How to move to another city when my wife doesn't?
March 3, 2009 1:18 PM   Subscribe

I want to move to Seattle from New York City and my wife doesn't. How do we make this work?

My wife and I both have successful careers as consultants, are in our early 30s, and have lived in New York City for the last 3 years. We're ready to start a family and create a more stable life. We can't do that in our current situation given that we are on the road 4 days a week and don't want to settle down in the NYC/NJ area. I want to move to Seattle and start the next phase of our life there.

I grew up in Seattle and have a burning desire to move back, for the quality of life (outdoors, schools, cost of living, people, etc). Moving would require new jobs for both of us, since our employers don't have offices there. I've already found and have been offered a new job in Seattle that fits me well. My wife has visited Seattle and likes it, but has 3 major misgivings:

1) Her mother lives in Maryland alone, and my wife is an only child. My wife feels a lot of pressure to be close to and take care of her mom (they are Asian, so there is a cultural factor - I'm white). Her mom has already told her that if we move to Seattle, she wouldn't come to visit us. My wife is worried about the guilt she is going to feel if she moves to Seattle.

2) My wife's career, which she really enjoys, is in a market sector that doesn't really exist in the Seattle area. She is worried that she will have trouble finding a job that she likes, finds challenging, and is as enjoyable as her current one.

3) My wife is worried that the gray weather in Seattle will make her depressed.

She is somewhat on board with a move, but we are both concerned that all of these will cause her to become resentful and angry if we move to Seattle, and thus cause a lot of fights between us, which neither of us want.

I love my wife and we have a great relationship. If we move to Seattle, I want her to be happy, and I don't want her to feel bad for any of these reasons. We have been talking through these issues, but we can't figure out how to "answer" them. What should we do?
posted by nyc_consultant to Human Relations (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you should move to Seattle. You haven't said one thing about Seattle that seems positive for your wife (except the obvious of being with you). If you want to keep your strong relationship, figure out an alternate plan, like staying on the East Coast.

If Seattle is absolutely necessary to you, you need to fundamentally change the details of the move. I can think of a couple, you probably can think of a few more - leave your wife, offer to stay there for 2 years and then move back, have her mom move to Seattle with you.

I don't see any way you can just convince her this is a good move for her because you really want to move, seems like a recipe for resentment.
posted by RajahKing at 1:23 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

One or both of you will need to compromise. If you have been talking through these issues and reamin unable to reach such a compromise, perhaps a professional counselor may be of assistance.
posted by dersins at 1:25 PM on March 3, 2009

Her mom has already told her that if we move to Seattle, she wouldn't come to visit us.

Ha ha. Starting a family, you say? As has been concluded many, many times on MeFi, she who holds the baby holds the cards. There is ZERO chance your MIL will not come out to visit once there are gandchildren. On top of that, there's a fair chance this is an entirely empty threat anyway and when you are actually there, she'll suck it up and visit.

My wife's career, which she really enjoys, is in a market sector that doesn't really exist in the Seattle area.

Completely legitimate concern. Your wife needs a few sessions with a highly recommended, well-placed executive careers consultant to identify her transferable skills and jobs they can open up to her in Seattle.

(It's like college counselling for grown-ups.)

My wife is worried that the gray weather in Seattle will make her depressed.

Look at flights from SEATAC to San Diego, Mexico, Vegas etc. Show her how your Seattle budget means you can do one of these four times a year even if only for a long weekend. These can be a whole set of great new experiences for you.

In other words, don't dismiss or try to sweep away her entirely reasonable concerns. There are ways to address them that can work for both of you, even if they are not these ways.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Depending on your comfort level with the Mother in Law you could always make the suggestion that your Mother in Law might want to relocate to Seattle as well. That doesn't have to include living with you, although a Mother in Law apartment as part of a main house does have it's advantages (free babysitting is a major one). That might reduce your wife's guilt about not being close to her mother and at least begin a progress of dialogue as to whether your wife feels an obligation to take care of her mother as she gets older.

The career aspect is definitely a legitimate concern, many people are going to be reluctant to start over, especially if that means a loss of income and/or prestige.

The weather thing, is pretty much the least of your concerns, while the weather can be depressing in Seattle for a decent percentage of the year, it's proximity to the mountains and the coast can really make up the difference, especially if you guys are relatively outdoorsy.
posted by vuron at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, a couple of sharp comments out of the gate. Quick answers:

Reasons my wife likes Seattle:
1) Seattle is closer to Asia, which means closer to her extended family.
2) She likes the overall quality of life in Seattle (cost of living, schools, home prices)
3) She likes skiing a lot, several nice ski resorts nearby (east coast skiing is the pits!)

The name: I don't know, I just picked it randomly. I'm new to this site, so I didn't think too hard about picking a perfectly defined name for myself. I just had this pressing question. But yes, now that I keep checking the site, I've had more questions come to mind. This is a really interesting site!

