Tale of two countries
I’m from Europe, but I met my wife when I was living in the States, and the entirety of our dating life occurred there. I was clear at the beginning of our relationship that I wanted to return to Europe eventually, and that if she planned to be with me, she had to consider that. She accepted, although of course at the time it was just words.
Fast forward to two years ago, when I had a job offer back in Europe, and specifically in my hometown, one of Europe’s capital cities. My wife and I discussed the opportunity for a few weeks, since she had never lived abroad, and I felt this was the perfect launch pad, since she already knew the city and my family would be there to help. Eventually, we moved, although she asked if we could return to the US if she didn’t fit in.
For the next year or so, she studied the language (always with the attitude that she sucked at it and couldn’t get ever fluent), found a freelance job where she worked just a few hours per month (no big deal, since my salary allowed to sustain us both), and spent time with a few friends from language school. I was glad to see she was doing things, although I was frustrated that she was her own worst enemy when it came to the language, and she refused to get a driver’s license (it would have required her to take the written test again) because the test would be in my native tongue, and it was “too hard”. She spent a good amount of time watching TV (rigorously in English).
We got pregnant and had a baby boy this year. She received sterling care from the doctors, the hospital (although admittedly some of the obstetricians left something to be desired), and our baby is a bouncy boy who is growing visibly each day. During the pregnancy, however, she stopped studying for driving school, and she pretty much stopped learning the language, claiming it was just too hard with “pregnancy brain”. After the baby’s birth, she’s focused entirely on his protection and care, so she doesn’t study for the driving exam or the language, she spends most of her time at home with the baby, watching TV or playing with him. She also says that, without a driver’s license and without fluency in the language, she feels trapped – but I don’t see her working towards either thing.
Recently, I’ve started noticing signs of what could be postpartum depression. At the same time, she’s started complaining how homesick she is, and how she wants to go back to the US for a month or so. I said that’s fine, I understand how bad one can be homesick from my years in the US. Now, however, she’s also stated that in two years or so, she wants to go back to the US permanently, calling upon my promise from two years ago that if she didn’t fit in, we could go back. She even stated that if I can’t find a job to help me move back in two years, she’d move back with the baby and I could join them whenever I could find a job.
The job itself is not an issue, of course – but I feel like she’s steamrolling me while, at the same time, I feel like she didn’t really put much effort into the “fitting in” part, because she knew she could go back to the US if she didn’t want to stay here. Her reasons to go back to the US involve her family (most of them are nice folk, but her mother tends to have explosive clashes with her every few weeks, and lately mounted a coordinated campaign to create a rift between my wife and I, to the point of planting the seed of doubt in my wife’s mind that I control her and manipulate her), her friends (she has a handful, scattered across the northern Eastern Seaboard), her desire for the baby to grow in America, and her shopping (at Target, Marshalls, etc.). When I asked how she would support herself there if I couldn’t find a job in the artificial timeline she built, she said we’d dip into our savings and she’d stay at her parents. She said we’d figure it out.
I feel like, whether this is all from homesickness, from her mother’s campaign, or both, she is engaging in a dangerous level of wishful thinking. She thinks that as long as we move back, everything will automatically be 100% better. She doesn’t seem to see the good things she got here (like the prenatal care, which was vastly better than what her best friend had last year, for instance), and doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the idea she’s asking me to leave my own entire family behind forever (as it is unlikely I could find a similar job to return yet again). My parents are also much older than hers, and my brother already lives abroad, so I feel responsible for them and I know it would sadden them if I left with their only grandchild.
Besides, we are building friendships here, and while my hometown isn’t perfect by a long shot, I am sad that if we move back, my son may never experience the same childhood I did. I realize she could say the same thing, but here’s the thing – her childhood was crappy, she was always arguing with her mother, they had no money, and she has no good memories of it.
I realize that two years is still a lot of time, and tons of things could happen to derail the plan. I also realize, however, that she’s got it in her mind that this is what will happen, and I don’t know that she will be willing to listen to anything that could cause plans to change. I also don’t think she’ll be putting any more effort in learning the language or driving a car – both reasons she says are key to wanting to go back, since they make her feel trapped and that she can’t advocate for our son effectively. She repeatedly says that by the time we decide to have a second child, we’ll be in America.
Each time she says stuff like that, I feel like she doesn’t understand what she’s asking me to give up. And yes, I am aware the roles were reversed two years ago, but two years ago we made a decision together; here, if I said I don’t want to go, she claims she’d go without me. In fact, she went so far as to say that I should do it “for my family, if I want to be with them”, meaning her and the baby. She has, at times, expressed a degree of open-mindedness to the idea of remaining in Europe, perhaps in another country, but she always goes back to the fact she needs to be in America to be happy. And I feel she has woven this fantasy of America as the place where she’d be perfectly content, where in truth she had her issues in the US as well; she didn’t like her job at the time, she suffered from just as much anxiety as she does here, she argued with her mother a lot, and she saw most of her friends two or three times per year.
I feel a deep weight in my chest, because I don’t want to commit to moving back, especially not on a timeline. It makes me feel like everything we’ll do for the next two years, to meet friends, to do things together, will be wasted. Our baby will get to know the babies of our other friends here, just in time to leave them behind. My parents will be in the mid-seventies and I will feel like I am abandoning them. And if we move back to America and the States aren’t what she imagines, once she experiences once again the day-to-day humdrum of her life there, what then?
I feel defeated, because if I try to bring up this topic again, she gets defensive and agitated, and works herself into an anxiety attack. In moments of high anxiety, she’s accused me of trapping her here. She hasn’t asked what I think about going back to the US, only stated we’re going back, or she’s going with the baby and without me, if need be.
I don’t know what things will be like in two years. Perhaps I will also want to go back, in which case, that would be fine. But I don’t want to commit to an artificial timeline and I still feel unheard, or even worse, I see my thoughts and feelings as irrelevant in her mind. She’ll go back, whether with or without me. I’m the one who has to make the decision to keep the family together by going myself.
What do I do? If I don’t say anything, part of me fears that in two years from now, all else being equal, we may come an impasse where she wants to go, and I feel like we’ve struggled but finally we built a good life here, and I want to stay. And that could lead to separation, and with a baby in the middle, and parents on separate continents, I have no doubt that I would not see my son very much, in the end. If I do say something, she gets upset and we can’t argue logically anyway, especially if she’s really going through PPD.
Should I talk with her therapist and let her know what is going on? Should I confront my wife and say that while going back to the US is a possibility, I don’t want to put a timeframe on it? Or should I just say nothing and see how things change in a couple of years, both for me and for her? What advice would you have for me?