Where to Live

My husband and I grew up in cities that are 2,283 miles apart. According to Google Maps, it would take you thirty-three hours to drive (thirty-four hours in current traffic) or 764 hours to walk between our two hometowns. (Somehow the walking route includes a ferry. I’m curious about that.)

D and I met in California, where he grew up and where we both went to college. As soon as we realized our relationship had long-term potential, the question of Where became a regular topic of conversation. If we were going to commit our lives to each other, Where would those lives be led? Both of us have close emotional ties to our families and our hometowns, and yet there was no possible way to bring them geographically closer together. It may still be one of the most irrefutable truths of our life together—our two hometowns will never be less than 2,283 miles apart. (We have been trying for years to get a physicist friend of ours to seriously devote himself to teleportation research. Until that happens, we’re stuck with our current geographic reality.)

We made our first big decision about Where when we got married. We still had no idea where Where would be, but we decided that we would figure out the answer together. We decided that among all of the people and places we hold dear to our hearts, we would hold each other the dearest—and then go from there.

When we got engaged, we were still living minutes away from where we went to college and where D grew up. Soon after we got married, however, we moved across the country so I could attend graduate school. I was the instigator of the move, choosing a school in a different state instead of one in close by, but I felt strongly that it was the right choice for me and for us. D agreed, although perhaps not quite as strongly at first, that striking out on our own would be good for us at the beginning of our marriage. We would navigate the world together, figuring out how to move to a town where we knew nobody and land on our feet.

And we did just that. Our striking out was at times lonely and stressful, but we did navigate the world together, and learned a lot about ourselves and each other by having only each other to lean on. Two years after our first move, we moved again, this time from the southeast to the northeast, so D could attend graduate school. And again, we navigated it together and relied on each other.

From move to move, the question of Where tagged along. For as surely as we knew that it was the right time then for us to move around, test the waters, and try out something new, we knew the time would come when we would want to stop moving, put down some roots, and build a family and community. So Where was always with us. Sometimes we talked about it so much we drove ourselves and each other crazy. Sometimes we let it lay dormant for weeks or months at a time. But it was always there, as we knew it would be from the moment we decided to get married.

When D started thinking about his plans for after graduation, the question of Where began to loom ever larger. Once he graduated, we would both be done with school forever (so we contend, at least), and the rest of our lives would begin. With that acknowledgement came more specific conversations not only about Where, but When. We talked about a lot of factors. I asked that my hometown be put on the table, even though I knew we would probably decide it was not the right fit for us. So it was on the table for a while; not long, but long enough for it (and me) to feel heard. We talked about the fact that New England (our current location) is cold, and the fact that we do not like the cold. Such concerns may sound trivial (and definitely make us wimpy in the eyes of hearty New Englanders), but it turns out the weather matters to us. Glory be the day I wear long underwear to work for the last time. Out of the wheat and chaff of those conversations came the biggest factor for us—being near family. After living away for four years, we realized we did not want to have to get on a plane to see our parents and siblings, especially once we have children of our own.

Which brings us back to those 2,283 miles. There is no way for us to live near both families—and we made the decision to be okay with that when we put wedding rings on each other’s fingers. But if we want to be near one family, that narrows the options for Where down to two. One day, we were sitting outside, enjoying a pleasantly warm summer evening (I will admit that sometimes long underwear is not required here). Our old buddy Where sat down for a beer, and for whatever reason, that day we both felt ready to tell him (her?)—California is our Where.

That was in the summer of 2011. By the time D’s graduation rolled around in June 2012, we had decided to stay put a little longer, to see out good professional opportunities neither of us wanted to pass up. So although the question of Where had been answered, both Where and its buddy When lingered in no-man’s land.

There they stayed, until this past November, when we were sitting on a Bolt Bus riding along a frozen highway from one cold northeastern city to another. As we watched the barren trees fly by, we asked ourselves and each other, “Why are we still here?” We reviewed all the reasons we had been over so many times before, but they resonated less profoundly than before. We finally looked at each other with almost giddy excitement and asked—what if we turn when into now (or at least, soon)?

You have probably picked up on our pattern—it took us several more weeks of wading through the pros and cons before deciding that we could, indeed, turn when into very soon. It meant a particularly difficult professional decision for D, but we made up our minds, and turned our sights west.

We are still a few weeks away from the move, and the decision often feels like one we make anew each morning (just like marriage, in a way). I think it always will, particularly for me. Not that I plan to start each morning by reviewing all of the pros and cons and making the decision all over again. (That is no way to live in a marriage, or in a life. Plus, I have had those days, and they are absolutely exhausting.) But for me, this decision will always be associated with some sadness, because it is very likely a permanent move 2,283 miles away from my family. Some days, I feel like I cannot do it. It is a physical feeling, a heavy weight on my chest, that I cannot do it. I cannot be so far away from my mother and sister and nephew, from deciduous trees with their green leaves, from the seasons, from the flowers of my childhood and my grandmother’s childhood and her grandmother’s childhood. Then I remember all the reasons why I can and will do it, and that D will be by my side with every step. I may have to make the decision every day—to make my life a good one, to live my Where and When with joy and appreciation for all my many blessings. Not the least of which will be the absence of long underwear from my wardrobe.

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  • Alison

    I cannot express how much I needed this post (and some others) this week. We are in the thick of this decision, and probably not for the last time either, and this was a beautiful and amazing post. Thank you!

  • Stephanie

    Yay California!! Hubby and I are both native Angeleno’s, and we couldn’t imagine living anyplace else. We met in college, also in Los Angeles, so we never had to think about where we were going to live (well, we did, but only what AREA of Los Angeles will we live). You are so brave for moving from your family. I cried when we moved 40 miles from my parents house. :(

    Good luck on your new adventure!!

  • From Massachusetts to Minnesota here, and this post just punched me right in the gut. The last paragraph in particular.

    I cannot, I cannot, I can and I will.

  • Martha


  • FINALLY! This conversation is one going on constantly at our house. We come from the same place but we run into the endless problems of when and where still. We want to be near family, but we want to live in a community that shares our values, but we want our children to grow up running dirty through fields like we did. With every one of this big, bad, crazy decisions I feel the weight of closing the door on all the other options. If a farm, then not a city and OH how I love the city but if a city then not the small towns in the deep deep south that I love so much. Somehow since getting married Where has been the scariest decision. I didn’t know this was something other people muddled and struggled through. I’m glad you found your Where and I’m grateful you told us about it.

  • Rebekah

    APW strikes again!

    Sarah, this is my life right now. I moved for him and I hate where we are, but we’re stuck living where his education dictates for at least 6 more years. When he has an upcoming lull in his schedule, we’re going to have to have this “fight” for the first real time as we approach our wedding. I can’t live the rest of my life here, especially because it’s by neither family.

    Thank you for your beautiful story. It helps to know I’m not the only one with these decisions to make.

  • Erin

    My husband and I aren’t quite that far – we’ve only got 1,316 miles between our hometowns.

    But wow do I feel this pain.

    Our decisions were a bit easier – he’s younger than I, and I had an established career while he’d just graduated school. He moved to me. We talked for a while about plopping in the middle, but in the long run, I’d rather have one set of parents and grandparents close enough to visit regularly than none, and he felt the same way.

    There are all sorts of things I never, ever thought about that come with him being so far from home, though.

    We have to budget for plane tickets, and the prices are both ridiculous and unpredictable. When we were dating, I’d pick them up for $350. Now they’re regularly $450. In the space of a year and a half. I wince to think about doing this once we have children – but I also hate the idea of his parents not seeing their grandkids at least once a year.

    My husband isn’t as good about keeping in touch as his parents wish he’d be. Sometimes they try to get me in on this – make S call his sister. Has he sent his grandparents an anniversary card? Do you know it’s his cousin’s birthday? On the one hand I want to help, and I’m sometimes dismayed at how rarely he calls. On the other, I hate nagging him and I hate being put in the middle! It’s enough to make me want to yell ‘he is how you raised him!’

    I have to budget my precious vacation days for time with his family, because we can’t just grab it on weekends, or even work-free holidays. If I’m paying $800 in plane tickets, we’re staying for a while. And of course, the ticket prices are even worse over said holidays.

    And then there are the emergencies. They happen, and they lead to all sorts of paralyzing indecision and agonizing choices. We recently jumped on a plane with very little notice for his grandfather’s funeral. He’d been in and out of the hospital off and on for a few weeks. And we spent those weeks having the debate: do you need to go? Do you want to? His grandfather passed while we were still debating. Now I wish I’d been firmer about being able to afford a trip.

    I knew these things when we married. But I didn’t expect how drastic the impact actually is on our lives, some days. Our emotional lives, our financial lives, our scheduled lives.

    I am SO in favor of that teleporting machine.

    • Martha

      What I hate about the “make S call his sister” is that she never calls him! Stop telling me to tell your son to call his sister. She can pick up the phone too! The hardest thing for me is realizing that family and friends who still live in your hometown/place of origin expect you (the mover) to make all of the relationship effort, because afterall, YOU made the choice to move.

