Must we live with your sister?

My husband insists on living with his sister, and I’m sick of it! Should I stay with him?

Uh-oh, says our elder. I think you need to spread your wings.

Dear EWC

I have been married for almost seven years now. We have been living with my husband’s sister for four of those after he lost his job. We moved from my family to his in another state for jobs. I am grateful that she has invited us to live with her as we are in school and young. I graduate in two years and I am ready for a place of my own. My husband, however, has told me he has no intentions of moving out from his sister’s and will move wherever she will move. She plans on moving to Seattle. I don’t want to move to Seattle because it will be even farther away from my family. He also has repeatedly given me the “I want you to be happy even if it is not with me” speech. I love him and want to stay with him but I also want to be closer to my family and have a place of my own. She also has so many rules and is not easy to live with. He doesn’t want to travel with me (I want to travel). Either decision I make I will sacrifice some part of my happiness, but do I stay with him or do I leave?

PJC replies

I think you could both benefit from marriage counseling — perhaps with the clergy person who married you seven years ago. My guess is that you married too young. And had you both gone through premarital counseling before marriage, it might be that these deep divides between you two would have become evident.

Because you don’t have children, even though separation and divorce would be a painful process, those choices would be even more difficult and devastating if you had children.
The human brain does not complete its growth until after the age of 25, and the part that finishes up last is the part that helps you understand the consequences of your actions. So if you married before that age, it’s less likely that you would have been able to foresee that you would grown so far apart.

From my point of view, it’s important for a married couple to live on their own — to make their own rules and follow their own traditions. From your description, it doesn’t sound like your husband understands that. It sounds like he’s far too comfortable living in the home his sister has made and has no intention of making an independent home with you. And in all your years together, you haven’t been able to make a compelling or convincing enough argument for him to get on the same page as you.

It sounds like it’s time now (or will be in two years) for you to spread your wings, to live in freedom away from his sister, and to travel and have new experiences. While you are willing to understand that whether you stay or go, you will undergo the experience of some sacrifice, your husband doesn’t have those sensibilities about himself. A man who truly loves and is bonded to his wife does not say, “I want you to be happy, even if it’s not with me.” There doesn’t seem to be any contemplation of sacrifice on his part. What you both need to be able to say to each other is “I love you, and I want our marriage to work.” If he can’t say that to you, if he can’t be willing to open to the realities of what makes a healthy marriage with you, then I think it’s clear that your choice is to leave.

My sense, as I said, is that you two married too young. I think once you leave him and grieve the loss of him and your marriage, perhaps with some counseling support, then you will be able to find your new happiness, freedom and fulfilment. Even if your marriage does end, you will have learned some valuable lessons from the experience, and now that you are more mature and have more experience, you will be able to choose your next partner(s) with more wisdom about what makes a happy, mutually beneficial relationship work.

I hope this helps. Please write to us again if you think we can assist you further, and tell your friends about our service.

Letter #: 441156
Category: Marriage

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