Dear Margo: The Answer Is Not Geography

My husband’s job is about to take us to the other side of the world, but I don’t want to leave: Margo Howard’s advice

The Answer Is Not Geography

Dear Margo: My husband recently received a lucrative job offer in another country (Australia) for a new employer. While I am excited, he is so respected in his work that I feel left out. Four weeks ago, I moved to Utah (where we are now) to rejoin him after a year of separation. He is often gone for work-related travel, and I am just getting used to life here, including job hunting and going back to college. Before this, we moved from Nevada to California for his job.

I kind of want my own identity, and I am still getting used to living with someone again. I feel somewhat selfish thinking of myself, but I spent three years in limbo in California. Part of me just wants to send him away and stay here on my own. I don’t want to hinder this opportunity for him, but I don’t wish to give up a life I could create for myself here. Is it selfish to decide to stay put, making my own life again? He’s not a bad guy by any stretch. — Lonely in Utah

Dear Lone: This decision must be yours. I would think the deciding factor would be the guy, not the place. (Though Australia happens to be wonderful.) I grew up in a home where my mother was willing to (and did) move numerous times. Her oft stated philosophy was, “You go where the grapes grow,” and that’s why as a little girl I thought my father was in produce. I believe anyone can make a life anywhere, but if you’re not committed to your husband and the marriage is on the ledge, stay where you are. Good luck doping this out. — Margo, independently

Persona Non Grata for a Specious Reason

Dear Margo: A close female friend of my boyfriend (she’s 38) is getting married, and according to the bride, I am not invited. My boyfriend of two years had an affair with a friend of the bride some months ago, and as a courtesy to this woman, I am “persona non grata” at the wedding. My boyfriend has promised to try to convince the bride to invite me, but he is otherwise helpless and undecided because he does not want to miss his friend’s wedding.

This situation is very hurtful to me. The affair happened during a period of time when my boyfriend and I were getting back together after a short breakup. This affair caused me a lot of pain, but I swallowed my pride, turned the page and am giving this relationship a chance. We are both putting in a lot of effort, and it is paying off: We are going strong and are talking about the future. Now this wedding situation is making the affair resurface again. I feel humiliated by the bride, and also by my man. I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on what to make of this situation, and what to reasonably expect of my boyfriend. — Distressed

Dear Dis: Undecided your beau may be, but helpless he is not. He should tell his close friend that, without his significant other, he will be unable to attend. There is no reason the bride should be carrying water for her friend at the expense of another friend. (A side issue: Your fella may have to weigh just how close of a friend the bride-to-be really is.) You can’t make your boyfriend see things your way, but do tell him this situation is coming dangerously close to “it’s her or me.” I, personally, would not think much of a romantic partner who was indifferent to my feelings and threw me under the bus so he could go to a wedding. — Margo, emphatically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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147 comments so far.

  1. avatar Dana2011 says:

    Here’s some personal and professional perspective on LW#1′ situation:

    I am a family lawyer. Every single week, I see women crying in my office who have been blind-sided when their husbands suddenly leave them after 20 or 30 years of marriage.  I know others will disagree with me, but the reality is that when you create or accept a situation of being financially dependent on your spouse, you give away a huge amount of power and set yourself up for a risk of ending up with NOTHING.  The wealthiest men are also the most adept at hiding their money and bankrupting the other side before there’s even a chance of a trial. And as my managing partner at the firm will tell anyone, unfairness is the cornerstone of family law. It has absolutely nothing to do with justice.

    It’s 2011, not 1949.  From what I can see, the best marriages are the ones that are equal partnerships with BOTH people making decisions together for their mutual benefit, not one person calling all the shots. This husband is making decisions as though he isn’t married. He’s acting like a single man with a “my way or the highway” attitude.  So his wife has the choice of going or staying, and if she stays Margo, she’s the one not committed to the marriage? I’d say he’s the one who’s acting like he’s not committed to the marriage when he’s making decisions as though her wishes count for nothing. She’s an adult, not a child. 

