Q. I’m 29, from the US, and have been living in Italy for about 10 years. Last fall, I moved with my Italian boyfriend (36) to Spain. We met four years ago. I fell quickly for his adventurous spirit and great sense of integrity.
From very early on in the relationship, I was clear about my desire to start a family as young as possible. We agreed that we would wait until after we had moved to Spain and he had found a stable job. However, whereas we were a fairly giddy, problem-free couple before the move, things changed once we got to Spain. His struggle to find a new job made him quite stressed. I was super unsettled, and this caused a lot of fighting between us.
Eventually, my boyfriend found a job, and I thought, “Great! Now we can look at starting a family this next year.” I tried to talk to him about babies and the future, but he would avoid giving me a straight answer. One day, during a heated discussion, he said that it wasn’t a good time because he didn’t feel ready — and that he wanted to be sure he was having kids with the right person. This broke my heart. In my mind, he was my forever-person, but he’d started to question things.
When I realized this, I began to spit that same uncertainty right back at him and named every flaw I could. We continued fighting until we calmed down, without things really being resolved. We decided to put the baby discussion on hold until next year so that he could enjoy at least a year of living in Spain.
Then I began a series of travels, concluding with a trip home to the US for a month, and it just felt so good. To be close to my family, speaking my own language ... suddenly a whisper in my head was shouting at me, “This is the right thing to do! What are you staying in Europe for anyway? You have much better career and personal growth opportunities [in the US], and you don’t even have a stable/promising relationship over there anymore!”
I discussed these feelings with my boyfriend when I came back, and while he was supportive and understanding, obviously this did not add any certainty to our situation. I have begun applying to jobs back in the US, and meanwhile, he and I carry on all lovey-dovey, avoiding the elephant in the room.
What would you do, Meredith? Would you stick it out a little longer in Europe to see where things go with this person you’ve already invested four years in, who has said he wants kids but maybe needs a bit more time? Or would you give in to that voice and return home?
THE HOMESICK EXPLORER
A. Often when someone tells me a “voice” or “whisper” is speaking to them, I know they’re hearing themselves.
With that in mind, some things to consider:
1. Visiting a place is different than living there. If you return to the US, expect that little voice in your head to scream, “What have you done?” You’ve been gone for a decade. Old friends have different lives now. Prepare yourself for discomfort — and know it’s normal. (Also, our chocolate candy bars, for the most part, are not as tasty as the ones I’ve had in other countries, so get ready for that adjustment.)
2. Regardless of the path you choose, accept the possibility that having kids ASAP might mean three or four years from now, assuming you want to do this with a partner. We don’t always get the timeline we want, but it’s better to wait until everyone involved feels good about it.
3. You ask what I’d do. I’ll answer, but remember, kids were not on my agenda at 29, 39, or last week. I would enjoy Spain, apply for jobs in the US (staying transparent with my boyfriend about my plans), do some more solo travel, and have some tough conversations. I’d probably go where the voice told me to, where I have exciting opportunities and can try something new.
I’d go where I see the potential for community. You know where that is.
Move on with dating, decide where you want to live, and try to find someone with compatible goals, who appreciates you more.
Every year you spend trying to change his mind is a year further from your goal.
I think you know everything you need to know about your relationship from the fact that your boyfriend didn’t freak out at the prospect of you moving back to the US.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form. 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.