Adventure vs. settling down: can we make it work when I want to roam and he wants to stay home?

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Adventure vs. settling down: can we make it work when I want to roam and he wants to stay home?
…or does it?
'Adventure Awaits' camper mug from Ford Explorer Knits
My husband and I spent our 20s working short-term contracts all over the country. For me every day was an adventure, but it turned out the itinerant life made my husband miserable, so we settled down. But now I'm miserable. On paper we're doing everything right: we've got retirement savings, dental insurance, and a fucking KitchenAid stand mixer. But I also have a plastic storage tote full of tools and equipment from my old life, and I feel like it holds my corpse. My husband is happier than ever.

The thing is, I still love my husband. We still make each other laugh until neither of us can move. We still have sex. But the quiet life isn't for me.

So what do we do? Is it possible to be happily married to someone who doesn't share your life goals? Or do I divorce my best friend?

There's definitely nobody that can answer the divorce question but you and your husband, but this is certainly a relatable thing for SO many couples. You love each other, but your lives don't mesh in some way. We put it to our Facebook readers for some advice, and the answer from everyone was clear: it's probably not the end of the marriage, but something has to give.

Many readers suggested getting out more alone, scheduling your own adventures, and letting him have his time at home. If you're willing to try getting out more and adventuring alone (and your husband is also amenable), this post about weekend relationships may help with any separation that could happen. Here's an excerpt:

When you do get to spend time together, really spend it together. And when you're apart make an effort to speak to each other. In our 7 1/2 years of dating, we've talked every night when we're apart (save for international trips) and we always say 'Goodnight, sweet dreams, I love you.' Sometimes it's in a text because they're rolling, but he always tells me goodnight.

We've also talked about the need for personal space in a relationship which may be relevant when it comes to lifestyle, travel, and time apart. For instance:

I'm finding out that maybe living separately isn't a bad thing. Less tension between the two people. It's far from easy. But if the love is strong enough, it works. – Tifa

Now let's hear from the readers who seem to be really rooting for you to stick with it if you can:

Solo adventuring

I would suggest frequent adventures either with or without your husband. Or maybe taking turns seasonally to hit the road or stay closer to home? – Elizabeth

I can relate, though it was the opposite for me, I wanted to be in the city instead of gallivanting around the country side. I ended up taking a job for six months in the city which was only two days a week. It helped my mental health a lot to be able to be with my people and not somewhere I hated. Also, Offbeat Home does have quite a few stories about long distance relationships and living apart (including with the context of marriage) that are worth reading. – Lisa

I don't know what your job situation is but maybe you could go into a consulting agency or something that would let you travel during the week but be home on weekends. – Sara

Lots of compromise

My partner is a touring musician. It’s what gets him out of bed each day. (I know I’m the reason he sleeps in). I’m much happier staying home and gardening, caring for the animals, etc. When he goes on long tours, I go with him. The shorter ones I stay home for. We have plans for an RV, so I can still feel like I’m nesting while he gets to be on the road. Talk to your husband. See if he’s willing to find some sort of middle ground. That’s where you’ll find your answer — in his willingness to compromise. It’s important that you’re both happy. I don’t know what you did in the past, but look into jobs with state parks close to home, usajobs.com, etc. I’m guessing you know how to find shorter assignments.

It comes down to getting creative and working together to find a life that works for you both. Also, maybe seek out a counselor/therapist. Not because your relationship is in trouble or anything, but they can help immensely with helping you figure out what it is you’re both REALLY desiring in your lives and they can help with communicating that more effectively. There are also folks on the internet living lives to inspire, you just have to search (maybe a lot). I wish you the best of luck. Where there’s a will, there is a way. – Amy

This has been my conundrum for the past two years. I care for my husband but we just don't want the same life. We have found some common goals after I broke down and wanted to divorce. We're trying to reach financial independence so we can travel more. I still need some "rest time" but mainly, I just want to be on the road. He's the opposite: doesn't mind some adventure time, but mainly wants to stay at home.

Compromise for now is me traveling more and him joining me for shorter periods, and me learning to appreciate whatever time at home when I don't feel like traveling — instead of mulling over how I could be somewhere else. On good days I call this compromise, on bad days I see it as stalling the inevitable. This might not be helpful but you're not alone in your predicament. What's more important to you: your husband or the life you want to live? I have no answer — for you or for me, but it does take some soul-searching here. – Dora

Figuring out what you like about the adventure

You mentioned your tote full of tools. Were you working construction? Is so have you considered Habitat for Humanity? I don't know if it's the travel you miss or the work you were doing, but if it was construction, this might be something for you to look at. Plus you would be doing some people a whole lot of good. You can travel to different parts of the country satisfying your love of travel if that's what it is but you could also be helping somebody out who could really use a hand. – Diane

You need to isolate which part(s) made you, you. For me, I love crafts, all kinds, but keeping supplies for them all was too much space (couldn't afford rent on an extra bedroom just to hold it all). So I spent all weekends of a month on one type for several months until I figured out I liked making things, not the craft itself. So we narrowed it down to 2: something for us and something we could gift. Sewing and painting. – Andrell

Can you volunteer somewhere, that gets the novelty juices flowing? Maybe with animals, or building houses or something? – Heather

Best of luck in this challenge!

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  1. I’d totally second working out what it is you like about adventure to break the deadlock between choosing the life you had before and the life you have now, there may well be another way. Adventure is a pretty broad category of thing to want and getting a bit more detail on what it is you want and need will help you recognise options that actually offer this and that you may even have already discarded. It’s bit like trying to choose which house to buy when you just want a “nice home”, whilst flexibility is good it’s much easier to recognise a good option for when you have a few wish list items and some hard limits.