DarlingBri: I totally agree with you (and my wife!) that they are very reasonable concerns. Frankly, they're not her concerns, they're our concerns - we need to make sure we're both comfortable with them before we come to agreement on making a move.
posted by nyc_consultant at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2009

Your wife's concerns are legitimate. Why not try Maryland instead? You seem fixated on Seattle because of your comfort with the area from growing up there. Your wife is obviously not comfortable with the move. I wouldn't push her.
posted by caddis at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2009

There are plenty of places to live other than NYC or Seattle. I think you should find a new one altogether that you both can agree on.

You have good memories of Seattle, but there isn't much that appeals to her there, so find someplace new to live and make your own new good memories.
posted by rmless at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Depressing gray weather? That's like saying "I won't move to florida because of all that sun". Sounds kinda stretching. Makes me think that she may not want to have kids...if thats what seattle means.

horsehooey. weather/climate concerns are absolutely legitimate. hell, it's possible that mrs. consultant is concerned about SAD or depression in general *because* she knows the move to seattle might/will mean children. postpartum depression can last for a long time, and the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can mean terribly up-and-down moods.

i tell you what, about 3 years ago i had a really interesting opportunity pop up in seattle...and i didn't move there because of the climate. i'm convinced i'da jumped off a tall building within 3 months.

really, i think discussing whether MIL can/should move to seattle too is a really good place to start. that might solve all kinds of problems.

good luck!!
posted by CitizenD at 2:06 PM on March 3, 2009

Don't discount weather. Depressing gray weather is a perfectly good reason to cross a city off the list. After a few years in Arizona, I moved back to Chicago and thought I'd DIE. Really. Had to leave and move back to 300 sunny days a year for my own sanity. I spent a week in Portland once and, after a week of drippy gray coldness, I burst into tears at the airport on the way back to sunny New Mexico. It's my understanding Seattle has FEWER sunny days than PDX.
posted by answergrape at 2:12 PM on March 3, 2009

Please do not underestimate the impact of Seattle's grey weather. As a former Seattle resident, I can speak to how prevalent grey, rainy skies are. If you both loved that weather (I am quite fond of it, personally), that would be one thing. But there have been stretches of time when it has been rainy and overcast nonstop for at least ninety days in a row. Three months. If your wife won't be happy about that, this probably isn't the city for you.
posted by teamparka at 2:28 PM on March 3, 2009

Adding to the "Don't discount the weather" concern. Some people can't handle the gray weather here in the Pacific Northwest. Personally, I love it, but some people just can't handle it.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:32 PM on March 3, 2009

I would be willing to bet that if you deal with the career thing first, the other two concerns will not seem as dire.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2009

P.S. I've also lived in NYC. And, let me tell you, the grey weather in Seattle is much different than anything you'll get even during winter in New York, and much more of a constant, substantial presence. Again, some people love it, but if you don't--it's not exactly something you will find much respite from.
posted by teamparka at 2:36 PM on March 3, 2009

I agree that one shouldn't discount the weather, but there's a difference between disliking the weather and seasonal affective disorder. I moved to Boston from California recently and regularly curse the bitter cold and nasty weather, but it doesn't affect my mood. Your wife has lived in NYC for a while and hopefully knows how cold, dark, rainy periods affect her. If she's got SAD, I think that is reason enough alone not to move to Seattle. If she's just would prefer a sunnier place, well, then that's one factor among many to weigh in the balance.

How about encouraging her to do a job search in Seattle and leave the move contingent on whether she finds one? I've seen couples who move to a new place for one person - the other is frequently miserable at first, and part of that is the feelings of guilt and worthlessness that come from a protracted job search. If it's possible that she simply won't be able to find a job in Seattle, it's better to find that out before you move.
posted by shaun uh at 2:47 PM on March 3, 2009

I can understand your wife's concerns about moving so far away from her mother, especially since she is an only child. A friend of mine went through a similar dilemma, and she only move 40 miles away from her mother. But as her mother got older and was unable to drive and take care of her house on her own, my girlfriend and her husband found themselves commuting back and forth to mow the lawn, shovel the snow, take her shopping. (Yes, she probably could've hired someone to do this chores, but she was afraid of strangers and all sorts of similar complications...) And don't count on the lure of grandchildren luring MIL out to Seattle - there are some folks that are absolutely dead set against flying (I know a few, of various ages), no matter what the circumstances. Maybe she'll take a three-day non-stop on the Amtrak one time to come out and see y'all.... But really, what is the actual allure of Seattle, other than it being where you grew up? If you're looking for a leafy suburb with a nice back yard in which to raise children, certainly there are places like this available in the New England area, no? I agree with those above who suggested finding a "compromise" location.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:46 PM on March 3, 2009

There are places on the East Coast that beat NYC in terms of "outdoors, cost-of-living, schools, people, etc." Like some places in MA, or maybe Ithaca, NY. (Ok, it's an awfully long winter.) Look into whether any of them could satisfy a lot of what you want AND what your wife wants.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2009

Best answer: Bribery is the fine art of showing other person why it's in their best interest for them to do what you want them to do.

