Why I Won’t Relocate Even Though I Love Him

The engine roared on the airplane. In the four years that I have been maintaining a bicoastal relationship with my lover, I have wracked up enough frequent flyer miles to have gold status and get upgraded to first class on most flights. Sitting in first class sipping a glass of red wine, I reflected on our last conversation before my departure. “Move to Seattle. Come and be with me,” my lover pleaded. I saw the tears well up in his eyes as we stood curbside at SeaTac airport. I knew that I wanted to be with him, but there was something that didn’t feel quite right.

What is it that keeps me in the East Coast and him on the West Coast? I wondered. My lover’s too close to retirement to walk away from his job now. I am a writer, editor, and learning and training consultant. My job is portable; I know this. Yet, I still can’t make myself relocate.
Searching deep in my heart I realized that while I love him, I also love living in Washington, DC more than I would want to gamble with relocating to Seattle, particularly when he tells me that he has remained in Seattle because of his good job and not because he is enamored with the city. I also wonder how much my past is influencing my feelings about relocating. Having relocated twice and started over for my former husband, I know that relocating to another city can be fun and ambitious, but it also can be fraught with challenges. Some of the challenges are disruption in your career and potential loss in income. I am middle age. Neither do I relish starting over nor do I enjoy the thought of losing income. And the reality is that I’m just at that age and income level where companies would rather invest in someone younger and at a lower salary than to pay me the salary that I deserve and am accustomed to making.

I’ll admit that the first year that my lover and I were dating, I considered relocating. I searched fervently for a job in metro Seattle only to be offered positions as much as $30,000 less than what I was making as a consultant on the East Coast. While the cost of living is lower in Seattle than it is in Washington, DC, Seattle’s housing cost is continuing to rise and doesn’t justify me taking a $30,000 reduction in salary.

In addition to being offered a lower salary by potential employers, the more that I visited Seattle the more apparent it became to me that the lack of sunshine was a real impediment to my feeling healthy. And I knew that if I didn’t feel healthy, this would take a toll on our relationship. One day after my lover returned from working a 24-hour day, he said to me: “I think you have seasonal affective disorder.” I hadn’t been out the house all day, and admitted to him that I rolled around in the bed watching movies on my laptop and eating chocolate. He promptly ordered me a full spectrum light. I use it when I visit Seattle, particularly during the fall and winter months.

Yet, it’s not just SAD, my love for Washington, DC, and my past experience of relocating that keep me rooted on the East Coast. While on the plane returning home, I paused for a second and realized that I would probably take a chance on relocating if he gave me some assurances. And the only assurance that immediately came to mind was marriage.

Marriage! I almost screamed. I see myself as a womanist. And I regard marriage as an archaic, patriarchal institution that subordinates women and grants men too much power. Yet, here I was flying back to DC thinking that if he proposed to me and put a ring on it, I’d probably relocate. Why do I need the guarantee of marriage to relocate when I don’t wholly believe in marriage?

I realized that to relocate all the way across the country wasn’t just an emotional risk. It was a financial risk, too. If the relationship didn’t work, I didn’t like Seattle enough to remain there. More likely than not, I would want to return to Washington, DC if we hit the skids. This would mean that I would need the financial resources to return to the East Coast. I imagined that I would feel demoralized if we broke up and even more demoralized if I also had to bear the cost of returning to the East Coast. While I know that nothing is guaranteed in love, I try to be realistic about the risks, particularly when it seems that women often sacrifice a lot, particularly financially, for relationships, and there’s too often the expectation that women will adjust their careers to accommodate men and families. At least marriage would give me the leverage to work out some sort of agreement if I relocated to the West Coast only to discover that we really didn’t love each other enough to weather the storm of sustaining a marriage.

I don’t think that anyone should go into a committed relationship projecting the end. However, I do think that not being realistic about risks when thinking about relocating can put a stress on the best of relationships. I would rather contemplate the risks and discuss them with my lover than to remain silent. This way my lover and I can deal with my fears and work together to ameliorate them.

Recently, we discussed my fears, the risks, and my concerns. We reached a compromise. Although my lover hasn’t put a ring on it yet, we now have a deadline for when we’ll stop commuting and start living in the same city. We’ve looked at our expenses, and we can attest to the fact that our long-distance relationship drains our wallets. However, relocating before we’ve worked out the kinks and I’m assured that we’re both committed to each other can be even more expensive. Although I’m middle age, and many of my girlfriends tell me with the lack of available Black men out there I need to jump at the chance for companionship, I trust that continuing our long-distance relationship is best for now. He’s recently set a date for retiring. We’ve agreed that the best thing for us is for him to retire and relocate to Washington, DC. Then we’ll make a plan for living in a city that we both enjoy and is more affordable. He’ll take the risk. I love him even more for understanding my concerns and helping us to find a way to address my fear and move our relationship forward. - Lisa Hutcherson
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Lisa Hutcherson is an editor and writer based in Washington, DC and Seattle. She ghostwrites for a major media outlet.

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