Define your goals and work toward them, together or not
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Q: My boyfriend of four years just spent a good majority of his savings on a new car. We've talked about marriage, and I know he wants to get married in the next few years, but cars are his passion. We're recently out of college and both work full time, so don't have a lot of cash to fall back on anyway. Meanwhile, I've been saving as much as I can for a wedding and eventual house. Do I have the right to harbor resentment? How can I deal with this and not be so angry? I told him I disapproved of the purchase months ago but don't want to tell him what he can and can't do with his own money.
A: Resent him all you want. However, stopping at resentment will only make you, and then him, crabby. Instead, use it to start a conversation with yourself about who he is and what you can reasonably expect of him if you get married.
Are you ready to save your own money to finance your own dreams, while he finances his? After all, he might be content with a justice-of-the-peace ceremony in the local courthouse, in which case he could be writing to me: "I've been saving since college for a new car — my passion — and now my girlfriend wants me to spend it on a wedding and a house. I'd be perfectly happy eloping and keeping my rental apartment."
I'm not saying this to make you sympathetic to him: on the contrary. If you want him to share your goals, then you need to admit that you want him to share your goals. The point isn't to push him to change — it never, ever works — but to help both of you recognize who you really are. If you aren't remotely sympathetic to each other, now's the time to find that out.
And you won't find out unless you let him speak, too — which includes listening for more than just what you're hoping to hear. Then, you use that information to project what kind of life you would have together.
It may not resemble the life you imagined, but that's not an automatic breakup. Sometimes reality works better than what we think we want. The important thing is that you commit to him only if you believe in him — and his car and his financial priorities. And if you can't believe in him, it and them, then this isn't the guy.
Weigh facts before discussion
Q: I am an atheist, a fact that would make my mother sad if she knew. Should I tell her?
Religion and Family
A: Is it standing in the way of your sharing things with her about your life?
For some, telling wouldn't do anything to change the relationship, and therefore would serve only to make her sad. For others, it would break down this unspoken thing that had come between you, and so it would bring you two closer even while making her sad.
Making this distinction involves projecting what someone else would want, which is always fraught; imagine someone always ordering for you in a restaurant. However, what you know about her, about yourself and about your relationship are the only germane facts you have.