      Such b.s. ugh!

      • LikelyLaura

        While I totally agree with all of this, I hate being pressured by the mover to come visit them. Not just “you’re welcome to stay if you’re in the area,” but “why haven’t you come to seeeee meeeee yet?”

        My dad moved to Mexico City, and I’m happy he’s happy there. But frankly that’s just not where I want to spend my vacations right now. (Those tickets are expensive, and I was just down there a few years ago. I’d rather go to a new city!) And since he made the choice to move, I don’t think he gets to guilt me about not visiting him.

        • I think a little give and take is necessary, but I’m not looking forward to it when it comes up. As frustrating as it is, at least they are interested and excited about seeing you. :)

    • “But I didn’t expect how drastic the impact actually is on our lives, some days. Our emotional lives, our financial lives, our scheduled lives.” THIS. So much.

      I spent some time yesterday looking at $350-$450 plane tickets for a trip home this summer and just…ugh. I’m so with you on the “if I’m going to pay that much, I need to stay for a while. Even though I could stay for a while in this case, I just don’t have the extra money and it’s killing me. Traveling SUCKS — it’s expensive, tiring, and in my case, takes pretty much a full day each way even by plane. It seems like of course you can just fly to see your family a couple times a year, but the reality is SO different.

      • Samantha

        My fiance and I moved from upstate NY (a hour south of Albany) to DC for my grad school for two years after which we moved to Brooklyn. We went from 9 hours by bus (because we are broke) to 3 1/3 hours – which is awesome. I realize 9 hours is nothing compared to a plane trip BUT – I’m making a point I promise – because we are “close” our families expect us to come home for EVERYTHING. So while we can get back and forth for $60 we’ve been doing it once a month, not to mention my fiance has to travel to MA every both for the Airforce. It adds up! It takes up time. And I struggle and struggle with the guilt because I WANT to see my family but oh my gosh we are so tired. Just tired of going going going. We need time to ourselves for sanity and relaxation once in a while. We had our first “maybe we should stay home for a holiday” conversation, but a holiday just doesn’t feel like a holiday without the big crazy loud family gathering . . . sigh. There are struggles no matter how you have it I think.

        • That’s so true. My partner and I live 1100 miles away from our families, but our hometowns are only 30 min from each other. Which means every visit back also means endless trips back and forth. . .after driving for 21 hours, I really don’t want to spend an hour+ in the car every day. Add in family dynamics, and my own sense of “duty,” and I feel like I have to plan every single meal for our stay.

          I’m working on it. Because all I really want to do when I’m there is lounge by my future in-laws’ pool/fireplace (as the season dictates) and hang with my friends for hours :-)

        • Yes — I’ve heard a lot of people in your position say this! I commented below about this, but being this far away does have some benefits and not having to deal with this is definitely one. We’re free from the pressure to go home a lot because everyone understands how hard and expensive it is. So yeah…there’s just no ideal situation with this!

        • Breck

          I TOTALLY feel you on this! My boyfriend and I just moved up to the Bay Area while my family is still in LA, and we’ve already been guilted into a trip back there. It sounds kind of selfish, but I want to see my family when I actually *want* to see them (and I totally respect if they feel the same way) because, otherwise, I kind of resent them for pushing me to visit. It’s tough whether your near or far!

        • When I was in university this was the most frustrating part of life. Three and a half to four hours by bus doesn’t sound like much, but doing it more than occasionally when you put in all the time GETTING to the bus, transferring between busses and running around with a suitcase full of homework got exhausting.

          But, of course, 3 1/2 hours doesn’t seem like much and $50 round trip doesn’t doesn’t sound like much. Boy do they add up though.

        • You do learn to say no on this. C was always good at it (3.5 hrs from his family), I am better at it than I used to be (1 hr from family). Since my mother moved from my hometown to our city, she’s a lot more cognizant that going up every weekend is just not an option as she, too, has built a life here, so that certainly helps.

          You say holidays don’t feel right without the family bustling around, but actual holidays aren’t every weekend. Save the nos for the little things.

    • LaLa

      If we move where I want to live (Italy – which is close to his family and where we both grew up), a round trip ticket is between 800-1k per adult (Italy to USA). If we move where he wants (USA), a round trip ticket can easily be 5k per adult.

  • Jenn

    This is very timely for me and my partner as well, we have a slightly bigger distance though of having to choose between continents! But I know no matter the distance the decision is always a hard one to make.

    We met in England, his family is here, we have friends and a life here, but I still get homesick for the States. I’ve been away from my family for several years and would like to go back. We get married in the UK this year and are talking about making a huge move to the US afterwards. We are treating it as an adventure!

    It’s all about compromise and we knew by committing to each other we’d have these decisions to make. The best part is we both agree the most important place we want to be is with each other!

    • B

      I’m here with you! I moved with my boyfriend to Cornwall last January and we are still indecisive about moving back to Texas. Sometimes you make a decision and you waver with it. Who knows in the end what is best or right? Sometimes I think I/we are happy here and other times I think sunshine! bbq! margaritas! family! friends! tank tops! and the homesickness and doubt starts all over.

    • Brenda

      Me too! I moved to London a year and a half ago, and even though I was desperate to move for the five years preceding, it’s been harder than I expected thinking about how permanent this move is. We won’t stay in London forever, and we may well move back to the States at some point in our lives, but not for the foreseeable future. It’s really hard being so far away from my family and old friends, and at times it makes me feel very sad and guilty. I struggle with the same thing Sarah does – no matter what we do or where we go, all our people will never be in the same place.

      • One More Sara

        “all our people will never be in the same place”

        YES! When people ask me what it’s like to live so far from my family (of origin) and friends, I tell them it’s like having your heart torn in two. One half lives with my old home, and one half with my new home. Whenever I’m with one half, I miss the other.

        It also gets confusing when I’m about to travel. “I’m so excited to go home!” I say from my new place, excited to go back Stateside. “I’m so excited to go home!” I say from my childhood home, excited to go back to the new place.

  • Sorry ladies, but my nerd husband told me that I’d never want to use a teleportation device since in essence it would be like a fax machine – making a copy of me and therefore wouldn’t be the real me. So I’m not sure that’s the answer, but I’ll see if I can find a stargate or something, maybe we could rig it with a wire hanger and some tin foil, hook it up to google maps and see where it takes us?

    • Sorry! I tried to like this and my mouse slipped so I reported it instead.

      Curse my appreciation of the nerdy travel solutions.

    • Marina

      I would be TOTALLY willing to send a copy of me to spend a week with my in-laws. ;)

  • Liz

    Here here. I’m English, my fiance is Canadian, we met in New Zealand. It was relatively easy for me to choose to live over 7,000 km away from my home town. But I still have tough days. I also have guilt each time I ask my fiance to spend thousands of dollars and weeks of precious vacation time on seeing my family. But that’s all part of life I guess.

    We decided to “settle” 130km from his home town – somewhere we both love. Interestingly, for his family, we may as well be in Narnia. Distance on one hand is absolute and on the other hand, is so subjective. I like to remember that this distance is as far as I let it be. (Helped that my mum has a really good international phone plan!)

    • My inlaws live 220 km away, and sometimes they drive up to take us out for lunch, snuggle the baby, and then go home. And yet we’ll only drive down for at minimum an overnighter, if not the whole weekend. Distances and travel are so, SO relative.

    • “…for his family, we may as well be in Narnia” rings so true to me. We live a 10 minute drive from my mom, 10 minutes from my dad, 20 minutes from his mom, and his dad just moved from “walking distance” to 30 miles away. I have dinner with my dad once a week, but that’s the anomaly. We rarely talk to any of our parents, outside of the stray text or e-mail. I imagine it’d be the same if we really did live in Narnia.

      For the record, we all love each other and have completely normal relationships with our parents. We all are just hermits, I guess.

    • Not Sarah

      I agree with Morgan. I live 120 miles from my parents. They’ll come down for lunch or shopping and drive back. I’ll only go for an overnight trip because many of the stretches of highway are not well-lit at night. So I probably could go for lunch as well, but dinner is harder.

      Funny story: one of my grandmas lived about 6 blocks from us growing up and the other one, about 350 km. We saw the grandma who lived 350 km away far more often than the other one. Chock it up to their personalities and lives. My mom also commented that the further away grandma got more quality time with us since she would usually stay for a few days rather than just a few hours.

      I’m Canadian and moved to the States post-college. Most of the guys I’ve dated since moving here are American and their parents are further away than mine, but mine are in another country. I find that endlessly amusing for some reason.

      • Not Sarah

        Not Michigan – Washington State :)

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        Ditto to the difference in quality time on visits. (Also, focus on just my sister and me vs all the cousins.) Love everyone, but very different relationships.

      • Amanda

        As a fellow Canuck in WA state — hubby and I definitely see my family (who all live in Canada!) much more often than his relatives who live in the neighbouring towns, 20 – 30 minutes away from us. It’s so strange to me! But it goes back to family dynamics, as others have mentioned.