    So far, all the decisions being made appear to be in the best interest of the husband’s career, with zero regard for the wife. So Letter Writer #1, ask yourself how happy you are right now,if you want to continue being at the mercy of your husband’s unilateral decision-making and what is in YOUR best interest because that’s a question no one else seems to be considering. Do what’s best for you and do what it takes to restore your personal identity because at the end of the day, being true to yourself and who you are is what matters most.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Ah, but we don’t even know that the husband has accepted the new position, or failed to discuss it with LW1, or been selfish and self-centered. She absolutely never states that any of the decisions regarding moves were made without her approval. And there is no indication at all that any decision has yet been reached about the move to Australia.

      We also don’t know why the couple moved to Utah. The LW never explains that move, only that it happened, and that she is already setting down roots after the extremely brief period of four weeks. It may have been based on her preference…which somehow seems a likely conclusion given how quickly she has settled in and made herself at home. Again, she never claims that the move to Utah was made specifically for her husband’s job, was his sole decision, or that she was against it…only that they reunited there.

      Before Utah, they lived for three years in California, to which they moved from Nevada. We have no clue as to whether that move was a mutual decision (again, she makes no comment regarding how any of the decisions to move were arrived at), how long the couple lived in Nevada before they moved to California, or whether she knew that the move would be necessary and agreed to it when she married him. In any case, she had three years in California to attend school, find a vocation, even take up…gasp…a hobby. Instead, for some mysterious reason, she claims to have been stuck “in limbo”. Why? He was only gone on one extended absence…and she does not indicate that he in any way prevented her from pursuing any goals or activities of her own. So…why are you blaming him for being a selfish bastard? Why not chastise her for being lazy and unproductive, and relying on a man for her validation and identity and ability to support herself?

      LW1 gives not even a hint that her husband has a “my way or the highway” attitude. Or makes unilateral decisions (to repeat: we don’t even know if the decision has been made to take the position in Australia…just that the offer was made). If she’s at the mercy of her husband (which I completely disagree with based on there being no evidence per her own letter), perhaps it is because she sat on her backside in California for three years feeling sorry for herself instead of doing a little bit of self-validation and finding her own identity. It IS 2011, not 1949, you know. Women can take independent action…and there is no evidence that her husband was keeping her in a Gimp Box in the basement.

      If you actually READ the letter, you will discover that the couple, according to what is written in said missive, have moved precisely ONCE for the husband’s work…and have the potential to move again because of the offer of a new and more lucrative opportunity. They have actually moved only twice as of the letter’s writing date. Wow, how horrific, What a controlling, gad-about, inconsiderate bastard the LW’s husband is.

      And, Dana2011, what about the husband? Should he give up a career in which he is very successful, highly respected, and has a chance for improvement…and perhaps even contentment and happiness…because his wife…who apparently is not working (and don’t you dare put the blame for this on him…there is no evidence to support that claim) feels left out, and doesn’t think she can have her own identity when she is married to someone? Can we talk about double standards…pretty please? If the situation were reversed, you’d be castigating him soundly for being non-supportive, cruel, misogynistic, anachronistic, and an oinking, filthy pig. Yes you would. Good grief.

      Want to know why I feel this way? See my previous comment. Yes, I am female. And much as I detest misogynistic males, I loathe misandrist females just the same.

  2. avatar Dana2011 says:

    I have to point out the glaringly obvious: The husband has a CHOICE whether to constantly apply for and accept new positions all over the country/world.  If his wife needs to be settled for a time and wants to stay put, it is HIS CHOICE to destabilize (ultimately end?) the marriage by choosing to leave her to continue pursuing his brass ring.  Again, this issue should not be framed as the wife’s commitment or lack thereof to the marriage. It’s the husband’s actions that are the destabilizing factor here.

  3. avatar Dana2011 says:

    Ah – I think LW #1 has made her decision! It’s a beautiful life afterall.

