Columnist Carolyn Hax addresses a reader’s problem of loving job and community but also loving the boyfriend across the country. Her advice? Decide not to decide, for a while. It may provide enough breathing room to clarify the move/don’t move situation.

Share story

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: A year ago, my boyfriend moved across the country for a job and a needed change of scenery. While he made that decision unilaterally, we agreed that we’d do long-distance for a while until I could join him, if things continued to work.

Well, the time is nowish, and I just get so upset thinking of leaving my fantastic, supportive community and the job I love, even if the former is temporary — the plan is to move back in a couple more years.

So I say, “OK, maybe I shouldn’t.” But then I think of losing my relationship with my boyfriend, and I can’t fathom that either. I’ve been going around in circles like this for months, making and remaking the decision to move, trying to come up with outside-the-box solutions, waiting for something to change to make the decision easier, and I’m just stuck. The mental anguish of spinning gears could power a small city at this point.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Any different angles or thoughts you could provide?

— Paralyzed by Indecision

DEAR PARALYZED BY INDECISION: Moving is hard. Staying is easy. (Logistically speaking, at least.)

And this is true whether you’re doing or undoing: It’s a hassle to move — emptying your home, packing your stuff, leaving your income source and finding another, leaving friends, making new ones, etc. — and it’s a hassle to change your mind after a move. You either have to redo the whole hassle to get yourself back where you want to be, or you have to force yourself to think smiley-face thoughts about a place you don’t want to be.

Now compare these hassles with staying put: no packing, no lifting, no selling, no transit, no applying, no interviewing, no security deposits. And if you decide that staying was a terrible idea, then you just undo it by moving.

So for the person who is truly torn, so incapable of choosing as to be paralyzed by the choice, the only decision that makes sense is to stay right where you are. Until you don’t want to anymore.

Give yourself a time limit if that makes you feel better — say, decide that you’re going to stay put without even thinking about a move for another six months, mark the calendar and everything — then live fully during that time without the burden of an unmade decision.

Once those six months pass, see if you can think any more clearly about it.

One alternative possibility: Can you arrange a temporary move? It’s really job-dependent, I know, but some employers will allow sabbaticals, temporary transfers to a different office or branch, a semester so you can get career-related education or training (then you pick a program where your boyfriend lives), etc. That way you can keep all your roots in place and just live away from them for a defined period of time, giving you a better look at the reality of this potential new home than a visit could ever provide. I’d be surprised if that reality didn’t make your decision for you — one way or the other.