What really matters in a long term relationship?
April 25, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I love my boyfriend dearly but am starting to doubt our long term potential. I don't know if I'm asking smart questions, or letting my inner commitment phoebe dictate my thinking.

Last week I asked this question about how my boyfriend and I can figure out how to move to the same place and take the next step in our relationship.

We've had a few conversations about this since, and I've spent a good deal of time thinking about it. I'm beginning to worry that the real problem is not that the geographical distance between us, or the fact that we are in different stages in our lives, but that perhaps our life values and long term goals are less compatible than I had originally thought.

I have a job that I love - it stimulates me, challenges me, allows me to travel, and introduces me every day to smart and passionate people that I respect. I'm not sure exactly where I want to be in 5-10 years, and I'm sure my "plan" will change, but I know I am on the path I want to be on. Having a career, not just a job, that I am proud of and that enriches my life is a non-negotiable to me. This is a big part of who I am.

My boyfriend is in a field he is less than passionate about. He would like to change careers - but he isn't sure what his dream field would be - he says there are lots of jobs he could do and enjoy. I know he's frustrated by his search and that he's made decisions in his past that have left him in a less than desirable situation and is depressed about that. But he's been saying that while he wants a job that pays the bills and allows him to travel and live comfortably, he doesn't want his happiness to live or die with his job or career and would be plenty happy with a job that didn't stress him out. He says a job doesn't define who you are, and while he respects and admires my drive, he doesn't envy me and the way I feel.

I feel torn and confused. I have always know that he did not have the same level of ambition as I did - and actually appreciated the balance that brought to our relationship - but have felt for the past two years that he has been working to get to a job and a place in his life that he felt passionate about. I realize now that I was probably projection that onto him more than anything.

He now says he will come to where I am and look for a job, but wants to know that if it came down to it, I would choose him over my career. I have replied that I would always prioritize our relationship over my career, but that my career is also important to me and I would never give up my career for our relationship - because that is an essential part of who I am, and because it's a false choice and I wouldn't want to be with someone who would ask me to make it. No different than if he felt the same way about his job, I would never dream of asking him to give that up - I would find the way we could both do what we wanted, or as close to it as possible.

I am really torn as to whether this will work for us in the long term. On one hand, I understand where he is coming from and respect that it's his opinion. As I said before, our differences do balance our relationship in many ways. I know plenty of people live very happily like that and I don't think there is anything wrong with it - it's just not who I am.

At the same time, I find passion very attractive and important - it's a value I would want to instill in my children. I know that can take many forms and that not all of us are lucky enough to do what we are passionate about for work.

I find myself wondering what it would be like with someone who had a more similar drive to me - not in the same field necessarily, but just something, ANYTHING, that they really loved and were working at. I feel that really enriches a relationship. I worry that if my boyfriend came here one or both of us would grow to resent the other for a variety of reasons. He wants to live in the country, I want to live in the city - so we compromise on the suburbs, but then neither of us is truly happy. I have friends who have done that and it has never worked. At what point do you compromise away your entire relationship until you are left with a middle ground that leaves no one happy?

I know that if we are going to take the next step I need to be ready to accept the fact that this is who he is and be ok if he always just has a series of jobs he feels OK about. I should say that he is not the type to be jobless or try and mooch off of me - it's not that he doesn't have a good work ethic, more that is he less driven/ambitious than I am and that I thought he was.

I recently had dinner with an old boss who was telling me that when he met and fell for his wife part of what was so great about it was that he didn't only fall in love with her as a person but he really loved her life - the friends she had, the things she cared about, and the world that he was brought into. And it made me jealous because I don't feel that way. I can certainly see a happy home life with my boyfriend - aside from this we have an amazing and loving relationship. I know that no two relationships are alike, each requires compromise, and that I could be with someone who matched up on paper but with no spark. I know people dating someone who is "perfect" for them, but they cry themselves to bed every night.

I am really struggling with whether I am being unfair and simply terrified of making a commitment or if I could be very happy in this situation, or if the truth is that this is not going to work out because we have different values. I would love any advice and input - especially from people who are in similar situations on either side of them.
posted by meb123 to Human Relations (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
While reading this I kept expecting to come to the part where he was demanding that you move to the country and ditch your job for him - which he's not doing. I think you're just scared of the next steps, and trying to come up with ways this might not work.

If the next step is that he moves closer to you and looks for work (or even that you guys move together to the suburbs), you're not risking the world, you're just trying out having a relationship in the same zip code. Maybe your differing levels of career ambition or passion will turn out to be a problem, or maybe you'll have a great time.