  4. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – So, while you’re living in Utah pursuing your life and going to school will your husband be mailing his paychecks home? Just curious. If all the traveling is not the life for you and you want to put down roots then maybe this isn’t the relationship you need to stay in.

    LW2 – Nope. No problem here. Let him go to the wedding. I think he’s showing you the utmost respect. You may also want to check into some ocean front property in Montana. I hear it’s cheap up there.

  5. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Just curious, given that the bride is 38: Is this her first marriage, involving a dress with train, veil, and walk down an aisle? Or will this be a second-or third-time around cocktail with vows event with more emphasis on a party-hearty boozy reception?   

    (Either way, the boyfriend needs to go, if he can’t respect his girlfriend enough to choose her over the bride/friend.)     

  6. avatar jkinn says:

    One thing that jumped out at me in the first letter is that she moved to Utah four weeks ago. While I completely understand her not wanting to be uprooted (again), it’s unlikely that she has been able to get a job, start school, make friends, etc. in such a short time. Even though she’s understandably disappointed because she was planning to do all of those things in Utah, perhaps this is not such a bad time to make a move – before she puts down roots in her current location. Of course it’s up to her, and I wouldn’t try to convince someone to do something she really doesn’t want to do.

  7. avatar amw says:

    LW1: I mentioned this in a response to another poster, but I really would be curious to know whether your husband’s career required extensive travel and possible relocation when the two of you got married. Because in that instance, it’s pretty obvious that you are no longer able to keep your vowed commitment and the problem has nothing to do with him being selfish.

    Ask yourself this question…have you stayed with him thus far because you love him or because of the financial security his job provides?

    LW2: Yikes…this is a tough spot to be in. Having attended weddings with exes and also as a bride-to-be, I have some input here.

    The best example would be a friend’s wedding this past April. Two exes showed out of a possible three. We were all invited in addition to our significant others. We said “hi” in passing and left it at that. A wedding is about the bride and groom and not about the past drama of their friends. If the bride’s girlfriend was to create a scene, she should be reconsidering HER invite, not your’s. I have to agree with other poster’s that it sounds like this bride is hoping your boyfriend and her friend will reconnect.

    I have a very close male friend that I’ve known for years. He has been dating a girl off and on for the past six months that I do not care for in the least bit. She is manipulative, rude and immature. (As the godmother of his two boys, I feel a certain right to form this opinion of her although I have not shared it with him because he hasn’t asked.) While I don’t expect him to be dating her when my fiance and I get married, it is possible that he will be. His presence at my wedding is more important than my dislike of her. Therefore, he will be entitled to invite his +1 because his friendship means that much to me.

    I tried to put myself in the position of the bride, and I couldn’t find any logical explanation other than the aforementioned matchmaking attempt or something that was omitted from your letter.

    If I were you, I would tell your boyfriend how slighted the non-invite makes you feel and that you would be very disappointed should he decide to go to the wedding without you. If he were smart, he would tell his friend that he shares everything with you and therefore he will share in the non-invite if those are the bride’s wishes. Of course, if the bride were any kind of friend, he wouldn’t have to tell her that…or is your boyfriend not telling you something?

  8. avatar LAChica says:

    LW1- I read your question with a twinge in my heart, as I’ve been in a similar position. While we’ve only moved twice for my husband’s work, and seriously considered an international move which eventually panned out, I can relate to your struggle of wanting your own identity and feeling left out. You sound so lost, as I felt too at one time. Even after being separated for a year, you’re still lost in this relationship, and following him to yet another place, is only going to compound this for you. If you go, it should be because you’re completely on board with it (which doesn’t seem to be the case here). The main thing I would advise is please do not go along because you don’t want to ‘hinder him.’ He’s a resourceful, grown man and will and can find another opportunity, while you’ll be left still feeling left out, full of animosity and resentment in a foreign land! Could you consider an alternative like finishing school, or working, and then meeting up in a few months? That would help you to feel empowered, and not like the accessory to his main ensemble. Good luck!
    LW2- there’s no way I could respect my partner if he went without me, especially considering the past. He needs to politely refuse, on the premise that he has enough respect and consideration for you, and your relationship. The bride sounds like she might have alterior motives, I dunno, either way, she doesn’t value you and I just would not tolerate that.   

