Recently I had the joy and privilege of traveling with my spouse to Santa Fe, a town to fall in love with. Met a couple — two men in their forties — who were delighting in their move there from a big, bustling city. “Love the culture change,” one of them — I’ll call him George — told me. He’d been glad to leave a high-pressure career behind. “My partner took up art when we moved here. When I tell that to people in our old city, they ask, ‘Art? Really? How’s he gonna support himself?’ But here in Santa Fe, they just say, ‘Art? Great! What medium?'”
Wow. Great story. For a few seconds I got sucked in. Here in the beautiful Southwest, I’d stumbled on a work-life paradise! I almost forgot that I was hearing what we in the mental health field call “the geographic solution,” the idea that by relocating, we can leave our problems behind. Maybe the geographic solution isn’t a fallacy, I thought. After all, some places really are cheaper to live in than others, right? And some are friendlier, or prettier, or more cultural. Why knock yourself out paying high rent in the big city when you and your spouse could bask in the charms of a smaller town?
Chatted with the same couple again a few days later. “We won’t stay here more than a year,” George said this time. “My job just doesn’t offer the benefits to give me the kind of retirement I want.”
So much for the geographic solution. If there’s somewhere you really want to move, by all means go ahead, but keep your eyes wide open. No matter where we live, couples need to consciously create a life together and plan for the future. Nothing’s easy. Everything’s a trade-off. Daydreaming that somewhere else would be The Perfect Place only distracts us from digging in where we are and sorting out the possibilities right now.