        I also believes it really does go both ways — if you want to see your family and your family wants to see you, I think trips should be split 50/50 (or close-to). My family will even offer to pay (when funds allow) for one another just so that one person isn’t doing all the traveling, all the time.

  • Lovely post – it really resonated with me. My partner and I have been dating long distance so when I finished grad school, we had to figure out where we would go. I couldn’t stay where I had just finished school because of language issues (If only I had more french, IF ONLY) and he didn’t want to stay where he is because the cost of living is very high and the quality of life isn’t what we’re looking for. So, we sat down, made a list of places that we would live in and then started applying for jobs – the first one to get a job would “win” and we would end up there.

    So it looks like now we’re going to end up in Toronto and both of us couldn’t be happier – super close to my family and friends and much closer to his family as well, though long underwear is certainly needed.

    Congrats to you on finding your “where” and I hope that the move goes well for you!

    • Amanda

      I’ve never understood the aversion to long johns — they have some really lovely ones these days! But maybe it’s just my desire to move back home to Canada that is blinding my judgement… Toronto isn’t a half-bad place to “end up”!

      • Oh definitely not (it was my first choice), and really the secret is to wear a pair of tights under your jeans – you’ll be toasty warm!

  • KW

    oh yes, this is the big question for us. We had been friends for a few years when life surprised us and we found ourselves long-distance dating. Me in the Midwest, him in California (2418 miles). We both have large close-knit families living close to us, we both had established careers.

    The decision to come together in a single place was made based on economics, though almost from the beginning, he was offering to be the one to relocate. I work for a state university, he works for the federal government. He could take a transfer and keep his seniority, etc, whereas I could not and the job market was risky for me if I wanted to stay in higher ed. Between that and the lower cost of living here, it just made more sense for him to come here. He was finally able to make the move a little over a year ago after nearly a year of applying for jobs out here and we married over the summer.

    We are now in the space of deciding whether our current city, where I have lived the majority of my adult life, is where we want to put permanent roots and buy a house. We are both open to staying and open to settling elsewhere (not necessarily close to either family) so we are giving ourselves the year to discuss it back and forth and want to make a decision by the end of the year.

  • My husband and I had this conversation before we got married. In a way, we are lucky: we live in the same city where his family lives, and my family is only 250 miles away. His chosen career certainly limits the number of places we could live, and if you add to that my requirement to live in a coastal city, our list can be counted on one hand. So, for now, we are choosing to stay where we are (in the snowy New England, with long underwear and everything) because of:
    1) his career (mine, too, but it’s more flexible)
    2) proximity to his family (and mine, somewhat)
    3) well, to be honest, we like it here. at least when we are not shoveling snow off our cars.

  • Kiki D

    Our Where was somewhat different. We met while living in the same state as both of our families, but we both have histories of moving–our birthplaces are over 5,000 miles apart, and between us we’ve lived in at least seventeen towns.

    For me, especially, a certain amount of wanderlust is an issue. I often doubt that I know how to stay in one place for longer than a handful of years. But: he has assured me he’s happy to go where I go; we know what bits of our lifestyle are most important to have in any place we do move to; and we’ve committed to staying where we are for at least a few years.

    Not that the wanderlust isn’t still there. There are days when “Some days, I feel like I cannot do it. It is a physical feeling, a heavy weight on my chest, that I cannot do it.” Having those conversations and making those decisions, though, makes all the difference in the world to me.

    • Samantha

      Ah the wanderlust . . .

    • That’s a bit of our dilemma. Neither of us feels the need to live close to family, so that’s not part of our WHERE talk.

      Part of that is that my parents move every so often. Since I left home they’ve made three major moves. When I visit my parents I’m not going “home.” I grew up moving every 4-5 years. No military, just job improvements for my dad. Living near family is not part of my life experience. Moving is.

      He grew up in the exact same house his entire life, a house his parents still live in. Moving is NOT part of his life.

      He’s told me we won’t be moving every 4-5 years like I’m used to. And I’m fine with that. But I kind of hope we move a few times at least (and moving across town does not count). There are so many places to see in this world. And living in those places is so different than just visiting.

      • Kiki D

        Yup! My parents had to move for work, so I got the travel/moving bug early on. And they’re so willing to travel that where we live isn’t important–I know they’ll always come visit as long as they’re physically able.

        My brother’s wife is like your husband, though, and her parents don’t even travel. It really boggles my mind, but he knows that if they move out of state his kids won’t see their maternal grandparents except maybe once a year.

  • Chelsea

    This could not have come at a better time.
    Oh the joys of falling in love with someone from a different location.
    Where is still up in the air for us, but one day I hope we come to a decision that makes us both happy

  • Zoe

    Oh my goodness does this hit home! My fiance is a marine biologist, so for us it’s more my family vs. his work. Right now we’re where we need to be for his education, which was a tough decision that required me turning down a good job near my family, but one I know is right for us.

    In the short term, before we decide the Big Where, we are struggling to decide all the little(r) where’s: where do we spend Christmas? Where do we visit? Like Erin said, plane tickets are not cheap and vacation days are not many. It was easy when we lived near my family to spend a few days with them and fly to his, but with flights between all three cities this just isn’t possible. Still, the thought of choosing breaks my heart.

    • In 2012, we faced the same Christmas dilemma and ultimately decided not to see either of our families. It wasn’t an easy decision but it really was the best one. Traveling for the holidays is SO expensive and SO stressful and focusing on starting our own traditions as well as enjoying a MUCH NEEDED week off work that didn’t involve airports, luggage, guest rooms, etc. was wonderful. We felt less guilty than we would have if we’d only seen one family and though we both felt really guilty, it was definitely the right move.

  • Oh wow this rings home. So I am Mexican, the husband is Dutch. When we met I was studying in Spain, but had been secretly waiting to finish my studies so I could go back to Mexico. Except, well, that didn’t happen. When I finished my studies I joined him in The Netherlands for my final-study internship where I lived and worked at a farm for 6 months. He already had a job here, and it seemed natural for me to stay here. We never imagined it would be so so hard for me to find a job (this country is after all, full of animals, and cows, my favorite, abound).
    We are here for now, we might stay for a few years, but the career stuff for me has been awfully hard (as, studying yet another master is not financially possible for us at this moment) and not working in my field is like a part of me dying a bit… I am about to start a business, that I think will make me happy, but I am also letting go of dreams of what I thought I would be.
    We do love to travel, and we might be moving to another country in the future.
    These conversations are complicated.
    But life would be a lot harder without Skype, Facebook and discounts on airplane fares that come up every now and then.

    • Ah, I can relate to trying to pursue your career in another country and discovering it is harder than you expected it to be. Good luck on pursuing your dreams- old ones or new ones….whichever route(s) you go….

  • E

    Thank you so much for this. My husband and I were talking about this last night before bed. Both of us would like to be closer to our parents as they get older and we start a family in a few years. He is resistant to moving closer to my hometown, but I asked him last night to just remain open to it, to keep it on the table because it could be important to me, and he agreed.
    Love this line: “We decided that among all of the people and places we hold dear to our hearts, we would hold each other the dearest—and then go from there.”

  • Teresa

    My husband and I are quite fortunate in that our hometowns are only about 35-40 minutes apart. We live and work in the city, which is at least an hour away from either of our families, though still quite accessible. Sometimes it feels hard and my mom makes me feel guilty when we don’t come out to visit for a couple of weeks. Sometimes I think that it is a little harder to be that close (but still a bit of a drive), b/c their is an expectation that since you CAN come to visit a lot, you will. There are months when we spend every weekend driving back and forth and it is quite frustrating. Our struggle is where do we “settle.” Do we want to be in the city for good? If we decide to have children (oy.), do we want to have kids in the city? Do we want them to have a yard, which would mean both of us commuting from the ‘burbs to the city? Hard stuff.

  • What I want is a TARDIS. That’s all I ask.
    This post speaks to me deeply.

    Fiance and I lived a little over 1,200 miles apart when we met, in Boston, MA and Madison, WI. We dated long distance for a few years before I broached the subject of moving. He came to me, since I had strong family reasons to stay and since his job would allow him to telecommute.We has been homesick the entire time he’s been here, though.

    Next year, after we get married, we plan to move back to the Boston area. I’m going to miss it here, but I have gotten to now his (now our) friends over the course of many visits, and I like the area. But part of me does hope that some point, maybe a decade or so into the future, we will be able to trade back again.

    I am very grateful to technology like video chat, which makes it easier to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family.

    • Samantha

      Yes TARDIS please!

  • The question of where to live was the hardest one we had to answer and the one I damn near thought was going to be the end for us. My family is in MI, his is in Kansas, our friends are all over, and I moved to Houston to be with him. I like Houston fine, but I wasn’t sure that it was IT for me. But I didn’t know where IT was. I didn’t know where else to go but I had a very hard time committing to staying here. Choosing to get engaged was easy for me; choosing to buy a house here was terrifying.

