Considering move to San Diego to be near ex-husband
I am a single mother of a 2-year old girl, and have recently
been faced with a pretty difficult decision to make.
I left the child's father almost 2 years ago, mainly because
his growing gambling problems were too much for me to handle
financially and emotionally. I moved back to California, and
presently have managed to make a modest but stable life for me
and my daughter. I've also registered to go back to UCB to
finish my bachelor's. (By the way, he has been visiting us from
time to time.)
The father is now asking me to move back to Hawaii with him.
Apparently, he has a chance to work in the family business
which is actually very lucrative. He swears up and down that
he is completely rid of his gambling problem, and that all he
wants is for us to be a ''real'' family. The main pros of this
situation are that 1) my daughter can be with her father (whom
she adores), and 2) I could afford to stay home or go to school
in Hawaii full-time without financial worries. The main cons
are that 1) I wouldn't be able to go to UCB, 2) there is the
risk of his gambling problem recurring, and 3) my family was
and is opposed to us being together.
I realize that this is probably a very unique situation, but I
would appreciate any insight that could help me to better reach
my decision...should I or shouldn't I?
This is a tough one, but the one thing you didn't tell us: Do
you love this man? Is he someone you want to live with, be
intimate with, and share your life with? I think it's best for
the child to see her mom and dad in happy, healthy
relationships, even if that means you with a new partner
somewhere down the road, rather than you with her real father,
but not really happy. While it is important to consider the
advantage of your child seeing her father more, it's also
important for your child to see her parents in a healthy
relationship, not one simply for pracical reasons.
Good luck in your difficult decision making.
It would be great if you all could be a ''real'' family. I think that you must
let time be your test, though. I would wait at least a year or two and finish
your B.A. to see if he is really over his gambling problem before
uprooting your daughter. I am sure that this isn't the first time that he has
''sworn up and down that he is completely rid of his gambling problem.''
A two-year test is not very long when you are talking about a lifetime
commitment. Best wishes.
Well, in some ways your situation is very unique; in others it
isn't unique at all. It sounds like by moving to Hawaii you'll
be losing your chance to fulfill yourself on your own terms; put
your child through a huge change; and risk ending up with a man
who has an addiction to gambling. I am very skeptical of his
desire to be a ''real family''--you already are! He has a
connection with your/his daughter; your daughter has a stable
home with you and you with her. This is family. It sounds like
he is trying his very best to live up to the ideal ''American
dream'' vision of family--we struggle, go through a crisis,
become estranged, feel great sorrow from the separation, go to a
self-help group, believe and promise that if we just play at
being the standard ''family'': dad the breadwinner, you, the
totally-dependent-on-him-financially stay-at-home mom/possibly
amateur student at a college that is WAY below your level. The
possibility that he will re-manifest his gambling problem,
either as a gambling problem or in the form of another
unbalanced behavior is always looming in the background. Moving
there to be with him will somewhat weaken your connection to
your family--they have a bad feeling about this guy and don't
want you or your daughter to get hurt in any way.
Here's my advice, but do take with a grain of salt--I don't know
you or the situation: thank him for his kind offer to try and
have a traditional family structure with the two of you; tell
him that you're already a family. Encourage him to remain free
of his addiction and to make money at this lucrative business
and to use part of this money to maintain and strengthen his
ties to the two of you by traveling to see you frequently. Tell
him that when you're done with your degree(s) at UCB and ready
to embark on a career of your own if things seem right to you at
that time you will consider moving there with him. This will
sort of enable you to be diplomatic, respectful, and not self-
destructive. You can feel him out. If he wants you to be
totally dependent on you, then there's a problem. People who
make promises like this to lure women into a co-dependent
situation such as this one has the potential to become make me
nervous. I believe that people usually have the best
intentions, but even the best intentions can misfire.
I wholeheartedly believe that whether or not you do eventually
decide to try to ''be a family'' with this man you should make
sure that you're comfortable with your reasons for doing so and
that you are independent enough to always be able to find a safe
and comfortable way out for yourself and your daughter.
Let me add that if you move to Hawaii and marry him, if you
regret it and try to leave the state, you may lose your legal
right to take your child with you because of federal kidnapping
You're going to get a lot of conflicting advice about this one, so
I'll just toss my opinion into it. You never mentioned if you
still love your child's father? If so, go for it. If it were me,
I'd always wonder if we had another chance and I blew it. I'd
probably also ask for a commitment from him to make sure his
gambling is no longer going to be a problem. Even if he says he's
kicked the habit, you could ask him to join and regularly attend
some Gamblers Anonymous type group. If he's willing to do it,
he's serious about making things better. If he's not, he might
still be in denial and susceptible to a relapse if times get
tough. If he insists he no longer needs help you could point out
all the risk you're taking to get back together, and everything
you're leaving behind, and ask him to do this for your family.
You can always attend school there. And if things don't end up
working out, you can always re-enroll here.
