Tired of London, tired of life?
December 24, 2018 4:05 AM   Subscribe

He loves London, but I’m depressed here. I love the North, but he was depressed there. Soon we’ll need to choose, how do we deal with it?

My husband and I are born and bred Londoners. Eight years ago we moved out of London so I could study for my PhD. After the PhD we moved even further away to West Yorkshire, where I got a really good job in my really specialist field. He has been able to move with me because he works remotely and his job is much in demand.

I learned to love where we were living. While there isn’t as much to do as in London, the cost of living is lower, the countryside is amazing, and I’ve made fab friends through work and hobbies. Things haven’t been so easy for my husband. His demanding job keeps him locked to his keyboard during the week and it’s hard to make friends with no network of people to start with.

Six months ago I was offered a year-long secondment in London and we moved back home temporarily. My new workplace isn’t as fun, and my field is suffering a lot in the face of the governmental spending review and Brexit uncertainty so there’s no chance I’ll be offered a permanent job anyway. Moreover, I’ve fallen out of love with London; I don’t know how or why it happened, but it has. I’m looking forward to going back to West Yorkshire to my great job, and moving into the house we intend to buy (we have a refundable deposit on a new build) and just... settling down. We’ve moved 5 times in 2 years (not to mention the 4 really tough years I spent getting my PhD) and I’m really, really tired.

But my husband hates his job, loves London, and wants to find a new non-remote position ideally in the capital. He is trying to find a job in Yorkshire but they are a lot fewer and further between and not as well paid as London jobs. Plus he doesn’t have as much to look forward to up North.

I don’t know what to do. I can try and find a new job, and I feel like it’s my turn to do so because he’s put my career and goals first for a long time. But I just keep thinking about what I want from my life and I’ve spent so long working precarious contracts and living in crap rental flats with no time or space for anything other than work and sleep.

We’re both on the fence about kids (he’s more pro than I am right now, but he is a few years older). His family is all in London/Surrey, mine has all moved to Manchester/Lancashire.

Hope me. Right now I’m looking for any advice or strategies for deciding whether to stay or go, and how we can cope as a couple with the inevitable stress and disappointment felt by the one who needs to compromise.
posted by sockywockydoodah to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This may not be that helpful, but I wanted to make sure someone says this out loud: just because you are married, you do not have to live together.

Also just because you love each other doesn't mean you have to stay married, either. It's okay to choose different futures.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:09 AM on December 24, 2018 [28 favorites]

Your potential life in West Yorkshire won't be the same as it was before. Presuming he finds non-remote work, the problem of work-related isolation is resolved. Having a child would give you and your husband immediate access to other new parents to socialize with in either location unless you're really rural. You say he has more babyfever than you - where would he like to see his child grow up? For many people it's a more pastoral setting than the vibrant urban environment they enjoy pre-kids.

Since you are both feeling negative about the other's choice, maybe flip things around and spend some time thinking about what is positive about both locations, especially the other's choice. What did you used to like about London? What did he enjoy about Yorkshire? And about the places you both want now, how much does your vision include the other? It all sounds very work- and social-focused, which makes sense for this chapter of your lives, so take a close honest look at how/whether each choice enhances your life together.

You say you want to put down roots; is buying a flat in London an option? Are there other interests/needs one location meets that are missing in the other? Such as gardening or hiking, or art and live music ... pretty scenery is nice but you can get that on weekend getaways.

And finally, there is almost always a third option. Take another look at the map and you might find there is there a smaller city somewhere that can satisfy both of you.

Good luck!
posted by headnsouth at 6:01 AM on December 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

I don’t know what to do. I can try and find a new job, and I feel like it’s my turn to do so because he’s put my career and goals first for a long time.

I don't have an overall answer to your question, but I did want to focus on this for a moment.