    I did eventually commit to being here (with some compromises on his part to make it easier for me) and I know now that making that choice (ANY choice, likely) was the right move. I feel like I’ve really been able to grow, particularly career-wise, now that I don’t always have my eye on the door. But being so far from either of our families is so scary; at times, I feel so lost without the ability to just run home to get, say, that old mattress that we could totally use right now. We had no one to take care of us or our dogs when we both ended up in the ER at the same time. I grew up in a multigenerational household so this whole nuclear family thing is just bizarre to me.

    But on the other hand, I’ve found that being an island has been kind of wonderful for building our new family in that we get to basically do whatever the hell we want with no one watching our every move. While we have the LEAST overbearing families on the planet, we’re both people-pleasers, and not having any people around to please has been very freeing. We make wedding decisions and tell everyone like…weeks later. We go to each other with news, fears, etc. first and we work through everything together before we tell anyone else. It’s so different than what I’m used to, but I’ve been finding that I like it a lot.

    Also, the fact that our wedding will be the only time that all of our people are in the same place is like the #1 thing that I’m excited about.

    • One More Sara

      YES to having All The People together! All my worlds are going to collide in August and I CANT FUCKING WAIT.

  • Wow, it’s like I was reading an entry from my diary (if I kept one lol) but seriously this was such a HUGE part of mine and my husband’s relationship that I can absolutely relate to the author.

    I hate when I meet couples who grew up within minutes of each other, heck even hours, you don’t know how luck you are I think. I grew up on the east coast and my husband is a native Californian. We met when I was living Arizona going to school with plans to return to NY immediately after graduation. Well life had a different plan for me I guess.

    We are now happily married and I relocated to the Bay Area for him. Like the author we did go back and forth but ultimately his business is here and it’s doing well so the decision was a no-brainer in that sense.

    Though sometimes I get sad thinking of the fact that our children will be raised away from my side of the family I know that in today’s world it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Ultimately, I think more and more people are making this choice because of our global community. People meet all over the world and somehow face these issues. That doesn’t make them any easier, but it does make it a more normal occurrence, meaning you’re not the only one going through this. I personally find this thought to be helpful. We’ll all get through it somehow :)

    • Another Kate

      If it makes you feel any better, my husband and I grew up in the same hometown and I DO realize how lucky we are. I’m so so thankful every day that we don’t have to spend vacation time and money on visits home, deal with hurt feelings from both families, etc. We see both families on every holiday, and it’s so handy. I really do talk all the time about how grateful i am!

      • Anon for this

        Another girl who grew up in the same town as her husband – and while I’m going to recognize that it makes things soooo much easier in many ways, there are some ways that its harder (I think).

        First, we are expected to see both families on all holidays. Which means our holidays are spent driving all over our strate (it’s a tiny Northeast state, but still!) We tried inviting people to us this year, but met a lot of resistance.

        Also, I have this niggling feeling that we just don’t have the room to grow that we would have if we had a different Where. We still live in our tiny state, 45 minutes from the town we grew up in. We both left for school, and our first jobs were away from here, but we decided to move back after our wedding to be closer to family. I just wish, sometimes, that we weren’t soooo close to our family all the time. Does that make me awful?

        • No, you are not awful.

          Which I say decisively because I often need to hear it, myself. When my partner and I visit our families, I am scheduled within an inch of my life to visit all families (compounded by my divorced parents). Because our visits are often our only “vacation” time, all I want to do is relax!

          If it were up to me, I would schedule a real vacation over the holidays. But the partner actually enjoys spending lots of time with his family. Go figure!

          • KC

            Definitely not awful. The scheduled-within-an-inch-of-your-lives thing is incredibly draining, especially when the time you’re spending with each “batch” of people is organized to be their primary celebration. If you only stay with one batch of people, there’s a celebration, and then there’s hanging out in the living room with movies or books while you digest, and maybe low-key make-your-own-pancakes the next morning; some intense time, some down time. If everyone you see only gets a small chunk of you and is trying to Make Every Moment Count, then you get totally wiped in record time (at least if you’re an introvert, and probably even if you’re an extravert?).

          • KC, that definitely holds true even as an extrovert. The tough time I have scheduling quality time with everyone is factoring in the down time. I’d much prefer to spend my down time at my Grandma’s house or at my partner’s parents’ because they are comfortable homes where I can do my own thing or join someone in their thing easily. But then I feel like I need to linger over dinner with my Dad, even though his house is really uncomfortable and conversation can be more awkward.

      • You are so right! And now that I read my comment back I realize it might have sounded a bit mean to people who live near one another and I so didn’t mean that! Thank you for your response, it really enlightened me and made me realize that we all have our pros and cons when it comes to relationships and that in the end we are grateful for what we DO have instead of what we don’t. :)

    • Rebekah

      Um, want to be friends? My SO and I met at ASU and I followed him to the Bay Area for his medical schooling.

      • Rebekah, heck yes!! I’ve lived here for 2 years now and still don’t have too many friends lol who knew making friends in your late 20s is this hard?? :/

    • MDBethann

      My husband and I grew up in PA about an hour away from one another but didn’t meet until we both lived in the DC area. After dating guys hailing from more far-flung states before I met DH, I was and remain extremely grateful that we don’t have to “choose” in the way couples with far-flung families have to choose.

      That said, even though our parents don’t lay guilt trips on us, I feel like I need to try to spend equal amounts of time with each family when we go up to PA, or that if I’m going up to do something with one set of parents, we have to get in at least a little face time with the other set. There’s always the question of “are you staying at our house on this trip?” and I am never 100% sure if they ask for logistics purposes to make the bedrooms nice or if they are hurt because we don’t stay there more often. The good news is, DH and I both get along wonderfully well with our respective in-laws, but it complicates things too because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not seeing them or staying at their house.

      Before we met, we were both pretty good about saying “no” to little things like birthday parties for our cousins’ kids so we weren’t running up all the time. But we do go up every 6 weeks or so for a holiday or a major event or sometimes even just to have a quiet weekend with them. It’s nice to be close so we can see them when we want to but not so close that we’re always in one another’s affairs.

      We did make it clear early on that once we have children, we will celebrate Christmas at our house & visit family in PA afterwards. They’re all welcome to visit, but we had Christmas mornings at our own homes when we were little so we want our children to have that experience too.

  • Alice

    Even after 4 years and a baby, we haven’t managed to figure this out. I think it will be a constant debate throughout our lives because there will be a constant pull between our two home countries ( about 7,000 miles apart) and not just family. Also economic opportunities and things like what language we want our son to be educated in. I guess we just take it day by day, year by year and that’s the best we can ever hope for… At least we have Skype!

  • Another Kate

    Great post. I feel fortunate every day after reading things like this, and seeing what so many friends of mine are going through, that my husband and I grew up in the same (cold, New England) small town. We now live in a small city about 30 minutes from where we grew up, and where both of our immediate families still live. We get to see both families on every holiday, and it’s really wonderful (and convenient!). We talk often about going out to west to live for a time, just to get the experience of living somewhere else, and having great weather, but always knowing that when we acutally “settle” on a permanent place to live, it will be back home. I don’t doubt that we might fall in love with California, but I don’t think either of us (me especially) could be away from family/friends forever, and both of our families living 10 minutes apart from each other just cements that even more.

  • Leoka

    Oh, this topic makes me feel sad. I’m originally from Eastern Europe, but my family moved to Vancouver, Canada when I was 19. That’s where my parents still live, together with my grandma and all the friends I made while going to college there. I LOVE Vancouver and that will always be my #1 choice for where to live.

    However, after graduating I got a job offer in Seattle, WA that I couldn’t resist. Just over 5 years later I bought a house here and got married to an amazing man. His roots are in Alaska – his parents and half of his siblings still live there. He loves his home state and we visit it about twice every year, but he wouldn’t want to live there (not that much fun to be a carpenter in -40F weather). He loves Seattle and he wants to live here for the rest of his life.

    And I like having an option of re-locating back to Vancouver sometime. And he took that option away from me :( I don’t know if I’d actually ever do relocate back, but I sure did like having that as an possibility. Now it’d only be possible if I get deported before getting a green card, or something goes horribly wrong and USA becomes a dangerous place to live. Not a very feasible scenario…

    I often get worried about not having any of our parents close by. Who is going to help us raise our future babies, if both of our families are far away? Who would take care of our house, 3 dogs and 2 cats if anything happens to us? And just things like not being able to be closer to our parents while they are getting older and maybe not as healthy as before.

    There is something to be said about losing that freedom of moving on a wimp with short notice and no obligations.

    • Not Sarah

      I’m also a Vancouver area native who moved to Seattle! Though I went to university back east.

      Unless your family aren’t Canadian citizens, it should be pretty easy for them to visit you and for you to visit them. I see my parents about once every month or two, with us both going to the other’s side of the border. Nexus card FTW! (Though maybe one isn’t possible when you’re in the green card process, not sure.)