  9. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2 – “Undecided, but helpless he is not” – LOVE IT!   Nail on the head.   Unless he shows a spine, run, run for the hills, I say.

  10. avatar gr8tpretender408 says:

    LW2.  I cannot believe so many people were so quick to make an assumption about the bride’s intention.  The fact is that it’s her wedding and she invited selected guests to be part of her very important day.  It is unfortunate that LW2 was not invited but so be it. You cannot always make others do what is in your favor but you can control how you react in any given situation

    The real issue is whether the bf should accept or simply decline the invitation.  If i were on her shoe, I would let him know how I feel but let the guy make the decision on his own, and take a cue as to where I fit in his life.  Sit back and see where it goes.  Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprise if he came home to you after the wedding and know that nothing had happened between him and the fling.  Like you said, you are still working on your relationship and it is going strong.  If that’s the case, then this will be a good test on how you both are able to handle life’s ups and downs.  Good luck!

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      Do you really believe that if something happened between the BF and the fling, he’d come back and say, “Oh yeah, I slept with her?”

  11. avatar Paula says:

    LW2: Maybe the weddings I’ve been to are dated, but can’t a person attend a wedding without having to attend the reception? Assuming this, the boyfriend could essentially go to the wedding, but opt out of attending the reception. The boyfriend can make his friend happy and then spend the rest of his time that day with his girlfriend. If I were the girlfriend, I would sign that card that goes with the wedding gift; just to stick it to the bride, showing that the couple of 2 years are still united.

  12. avatar cascotownship says:

    I am someone who was in a similar situation. His work caused us to move 6 times in 4 years and at the end of the relationship he came home for 48 hours once a month. He wanted me to have a well-paying job and with a background in sales it was very hard. Knowing what I know now, my advice is to go to Australia. If you want to pursue studies it can be done online. I would also ask you to consider “blooming where you are planted”. This may sound mercenary, but since your career options are compromised, it is reasonable to expect a financial arrangement that protects you in case you are without him due to death or divorce. My belief is that it is easier to create a fulfilling life anywhere than it is to find a great guy.

  13. avatar A R says:

    LW1: I have a major question for you: do you have a source of income to finance your life alone should you decline to go with him? I ask because it would be really weird to say, “Hey, honey….I love you and all, but I don’t want to actually live with you. It’s okay if you pay my mortgage, groceries, utilities, and car however, as I don’t actually have a job. Also I want to go back to college, so I’ll need some spending money.” Point being: is it fair to live off his salary if you don’t live with him? Just food for thought….and something he might bring up.

    LW2: You do know that the bride gets to choose whom to invite to her wedding right? After all, she’s not *your* friend, she’s your boyfriend’s friend. You and he are not engaged or married, so she doesn’t have to invite him-plus-one. She is well within her rights to invite her single friends, both male and female. As devil’s advocate, if the woman your boyfriend had an affair with is a pal of the bride, why in the nether hell would she attempt to entertain the two of you at her event? That would be stupid on her part to set up such a situation.

    Your biggest problem isn’t that your name wasn’t on the invitation. Your biggest problem is that your boyfriend hopped into the sack with another chick–apparently just after you two got back together from a short separation. That speaks volumes about his commitment to you. Instead of worrying about his social calendar, direct your energy into asking yourself why you are trotting after this man who clearly has mixed feelings about getting back together with you. (For the record, I don’t even think it matters for a moment whether he would consider going or not. He’s already made his stance quite clear. You are just not hearing it.)