As far as your family is concerned, I'd ask them exactly why they
feel the way they do, tangible complaints. Listen to see if they
have some insight you don't. But the decision has to be yours;
and remember that they are completely biased to you and hate the
idea of you being hurt again. So you are the only one who can
accurately access your risk, and determine the risk you are
willing to take.
If it turns out to be a mistake, so be it. At least you followed
your heart and tried. Life won't be over and you can pick up the
pieces knowing you've tried all you can to make him part of your
family and an everyday part of your daughter's life.
I know that as you consider the possibility of living with your
child's father, it is the child you are thinking of... my advice
is... please don't, this relationship has to be about you and
your former partner. Your child will grow up to be much
healthier if she sees her mother happy and eventually in a good
and healthy relationship. It doesn't sound from your letter
like you are in love with him, or like that would be the main
reason for you to go back with him. TThe only reason should be
deep care and commitment for one another. If neither of those
is present, then it will be much healthier for the two of you to
remain friends but apart.
I stayed with my husband for my children's sake and spent many
years very unhappy, and both of us silently angry. Now after
divorcing and spending our time apart we can be friends and
mutually help our children, but we are also in good, healthy
marriages of our own.
A family is made out of love, not finances, opportunities, etc.,
and I have a hunch that your family's opposition to this reunion
is on the right track... they love you, listen to them.
Best to you.
I would suggest asking the father what he has done to solve his
gambling problems...for how long has he stopped gambling? Most
importantly, is he involved with gambler's anonymous? If so for
how long? Does he attend meetings regularly? Does he have a
sponsor? Is he working the steps?
If he isn't in the program is he working with someone else
privately around his addiction issues?
Is he paying off his debts?
It is easy to make promises and a lot harder to keep from
returning to an old pattern that must have been a serious
problem if you chose to leave him when you did...with a newborn.
Also, are you still in love with him?
You showed a lot of courage and strength to take your child and
yourself out of a very difficult situation. You have worked hard
to create a healthly life for yourself and your child. Take as
much time as you need to think about giving up the life you have
created. Good luck.
Take your time deciding on whether to reconcile with the father
of your child. In reading over your questions and comments, I
think you really have to consider what has he DONE to prove
he's got his gambling under control. Is he attending support
groups, etc.? Another question you need to consider is WHY does
your family oppose you being with this man? Once you have
answered those questions, reconsider them and redo your pros
and cons list. If you can't attend UCB, make sure you set your
career goals and aspire to them in Hawaii-you can do it
anywhere you set your mind to getting it done.
Wishing you true happiness for all involved
About risk: You have a safe option (keeping the status quo) and a risky
option, so if you choose the risky option, be prepared to FORGIVE
YOURSELF if you have to pull up roots again and return to California.
About love: It seems apparent that he truly loves his daughter and most
likely he loves you, too. Do you still love him after all the emotional
of the gambling problem? In my experience, love is necessary but not
sufficient for a successful relationship, so don't let ''your heart'' be your
About gambling: Have you seen any hard evidence that this problem is
over? Is there any way to test his claim that it is? You may need more
than his word over this. What do his friends observe? Can you trust his
family's opinion on this matter?
About your family: They disapprove of him, but are they willing to offer you
the concrete support -- money, *free* childcare, etc. -- that you will need
as an undergraduate single mother? Do you trust their opinions and
advice on other matters, or -- red flag -- is this the only area of your life
where you disagree with them?
About UC Berkeley: The least compelling of your concerns, in my opinion,
especially if you can go to school in Hawaii. If you can get into UCB, you
can get into UH. The dirty secret at UCB is that undergrads don't get near
the faculty attention that they do at less ''prestigious'' schools, so let
if everything else feels right.
Keep your daughter's interests in front of you as much as you can. Good
Older and, hopefully, wiser
You didn't mention whether or not you loved this man, enjoyed
living with him when he was not wrapped up in his addiction.
I have 2 small children and a husband with an addiction. He is
in recovery now thankfully. But it takes a lot of work on his
part to resist his addiction and we are both in therapy together.
I think that if you love this man, and are still in touch with
the facets of him that you first fell in love with, that it is
worth the effort and the risk. As long as you both agree to
therapy, and it is understood that if the addiction takes over,
you will be gone. Your parents concern is for their daughters
well being,if the reconciliation works out, then it will be for
your good as well. If the future becomes stable and healthy, they
will have a chance to see your spouse in a different light.
Albert Camus once said: that's what freedom is all about- a
chance to be better. Just my dollars
I think you are in a very difficult situation and I don't have
any special insight to share with you. But I wonder whether
having spent so much time apart trying to make a better life for
yourself and your child, whether you couldn't wait a little
while longer. Is it possible to let the father move back to
Hawaii and prove to you that he is willing to work hard and stop
gambling in order to have his family back? If you are unsure,
waiting seems a small price for a little better sense of whether
he has really changed. Also, if he has a gambling problem, is
he going to gamblers' annonymous meetings (sorry, I don't know
the exact name). That would also seem to be a good sign of a
long-term change. Maybe you can also talk to someone else who
knows him well to get a second opinion.