      I strangely don’t feel a lot of pull to move back to Vancouver. My parents are too far out to commute into Vancouver proper and there are no jobs in my field where my parents are, but it’s still pretty crowded, yet not dense where they are. As I said above, one of my grandmothers lived double the distance from me growing up than I am from my parents now, so I’m not really concerned about them being around when/if I have kids :) If something happened to me, my parents have instructions on how to obtain a key to my condo and they would be down in an instant.

  • savychacha

    My husband and I have decided our Where will be Austin, TX. We both grew up in CT, then he went on to FL for some years, and then back to CT, and then to TX for the military. I moved to CA after high school for a few years and then back to CT. As far as family goes, he only has his dad who lives here. My mother and step father are in IL, my father is in TN, and my brother, sister in law and nephew are here in CT.

    We’ve done so much talking over the past few years of where our Where will be. We tossed out moving to IL to be near my mother, but the job market sucks unless you’re near Chicago, which is not where we want to be. Then we threw out the possibility of OR, which we both loved the idea of, but I hate that we would be an entire country away from my brother and sister in law (not to mention the new nephew). Then we thought about staying here in new england, but honestly, we want more.

    It was on a whim that Texas came up. We were driving to Walmart of all places, on a rainy, cold grey morning. I don’t even remember who brought it up to be honest. I started debating with myself where I would rather go – OR or TX. And to my surprise, I felt like TX would be a bigger adventure. He had spent a few years there and loved it. I had visited there for a week and felt the same. So now, our Where and When will be next spring and Austin, TX. It’s a huge move for both of us – but I know that together we will make it. I crave adventure, and newness, and I feel like this will be a breath of fresh air for our lives. CT is slowly sucking out all the air in our souls, and we feel like this will be an adventure of epic proportions. But you know what else we realize? That if we end up not liking this new place, we can always choose a new one. It only has to be as permanent as want it to be. And we are sooooo excited!

    • Rebecca

      Welcome to Austin (or, welcome in a year). I’d like to go ahead and apologize for the mess that is I35, the plague of cedar fever, and the heat death of August. This is definitely our Where, though (bought our house a few months ago), and we were both raised here and will probably die here. Spring in Austin is just divine, though, so that is a great time to move here (although please please PLEASE do not try and move here during SXSW).

      • savychacha

        Thank you so much for the info!! I’ve been doing my research and all signs point to I35 being a hellish highway. So note definitely taken! I work in an accounting office, so the end of April is the perfect time for me to hightail it out of here with my husband. This way we can get slowly acclimated to the heat, and enjoy beautiful weather, while leaving behind the sometimes freezing followed up with 50 degree days, oops, back to freezing weather around here. When we get closer to the end of the year we will decide if January or May is the right time for us.

        I look forward to not having to own a shovel…however my cute ear muffs will be missed. I think I’ll keep them around though for the inevitable visits :)

        • Rebecca

          That sounds like a great plan! You will get to wear your muffs a few times during the winter, just maybe two or three days ;)

          Oh, and I don’t even know you but I love my home town and it makes me happy when other people dig it, too.

  • My husband and I are currently going through this decision. I followed him to Minnesota initially and we’ve stayed here for a while, but are torn between continuing to stay or to move back to Colorado so we can be closer to my more tight-knit family. I can’t tell you how many lists of pros and cons we’ve made and now… we’re on the verge of selling our house and still have no idea. We figure a little pressure will make us buckle down and figure out what we really want and what is most important right now. It’s not like we have to stay put permanently afterall… this next home can just be temporary if we want it to be.

  • Megan

    It’s so nice to read this post. I’m from New England, my fiance is from the south, we met in the midwest, then we moved to New York (with a brief detour of living in Maine) and now we’re settling into the Pacific Northwest for what is likely to be a pretty long time. My fiance moved to New York with me while I was finishing law school and we decided that we’d go wherever he got a job in his field, which would be harder than for me to find a job in my field. I figured that would mean Boston or Philly or something, but that was not in the cards so we moved west. We’ve been on the west coast for over six months now and it’s great living out here. But I still know it’s not home, and I don’t know if that alien feeling will ever go away. People say words differently out here. There are giant mountains all around Washington that people from here completely take for granted, but they make me feel like I’m from a different planet. We don’t have those back east. It feels like a constant reminder that I’m not from here.

    Leading up to the move I had almost no time to think about it because I was studying for the bar and packing my stuff. We drove across the country for 14 days and had the best time really seeing the country for the first time. Then we got to Seattle and just as we started driving over the bridge into the city I started sobbing. I was having these weird flashes of what our move meant for the future, like, “My parents will barely know our kids” and “My mom won’t be here when I give birth” and “What if the fiance and I break up? I have nowhere to turn out here.” It was so terrifying putting down roots somewhere so far from everything either of us knew, and realizing the practical implications of what that distance meant. This is the goofy part of the story – as we were crossing that bridge and I was sobbing, that song Home by Philip Phillips came on. If you don’t know the lyrics you can look them up, but it starts off “Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road” and the phrase “Just know you’re not alone, I’m gonna make this place your home” is repeatedly frequently throughout the song. The universe really did me a solid there. The song helped me reframe my thinking a little – this wasn’t about things we were going to miss from home, or the negative consequences of the move. This was about us choosing to build a new life in a new place where we would have amazing adventures and build our own home. I like your concept of the two of you choosing a “Where” – I never would have thought that Seattle would be ours, but it’s nice that we have a “Where” that is all our own, a place we chose together.

    So, hope you don’t get homesick and you love your new home!

  • This has been a struggle I’ve seen play out with my family for 3 generations: my dad moved away from home to study and work, and my mother and then us went along with him. We grew up away from extended family and thus don’t really have any connection to grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, although we did visit for holidays and such.

    My siblings and I inherited this globetrotting gene: at one time all 4 of us were living in different countries and continents! My parents are now at the receiving end of the distance, experiencing life as grandparents living in a different hemisphere from their grandkids, and I think it makes them sad to think they’ll have the same relationship with them that we had with our grandparents.

    I have to admit that if we have kids, I’d like them to grow up with grandparents around and cousins, but mostly I’d like to give my parents grandkids they can enjoy, and have my kids experience what it is like to have grandparents. Luckily, I ended marrying a guy from my parent’s homeland, so it seems that if we have kids, that is one choice that will be easier to make.

    • I think so many of us are making decisions informed by seeing what it meant to live mobile lives as kids. My mother left Scotland and came to the US to marry my dad and had all of her kids here, we never really knew our grandparents on that side of the family and when her parents health failed she wasn’t able to be there to care for them. That has certainly informed my choice to keep my parents close as they get older and as I start thinking about starting a family.


    Thank you so much for this post! You articulated the feelings so clearly.

    I really feel like I may have a pre-engaged post inside me somewhere. The post earlier today about waiting and being scared and this post about where to live are the major themes of my life right now. I am moving (only ~100 miles) to be with my partner in his city, which necessitates a job change as well. I don’t want to take a step back in my career and start over just because of the move, so I’m dealing with a very unique and stressful job search. It’s my choice and it’s in no way a burden or sacrifice – I want to live with him SO badly – but holy crap is it hard. Thank goodness for APW… no, I’m not planning a wedding at the moment, but navigating a lot of these same issues (where to live, chores, financial merger, career independence, school) and so many of the posts ring true with me.

  • Martha

    I followed my then-boyfriend-now-fiance from Pennsylvania to Missouri for graduate school. Both of our parents live in PA, but they live about 2 hours apart. If they lived closer to one another, it might be easier – but it’s just far enough to be inconvenient. We always feel like we are slighting one just a little bit when we are home and it’s the worst.

    We are both open to living wherever, but then we go home and (despite the guilt) have such a good time that we want to live closer. We’re hoping that our Where ends up a little closer, like, any drive under 8 hours wouldn’t be so bad – but 14 is just killer. It’s long enough that it totally sucks, short enough that you can kind of do it in one day, and just barely cheaper than flying. The hard part is that neither of us wants to live too close to our parents (and that is kind of unlikely given our chosen fields) but we’d like to be closer.

    As others have said, skype and phones and what not make it a little easier – and hopefully as we get older and have kids, our parents will retire and their traveling schedules will open up!

    • MDBethann

      I don’t know where your families live in PA, but Maryland/DC/Northern VA are all pretty darn nice and depending on your fields, there appear to be lots of opportunities in medicine, education, science, technology, etc. in the region. I moved down to the Baltimore area from east central PA to be within a 4 hour drive of my family when I was in college and I loved it and stayed. I’ve moved around a bit in the area, as has my DH (a Pennsy boy but we met in DC), but we’ve both always been able to get home to see our families relatively quickly (you just learn not to time your drive during rush hour).

      Good luck!

  • Tracy

    This rings *so* true right now. My parents are in Minnesota, his huge extended family is in Connecticut, and we live outside of Boston. We haven’t had the big Where conversation since we decided to move in together–from an hour’s drive apart to a spot in the middle–but we’re due for another one because I just lost my job after eight years and he’s still working at a job he enjoys in Worcester. (Note to self: reread APW posts about wedding planning and layoffs.)

