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Stay or go - what is the right thing to do?

(21 Posts)
MrBusterIPresume Thu 20-Mar-14 13:38:32

I could really use some MN wisdom on this one. I will try to avoid an essay of epic proportions but don’t want to drip-feed either.

DH and I are both expats from the same country, married and in the UK 10+ years, 2 primary-aged DCs born here. We came for work reasons, and are both now in quite specialised jobs that are not easy to transplant elsewhere. We started off doing similar jobs in the same field, then post DCs I took a sideways move to what is essentially the same job (minus some key responsibilities), but much lower paid.

Last week DH was told about a work financial decision which means that he will almost certainly be made redundant when his current contract runs out in 18 months’ time. The decision has been made outside his organisation, with no possibility of negotiation or appeal. There is no scope to do the same job elsewhere in the city we live in, so to stay in the UK he either has to do a somewhat different version of his job (which he doesn’t want to do) or move cities (which he also doesn’t want to do). So he is now seriously considering moving back to our home country, and by coincidence is being headhunted for a job there (though not in the same city as family) that he would now like to take.

The problem is that I really, really don’t want to go with him. And at the moment I can’t see a solution to this problem that will have a happy outcome.

There is (inevitably) a backstory to this. Very happy early years of marriage despite DH’s workaholic tendencies and occasional red flags waving in the wind that I didn’t recognise for what they were. Increasing inequality of roles in our relationship after DC1 (i.e. me responsible for 95% of all things domestic and childcare despite both of us working full time), worse still after DC2. Self-centred and controlling behaviour and low-grade EA from DH, mainly directed at protecting his lifestyle/working time (often at the expense of mine). Sex-life nose-dived after DC1 and non-existent since DC2 conceived (4+ years ago).

A year ago, after 6 months of increasingly irritable and distant behaviour, he admitted to a 2-year infatuation with a junior employee at work. He mooned around like a lovesick teenager, reading poetry ostentatiously and going for long drives in the middle of the night (e.g. London to the Midlands, without telling me where he was going) so that he could “clear his head”. He only told me about it after he told her – feelings were not reciprocated, she reported him to superiors and the shit very nearly hit the fan job-wise then. I was devastated, weirdly (to me) not so much that he had a crush on another woman, but that he would be so selfish as to expend enormous amounts of time and emotional energy on something other than his wife and family. It was like waking up from a coma – I looked at my life and marriage and thought “How the f**k did I get here? How did I get to the point where this is my life?”. I didn’t ask him to leave, mainly because it wasn’t financially feasible, but I wanted to. Initially he seemed to accept responsibility for his behaviour, but fairly rapidly moved on to anger and complaints against work colleagues who hadn’t taken his side over this episode.

Since then I have done a lot of thinking and reading (books, lots of MN relationships threads). I had some individual counselling for a couple of months which was helpful in terms of an outlet for venting. I have worked hard at changing the way I respond to DH’s EA behaviour – I am now much better at recognising it for what it is and I just don’t allow him to push my buttons any more, with the result that we haven’t rowed in months (previously regular quite heated arguments which the DCs sometimes heard). I have taken back control over some aspects of life that were arranged in ways beneficial to him but detrimental to me. However these changes have required enormous amounts of mental and emotional effort, and unfortunately in detaching from the worst of DH’s behaviour, I have found that I am detaching from him emotionally in a more general sense. He, on the other hand, does not (by his own admission) consider he’s done much wrong, and has made fairly small improvements in his input to family life (changes which he clearly resents and thinks should be more than enough). He has become increasingly negative about almost everything in life, seems to take no pleasure in anything (but told by dr that he is not depressed).

I thought we had time to try to work on things, to improve our communication, but this job issue has brought things to a head.

If DH goes overseas and I stay, there will be serious repercussions which will mainly impact upon DCs. DCs would have little contact with their father – how will that affect them? I couldn’t afford to take on our current mortgage by myself, so DCs and I would need to move to a cheaper area. I couldn’t afford to keep DCs at their (fee-paying) school, so they would have to leave their lovely school where they are happy and thriving. What if I can’t find somewhere I can afford to live as a single parent that also has decent schools? All my family live in my home country, which is long and very expensive plane flight away – it is unlikely that I would be able to afford to take the DCs back there very often. Is it fair to deprive them of contact with their extended family? I have acquaintance-type friends but no close friends, which coupled with lack of family means that I don’t have much of a support network – who would look after the DCs if I got ill?