You won't know unless you try it.

Also, you have to deal with each relationship compromise as it happens. I found therapy a really great way to help figure out exactly what I wanted, and to deal with the anxiety of not being able to know exactly what the future held. You might want to discuss all this with a therapist.
posted by ldthomps at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I said it in your last question, and I'll say it again.

You know the answer to this question already, and I think that if you were to sit down and shut out all the other noise that is blocking you from hearing it right now, both your mind and your heart would tell you the exact same thing.

It's time to move on. He doesn't sound like the right for for you anymore.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is it just a mismatch in ambition? Because that can be a really good thing, if one person is career-focused and the other is willing to cook dinner (and take care of the kids, if you want any).

Is he passionate about anything other than work, and if not is this a dealbreaker for you?

One thing that really matters in a long-term relationship, to answer the question in your title, is that you want to build a life together and your have a single list of priorities for both of you, which involves compromise to reach. On preview, seeing These Birds of a Feather's answer, if you're not willing to consider his priorities as equal to yours, and if you think you'd choose your career over him, that's probably your answer.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:02 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're not being unfair, and you're not terrified of making a commitment, I think you're realizing that you're incompatible with your bf and it's making you anxious and freaking you out.

As a fellow planner, I know what it's like to have all your boxes tickes.

Great job-------Tick!


Great location---Tick!

So here you are, with your boxes ticked, and you're ready to move forward with the next stage:

Get Married------Tick!

Have Children-----Tick!

Buy a House------Tick!

Only you're really wondering about that tick on Boyfriend, because frankly, he's not making you feel comfortable about moving forward. He can't get his shit together on the job front. He's half-assing the move to where you are. He's vacillating between one thing and another.

You're slowly coming to realize that as shallow as it sounds, that it's fundamentally important to you that your boyfriend should have his job sorted out, and he should be moving to be with you, not so that he can continue to dither about his career, but so that you can both move forward with the plan.

Only he doesn't have a plan.

If you want a partner who is as career driven as you are, then this man, as wonderful as he is, isn't EVER going to be right for you. He's not career driven. It's not going to matter if he goes to grad school, or gets his dream job or any of that. That's not how he's wired.

I suspect that if your BF had a job that was "meh" but that he spent all kinds of time on a hobby that he was nuts about, that you'd be much more satisfied with him. "Sure, Randy's job as a Sales Manager isn't all that prestigious, but his Roller Derby Blog is super-popular."

I think you're discovering that he's just not that kind of guy. There's nothing wrong with it, but there's nothing right about it for you.

It's okay to decide that after a few years that it's not going to work. You're having a hard time because he's not doing anything wrong.

He wants you to choose him over your career. I think you realize that this isn't something you want to do. I think you know you'd be miserable if you did this. I think you know that you wouldn't choose ANYONE over your career. And the right man wouldn't ask you to do it.

Go with your gut. Break up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:02 PM on April 25, 2013 [14 favorites]

To me, this seems like it would be great: you get to be ambitious, and your guy supports that. He wants to know that he's as important as your career, but it doesn't seem like he would ever going to put you in a position where you would actually have to make the choice between your career and him, because he doesn't operate that way.

But how *I* feel about it doesn't matter, it's how you feel about it. And you don't like it. It seems pretty clear that you have major doubts about this relationship, and you should probably listen to that.
posted by mskyle at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lack of respect is a real death knell for a relationship and it doesn't sound like you look up to this guy very much.

I can't identify with your priorities and I think your boyfriend sounds thoroughly reasonable, which is...meaningless, to you. You don't support his way of viewing work/life balance, and he doesn't sound like he's ever going to high-five you for being career-oriented. Since neither of you are genuinely looking at this as an "Awesome! She'll hustle for $ while he stays home with the kids; this balances out great!" situation, one has to suspect that this might be a red herring for less easily definable incompatibilities.

"I find passion very attractive and important - it's a value I would want to instill in my children" does not seem compatible with the apparent lack of passion for your partner. This doesn't sound like a wretched situation, but it does sound like possibly "settling," and you don't sound very happy about that idea. Unless loads of wonderful, wonderful things are being left out here, I would start trying to work towards a break-up that optimises the chances of a future friendship.

