I am a man in my 50s, and have been married for 25 years, with teenage children now. I have been living and working outside Pakistan in a well-paid job for the last four years while my wife and the children live in Pakistan, as the children are enrolled in university.
The decision to move away from the family for the job was a difficult one, but taken after a lot of deliberation. I had held down a decent job in Pakistan for over a decade, but was increasingly weighed down by the workload, long hours and the office politics. I felt the need to move as I was feeling burnt out in that job.
Also, there were issues at home. Increasingly, I felt that our domestic life had become unhappy, with almost daily squabbling and arguments. The main issue was that my wife felt that I was not giving enough time to her and the children and also that I did not love her.
‘Should I leave my job abroad and move back to my family?’
I agree. My job demanded long hours. My personality coupled with sheer exhaustion made me emotionally drained and distant, though I continued to look after and care for my family.
I failed to get a job in Pakistan. So I moved overseas after a lot of deliberation and discussion without my wife and children.
Since then, I have been torn. My wife and I feel lonely. Both of us have felt depressed at times and have difficulty sleeping.
On the other hand, we are now more connected emotionally. We talk daily, exchange jokes, even romantic poetry. When I visit home on vacation, it goes well for a week or so, but then conflicts and arguments start to creep in. And when I leave, I am both sad and relieved.
Should I continue this long distance arrangement or should I move back with the family, given I won’t earn half as much in Pakistan?
Did you move abroad for financial reasons or did you do it to get away from your job in Pakistan and your family issues? This is important because, if the reason for leaving the country was the latter then we have a problem. If you went abroad for a better future for your family, then you have a problem, but of lesser intensity.
It seems you got away from the home environment and then realised how much you missed the family. The way to deal with family squabbles is not to run away from them, but to deal with them and sort them out. This can start with you paying attention to what your partner is saying. For instance, when your wife said that she and the family needed more of your time, you accepted that one of the reasons you weren’t able to do so was your own personality. Self-awareness is a big thing and will go a long way in resolving your family issues.
For now, increase your virtual interaction with your wife. Continue with the romance and pay attention to what she is saying. Encourage her to also understand what you are saying. Communication is key, even if it is uncomfortable. Try to fly back as often as your work and your budget permits.
And talk to your wife and family about how the financial benefits of living abroad are helping all of you meet your goals. Having a common goal with your family will help strengthen your ties with them. Keep revisiting that goal so that you remind yourself why you are living apart. At the same time, please seek professional counselling with your wife. You may have to join therapy sessions virtually, but a good professional therapist is probably the best investment of your time and money at the moment.
Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in crisis and/or feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room and seek medical help immediately.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, March 12th, 2023
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