Please see update below.
Some decisions are easier to make when you are in your late thirties, let me tell you.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I know this isn't the normal line of question you have, but as you have first hand knowledge of being an immigrant bride, I thought you could help.
I am from the US, and have attended university in Europe for the last few years. There I met a wonderful British man and we intend to marry. Our original plan was to return to the US for a few years, especially as we don't really like the area in which we both live.
However, he now says he has seen how homesick I have been and isn't sure if he wants to move so far from his home. He has suggested that I return to the US for a few months, and also told me that if I thought it would make me happier in the long run to leave him and go back to America for good, he would be devastated but would understand.
The idea of living so far from my family makes me quite sad, but I also truly believe that this is the man I am meant to marry. He is one of the most decent, honourable, compassionate, thoughful and generous men I have ever met. I believe I would be truly happy as his wife, and I can't imagine my life without him.
This is all complicated by the fact that we both live in a town that has no real sense of community and where neither of us has been able to really find friends or put down roots. We have both found new flats in a nearby town that has more going on (including an active young Catholics group), which I think may help combat my homesickness. I also have a job which is perfectly ok, but not very stimulating and not what I wanted to be doing.
I was hoping you could give me some advice on this situation. I know you have made a huge sacrifice to live in Scotland with BA, so perhaps you could shed some light. I really love this man, but I also really love my family, and I need some auntly advice.
Homesick But In Love
"God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten son..." (John 3:16). Love is wonderful, but it usually entails sacrifice. It is also a leap of faith, and so when taking any kind of vow, we have to be 90% sure that this is what we are called to do. Rarely are we at 100%.
When I realized that Benedict Ambrose was going to ask me to marry him, I knew that this meant that one of us would have to emigrate. And I knew it would be me because B.A. simply isn't the emigrating type and besides he has carved out a career for himself here. My writing I can do anywhere; he has to be in Scotland.
Still, I knew that this would be a big sacrifice all the same: I would be across the ocean from all my family, all my girlfriends, most of my readership, all my business contacts. Last Christmas morning, the first Christmas I ever spent apart from my family, I was almost hysterical with homesickness.
I have a Jesuit friend who very much loves his widowed father and his brother but he almost never gets to spend Christmas with them. This Christmas he'll be in Italy again. And I have a cloistered Benedictine friend about your age, whose father is so angry she became a Catholic nun, he may never go to visit. And yet my Jesuit friend, my Benedictine friend and I are all very happy in our foreign homes, far away from all those we loved best in our youth.
If you truly love this man and he truly loves you, you will have compensations to make up for your sacrifice. And even if you did end up living in your hometown, your friends and family might not always be there for you. Your older relatives will grow old and die; your girlfriends will marry and move away; your younger relatives will marry and spend more time with their spouses and children than with you. That is just how life is. We must embrace the future, not sacrifice the future to prolong the past.
I cope with living in a new country in a number of ways: I made good friends with my husband's Catholic friends (whom I adore), and I enjoy spending time with his non-Catholic friends and their wives. I go out of my way to befriend women in my TLM community, be they university students, young mothers or grandmothers. I do work I enjoy (tho' badly paid, alas!), and I keep up with both the Canadian and the British news via internet.
I keep up with my old friends via internet and with occasional phone calls. I invite family and friends to stay in exotic Scotland, and I send them Christmas cards, Valentine's chocolate (if single), and little gifts. I make new friends by going to Historical House-related events and parties, and I get along very well with my nearest neighbours, who are in their early 60s.
Of course I miss my family and sometimes I miss my girlfriends so much I could cry, but there is always the phone and, thank God, Skype-with-video, and I am just so thankful I have B.A., who is a great companion though not (obviously) as good at girl talk as girls are.
I concentrate on what I love about Scotland (without being blind to the drawbacks, e.g. the Central Belt's helplessness before snow), and I compare how beautiful Edinburgh is compared to my hometown (so disloyal, I know, but Edinburgh really outshines Toronto).
If you wanted to do an experiment, I would recommend going home to the USA without your fiance for six months to see how that feels. However, that might be an expensive way of figuring out what you already know and might feel like your heart is being ripped out, chunk by chunk. I hate being apart from my husband.
I am sure this is not a universal, but back in the day, men used to raid tribes and steal women for wives, carting them off triumphantly home. It didn't work the other way around. Possibly there is some deep cultural instinct that women can cope better having been carted off into a foreign tribe than men can. Maybe from centuries of being carted off, women-in-general developed a greater ability than men to thrive socially in new circumstances.
After thinking about this for a week, the only thing I have to add is that finding the love of your life in your mid-twenties is a gift that should not be thrown away. My great regret is that I did not meet B.A. when we were in our twenties.
I hope this is helpful. Oh, and I should mention that youth is very resilient. At 39 I should be a basketcase, having emigrated so late in life, usually the province of the adventure-seeking young, but most of the time I am as happy as a clam.
Grace and peace,
UPDATE: I wrote my reply assuming my reader was formally engaged to her fiance. It did not occur to me that they might not be engaged, although readers have pointed out that this might actually be just a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. If so, I would certainly advise my reader to go home. If she is not engaged, but her, um, boyfriend is serious about marriage, he will be there within three months with a ring. B.A., who formally asked me to marry him before I left Scotland, arrived in my hometown two months later with a ring. That doesn't solve the "where will we live" problem, but it certainly clears up any doubts about whether the marriage will happen or not.
As a tip-to-getting-engaged-to-foreigners-abroad, I would say that it is an extremely bad idea to go on to them about how homesick you are. When I realized that I was in love with B.A., I worried that he would think I would fear homesickness too much to want to get involved with him. Of course, I wasn't homesick, and I very rarely am homesick.
Absolutely, there is a difference between a fiance and a boyfriend. I do not want any reader to give up anything for a relationship as tenuous and, in the end, meaningless as "girlfriend-boyfriend."