talking about Big Plans in a relationship
March 2, 2010 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Talking Big Plans in a relationship -- how do I distinguish the excitement of approaching life for two from the prudence to not jump the gun, so to speak?

Just to clarify, Big Plans =/= Marriage. No no no. I'm a younger guy in a newer (5 month) relationship that is here to stay, as is quite evident to both of us. Met my SO's family, witnessed each other's less glamorous emotional states. We're doing the long distance thing for the next little while (in it now). And all of this continues to bring us closer. We also have quite similar ambitions, approaches to school and our work/art, preferences for living and space.

I'm generally an amicable introvert who cringes a bit inside when couples speak in "ohh WE xyz" couply talk, but still smiles politely. I was used to brief, emotional relationships where I ultimately identified outside of all of that lives-mixed-up-with-each-other stuff, due to some mixture of (my) emotional immaturity and romantic incompatibility. But my SO has totally kicked my ass in this way, among others, and now I'm eager to start talking about all kinds of cooperative life plans. Making a big move to the distant coast after school being the one that comes to mind most often.

I feel like I'm on this stable ground of trust and on-the-same-page-ness in a profound way. On the flip side, I know that our relationship hasn't been around too long, and I don't want to confuse exciting ideas (which I love) with overwhelming expectations and commitments in a way that could be hurtful, for either/both of us.

So, mefi folk! I'd love to hear some advice and stories about how loving another person has transformed into building a life together. Particularly for those who value their autonomy (i'm guessing most of you here), how have you gone about building futures with others, slash have you found the thought "gahh too early to think that way!" helpful? For those who saw long-term possibility in short time frames, how did commitment and life planning together play out?
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The only way to know if somebody is serious is to do the things instead of talking about them.
posted by beerbajay at 12:28 AM on March 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

I knew my now-husband was the one the first time I saw him. On our first date I told him we would marry and have children (not his life plan until he met me). I followed my word with actions, making choices as a team; entangling financially, supporting him as he upgraded his education. However, I still looked out for
me, as I still do, keeping my own interests and independence. He was a bonus to my life, not a replacement for something I lacked.
posted by saucysault at 1:43 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not only do I agree with beerbajay, I think that it's very difficult to assess a young relationship's true potential on a long distance basis.

On the other hand, since you ARE both long distance, you can take this opportunity to use all the talking to your advantage. Why not discuss controversial things like how the two of you would handle various stresses to the relationship (affairs, unemployment, illness, etc.) Hey, if the two of you can TALK about these things and come up with mutual solutions while staying mostly emotionally connected, this bodes well for the two of you actually staying connected under the real stresses and strains of life.

Or, in an even more practical vein, why not got get a book together like "The Hard Questions" or some other kind of pre-marital survey/inventory, and see how you fare?

Perhaps this approach will bring you both back down to earth. After all, if you're not really compatible, why fool yourselves? The longer a relationship lasts, the more it hurts when you end it, in general.

If your relationship can stand up to scrutiny, then the two of you can celebrate that and forge full speed ahead.
posted by SociologistTina at 5:31 AM on March 3, 2010

Beerbajay has it. You'll know it by doing it, not by how you feel when you talk about it, especially long distance.

Slow it down, relax, and see how things work out in real life. Ramping up the the drama and intensity is a lot of fun -- but doesn't exactly guarantee good outcomes.
posted by Forktine at 6:11 AM on March 3, 2010

Know that you can build a life together in whatever way suits you (two), specifically. You don't have to move in together even when you live in the same town. You don't have to become joined at the hip, share all your hobbies and friends, and spend all your time together. Conversely, if you do find yourself doing this in a heady rush of newness, you are allowed to dial it back a bit later and reclaim your own life.

You don't have to have a suburban house with a picket fence just because you are "settled down", you don't have to quit your ambitions of travelling or doing crazy stuff. You just have to consider two people's ambitions instead of one. You are likely to be a much happier couple if you can manage to be the union of what's nifty about each of you, rather than the intersection.

Talk of "commitment" is a little bit meaningless unless you know what you are committing to. There's a whole host of halfway houses between a one night stand and a marriage. For example - at some stage in my current relationship I have committed to spending some time working through problems we might have, even when things get difficult. For me that's a big big step up from "He's doing what? DTMFA!"

At the early stages of a relationship, just confidently planning a holiday together that's six months away is a commitment.
posted by emilyw at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

We all have futures planned out, and it's natural as your feelings about someone grow that they start showing up when you imagine what your life will be like going forward. You can either suppress those thoughts and try to hide them, or be open about them and just know that a lot of it is premature and just fantasizing. Personally, I have to side with the latter. Things could end no matter what you do, so you may as well enjoy the crazy, head-over-heels rush while it lasts. Better to look back and think you were too passionate than to look back and think you were too careful.
posted by Zorz at 9:00 PM on March 3, 2010

You can make Big Decisions when it feels right and looks good on paper. Planning is good and you can both prepare and be confident that you're doing the right thing. You're kinda trying to do that without any good guidance about when to do what. I suggest talking to relatives or friends with successful long-term relationships and asking how they knew. This is good if you're a planner and like to have all your ducks in a row, want to plan parties about these things, make them really special moments, etc.

You can make Big Decisions when life forces you to suck it up and decide. This keeps you from the agonizing "is this too soon? how do I feel? is this the right thing to do?" and lets you enjoy the moment more, knowing that you have a good thing going on already and that life will push you along eventually. Problems arise when this happens too soon. On the other hand, you have to suck it up and deal and that's a wonderful cure for all sorts of relationship problems, as long as the relationship itself is good. Married in 6 months, married in 6 years, if the relationship is good you'll be happy.

I have mostly done the second and damn, sometimes it hurt. No job, and a devastating financial blow and I was moving in with someone after 7 months, into a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I resented being pushed into it and I still regret it. Marriage, also done for practical reasons with a two month engagement. All the little day-to-day decisions out of necessity piled up to take care of big decisions about money, where we wanted to live, and whether we want kids, without any big conversations or solid plans. Result: best most awesome relationship of my life and I'm deliriously happy because we're very compatible, we love each other, and he's amazing, and...okay, you see what I mean, we're very much in love.

I know planners who waited, saved up for a ring, thought it through, meticulously made plans about finances, etc, and they are deliriously happy, too.

So think about what personality you have and if you have more of my personality, then I suggest chilling out, relaxing, saving money if you can, and enjoying the moment. If you have a planner personality, make a one-year plan or a two-year plan or whatever it is that planners do. And enjoy the moment.

Glad you've found someone awesome, be confident in your mutual awesomeness and affection, and have fun!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:18 AM on March 4, 2010

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