That may be a little pessimistic because I work hard to avoid "career" and find the idea repugnant for myself, and while I don't disdain the job-ambitious I know I would never move beyond a "That's nice, dear" about somebody's bog standard work accomplishments -- unless somebody was accomplishing truly wonderful things, I wouldn't be excited by a job. And I imagine I would be fairly repugnant to somebody who was very driven by those sorts of things, so this does seem like a fundamental incompatibility rather than a real estate inconvenience. I'm sure there are couples who sort this out just fine. But you both sound like you're on opposite ends of the spectrum, with no respect at all for the other end.
posted by kmennie at 2:10 PM on April 25, 2013 [12 favorites]

I have known many couples where one partner is more driven and career/passion-focused than the other. I've seen it work and not work, and I think the big distinction between the two is that, in the cases where it worked, both partners both appreciated and respected their partner's perspective. And those are two different things: respecting your partner's perspective means that, well, you respect it as a valid way to live one's life. Appreciating it is a lot trickier - it means that you value what that perspective brings to your relationship.

It seems like you guys are on shaky ground on both fronts - from what you've written here, it sounds like you want to respect and appreciate his perspective but you're not sure if you do. And it seems like he's struggling with this as well.

I would personally be concerned about him asking you that hypothetical about giving up your career. It's a weird question because, as you say, it's a false choice. It's unlikely you'd ever be in a situation where you had to make such stark choice. But I do think it shows that he's uncomfortable with how important your career is to you.
posted by lunasol at 2:14 PM on April 25, 2013 [24 favorites]

When you think of him and his work ethic, try replacing "lack of ambition/drive/passion" with "flexibility." Your career and ruling passion will dictate much of where and how you live your life. He is fortunate that he would be happy in a wide range of jobs and situations, and that would, in theory, allow him to move and live with you.

The question here is whether his moving to where you are is a good idea. You seem both to be framing this in job terms. If he's about to give up his job and move, it's not unreasonable of him to ask whether you would hypothetically do the same for him. Meanwhile, you've discovered that his philosophy of work is not what you thought it was-- which, if you'll forgive the armchair analysis, reads like shorthand for "This guy isn't who I thought he was when I fell in love with him."

So, it probably isn't a good idea for him to move right now. Whether it ever becomes a good idea is up to you and him.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would never give up my career for our relationship - because that is an essential part of who I am

I have to chime in with kmennie. What I think of the very recent trend of one's search for identity through work is a topic for another time, but it is clear that you and your boyfriend are not of one mind as to this issue. Frankly, you do not indicate that you have much respect for him (this may be mutual). Do both of you a favor and break up now. All you are doing now is pulling off the Band-Aid slowly.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

To address your subject line, "what really matters" isn't being on the same page on every topic, but feeling like (a) you share some core values (about the world and our place in it, about how to treat people, etc.), (b) you respect/admire the way that the other one deals with their life issues, (c) you can put up with or be amused by each other's flaws. Can you work as a team in a host of different situations (and life will throw you crises on a regular basis), or are some sorts of trials going to tear you apart? Some of that you can only tell with time, but I feel like that list of three is a sina qua non. Only you can say how you add up (given that all the other good stuff is there)...
posted by acm at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

He wants to live in the country, I want to live in the city - so we compromise on the suburbs, but then neither of us is truly happy. I have friends who have done that and it has never worked. At what point do you compromise away your entire relationship until you are left with a middle ground that leaves no one happy?

Well, you need to realize that this type of thing isn't a compromise. A compromise that makes no one involved happy is really just a shit choice. It's the type of thing bitter parents/teachers/other childrens caretakers do to prove some point.

I have an analogy i regularly use for this type of question;

So imagine a group of people sitting in a room reading quietly. In some sort of space like the loft at a coffee shop, whatever works in your mind. It's close to silent in there, and everyone is happily reading.

Then someone walks in with a couple of their friends, and a boom box cranked all the way up to 11. Everyone in the room is annoyed, but those guys are grooving on it and having a great time.

So someone goes and asks the person in charge of the place to do something about it. They come up, listen to the noise, and talk to both groups, and concludes that the solution is to tell them to turn it down half way. Now NO ONE is happy, but this solution was "fair" because they "compromised".

This sort of thing is not an actual compromise, ever. A lot of half way point solutions aren't. And they often engender a whole bunch of bitterness on both sides. From this, I also really get the feeling a lot of the time that they're chosen a bit out of spite, in a "fine, you know what, we'll do both" kind of way.

In this context, it worries me. Because it makes me wonder if you're approaching more situations in your relationship this way. Both with that stubborn bitterness, and in the super transactional sense of "Ok, i gave and took XYZ in this situation, what are you going to give and take?" when in reality if you look at relationships as that kind of give and take, you're going to have a bad time.

