Dear Emuna,

I married in my twenties and moved away from everything I knew (work, friends, family, rabbis etc) to live in my husband's chosen country (although he is also a foreigner here). Despite building a network of friends and colleagues where I live, and the occasional visit home, I am very unhappy so far from my family.

While I knew he lived abroad when we met, he only said he wanted to do what was right for his family as far as where we would live. It's been over seven years and I want to return, but he won't discuss it. Needless to say this attitude puts a lot of stress on our marriage. We've been in counseling but to no avail. The thought of divorce makes me so sad for our young son, but I am so unhappy I know it impacts him too. (I'm not crying all day, but I am a shadow of my normal self.) But then what options do I possibly have? To leave my family and live alone in this country attached to this man by our son anyway?

I've always felt I can't punish him for my bad decision but to live like this punishes us all also. I don't know what to do. If you can help clarify this situation for me in any way I would be grateful. Trapped Abroad

Dear Trapped,

I understand that this is very difficult and I don’t know that I am in a position to “clarify this situation” for you. It seems like the essence of the challenge is that, as you point out, your husband won’t discuss it – not where you live and not any other issues. It’s very hard to make a marriage work if the other party refuses to participate.

On the other hand, you also mention that three years of counseling has made no difference. That suggests two things: possibly the intractability of the problems and possibly an inept counselor. Perhaps it’s worth exploring if there’s someone else who could be more effective. Despite your husband’s refusal to discuss the issues, he has been in counseling with you for a long time. Are those issues not discussed in the therapy session? It does seem to indicate some willingness on his part to work on things and some desire on his part not to get divorced.

It’s impossible for me to see fully what your options are. Does your husband sincerely want the relationship to work? Do you? Are there any changes he is willing to make, short of moving? Are there any discussions he is willing to have? Are you able to lift out of your depression (perhaps with your own therapeutic help) and see your life from a more optimistic perspective?

It’s certainly wonderful to live close to family and friends and I can only imagine your loneliness but family and friends won’t cure everything that ails you and moving certainly won’t solve all your problems. When we are discouraged, it’s easy to latch on to some simple solution but life’s challenges are much more complex than that. If you leave your husband to move back home, you will indeed have your support network but you will have a whole new set of problems and challenges.

So we’re back to your role in this decision-making process. Have you truly exhausted all your options? Is the situation tolerable or is it “killing” you? Are you able to see the good in “this man” or have you already given up as the label “this man” suggests?

I’m not saying, God forbid, that anything is your fault. I’m just reminding you that you have the ability to make choices here and that the significant choices are really not about where to live but about how to approach your situation. Is there good in your husband, in your marriage still? Is there something to work on, to revive, to appreciate? If you accept your living circumstances with grace instead of frustration, can you turn things around? Are you willing to do that? Are you holding on to a fantasy of life in your home country or a realistic perspective? These and more are the questions you need to ask yourself. And only you can answer them.

Friends with a Gossip Monger

Dear Emuna,

I’ve been friends with Judy for about 30 years. We were in Mommy and Me together and stayed in touch as our kids grew older. We had play dates and adult evenings and shared many life experiences together. My challenge is that Judy likes to gossip about other people. When we were younger it didn’t bother me (actually I found it entertaining and enjoyed it too) but as I’ve gotten older and learned more about the harmful effects of gossip, her behavior bothers me more and I’ve been trying to avoid it. I don’t want to lose this friendship but I don’t want to listen to her negative views of everyone anymore. What do you think I should do?

Betwixt and Between

Dear Betwixt,

You are certainly not the first to experience this dilemma or some variation on this theme. As we all mature and grow (hopefully!) as we get older, it is natural to make decisions about how we spend our time and who we spend it with. Most people feel that they want to surround themselves with like-minded people who share their desire to grow and encourage growth and the search for a more meaningful life, rather than impeding it.

Sometimes this involves reducing the time spend with certain friends, sometimes it involves a weeding out process, sometimes it requires getting involved with a whole new circle of friends. It’s very individual and dependent on the situation.

In your case, you could certainly begin by gently discussing it with Judy. Is she also interested in growing? Does she recognize that her behavior can be destructive? Does she have any desire to change? Don’t attack her; just describe your own desire to try to stop speaking or listening to gossip and encourage her to join you in your quest. You should be able to tell by her response what category her friendship will fall into.

If she doesn’t hear it or is unwilling to change, I’m afraid you will have to make a tough choice and pull back from the relationship. You can’t risk your own self, your soul and your future growth potential for the sake of the friendship. Hopefully it won’t come to that but sometimes we have to make tough choices for the sake of our self-preservation. Ultimately you will be glad that you did.