You want to move to Seattle, your wife doesn't. You need to make it worth her while. At this point it doesn't seem as if there's enough in Seattle for her to make it worth it for her.

Figure out something you can offer her in exchange for this move. What does she want? What can you offer that will be valuable to her? Taking her on a trip once a year? Promising to take out the garbage or clean the bathroom every week?

Find out what will make it worth it to her, then offer it to her.

If she does move for you, you should also keep it in mind for the future, because there may be a time when she wants to make a move and you don't.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 4:11 PM on March 3, 2009

Hell, I was born here in Seattle and the gray wet stretches wear me down sometimes, too. The main reason I stick it out is because of what its like here when the rain stops (notice I didn't say 'sun comes out'?). The payoff is spectacular.

Also, we get these dry stretches in mid-winter that are a welcome break before the spring monsoon starts.

If you like (or think you would) spending lots of time outdoors then get some good rain gear and head on out. Honestly, you can't wait around for dry weather so just do your stuff regardless.

TIP: carrying an umbrella is a out-of-towner giveaway. Not 100% but close enough.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2009

Can you live in Seattle on just your salary? If you are having children then you will probably be only one income for a while. Is there any business you wife has dreamed of opening? Maybe offer to finance the business, hopefully including several trips to Maryland and Asia a year.
posted by saucysault at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2009

Nthing don't discount the weather thing. I am pondering a move to Seattle, and that's a big negative factor for me (I live where it's sunny like 250 days per year).

From what it sounds like, Seattle may not be the best option. The person who says your wife likes NYC more than she likes kids seems like they missed the part where you said you both wanted to leave NYC.

Sounds like it's time to compromise. Maybe she'll want to live n Seattle further down the road. As it stands right now, you're asking her to sacrifice her career, family ties, climate preferences, etc., while you are sacrificing very little. Not saying both people have to sacrifice for something to work, but it seems like she would really be getting the short end of the stick here.
posted by fructose at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2009

Best answer: Do not move away from free babysitting. Move *towards* free babysitting.

Also, if your wife is happy in NYC, she will want to fucking kill herself in Seattle. Seattle is as opposite to NYC as you can get and still be dealing with carbonbased lifeforms.
posted by daisydaisy at 6:42 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maryland is nice. Move there. Bethesda would be a great place to start a family. I agree with your wife about the weather in Seattle - it's as depressing as hell. You can't see it because you grew up there.
posted by w0mbat at 9:56 PM on March 3, 2009

You're asking your wife to give up basically her whole life outside of her marriage - her career (with little hope of a suitable replacement), her mom, a city she likes, her friends.

The move to Seattle seems like a bad idea. It's cool that you'd get what you want and you'd get a good job. However, there is a very real possibility that your wife will be resentful - especially when her mother needs some assistance.

Can you look for another alternative. Start with cities where you could both find work. Try to find a few within a reasonable distance to her mom. Then look to see if any of those cities have the quality of life you'd like to find.
posted by 26.2 at 10:35 PM on March 3, 2009

but if she can make it in nyc, why does she think she won't make it in a less competitive environment?

Certain industries just don't exist or exist on a smaller scale, so they might actually be more competitive in Seattle.

As a native New Yorker, I think this city is a lovely place to raise children. But barring that, try somewhere where you can both have work opportunities. Stay close to your mother in law.

Definitely compromise. The positives that exist in Seattle for your wife seem like flimsy things, while the negatives sound extremely negative and extremely important factors. Your best bet is to just start over and pick a destination together that works for you both. What about where she grew up?
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:04 AM on March 4, 2009

"3) My wife is worried that the gray weather in Seattle will make her depressed."

It probably will. It's not the grey weather as much as it's the utter lack of Vitamin D.

I moved there as a person who hated heat and loved every non-bright hour of the day. After 10 years there, I had to admit I required a higher level of sun and/or light than Seattle can deliver. I never thought it possible after spending so many years getting depressed as summer's oppressive light weighed down on me. I was completely reversed by my time in Seattle.

Many people I know in/from Seattle find this to be true, of the few drawbacks of a great city, but a serious one. Most have tried various light therapies, activity schedules, and supplements to no avail.

Regarding the situation with her mother: I know being away from family when one has significant bonds can cause a decline in general contentedness or even in functionality. If her mother truly refuses to travel but can, though, I wonder if that would mitigate her feeling of not being able to leave her behind or intensify it.
posted by batmonkey at 3:30 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! The story is deeper than I've given here (but can't really explain without going on for many many paragraphs), but you've all given us a lot of good perspectives to think this through.

I marked my wife's two favorite comments as the best.
posted by nyc_consultant at 12:35 PM on March 4, 2009

I marked my wife's two favorite comments as the best.

That Seattle sun is already starting to peek out it seems.
posted by caddis at 3:15 PM on March 4, 2009

« Older Or will I be doomed to sit in a hotel room and...   |   "Do you play?" "Try me." Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.