as a clam. I think you know that you’re not going to follow him when he inevitably moves away, and you’re already setting up excuses for why you’ll delay doing so before finally breaking up. If you stay, his resentment of you will build (he definitely resents you but he’s suppressing that). If you follow him, you’ll resent him.
He needs to buck up and show some resilience if you are going to stay together. What if you have kids or health problems someday, and he needs to cope with a serious problem? Being angry and miserable all day is not an option. Lean on him. Be kind, but stop enabling. You aren’t his mommy. Tell him to save his drama for his mama.
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