Forget tit-for-tat sacrifices and start planning a future together

Forget tit-for-tat sacrifices and start planning a future together

Q: I met the love of my life in college and we both graduated last year. This college happens to be in my home state, but not his. His career plans before we met were to move after graduation to a neighboring state with better opportunities in his field (which he did). My plans for after graduation were always to take six months off, then continue with school at my state college for another year and a half to get my master's (which I am currently doing). During those six months I went to live with him, which was a bit of a sacrifice on my part toward saving for grad school. I also found out I absolutely hated it there.

My master's program is also extremely stressful, and the distance has been rough on our relationship. I asked him to come back to live with me during the remainder of my program to offer me the emotional support I really need. He refused because he doesn't want to put the start of his career on hold.

I tried to reason with him, saying if he wanted me to spend the rest of my life with him, especially in a city and state I hate, then my request wasn't that unreasonable a compromise. Right now I feel like I am the one making all the changes to my whole life's plans and I am hurt he was unwilling to move for a few months in exchange for the rest of my whole life. Am I being unreasonable and selfish?

J.

A: And melodramatic like middle-schoolers at a dance in the school cafeteria? Yes. Not to mention unrealistic.

Unless Mr. Love of Your Whole Life is unemployed and not actively looking, his relocating for a "few months" would be extremely disruptive. And for what — to hold your hand? It's not death, it's grad school. Or is the relocation bid a test — to extract proof that he cares as much about you as you feel you've demonstrated you care about him?

You spent six months on his turf because you chose to. Since you didn't know you hated it until you got there, and since you didn't postpone your schooling any longer than you had been planning to since birth, your case for making a sacrifice, even a "bit of" one, is thin. You went because you wanted to. Okay? Own your decision, please?

Next, take possession of the immediate realities. You gave him six interim months. He has no such interim months to give you in return. Apples, meet oranges.

Next, start factoring in some longer-term realities. If you are indeed the Loves of Each Other's Whole Lives, then you both need to realize that your "before we met" futures are, for the sake of argument, defunct. There is only the future you envision now. If your goal now, both of you, is to stick to your original plans as if nothing has changed, then kiss each other goodbye and get on with it.

If instead you now envision each other in your futures, in addition to satisfying careers, then you need to get past unproductive, my-sacrifice-is-bigger-than-your-sacrifice jockeying, which hardly predicts bliss. Instead, start thinking — generously, strategically, together and out loud — about what your various options might be.

Forget tit-for-tat sacrifices and start planning a future together 11/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 6:08pm]

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