Sometimes you want pizza and your partner wants tacos. And then sometimes you want to have babies while your partner wants to run screaming in terror. Is it the end of things when you and your partner want different things out of life?
Sometimes it is. And sometimes it isn't. There's no perfect road map for getting to the same future when you want to take different roads. It's a lot of compromise, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Or it's a lot of resentment, regret, and heartbreak. Wanting different things out of life is one of the most common reasons couples break up, according to Chicago's Couples Counseling Center. And having different goals is one of the toughest hurdles to jump. Because it means someone has to give something up.
As someone who has spent a lot of time working with couples, both as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I can tell you that when your goals do not intersect, you're in for a rough road. But that doesn't mean the road is impossible, or that there's no happiness along the way. There are solutions. It's about priorities, communication, and love. Here are some things that might help you choose a path when you get to the fork in the road.
1. Buy A Plane Ticket
If your dreams involve travel but your partner's dreams involve board meetings, there's no reason you have to say no to what you want. And there's no law that says just because you're married or in a committed LTR, that you have to be together all the time, or even every day. It will be hard and you'll have some details to work out, but your goals matter, and you don't always need your partner to be on board.
2. Cozy Up To Long-Distance
You can take a life-changing job in NYC if your partner already has a life-changing job in LA. You might just have to do the long-distance thing for a year or two, until you both have the experience or opportunity to find closer careers. If you think that's an insane way to have a long term relationship, think about couples in the military. No one has anything but respect for those types of unions. I'm not saying taking a job far away is the same as being in the military of course, but I am saying that lots of couples make long distance work, for as long as they have to.
3. Zoom Out To The Bigger Picture
If you're committed to spending your lives together, then sometimes it's helpful to zoom out into the big picture and take the long view on life. Sure, it may be about your partner's wants and needs now, but could it be about your wants and needs in the future? We tend to want thing right now, sometimes to our detriment. Patience might be all you need to have everything you want.
4. Adjust Your Timeline
If you want to have kids right now but your partner thinks it's still time to get your careers and finances in a row, maybe the compromise for your relationship is just to adjust your timeline. Can you wait a year, or five, until you're both on the same page, so long as you both promise that this is the ultimate compromise deadline? This works for some couples. Then again, you run the risk of getting to that place five years down the road and still having a partner who doesn't want what you want. But with communication and honesty, you can pretty much gauge where your partner's head is at on those types of issues.
5. Get A Little Self-Righteous
I know a lot of the advice so far has been about how to compromise so you can keep your partner and your goals. But if something's really that important to you, you don't have to bend. Be honest and let your partner know that you absolutely need this, now, and that you also really need them to be on board. It's OK for things to be about you, and you don't have to be the one always making the sacrifices or putting things off.
6. Hire The Big Guns
Therapy is designed for this exact type of situation. Sometimes it takes a professional to put things in a way you both can understand or point out things you never thought of. You can explore your feelings about compromising or not compromising more deeply. You can have a mediator to help you say tough things or make tough choices. There's no shame in needing a little help.
7. Do You
If you know your goals aren't destined to cross anytime in the near future, it's also OK to say good bye. Love is grand, and wonderful, but it isn't the only thing in life. Movies make it seem like you should give up everything in the name of true love, but that's not how the world really works. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to someone you love in order to have the life you want, especially when compromise would be unfair to both of you. Plus, is there really a way to compromise when someone really, really wants kids and someone really, really doesn't? You can't half parent or kind of parent. It's OK to choose yourself. (It's also OK to choose love.)
Crossroads in relationships really put your love and your values to the test. It isn't easy, but trust me when I say, you deserve the life you want.