    While we’d both love for our Where to be close to family (biological and chosen), the decision becomes more complicated when we consider the communities where we’ve put down roots and the friendships that have supported us as individuals and in our partnership. And I won’t even start on the complexities of urban (large vs. medium vs. small)/suburban/small town/rural that come up for us when we’re just deciding where to spend an evening, to say nothing of staying long-term! Like many other commenters, I loved this: “We decided that among all of the people and places we hold dear to our hearts, we would hold each other the dearest—and then go from there.” Perhaps that’s a good place to start.

    In short: yes, please, wormhole/Stargate/TARDIS/instantaneous transportation device.

  • Abby J.

    Oh boy, this is SO us. Except that our hometowns are 7,000+ miles apart. Yay for international couple-dom. I’m honestly a bit jealous of all you folks debating how much a $450 plane ticket sucks. Ours are $1,500-$1,800. Each.

    What this topic doesn’t address is the resentment that can become all too common when one spouse’s hometown is chosen over the other spouse’s. Husband often feels alienated in our conservative area of the Bible Belt, being of a different skin color and a different country of origin than everyone else. He went to college here, and my parents live here, so I returned after college. We do plan to move sooner rather than later, but right now we both have amazing jobs that keep us here. It’s really tough to turn those away in this economy, even with the bad cultural mismatch of our current locale.

    I absolutely look forward to moving away. It was never on my list of long-term places to live, but I just couldn’t turn down the combined benefits of family and well-paying stable job when I got out of college. But it’s a heck of a bigger decision deciding where in the WORLD to live rather than where in America.

  • LifeSheWrote

    I LOVE this post. So well put. Thank you!

  • Ugh. This conversation. I want to get out of our current city so much, but there are only a few places J’s career can thrive, and it’s just starting to thrive here, but he would also prefer to live somewhere else. I have so many feelings about this conversation. (Really, this fight. It’s pretty much always a fight.)

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

  • Steph

    Right in the middle of this. Our Where has been the city for the last 5 years. The new Where isn’t very far away, but for me living in the suburbs (which is our compromise as he is a country mouse and Im a city mouse and the idea of living in the country kind of makes my skin crawl) still feels like it will be a big adjustment and the When might be happening sooner than I thought (this coming September) so it is on my mind a lot

  • Kitkat

    This is a discussion we’ve been having a lot lately. DH and I have moved around a bit. Met in college in the Midwest. His family is from DC. Mine is from the Midwest. After we graduated, we took off for Lis Angeles, which we completely fell in love with. Unfortunately, the Recession hit and we were forced to take a transfer to New England. We’ve made a life here with friends and careers, but now we’re thinking of having kids.

    I can’t imagine raising our kids far from my family. I come from such a large, close-knit family, and I want my kids to experience that. Also, we can’t afford a house where we live. Raising children in a little condo breaks my Midwestern heart. OTOH, we’ve gotten used to certain bonuses to living close to a very large city. We’re spoiled for food and shopping. Moving back to the land of chain restaurants honestly sucks. We also don’t know if DH could find a job out there, but then he could be a SAHD! Something impossible here. We’d have to do infant daycare.

    There are so many pros and cons to each side. We’re completely paralyzed with indecision, and it’s partially preventing our baby time table. If we are going to move, before TTC? After having the kid? There is no right decision here, which is hard for a couple of scientists.

    At least DH agrees that his hometown is out. I require a minimum 3 hours driving distance from his mother. :)

  • Definitely relate to everything here. The other issue I’m sure many have experienced: all vacation time gets taken up by family visits. Which can be nice in their own right, but don’t really count as a vacation. Given our tight budget and the two-day car trip it takes to visit both our families, we really have to work hard to carve out even a weekend away somewhere. I’m definitely doing my best this summer to make those weekends happen more frequently!

    • sarahmrose

      Yep — same for us with vacation time, especially as an international couple.

      I was already used to this as my parents had the same international mix as my husband and myself, so I spent every single summer of my childhood in my mom’s home country (also my now-husband’s home country). I was lucky to get to go there so much, but we literally never travelled anywhere else because of it.

    • Brenda

      Absolutely. We haven’t had a vacation that was just us taking a vacation in the three years we’ve been together – it’s always we have to go here to see my family and there to see his. And while here and there are amazing places that I would go to on vacation anyway, it’s hard when it’s always about seeing other people. Even after the wedding we can’t go on a honeymoon right away because my family and friends are crossing an ocean for me and I want to have time to spend with them.

      Our big goal for the rest of the year is a just us, no family holiday!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Exactly. I grew up 800 miles from one set of grandparents and 400 miles from the other, and I have 2 younger siblings. Though we could afford, in terms of dollars, a European or other “exciting” vacation, all vacation time was spent visiting family. My parents didn’t get to travel at all while I was growing up, and my honeymoon was my first foreign travel.

      Now my husband and I have the same time+money constraints. We’re close to our immediate families, but my extended family is still 800 miles away and in declining health.

    • MDBethann

      I don’t know if this would help, but have you ever talked with one or both sets of families and doing a destination vacation together?

      I have a classmate from high school who moved to Missouri but her family of origin still lives in PA. Her little family has vacationed with her origin family at the NJ shore, on a cruise, and at Disney World. Sure, she comes to PA to visit some times too, but if the family can agree on vacationing together (if that kind of travel is possible), everyone gets a vacation and it might not be as stressful as going “home.”

      • That’s a really good idea. Maybe not logistically possible in the next couple years, but a good option to keep in mind. We always did vacations together with my mom’s college bff and her family, who lived in Alabama. We met them at a lot of in between points to visit.

  • Marina

    Even though this decision was relatively easy for us (we both felt Home in the same city, 1000 miles from my parents and 3000 miles from his) it has had reverberating effects in our marriage. Financial primarily–our annual travel budget is a necessity, not a luxury, and it’s getting larger every year. One of our big requirements for buying a house was having an extra bedroom so family could stay with us. Thankfully cell phones and videochat have made long distance phone bills a thing of the past, at least.

    We’re also running into the issue now of aging relatives. We know every visit could be the last, and we may need to be ready to make a cross country trip at the drop of a hat. It’s hard to hear about loved ones’ health issues and feel helpless because we’re so far away, or worse to not hear about health issues because we’re missing the day to day changes.

    It’s all hard. I hope more people write about this decision. :)

  • Copper

    For me, deciding to be with my fiance = deciding where to live. While my career requires only that I be in a fairly major city, he owns and runs a retail shop that he chose the location of very specifically based on market factors, his business partners, etc, and the margins are slim enough that hiring someone to do his portion of the work if we moved away isn’t an option (it’s unclear if it ever will be). So I’ve been conscious since fairly early on that choosing him meant choosing to stay, to put down roots in this place. So it was a big thing when I was looking for jobs only a few months into the relationship, and I made the decision to only look locally. I’ll always have a certain envy for people who can choose a new location together and share the experience of moving and learning their new environment.

  • Olivia

    I guess my perspective is a bit different, but my husband moved out East, from IL, before we even met, for a job…he had no intentions of moving back to IL, ever. And, really, he can’t move back due to job options (he has to be in an urban environment). While living East is SUPER expensive, we made the decision early on to stay here, for both our jobs, and because my ENTIRE family is here. And know what? I love them, I do need them, and I really couldn’t leave them–whereas my husband journeyed away from home, and was totally okay with it. We figured if we are going to live somewhere, than why not live near ONE of our families? And since we can’t live near his, we are staying here near mine….sometimes we do need our families, and that’s OK too! He loves my family too, and even though East is a very different living environment for him, he’s happily making the adjustments (over a long time–it wasn’t always easy!), and we do feel “settled” here for NOW. Who knows what will happen in the future? I adore my in-laws, and we video chat with them many times a week…there are always options!

  • NTB

    Great post. My husband and I live in Denver, where I grew up. His family is about a thousand miles away in Chicago. I thought this would be good for me, because I can’t imagine living far from my parents. But it has been harder for both me and my husband than I originally thought. I think my husband misses his family, as much as he complains about how crazy they are (we all do this…) and there’s no place like home, even if your family drives you nuts sometimes.

    Seeing my family almost every weekend is great for me, but I think it is hard for my husband. The other side of the sword for me is knowing that ultimately we need distance from all family sometimes to work through our own issues without always having the presence of family members to ‘give advice.’ Having distance and boundaries has proven to be an effective way for my husband for us to bond, since I used to go to my parents with any problems I had as a twenty-something pre-wife.

  • Weather DOES matter! When we were looking at options for this move, our decision came down to a small base in the far north of Japan where we’d have a far more Japanese experience or Okinawa, which is tropical, but far more Americanized. Fortunately, the job for my husband was also better here in Okinawa, because I DO NOT like the cold and snow. I grew up in Wisconsin and wouldn’t miss snow if I never saw it again. (Though I will see it plenty of times since I married a skiing enthusiast. But I don’t mind visiting the snow as long as I don’t have to live in it.) The sun and warmth makes me happy, even if it is crazy humid and my hair will be awful for the next two years.