On the other hand, if we all move overseas, finances, housing, schooling, family support will all be better, but my job prospects will be uncertain. And I just know that if I move countries against my will I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. Equally, I don’t want to force DH to stay here and have him regret it forever.

I just don’t know what to do. I am confused and daunted and terrified by the prospect of single-parent life with limited money and support, but have a growing gut feeling that this is what will end up happening. Or should I suck it up and move countries because that will give the DCs the best life - am I just being selfish in contemplating staying (I am conscious that there are a lot of “I”s in my post)? I can bear it if I have a crap life because of a decision I make. I really, really can’t bear the idea that the DCs might have a crap life because of my decision.

AnUnearthlyChild Thu 20-Mar-14 13:47:07

Don't want to read and run. How about getting some individual counselling for you, help you work through your options. Also, would it be feasible for him to take the job abroad and you stay in the uk whilst he 'finishes his probationary period' or 'the DCs finish the term, year or whatever' ie a ruse to pack him off whilst you trial the concept of being a single parent without him dragging you down. You can then decide to stay or follow him once you know how you feel about coping without him.

MrBusterIPresume Thu 20-Mar-14 14:48:16

Thank you for responding, Child. I have thought about the idea of him moving first to see how he likes it. He has form for thinking the grass is greener elsewhere and then realising it isn't, so it makes sense not to commit to uprooting the whole family until he knows his new situation is viable long-term. I suspect, though, that if he left first and we were supposed to follow later, DCs and I would just end up staying here. Would it be dishonest if I agreed to a plan of "moving in stages" knowing that I would probably stay put?

In a weird kind of way, it is the act of making a decision that is paralysing me. If I was presented with a fait accompli, I think I would cope because I am quite a strong person. I just don't want to be responsible for the decision. Is that cowardly of me?

AnUnearthlyChild Thu 20-Mar-14 15:08:30

I don't think that would be dishonest. Pragmatic, given his grass is greener mentality.

The undercurrent in your post seems to be that you don't really want to be with him, but that you are gritting your teeth and staying put to preserve your DCs lifestyle. Admirable perhaps but unsustainable in the long run I think.

I get the impression you are probably capable of earning a decent professional salary if you could get your career on track, so I'm guessing if you don't follow him there is a good chance you could earn enough to fund a decent (though perhaps not lavish) lifestyle.

The other thing you could do is split from him but also return to your home country? Then he could see the kids, you could get family support and get some semblance of a career back on track. I know you say prospects are uncertain but you could stay putting out feelers now, by the time comes to move you could have something in place.

And yes, totally agree about a paralysing choice. Much easier to cope with what life throws at you than to have to actively choose. As someone said on another thread I think it was anyfucker it would be great if you had the choice of totally shit situation vs totally brilliant situation, but live just isn't like that, it's usually shit situation with a few positives vs shit situation that seems worse short term but offers a better long term prospect.

NotJustACigar Thu 20-Mar-14 15:13:22

It sounds like your DCs will probably have to leave their current school regardless, unless your DH moved alone but continued to support you all in the lifestyle you've become accustomed to. Do you think he would?

If I were you I would quietly go and see a lawyer to see what you might be entitled to if you divorc here in the UK. I would also find out what you would get if you divorced under the laws of the country you might be moving to. Are the entitlements significantly different? If so this would be a big factor for me, particularly if by moving it meant you were giving up any of your rights.

Ultimately, you sound miserable and you can't throw your whole life away for this man when it doesn't seem like there is much love left between you.

Dahlen Thu 20-Mar-14 15:18:38

In all honesty, I think your marriage is dead regardless of what you want to happen.

He's made only tiny changes. Begrudgingly. That's your words, not mine. This isn't a man who understands where you're coming from and is doesn't really want to change. If you move with him that will put the balance of power so much more in his favour that he will stop making the effort completely IMO.