Putting him first because as a couple you have focused on your for awhile seems like it makes sense, seems like it is fair. But if you can't get a job in your field in London, then putting him first is actually negating all the time you spent putting you first. What was the point of putting the focus on your career if once your career was established you were just going to walk away to focus on his career? Careers don't work like that.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be some other compromise or some other way of helping him to have a happier life, but don't give up the career success you both gave up a lot to pursue.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:38 AM on December 24, 2018 [20 favorites]

Wouldn't it be possible for him to live in London during the week and up north with you at weekends? I think a lot of couples do this sort of commute nowadays.
posted by hazyjane at 6:57 AM on December 24, 2018 [13 favorites]

I was going to say the same as hazyjane -- this is definitely A Thing, living apart during the week. In fact, I think some couples really benefit from the time apart and therefore really enjoy the weekends. So you might settle into your place you intend to buy, and money permitting, he would get a flatshare during the week or something like that. The only snafu is the kids thing -- I would never do this with kids and the couple I know who does this (and enjoys this) specifically don't have kids for that reason. It's totally do-able, and worth trying for a few months at least (again, money permitting -- flatshares and train tickets are really expensive, but less expensive than you not working surely.)
posted by heavenknows at 7:02 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also, just a side point, London is in an awful mood at the minute with Brexit and just lots of crap stuff happening (crime, pollution, homelessness.) This may be why you don't like it anymore, but it also may get better, somehow.
posted by heavenknows at 7:04 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

If he is strongly pro-kids and you are even maybe pro-kids, that would be a serious strike against London for me. Not because London is bad for kids but because of the expense of housing and childcare combined with precarious employment for at least one if not both of you. If you end up living in Colchester with a 90-minute commute because it’s the closest you can afford somewhere big enough to manage in where the local school is okay, that sounds like neither of you getting what you want.

In your place, I’d be okay with amending your current plan if the amended plan had a definite end and you were okay with that end. So, giving up on the new build and planning on moving closer to Manchester/Sheffield/York etc (depending on commutability for you) to give him options of a city-based job where he wasn’t working from home, fine; moving back to London with the aim of having to have this discussion all over again in a few years time, no.
posted by Catseye at 7:51 AM on December 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh, the trailing spouse problem is a problem.

I’ve spent so long working precarious contracts and living in crap rental flats with no time or space for anything other than work and sleep.

This is a big factor. London is never going to represent stability for you as long as you're at the mercy of crap landlords and crap commutes, which you're likely to be for the impending forever even if both of you are working. But a remote job is not going to feel like stability for him because of the isolation. If the numbers work for him to commute and stay over some of the week, at least try that? Two hours or so on the fast train from Leeds or thereabouts to Kings Cross isn't much more than taking a commuter train from Surrey.

Plus he doesn’t have as much to look forward to up North.

I wish you'd gone into a little more detail here. Is it family stuff? Events? Networking related to his field of work? It's hard to know what he misses the most that only London seems to provide and for which he feels he needs to be in/close to London.

Take another look at the map and you might find there is there a smaller city somewhere that can satisfy both of you.

This is difficult in Britain, where everything gravitates to London, but yeah, there's a space there. Edinburgh? Glasgow? Cardiff? The money is less of an issue if the cost of living is less of an issue, but if he feels like he's compromising his career (or at least his sense of what his career trajectory should be) that's a harder needle to thread.
posted by holgate at 8:12 AM on December 24, 2018

I think you buried the lede. You should probably hash out the answer to whether you're having kids now, while you're already trying to determine where to potentially raise them or not. That argument is even tougher than deciding where to live and if you're not on the same page there anyway, the question may be moot. I'm not saying DTMFA quite! But maybe there's a larger issue at play here.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:59 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wonder if there's a middle ground to be found here. There are some vibrant cities up north that are increasingly seeing some of the traditional "London" or City industries move to them. Leeds springs to mind.

With these cities you might also have room for even more compromise - it's much easier to genuinely live in beautiful countryside and still commute in to the city, and enjoy its nightlife/culture.

They are also not _that_ far on the train from London. Perhaps he could mix his remote work with some commuting to London if this feels viable for him.

I empathise with your problem. Its hard when the person you love has very different preferences for where to live, and even harder if one of you is tied to particular locations due to a niche career. Good luck.
posted by bored_now_flay at 11:01 AM on December 24, 2018

Sorry for the delay, everyone, and thank you for your insights, we both found them really helpful. As it turns out, life threw us a curveball and he’s been made redundant, so we’re reevaluating. We’re so grateful for all your thoughtful responses, and I immediately felt better just reading and feeling the empathy. Internet hugs.
posted by sockywockydoodah at 1:58 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

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