Letters from Japan: “Where Should We Live?”

Ask Hilary


I have a major problem with my boyfriend. He’s Japanese, I’m American, and we’re both in our mid-thirties. Neither of us wants kids, we have our own hobbies, and our lives are otherwise good, I think. We’ve been together for five years, and are talking about getting married, but we can’t agree on where we’ll live in the future.

He’s an only child, so he feels responsible for taking care of his parents. He thinks we should move into their house and live with them, and that I should stay home to take care of them when the time comes. They’re both active and healthy so it wouldn’t be a concern for a long time yet (I hope) but still. It’s ridiculously traditional, but the cheapest option, frankly speaking.

I have one sister and she’s got four kids. I don’t think she can look after our parents and take care of her own family. My parents are the same age as my boyfriend’s, but they aren’t nearly as healthy—my dad had a heart attack last year. My parents have good private insurance but I feel guilty about having strangers or my sister take care of my parents. My boyfriend and I are very serious about one another, but we can’t seem to find a solution to this whole thing. Any advice would be appreciated. — Grim Future

Dear Grim Future,

I don’t think your future is as grim as it might seem. I’ve known a few international-Japanese couples that have run into the same concerns when it comes to aging parents. While they’ve coped in different ways, what has gotten them through was remembering that they are a team, not individuals, dealing with these issues.

Was your father’s heart attack significant enough to warrant you immediately traveling to see him? If so, then you …continue reading