Think about what you are teaching your DC about marriage. Sticking power is a good characteristic to model only when it's something worth sticking at. A relationship where mum constantly manages dad's behaviour and allows her own needs to be ridden roughshod over in return for a fancy house and good schools is not a healthy dynamic. Where's the teamwork? Where's the affection?

Sorry to be so harsh but I'm being harsh precisely because I'm convinced that deep down this is the conclusion you've reached already. What you really want is justification for leaving.

You are worrying that your own unhappiness is not reason enough for upending your children's security and lifestyle. Uprooting them will come at a price. Divorce leaves a mark. But if you handle it well I'd argue it leaves significantly less scars than those inflicted by learning that relationships = subjugating your own life and needs in a perpetual power struggle.

Good luck with your future. flowers

MrBusterIPresume Thu 20-Mar-14 15:30:35

Thanks, everyone.

Dahlen, don't worry about being harsh. I am aware that I need a kick up the pants because I have been hoping for far too long that some miracle will happen and all this will magically resolve. The balance of power stuff is spot on. I really can't get my head around the idea of making a big sacrifice for someone who has proven over and over again that I come last on their priority list.

Just for clarification, I really am not materialistic. The house is not fancy, just an ordinary house in a nondescript London suburb. The school, on the other hand, is wonderful and the thought of the DCs having to give that up breaks my heart. Even if we split, I will find tooth and nail to find a way for them to stay there. This is not a state-private thing at all - I would feel exactly the same were they happy in an excellent state school and had to leave.

Cigar, that is a good point about differences in divorce laws between the 2 countries. I suspect they are similar but will check.

Child - yes indeed, I am reduced to deciding between the least worst versions of shitty.

MrBusterIPresume Thu 20-Mar-14 21:46:19

Divorce leaves a mark. But if you handle it well I'd argue it leaves significantly less scars than those inflicted by learning that relationships = subjugating your own life and needs in a perpetual power struggle

I know from reading lots of MN threads that in general this is true. But I can only find out if it true in my DCs' case by taking the leap, and if it turned out to be the wrong decision then it would be too late sad.

Lweji Thu 20-Mar-14 22:02:50

There is no optimal time, but if your children are of primary/pre-school age, then it's likely that the change to a different school won't affect them that much. They will make friends easily and you can still probably find a decent school for them.

The alternative of staying and becoming dependent on such a man is much more worrying, IMO.

HowLongIsTooLong Thu 20-Mar-14 22:49:44

Your post resonated so much - the situation you described with your partner sounds like what I put up with for years. I did not have to deal with the emotional infatuation with someone else, but the workaholicism, self-centredness, lack of "team playing" on the domestic front and lack of engagement with me and the chidren, what I now understand to be hs total narcissm, dragged on for years, killed my feelings completely and was also very damaging. Like you, I woke up after a time, asked for change, and that led to massive arguments, which were undoubtedly bad for the kids and me, and left me feeling very trapped. He basically stonewalled me whenever I raised anything I cared about or saw as a problem, and never took any responsibility for his destructive behaviour.
We are from different European countries and were living in a third, very distant country, when things got seriously bad. I pushed for us to move back to Europe, to his country in fact, as I knew that he would be happy with that choice and it would let the kids become aware of their father's country, culture and language.
To be honest, at the back of my mind, as I knew things were probably not going to get any better this was an interim plan and a stepping stone for me to get back closer to my family and friends. It has worked in a way. We separated a couple of years ago (my decision), and only now am I slowly inching towards the move back to my home country. But at least I am closer and can visit regularly with the kids, and we get loads of visitors and I feel less alone and more in touch with what I want and need.
So I think the advice earlier of encouraging him to go ahead while you figure out how you feel and what you want and what your options are where you are now, and at the same time putting out feelers for a possible return to your home country, is spot on. There is nothing worse than feeling stuck, trapped, with no plans or volition of your own. Clearly, some things are going to change anyway and you have a chance to guide things in a direction you are going to be happy (or at least happier) with.
Separation is not easy - clearly you are aware of that; but staying in a really shitty relationship is harder, as it is soul-destroying and sucks away your love for life.
But only you can work out your limits. I am curious about your fears of a "wrong decision". Perhaps you should probe that and try and figure out what it is you are most worried about. I am sure you will find you can manage.
Personally I scan all the newspaper articles etc. for the latest research on the impact of separation on children etc., and sometimes feel terribly guilt-ridden and that I failed somehow. One is always surrounded by misguided cliches too ("the kids always blame themselves" etc) which makes things worse. I hope I will be able to explain to my DC as they grow older what happened, and why it happened, while still giving them security and faith in good relationships.
It's kind of infuriating that Mumsnet is full of women feeling terribly guilty about the impact of separation on their kids, while the alternative is staying with a man who always puts himself first and does not seem to feel bad about it at all!
Anyway, I wish you well, whatever you decide to do.