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      If I’m going to try to see both sides of the story—your answer here about LW2 is actually quite good.

  14. avatar VJ Dark says:

    “My boyfriend of two years had an affair with a friend of the bride some months ago, and as a courtesy to this woman, I am “persona non grata” at the wedding.”

    UM! ! ! ! . . . .

    As a courtesy to the bride, wouldn’t the illicit partner who had an affair with the bride’s friend be persona non grata at the wedding?

    Um, hey! That would be the boyfriend!

    His “close friend” the bride must be one of those women who simper up to men and hate other women. There are too many women like that around. They are arseholes. She sounds like someone who looooves her “close male friend” and is too jealous to have women (whom she hasn’t preapproved) around.

  15. avatar blue tooth says:

    To LW2,

    If I were completely cynical, I would think something was not right with this wedding story. Your boyfriend who cheated on you is going to the wedding of his female friend, where the girl he cheated with will also be, and you’re not invited. Not only not invited, but specifically disinvited. But your boyfriend still wants to go. And he broke up with this girl that he had the affair with only a few months ago.

    If I were in your shoes, I would be wondering if there’s still something going on, and if your boyfriend wants some “special time” with this girl, surrounded by his friends, who probably could be counted on to keep quiet about his shenanigans.

    The thing about affairs and regaining trust is, it’s not up to the wounded party to restore the trust, as much as it’s up to the cheating party to re-earn the trust. I lot of people lose sight of that. And a lot of cheaters lay on the guilt when the Significant Other questions their behavior. Even when they’re still cheating. Especially when they’re still cheating. “I said I was sorry. What more can I do?” A lot more.

    I get the sense that you’re working hard on this relationship. I wonder if you’re boyfriend is actually working hard, or nearly as hard as he should be, since he’s the one who had the affair.

    I definitely agree with the others. You don’t even have to justify it. “It’s her or me.”

  16. avatar impska says:

    L2 is a no brainer. If he cares about and respects his girlfriend, he will not accept an invitation to a wedding under these circumstances. “Sorry, you can’t come because it will make my former mistress uncomfortable,” is not acceptable.

    I don’t understand how this is even a question. Normal people respond to information like this by saying “Wow, that’s really not going to work for me. Have a nice wedding.” They don’t respond by saying “I’ll really need to think about this. I understand that it would be incredibly hurtful and disrespectful to my girlfriend, but boy do I hate to miss a good wedding!”

  17. avatar wendykh says:

    I have a hunch LW2 is being snowed.
    I don’t think the “other woman” saw this as an affair. More specifically I don’t think she saw her involvement with the guy as an affair. I think from her perspective she met this great guy, they were dating, things were progressing, and out of nowhere he says he has to get back with his ex.
    In other words, I suspect Bride and Buddy regard the LW as the “other woman”! This is the only way such a huge breach of etiquette (inviting a close friend and specifically NOT inviting their significant other) could be deemed remotely acceptable.

    I think that affair (not really, they were “on a break” ;-)) was a LOT more involved than BF is letting on.

  18. avatar David Bolton says:

    “As for LW#2, I will give the boyfriend a little bit of the benefit of the doubt because some people are genuinely that clueless.”

    I could see that IF: the bride were trying to match him up with Friend at the wedding and the two had no prior history together—let’s pretend that Friend has always had a major crush on BF and bride sees this as a chance to finally get the two of them together (and in the context of a wedding! How romantic!)

    However, they’ve already done it. They know each other—biblically. BF knows exactly what’s going on.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I agree—for as cynical as I may appear to be, I tend to think of people as logical and straightforward and honest, when many clearly aren’t.

      I’ve gotten zinged before by friends (who in fact—did NOT last forever Zippy) because I thought I could predict and assume their behavior based on past behavior. That doesn’t work, and sometimes you have no idea with whom you’re actually dealing. I genuinely hope for LW2 that this is a case of cluenessness—but even so, cluelessness has a way of being really hurtful too… when your sig-o stands in the kitchen during the Christmas party (or let’s say, an upcoming wedding) listening to his friends trash you while you’re in another room because “he didn’t think anything about it.” And then the fool is clueless enough to tell you.

