Occasionally, reaching a compromise seems nearly impossible. Gregg Kohansky and his wife, Kara Irwin, had a five-year difference of opinion about where to live—and that difference was the size of the Atlantic Ocean. "After living abroad with my family when I was a child, I always wanted to again," says Kara, a Russian major and law-school grad who had intended to work in Moscow. But since she knew there was no way Gregg would move to Russia, she revised her plan.
"When my firm offered me a job in the London office, I thought it was the perfect solution—same language, similar culture, lots of Americans." The couple visited London in January 2000, two months after they got engaged. "Gregg liked it and agreed to try it for two years, and his company agreed to transfer him," says Kara. "At the time I secretly hoped and assumed that once he settled in, he'd be willing to stay longer and maybe even move to another country. Maybe it was deceptive of me not to voice those thoughts at the time."
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They’re still in London, but have separated: The debate over moving back to the U.S. reached an impasse. "With respect to living abroad, I'm from Earth and Kara's from Pluto," says Gregg. "I lived in New York my entire life. Kara is more nomadic. She's fluent in several languages; I can barely talk to a three-year-old in Spanish. Given these differences, we have divergent perspectives as to the importance of living abroad."
For any couple in Gregg and Kara's shoes, the challenge is to "find a solution that honors them both," says Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, who developed the Imago Relationship Therapy technique with Harville Hendrix, her husband.
"When two people with different realities stay in respectful dialogue, a transformation can occur—a new reality, some new option that neither one considered alone." For instance, they might have agreed to stay in Europe until they had children, and then return to the States.
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Most couples end up moving together for one partner's career. Not Anil Kumar and his wife, Gloria Gangte, who have lived apart for most of their 11-year relationship. "When we met, I was in the military and she was studying. I had two months leave per year. The rest of the time we wrote long letters—we had no Internet, no phone," explains Anil.