Thymeout Fri 21-Mar-14 09:50:48

I, too, think that it's unlikely your marriage will survive.

So what you need to work out is which country will be better for you and your children as a single-parent family. The only plus for staying here seems to be the fact that you currently have a job, but not well-paid enough for you to be able to maintain your dc's standard of living. You would have to move, you probably could not continue to pay school fees and it would be very difficult for you to maintain links with extended family in your home country. Nor do you have a support system here.

You say that your children would have a better life if you moved back home. Could you use that as an incentive to see the move as a positive and not something that is forced upon you? I don't see it as dishonest or scheming, because you are still in a state of confusion about your marriage. For all you know, the move might improve your relationship. But you do have to be pragmatic and take into account that a split could happen, and, if it did, where would your children be better off?

I don't think there is anything to be gained by blocking the move. Better to go along with it, even be enthusiastic about it, because the chances are you will be in a better position than if you stayed here and the marriage did not survive. Try to see this as an opportunity and welcome it, not something that is being forced upon you.

MrBusterIPresume Fri 21-Mar-14 13:18:19

My thanks to all who have posted. HowLong I'm sorry to hear that you've experienced similar, but you sound like you're finding a way through it, which is more than seems possible for me at the moment.

I think deep down I know that the relationship is not going to survive long-term. I suppose subconsciously I thought that putting up with things for a few years longer would allow me time to get my financial ducks in a row so that the impact on DCs was lessened. It will definitely not survive moving countries with deep reluctance. And I may well not be much better off as a single parent in the other country - we would be moving to an expensive city, salaries in real terms are much the same as London, all family would still be several hours away by plane, I'd know no one etc.

I'm not actually miserable most of the time. But I am conscious that I use up an awful lot of mental energy thinking about managing DH's (negative) responses to (very ordinary) day-to-day situations, as well as thinking through and trying to weigh up the myriad of possible future scenarios. I could be using all that time and head space to much better effect if I wasn't having to do these things.

Twinklestein Fri 21-Mar-14 18:20:42

Unless your husband's new job requires a big salary cut, could you not both continue the fees in the event of a split?

Most divorced dads I know don't get out of school fees just because decide the grass is greener.

If so it would just be a a question of downsizing, no?

I definitely would not make a big sacrifice for a man who is so little invested in you. If you thought you and your children would be happier elsewhere that's a good reason to move, otherwise I would stay put.

MrBusterIPresume Fri 21-Mar-14 18:54:19

His new salary would be likely to be on a par with current one, or possibly slightly higher, but we would be dependent on currency exchange rates which would worry me. Home country has a reciprocally enforceable arrangement with CSA re child support.

In my more optimistic moments I think that we will get by financially by downsizing, which I am more than happy to do for the sake of DCs' education. He is making cooperative noises on the money front now but if he moves and starts feeling lonely and sorry for himself, from past experience the blame will fall squarely on me so I don't know if his apparent willingness to embrace a more modest lifestyle would last. For example, I suspect (with good reason) that a sports car will be somewhere on the horizon.

In my pessimistic moments I can't see anything but the worst case scenarios.

I honestly think that the DCs will be happiest with as much status quo as possible and a happy mother - which means staying here. The wish to stay is very visceral - my gut screams "No" at the thought of leaving what feels like home. But can I trust my gut feeling? Deciding to stay will cause upset for DH and also for my parents (who are trying to be supportive but would clearly like me to return). So I worry that if my decision to stay is causing unhappiness for others, it is just as selfish as his decision to leave.

