Writer and broadcaster

My husband and I can’t agree on where we should live. The Guardian.

Dear Annalisa

I have been with my husband for 10 years. I am from London, where we live, and he is from the south-west of England, where he now works. The problem is that we can’t decide where to live as I have family in London to whom I am very close and I would feel very lonely if we moved to the south-west.

The nature of my husband’s work means that it can’t be done elsewhere so he is stuck with a three-hour commute twice a week, leaving London on a Monday and coming back on a Friday. It takes its toll on both of us, and the children – a toddler and a baby – miss him. He insists that the only option is for us to move there.

I am torn as I understand that the money is good, his work is established there and it is a good place to bring up a family compared with London so it would be good for the kids, but I just don’t think I will be happy so far away from my family and I’m scared that, if I say yes to moving there, it will be permanent whether I am happy or not.

We have discussed many options, but nothing is easily achievable. We have talked about moving my family there – difficult, as my dad wouldn’t want to move there; my husband stopping work there and doing something in London, which would mean having to start from scratch and a lot less money – not something he is keen on; us moving halfway, somewhere closer, so the commute would be shorter, but then we would both be in a new town with no family or friends. I just don’t know what to do.

We have been trying to decide for almost 10 years and had thought that if we gave it time it would become clearer, but it has just become more difficult to decide. I know financially it makes sense to move there, but I can’t bring myself to agree.

I think it is taking you ages to decide, because there is no one perfect answer. Everything involves compromise. That is not unusual: lots about family life does. What this really comes down to is which solution gives you – and, by you, I mean all of you – the most bearable compromise.

It sounds as if your husband relocated from the south-west when he met you, so I am presuming he left family and friends. If so, he made a significant sacrifice – he is never in the same place, at the same time, with his (presumably) wider family and friends and his immediate family: you and the children. However, it also sounds as if he does all his commute in one chunk, unlike a lot of people who have one to two-hour commutes every day. So in terms of overall commuting a week, his journey is not that bad. I appreciate, however, that him not coming home every night is hard for all of you.

You and the children, on the other hand, do without your husband all week, which must mean you’re on your own Monday to Friday. Some people find this incredibly hard and others find it quite liberating.

London is a great place to raise a family in lots of ways, so I really don’t think you have to leave for the children: if you do leave, it has to be because it works for all of you as a family or as many of you as possible. There is a lot to commend you staying in London at the moment, because it sounds as if that is where your support network is. If your husband is out at work all day (and he would be wherever you live) and you are raising two very young children, that network is a significant thing to give up at this stage. If you moved to somewhere where you knew no one, your husband would have a shorter commute, but are you the sort of person who makes friends? Would you have your nose pressed against the window waiting for him to come home? That would put a lot of pressure on your relationship in a different way.

Moving out of London is not a ticket to happiness. Your husband’s job sounds very secure, but is it? I would be very nervous of relocating just for a job, however secure and well paid it is. There has to be more to commend such an upheaval.

When children are very young, and support comes from close family, the thought of being away from them can seem terrifying. But once they start school, and you get to know other parents, your support network tends to widen, and being away from family isn’t as scary as it once was. What you (you and your husband) and the children need might also change in ways you can’t really imagine just yet.

Do remember that if you do move, friends and family can come to visit, and they will. So you may want to consider moving somewhere accessible if that familiarity is important to you, with good links to and from where the majority of your family and friends live.

My advice is to do nothing for a year or two. It really doesn’t sound as if you are ready yet; you have two young children, one still a baby. Don’t put extra pressure on yourselves at the moment. Currently, you know your set-up, you know the pros and cons. It’s not perfect but it functions. Just put it all away for now and concentrate on enjoying your children’s early years. In a few years, you will have to start thinking about schools and that may shift your focus; or you may have different priorities.

This article first appeared in The Guardian Family section on 19 May 2017.