I know people have mentioned Gambler's Anonymous for your
husband, but have you considered a group for yourself? I don't
know if there is an 'Alanon' group specifically for family
members of gamblers, but if not, you might be able to attend a
support group such as Alanon (for family members of alcoholics)
as addictions tend to have many commonalities. A group like
this may help you decide how much you want to accept about him
and how much you just can't live with. As someone who has
battled addictions and also has many loved ones with addictions,
I have found my own recovery around codependency to be
invaluable, and I also know how hard it can be to recover from
addictions and not relapse. Whether or not you stay with him,
this kind of support might be helpful and comforting to you.
Best of luck!
I recently moved to
Norway to join my family after two years and a half of
separation. My wife is Norwegian and my daughter is American,
unfortunately things are not going well here. First of all, I
came to help her with the responsabilities of our four year old
daughter who is brain damaged and needs a lot of help with her
developing. Luckily she is walking, understands Norwegian words
but she can not talk.Therefore SIGN LANGUAGE is our bridge of
comunication between our daughter and us. Last Tuesday after an
argue my wife told me to leave the house and she wants me to
find a new place to leave because I do not things like she wants
me to do and I also take a lot of her time to help me to settle
down in this country where I do not have anybody else but my
family and my wife's family.She also said she is NOT IN LOVE
with me becuse I am 10 pounds overweight and I do not dress up
like Norwegian guys.I do not speak Norwegian plus I do not have
much money to move out and it is quite difficult to find a job
here if you do not speak the language!!
I do not what to do but if I should go back to the US where I
had a good job but I know I will miss my daughter so much that I
creates a lot of pain in me when I do not see her.On the other
hand I do not want to be this MISERABLE for the rest of my
life.I have a permit to stay here in Norway until May 2003 so I
really need to think about it very carefully!
I will appreciatte your sugestions and if you need more
information of my situation I will be happy to provide you guys
and thanks for giving me the option of talking to someone about
Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon!
Jose, It sounds like during the 2 1/2 years you have been
seperated from your wife you have grown apart. She may be upset
that you were out of their lives for that long and she had to
take care of your daughter by herself. You could either move out
and try and get a job there(learn Norwegian)and continue to visit
with your daughter. Hopefully, your wife will get over whatever
issues she has right now. OR come back to the US, get a better
job, send money for your daughter and scheduled visits as often
as possible. MOVE ON
It sounds like you are experiencing a crisis, but this may be just
a temporary setback. Don't give up! It's very hard to adjust to a
new country, and it doesn't sound like you have much support. But
it will get better. You will learn the language, and you will be
able to be more help for your wife. And she may have spoken rashly
when she said she didn't love you. If she was being honest, then
maybe you won't be together, but you should be there for your
daughter, and she should help you do that. Keep trying.
Unfortunately I think you are going to need to turn to the massive
and complex Norwegian bureaucracy in order to inform yourself
about your rights and your daughter's. This will be easiest if
you have a friend who speaks Norwegian and is familiar with the
Norwegian system. If not, it will still be possible to pursue
information, but it will be more difficult. You didn't say where
you are living. It would perhaps be easiest to either 1) approach
a lawyer, preferably one who has dealt with immigrant as well as
family issues or 2) go to the communal (county) government offices
that deal with child welfare and family issues. If you are in
Oslo, for instance, the name of the county is Oslo kommune, and
there is a department called Barn og familievern. They deal with
family and child welfare (in the broader sense) issues. There is
also a big government website, http://norge.no.emne/emne.asp,
which gives a list of various emne (subjects) covered by the
government at various levels. You should look on the list for
Barn og familievern (child and family welfare), Familie, foreldre
og barn (Family, parents, and children), and innvandere
(immigrants). I think that the communal level offices would be
the best place to start, however. Children (even, I think, those
who do not hold Norwegian citizenship) have lots of protection and
rights in Norway, and so it would be important to inform yourself
about these and about your ongoing status in the country and as a
You are in a very difficult situation. It is really hard to be
in a country where you know only a few people and don't know the
language or the customs or even where to go to get some help. I
commend you for trying to make it work out for your daughter's
sake. I hope your wife will be willing to go to marriage
counseling with you; if not, you could go for counseling by
What you need is a friend, or a person who can advocate for you
with your wife and also help you navigate your way in Norwegian
society. Perhaps you will find help through your posting in
this e-tree; or perhaps you will find this through counseling.
Other things you can do are to immerse yourself in learning
Norwegian, and adapt yourself to the ways people do things
there. You will have to do this on your own because it seems
that your wife doesn't want to do it with you. If your wife is
unhappy because of how you take care of or interact with your
daughter, think about what might be valid about her criticisms
and what you can do better. Her comments about your appearance
seem trivial and possibly cover up some deeper unhappiness with
you and your relationship with her.
I'm sorry you are having such a sad and difficult time. I hope
you get the help you need.
this page was last updated: May 31, 2003
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