Nojustalurker Fri 21-Mar-14 19:02:33

No matter what happens you stay and he goes or you both go your dcs will have to move school and home.

If he chooses to move home he chooses to leave the kids.

Twinklestein Fri 21-Mar-14 19:09:44

Of course you can trust your gut feeling. I think your parents are a separate issue, they're jumping on the bandwagon which isn't really fair. You have to make the decision that's right for you and your kids not for your parents.

Thymeout Fri 21-Mar-14 21:48:02

I don't think you can trust your gut feeling. It's an understandable reaction to having your hand forced by the job offer and panic at the thought of change and upheaval.

But the reasons you give in your op as to why staying here would have a major impact on your dcs are far more reliable. There won't be much status quo if they're living in a less comfortable home, going to a state school and their father is an expensive plane ride away.

Is there a chance that you could relocate to your parents' city if you split? Your extended family would be a valuable resource for the dcs and at least it would cost less for them to have time with their father than if you stayed here.

How much does your dh know about your doubts about the relationship lasting longterm? You say you've been discussing finances. Do you think he really intends you to move with him, or is it an exit strategy?

flamby Fri 21-Mar-14 22:21:57

Is he definitely going to take the job? It sounds like he has 18 months left in his current position. Would there be any scope in waiting for 9 months and him looking for jobs nearer your family in your home country or in a better place? It seems that he is being very inflexible if he won't consider other parts of the UK or slightly different jobs in the same city.

I would have serious doubts about moving with him if I were you - it can be lonely moving a long way and you'll be leaving your job behind. If you do split once you are there, you will be stuck in a new place, without the security of your job or knowing the area/people.

If you don't think your relationship is going to survive, what are the scenarios for you as a single parent? E.g. could you move within the UK to a cheaper area or move to your home city to be near family?

The idea that it is OK for you to have a crap life as long as your kids don't have a crap life is one thing in theory, but in practice I'm sure they would rather have you happy. It sounds like you are effectively single-parenting anyway, but with the burden of dealing with your husband on top of it all. You clearly put them first and think about their well-being a lot - I'd say that alone means their lives aren't going to be crappy. Nobody could read your posts and conclude that you are being selfish.

MrBusterIPresume Fri 21-Mar-14 22:50:03

To be fair on my parents, I think the main reason they would prefer I moved back is so that they would be closer and able to help more.

There is no possibility of either of us working in our old home city to be near family. It is difficult to describe my job without risking outing myself, but it is very specialised and requires infrastructure and a critical mass of colleagues - our home city is just too small for this to be an option.

DH has made no definite decisions about the job. He has been invited to visit there early next year to look around - this time scale reassures me a little as I was worried he'd want to pack in his present job early. He also now says he is prepared to consider other UK cities and will put out feelers, but I'm not sure this will come to anything (not sure how committed he is to pursuing this option properly).

I expressed myself badly over the crap life thing. I just meant that in making a decision, I am far less willing to tolerate negative consequences for the DCs than for myself. Certainly not intending to be a martyr for my children.

I am coming around to the idea that if he really wants to take the overseas job, the least traumatic way of managing things will be for him to move first under the guise of making sure he wants to stick with the job long-term. DCs and I remain here and unless circumstances prove unmanageable I decline to join him. Reading that over, it sounds quite calculating, but that way there is no big "break-up" scene, it keeps options open in case I can't manage financially and if the DCs are used to not having him around they may be less likely to be upset by news of a permanent split.

BranchingOut Fri 21-Mar-14 23:08:18

I think that what you might find helpful is writing down your initial reactions to particular scenarios.

Eg 'DH gets a job in Manchester and we stay in the uk, but have to move school'.

Try to listen to your feelings. The other thing you can try is scoring each scenario marks out of five for factors such as personal happiness, career, etc. I know that this isn't the way that people make decisions but i have found it helpful at times when emotion is clouding my mind.

MrBusterIPresume Fri 21-Mar-14 23:18:59

Thanks Branching, I like the idea of trying a scoring system. At the moment I feel like my gut reactions are stopping me from thinking objectively so that might help.

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