  19. avatar Hedgesparrow says:

    To LW1 as a wife who followed her husband overseas here are some considerations:
    1. Will you be in living close enough to a University to attend? Will you be in Australia long enough to finish your education?(Good luck getting a U.S. college to accept any credits.) The U.S. is pretty unique in having a system of quality Community Colleges that offer classes day and night. I lived within 45 mins. of a major university and several colleges, none of which offered evening classes aimed at a degree.(Think embroidery and how to make a bookshelf). The education in most countries is aimed at fresh out of high school, and graduate school.
    2. We don’t speak English. In England they speak English. In the U.S. we speak American. In Australia they speak Australian. We called it ‘Being separated by a common language.’ Not a huge problem, but can make for some interesting conversations. I still get blank stares from the British phrasing I use.
    3. The culture is different from the U.S.. I did enjoy the difference in the U.K, but we were in a very rural area. Cities have their own flavor.
    4. If you want to come back to the U.S. for a visit it can/will take over 24hrs. door to door.
    5. I don’t even want to discuss the National Health Service. Find out what medical service is available. Our local doctors would only accept us under the NHS. EVERYONE has an NHS horror story.
    6. The salary he is being offered may seem very good, but the excess can soon be used up if you travel back to the U.S. even every couple years or the different cost of living. The cost of necessities in the U.K. was relatively low, the cost of anything not necessary to keep body and soul together was incredibly high. If his job is in Alice Springs(outback of beyond) you will spend more money on the necessities and traveling to the city to keep from going nuts. You only need to be in Alice Springs a week to have seen everything and everyone twice.
    7. You will need a work Visa to get a job. Which you might get if you have unique skills or live in an area with very low unemployment. Your Husband’s work Visa does not cover you.
    I did make some very good friends that I still keep in touch with. There is no better way to experience another country than to live there. Though if you can’t keep moving forward with your own life while you are there then that is a very high cost to pay.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Excellent response. Moving to another country is not for everyone—and it especially depends on where and how you’re going to be living. It’s one thing for someone to say: “oh, you’ll love it here in the States—we have everything here!” to their foreign friend, who then comes to live in a town with 5K people in it and a Burger King. Personally, I would leap at the opportunity to move to Australia, but again—it’s not for everyone. And LW1 doesn’t even sound particularly attached to her husband, let alone the idea of moving 18 hours and a day away.

  20. avatar Violet says:

    Didn’t LW1 know when she married the guy that his job would involve moving around a lot? These are the types of things that have to be discussed before you wed. If I had fallen for someone and they said that their traveling all over the world was a deal-breaker, I would not have gotten married to them, because I don’t like to travel all that much. It sounds like, if she stays in the marriage, she is in for a lifetime of misery.

    To those who say she is thinking of passing up a great opportunity, yes Australia is wonderful, and it would be cool to live there, but only if you want to. Then, what happens when she grows to love it, and in two years, he is transferred to Siberia. She needs to sort this out now, while she is still young enough to fix it.

  21. avatar Laurie Deer says:

    Run don’t walk. Run. Run. Run.

  22. avatar William Terrio says:

    We were transfered from NYC to Melbourne to Sydney & lived down under for 6&1\2 yrs. We loved it & return every other year to visit. Other than the distance it maybe along with Canada the easiest place on the planet to be an ex-pat as a Yank.

  23. avatar David Bolton says:

    And apparently there’s a version on “Dear Amy,” as well.

    • avatar LaurieF says:

      Amy usually has running conversations with her LW’s before she publishes, so there’s more information given about the situation.  It’s always that way, isn’t it?  The letter is far from the whole story.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Was rather surprised to see that this involved different countries—does LW2 not know that American advice only applies to Americans?