    For us, the military actually makes things easier for now. Otherwise, both of our parents would expect us to live close to them and neither live in places we’d like to live. But it would be hard, especially when there are grandchildren, to justify not even considering it. And then we’d have to pick between the two places and know the struggle and heartache that so many of you are going through. Not that it’s not difficult to know we’ll be far away from our families when we have kids, but there’s a lot less guilt when it’s not entirely our decision. No, we didn’t have to move all the way to Japan, but there are also no Navy bases in Albuquerque or San Antonio. I am already dreading having to figure out what we’re doing for the holidays (or whenever our trip home in the next year happens.) Split the time or split up and see our families separately? Probably it will depend on how long we have, but it’s going to be an uncomfortable conversation, first between us, then with our families, no matter what. Every year. Until he retires from the Navy and we have to decide all on our own where to actually settle down. Fortunately, we’ve got at least 10 years on that.

  • This post could not be more fitting for me, because today my husband and I made an offer (our first!) on a house in an area that we like, maybe could love, maybe not? We live in the Bay Area and the places we love are simply not affordable so we’ve started to get really creative, looking at areas that we MIGHT like but it’s very hard for us to know, since we are so focused on the unattainable areas are that we do love (complicated by the fact that friends and family happen to live in said unattainable expensive areas).

    The further complicating factor for me turns out to be my extreme anxiety over making decisions now that will dictate the life experiences of my not-yet-existent children later. Realistically, I know every decision I have made that impacts my future also impacts THEIR future, but this decision of where to live and how to live and what sort of house to buy (if at all!) is so scary because it will be the place, most likely, that my probable future children will live, so I had better get this one at least mostly right.

    As another part of the super unhealthy internal pressure I am putting on myself described above, I am also (really bizarrely) mourning my own childhood, especially the experiences grounded in family and city history that happened for me because of the incredible location I was in. I can’t imagine childhood without these everyday little and big things that I am remembering, and my future children, if we move to an area that I did not grow up, will not have many or any of these experiences. I keep reminding myself that they would not have my childhood no matter what, but so far, it’s not helpful.

  • Claire

    Try one of you being from New Zealand, and the other from Liverpool, UK = 11,400 miles apart. Right now we live in the States.

    I understand it all being relative, because if we were in the UK we’d see his family every other day, while in NZ we’d see mine every month; what it really comes down to is what we want for our lives. We both want to be a part of our families lives, and right now we can’t because we have great unique jobs here in the States that we wouldn’t be able to get in our home countries. So yes Skype is great.

    Eventually we’ll be at a point where one of us makes the sacrifice while we settle in the other’s home country. And that kind of sacrifice makes it all part of the adventure.

  • Dana

    I just read this and then posted part of your last paragraph on FB. I am a native Californian living in Australia with my Aussie husband. I came out for study abroad and thought I’d be here for 6 months…8 years ago. I miss my family and my state. Luckily my husband loves CA, too, but he just hasn’t been ready to move yet. We know our Where but the When kills me.

  • Kyle S

    I am going through this right now! We have made our decision and the big move (KY-OR) is in a little over two months. We are panicking, hoping that this is the right decision for us.

    We always knew we would be moving away, and after a lot of consideration of where we were going to move we decided the most viable option was Oregon, where my mom is (and he has a cousin out there as well). There has been a lot of second guessing, especially since we are coming back to Kentucky in September for our wedding. Moving away from our families here in KY is difficult. My dad (and extended family) understand for the most part, he did the same thing when he was younger, although we are more prepared. My Fiancé’s family however… They don’t understand at all. They take it as a personal rejection of them that we would want to move so far away especially right after getting married. They can’t seem to understand that (this may sound harsh…) this move has nothing to do with them. We aren’t doing it to get away or hurt their feelings, we are doing it because it is better for us. Just this weekend his mom told us that his younger sister said “how could he move so far away, doesn’t he love us?”

    This is the right thing for us. We will move and get settled in and start a whole new life out there. It hasn’t been easy and it is only going to get more difficult, but it will get better. I just wish his family would be more understanding instead of making it so much harder.

    • YES. My fiance and I are in the earlier stages of dealing with this same issue (and Oregon is involved, too!). I’m originally from Oregon, he’s from Massachusetts, we met at college in NY and moved back to his area in MA after graduation due to convenience/jobs. I love his family and being close to them is great, but I miss Oregon and the West in general so so much. It’s not even just that I want to be closer to my family (though of course that would be awesome), I just feel that this area is not right for me and I have a hard time finding my place and feeling happy here. My fiance is slowly getting interested in the idea of moving to the West Coast, but the more it actually sounds like it could happen, the more his family resists and puts pressure on him to stay. I love his family, and I know they would be amazing involved grandparents (his mom cares for babies as a side job and has basically offered to help out as much as we need when the time comes), and I wish they could understand that I’m not trying to take our future children away from them (like you said, the decision is honestly not about them as bad as that sounds), we just need to make the decision that is right for us. My parents, on the other hand, try to be supportive of whatever decisions we make, and they go out of their way not to influence us… they seriously try not to sound too excited when I talk about potentially moving closer to them so I won’t feel pressured, which is pretty hilarious. Maybe it helps that I’m the youngest so my parents are used to treating their children like adults, while he is the oldest (with his youngest sibling still in high school) so his parents still think of him as a child? I wish his parents would realize that this is a huge decision, which we are thinking over very thoughtfully together, and whatever decision we make will be what is best for US. It would be so much easier if they could support that. It’s hard enough for us to figure out what to do without the extra pressure.

      I wish you all the best in your move to Oregon! Hopefully my fiance and I will be joining you in that area someday soon :)

  • In some ways we’ve had it way easy with our Where, in that our parents are next door neighbours which makes it too easy to choose to be near both families. It does bring its own set of complications. Right now a myriad of circumstances have us living in my mothers basement so all points are moot, but in past and in the future there are other things we’ll need to consider.

    Our biggest question about Where has always been just *how* close to family we need to be. Same city? Within the hour? Within a couple of hours? Then there’ the debate about what lifestyle we like. He likes the mid-sized Canadian city our parents (and we) live in, I loathe it (cue meltdowns with me crying about the living in a soul sucking place). I loved living in Toronto when we were there, he’s done with big cities. We could happily compromise on a small town but work opportunities and the cost to commute make that unreasonable while we’re working.

    Add to that the fact that, although we don’t like to talk about it, we enjoy spending time with one family a lot but we tend to need significant space from the other. Which right now is a moot point, but once we buy a house it will significantly complicate our visiting decisions.

    We’re lucky in a lot of ways and I’m glad the choice isn’t any harder, but Where isn’t without complications. It’s a compromise about what we want out of life and its not an easy debate.

  • Mimi

    FH and I are lucky that our hometowns are 45 minutes apart. He moved in with me, very close to my family and 45 minutes from his. We see my family a lot more, but we do see his pretty often too. Our choice will be where to live when we have kids – here, close to my parents, siblings, and nephews, or there, close to his parents and brother. Either way, we have it easier than my parents did when we were growing up. My grandparents were 6+ and 8+ hour drives away, so my parents had no one to help them (and I have 4 younger siblings).

  • Kaitlyn

    For those of us in medicine, the match process determines our Where.

    So, last Friday, I opened an envelope and there it was: California. We live in Chicago now, and many of my clases mates (and their spouses) moved here without much true say in the decision (only 50% of applicants are accepted anywhere, so if you’re lucky enough to get in someplace, chances are good that your options remains very limited).

    I don’t even know how medical spouses cope in the face of so little control and so much uncertainty. Luckily, CA was at the top of our list. Farewell, long underwear!

    • E

      I know I’m a day late responding to this, but as I am a medical spouse who just went through Match Day as well, I couldn’t resist! This post really was interesting to read coming off the heels of the match day, as med families have so little control over where they go for residency. Friday was….not great for us. My husband ended up matching much lower on his list than he expected, and was initially devastated. He’s starting to come around now, as the hospital is a great place to train, it was just really unexpected (hoped for 1-3, figured worst case scenario would be 4 or 5, got 10. Uhg).

      However, the result is that we are staying in the city he went to med school in, which is close to both our families. I’m happy to stay close to home, but at the same time I was getting excited about going on an adventure in a new city for 3 years. We always knew we wanted to settle here, but had been planning to get out for a while while we’re still childless/don’t own a home. So now we’re in a weird place where we are both happy and sad to be staying, and unsure what this means for our future post-residency (should we just buy a house now and really settle down? Or do we still want to leave for a few years, just later than planned?)