    So if you zero in on adventure and discover that the key things for you are, say, variety and challenge (or spontaneity, or autonomy, or travel or whatever), then you may find that those more specific needs are satisfied by options that didn’t seem to satisfy the broader category of adventure. Once you are clearer on exactly what is you need, it becomes easier to happily and wholeheartedly accept a compromise option because a proper compromise will meet that need just in a different way that you had imagined or previously experienced. For instance I love to cook, love a lot of variety in what I eat and enjoy those mad moments of spontaneous kitchen adventure where I just make something up, my wife however is far less experienced than me in the kitchen, loves routine but also wants to learn and contribute to cooking. The compromise is that we meal plan the weekday meals and take turns with these but go free form at the weekend. I get less of the kitchen adventures so it’s a compromise, but definitely I get some, guaranteed, so my need is met which is great. Obviously this is harder when the things you are trying to compromise on are bigger like, say, wants to live on the road/does not want to live on the road but if you can work out exactly what need being on the road meets, then that could provide the ground for compromise if it can be found elsewhere. It's scary stuff to dig into (because of the fear of incompatibility) but it's worth it, good luck!

    3 agree
  2. I simply want to share more anecdotal evidence of part-time split lives. My partner and I have a bit of a Persephone arrangement. I work a summer job that takes me traveling (Mostly alone) for 2-3 months out of the year. My partner joins me for some of the 1-2 week jaunts, but mostly I'm on my own traveling up and down the coast while my partner works closer to home. In the fall, the two of us travel together for two and a half months, when spend the next 3 together at home. (When I work from home while my partner works and office job.) It's an unusual, highly-seasonally-dependent arrangement, but it works very well for us. Don't be afraid to create a new paradigm for married life. You don't have to choose one thing or the other as long as you can find a way to balance yourselves.
    A bird can love a fish, and they can live wherever the water meets the sky.

    4 agree
  3. If you are both okay with your taking off on your own for some time – maybe a few set months of the year, if you have work that would be compatible, you take off and so some of that contract work, or you take more vacations alone (or you take more vacations together but otherwise agree to stay put).

    The problems come when one of you is not happy with an arrangement where you do your traveling alone – i.e. if you want a companion, or he doesn't want you to be gone.

    I'll be honest, I broke up with somebody over this. He was really great in other ways, but I wanted to travel and by travel I meant live abroad long-term. He was open to that, but in a very "safe" way – he wanted it to be a country where he could speak the language (so I suppose somewhere English, Spanish or Hebrew is spoken) and where he could practice law.

    That's totally fair, and I get why he'd want that. But…I was thinking "Asia". I've always preferred the rhythms of life in a particular slice of East Asia. I've discovered through living abroad several times that I actually have very specific preferences for where I'm happiest:
    – Good public transit
    – Developed (at the very least the city needs to be developed)
    – Urban, in fact the more urban the better
    – Preferably in Asia
    – Close to day and weekend trips to the countryside
    – Free / democratic / laid-back / robust human rights protections (though I recognize that there is no perfect country for this)
    – Good food – both local and Western options (even if it's just ingredients for me to cook myself)
    – Totally different place ideally where I can appreciate local habits and learn a new language, nothing too familiar. Ideally the language is globally useful (e.g. Korean, Chinese, Japanese)
    – Politically interesting
    – Some way to build a career

    I tried living in a large Asian city with great food, an interesting political history which was completely foreign and in which I had to learn Mandarin just to get by that was surrounded by countryside. That was in China. It still didn't quite fit. It wasn't free/democratic and there are no such things as human rights in China. It felt awful feeling as though by living there I was condoning that state of affairs. I lived in India – great food, could get around (with rickshaws anyway), politically interesting, totally different/unfamiliar, could learn an interesting language (Tamil), free and democratic…but not developed and not quite urban enough. See? Very specific. In fact, the best choices are all in a very narrow strip of coastal/island Asia on the Pacific Rim.

    I finally settled on Taipei, Taiwan, and it's like my ideal city. Weather could be better I guess. There are issues – I don't like that Taipei is so nicely developed because it sucks up tax revenue from the rest of the country (which is also "developed", but there is a clear dividing line) – but overall it works. I've stayed for 11 years and am now a permanent resident, that is, I can live here and work here with almost all of the rights of a citizen (think of it as like having a Green Card, though the benefits aren't quite as good). A few other cities might do the trick – Tainan or Kaohsiung in Taiwan, many Japanese cities, Seoul in South Korea, Hong Kong until recently (China has been clamping down on political freedoms there – it's kind of terrible to watch) but Taipei works for me.

    Well, 12 years ago or so, I told that boyfriend about my plan, after deciding India was great but not an ideal place to settle down permanently, and China was just not for me (it's a few hundred miles away and in the past 11 years I've been back just twice not counting Hong Kong, so…), that I was going to see how Taipei would work out for me and that I really wanted to do this *long-term*, because that is quite a different experience than just spending a few years abroad.

    Needless to say, our life plans were completely incompatible and we broke up. I just wasn't willing to stay, and I don't think I would have been for anyone. Even the love of my life couldn't have kept me in the USA.

    I'm married now (I came here via Offbeat Bride years ago), to someone whose happiness is not nearly as contingent on living in a specific kind of place. He's now a permanent resident here, too.

    He is in almost every sense a perfect match for me – and I hope I for him – and we have a preternaturally strong marriage. But, if he had not been willing to see where long-term life in Asia would take us, we might not well be married now.

    1 agrees

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