      It is really difficult, as a spouse, because I’m very much tied to where he goes and yet I have very little control over it. It is also difficult he was SO UPSET about the results of the match and there was nothing I could do to comfort him :(

    • Whitney

      Haven’t gotten to match day yet, but the SO is a 2nd year so it’s coming. I suppose I will handle it just like I handle the copious amount of studying, hospital hours during rotations, etc. I think when you end up with someone with such a weird career choice as medicine, you do it with eyes wide open. Obviously, if I was more extroverted and less independent things would be hard. But I think if your spouse picked you, they knew they could handle it. In my case, as someone who is hopefully going to go back to school shortly in an equally intense area with a matching component also, this might mean we won’t live in the same city. Our “where” is a long way off. We just hang in there the best we can. :)

  • N

    I have been friends with my now-fiance in grad school, which I left (after a term!) because of an opportunity abroad. I have been consistently going home, and have managed to reconnect with him in one of my visits. We got together, got into a long-distance relationship sober, and decided to get married despite the obvious distance.

    This Where question is a constant pain to us because I have managed to be fairly comfortable and successful in terms of my life and career in a new country. Money is good and opportunities are great. While I am not entirely happy or fulfilled (I have a limited set of friends here — and am losing personal connections back home due to my persistent absence), I will still insist that maybe in the long run we are better off staying where I am working rigjt now.

    He is still in my home country, trying to make a career and trying to get into law school. He has dreams and aspirations, but I am way ahead in terms of professional milestones. BUT, he is extremely happy where he is — the presence of his (and moving forward, mine as well) family and friends constantly fuel his passion for his job and his life. His personal attachment to my home country is something that he really treasures, and I feel if I do insist that we move elsewhere together, somehow a part of him will die. And I will be responsible for that unhappiness, that “brokenness”.

    So while where I am is the ideal place to start a career and is great on paper, I reluctantly but courageously say “yes” to moving back. Despite the lackluster career opportunities or financial constraints, despite giving up living in a global city and the comforts it provides, and despite the promise that maybe, we can make it out here better. I am playing for a team now.

    Thanks Sarah for this post, and for giving me a venue to say this out loud.

  • Riah

    This a luckily a later problem for us. We met during Peace Corps, and after his service ended, he got a job here in Tanzania, mostly so we could stay together. Now my service is ending and I’m staying here for at least another year for him. (Funny the way that trade works.)

    Whenever we’ve talked about our long term where, we’ve felt that we want to split our time between America and somewhere else in the world. (Both of the careers we’re setting out on lend themselves to working internationally.) We’ll probably come back to America for grad school, and possible if/when I get pregnant. But we like the idea of giving our kids a broader experience of the world, so after they’re born we’ll probably live abroad. Somewhere interesting, where we both can find work, hopefully. :)

  • I live over 3000 miles from my family. I love them dearly, but I get along with them a lot better at this kind of distance. My wife (we eloped; we’re still planning the wedding-for-other-people) isn’t much in contact with her family, and she’s happy with that. Even if that weren’t true, both our families live in places that a) don’t recognize our marriage, and b) are generally anti-gay and anti-trans, and neither of these things is acceptable to us. They don’t like places we can live and be safe and happy.

    Right now, we’re settled in Seattle. We’ve talked about other places we might move. For the short term, the only viable place we might consider would be the Bay Area, but she’d have to get a job that offered a very good moving stipend. And we’d have to figure out what to do with the house, which I bought before we met, but can’t currently sell. I could probably rent it out, preferably to friends, but ugh. It really would have to be a good job for her. (I’ll manage wherever, especially since I’m in search of a new career path, but she’s a software engineer, and she bring home the significant paycheck, so getting her a good job is an important consideration.)

    We’ve talked about a couple of other places, but so far SF sounds like it would be best for us both, if the opportunity arises. And if not, well, we’re a little fed up with some things about Seattle, but otherwise it’s not bad, and the climate suits us pretty well, and we have friends here. We could just stay, and that would be fine, too.

    I hate moving, horribly, and wouldn’t want to move again for years if we made a big move like that, but the Bay Area seems like it would suit me well, and Mrs. Gastronomer has friends there already, some whom I’ve met and liked. It would be a lot easier to settle in there than it was here, when I moved across the country to a city I didn’t know at all, where I knew exactly one person, and in which it is notoriously difficult to meet new people and make new friends. I just need the incentive to make it worth the moving process, really. :)

    We do talk a lot about where we might live in a vague future “someday,” just as a game. We have reasonably similar requirements in what we want in a place to live, in general. Not virulently homophobic, interesting culture, stuff to do at night, not too hot, things like that. I insist on, at a minimum, a large body of water nearby (within driving distance), preferably an ocean, which she’s perfectly willing to accept, even though she quite likes Boulder, for example.

    But at least we don’t have to deal with figuring out whose family to live near.

  • Julia

    “from the flowers of my childhood and my grandmother’s childhood and her grandmother’s childhood.”


    This is the part that brought the tears. And though we have hometowns a mere 1,600 miles apart, and we have already settled with both Where and When, this is the exact thought that left me bawling on the steps to the house we just bought, as I realized I didn’t recognize a single plant in the yard – what about the flowers.

    It sneaks up on you in the strangest ways . . .

  • Hannah

    This is so lovely! For us, the where of the future hasn’t been too hard…we are lucky that are families both (mostly) live in the same state. But right now we live across the country from them and it is so hard. So I understand why you are having such a hard time moving away from your family. It sucks! But you’re right, you have each other and your new life together. And flying really isn’t that bad anyway. Or who knows, maybe teleportation technology is right around the corner?

  • My fiance and I live in the same city as my family and only three hours from his (they live in a city we both would never want to move to). It’s a beautiful city and a place lots of people want to move to. He wants to stay here but I don’t. I love living so close to family but I really want to live in a more temperate climate (read: someplace that isn’t sweltering and humid 6 months of the year) and in a town where things are walkable (or at least bikable) so I rely on my car less. He’s pretty adamant that he wants to stay and my reasons for wanting to move seem kind of silly so we’ll probably stay, but I just keep thinking about other places longingly… Another part of me just thinks it would be fun for us to pick up and move across the country together. The grass is always greener, right?

  • Kat

    I moved from the Midwest to Northern CA for grad school, met Fiance, and now have been living here for almost 5 years. I never had plans to return to my hometown, but also never really thought about Here being our Where until we decided to start this whole wedding/kids/Whole Life conversation.

    I grew up in a big family, most of whom still live in the Midwest, and it kills me a little inside to think about our kids growing up so far away from them. Fiance’s whole (small) family lives here, near us, so I also have guilt about “taking him” (and our future little ones) away from his family, since this is where we met and the only place we have really lived together.

    The top of my cons list for our current area is that impossible weight of the semi-permanent. Even though we can always move, and I know our options will always be so open, we will only buy our first home once, have newborn children for a short while, and so many other things. It hurts to commit to spending this new and special time for us without my mom, siblings, grandmother, etc. nearby.

    Thank you, Sarah, for articulating that breath-shortening pain. No matter what side we come out on, I know that choosing each other means we will be ok, even if there is always a little “I CANNOT do it” bouncing around in my chest.

  • Sarah Cassanego

    It’s been an amazing experience to have my piece posted and then to read all of your comments. The APW community is so supportive and honest. Thank you!

  • sampsonsis

    I would love to read more posts about this topic! I’m currently dealing with this very thing. I am supposed to live up to the promise I made to my fiance to live in Big Midwestern City/his hometown for 5 years, but am so, so homesick for MY family and hometown in beautiful, warm Tennessee.

  • Erin

    I love this!!! Boyfriend and I just made the same kind of decision–our location is no longer dictated by school, so where did we want to live and what did we want to do once we got there? We settled on Chicago, which is relatively far from both our families, although about a thousand miles closer to mine than his. But we’re in a profession where good opportunities aren’t widely available (classical musicians), so we pretty much have to go where the jobs are. Likely, this will mean we won’t ever live near our families. We’ve both accepted that, as have my parents (who are also musicians), but his family has a much harder time with it. His dad is ex-Air Force, so you’d think they’d get the whole “moving for work” thing, but we get guilt every holiday that we can’t afford the $1000 airfare to come visit them in Colorado. It’s probably because, in the past 20 years or so that they’ve lived there, multiple branches of the family have moved out there just to be near each other. All the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins… Personally, I think this is crazy, but it’s what they do. Anyway, location is such a tricky decision in any relationship, I’m glad people are having conversations about it!

  • Steven

    A lot of comments! But just wanted to add that this is a very powerful post for me, as my partner and I grew up literally on opposite sides of the earth (Fun facts: It’s 18,703km from Beijing to Maryland, and we have to take a LOT of ferries on our 356 hour drive… I love Google Maps). We met in Beijing, and I’ve been living in Beijing for the last 5 years. All our mutual friends (who are like family) are here, but we both know one day we want to “settle” in the US. We haven’t had any more specific conversation about where we actually would want to live (if not Maryland), so this has really motivated me to talk to him about it more before we start to take the next steps in our life together. Thanks for this!

  • j

    I made the decision to move 2,000 miles to be with him. I thought that our relationship would make up for the heartbreak of leaving my home. It’s been 4 years, and every day is a struggle. Which heartbreak to choose?