These are the types of situations in which one person has to give and one person has to take. As in, yes, one of you would have to move to either the city or country. Later on i'm sure similar situations would present themselves in which one of you would concede and agree on another major splitting point. A real compromise here would be agreeing to spend time in the country every weekend, or every other weekend and regularly rent a cabin out there. Or finding a "country" type place ala parts of new york, or some areas in the pacific northwest where you're just a quick commute on mass transit or a
When you reach a major fundamental difference of where you want to live, or what you want to do in life, or kids or something like that... this can be a dealbreaker. This of course isn't what people want to hear, so they choose crappy "compromises" as discussed above.

A solution that makes no one happy is not a solution, it's cutting off your nose to spite your own face type territory that is rarely done with eyes fully open. If you're at a point in your relationship where you're butting up against fundamental differences in goals in which the "compromise" would make neither party happy, then i think it's time to move on.

This is of course ignoring the fact that i think there's many other good reasons in your comment that this relationship needs a fork stuck in it, but i really wanted to just zero in on that mindset.

posted by emptythought at 2:53 PM on April 25, 2013 [17 favorites]

I have always know that he did not have the same level of ambition as I did - and actually appreciated the balance that brought to our relationship - but have felt for the past two years that he has been working to get to a job and a place in his life that he felt passionate about. I realize now that I was probably projection that onto him more than anything.

He now says he will come to where I am and look for a job, but wants to know that if it came down to it, I would choose him over my career.

A man in your position would rarely think this way. He'd either come up with some way of dragging his less ambitious significant other with him-- after all, she's the less ambitious one, so she should be the one who should be more flexible, right? -- or he'd realize that this particular significant other is incompatible with the vision for the way he sees his life. Possibly -- possibly-- one alternative scenario would see him pursuing his profession close to her family, but only if it were a fully-developed profession (eg, being a local suburban doctor instead of involved in academic medicine in a large city)-- not giving up a career as much as reorienting it to be compatible with family life.

What you're trying to do is guilt yourself into seeing your basic incompatibility and his unwillingness to bend in favor of the person whose needs should be prioritized (yours, that is) into a benefit in terms of "the balance that brought to our relationship."

So the question is, do you think that men in your position have that wrong? Or rather, is it possible that social conditioning has laden a certain level of guilt on you about what you should be looking for in a life partner and what he should be willing to do for the relationship, particularly how you regard your own vision for how you see yourself living in 10-20 years?
posted by deanc at 3:02 PM on April 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

wants to know that if it came down to it, I would choose him over my career

My mother pretty much raised me to do whatever I wanted, but the one thing she drilled into me over and over again was this: Unless you intend to marry for money and take the trade-offs in life that go with that, ain't nobody going to take care of you but you. It's barely economically feasible for most couples to live on a single income unless you're lucky.

So my interpretation of his request is "he wants to know that he is more important to me than my own security and well-being."

If that's how you want to live your life, go on then, but accept that you're doing so and stop trying to figure out how to make him change to please you. If you're not pleased now, it is very unlikely you're going to get over it.

I actually think it's a benefit in relationships when one person is more career-oriented and the other is more flexible. Even without kids, that's been an advantage sometimes in my marriage. But that does mean that both people have to support the career of the Career person. Your guy doesn't appear to want to do that.

I think you need to stop making this guy try to fit in the space where your boyfriend goes. Someone out there is better suited for it.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:03 PM on April 25, 2013 [16 favorites]

I would like to chip in with my two cents that these women you know who are crying themselves to sleep every night because of some sacrifices made to be in a relationship then no, it's not a perfect relationship. Rather that is some sort of Margaret Atwood handmaiden hell.

On the other hand relationships are about making minor sacrifices... and your boyfriend clearly isn't willing to make minor sacrifices for you. I argue this from the point of view that it isn't a sacrifice if it's not actually painful. I mean, in his case it would literally be to his great benefit but slightly scary and he says no chance.

So I think the fair response is re-evaluate how much he really cares about your happiness when it comes at a minor cost to himself. Which is pretty clearly, not at all.

Of course, you being people, and this being life, you'll still try to find a way to make it work and the ultimate litmus test will be when see how quickly you're replaced when the inevitable break up does occur. My money is on "a lot sooner than you would have thought."
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 5:13 PM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, he's spent the last few years showing you who he is. Two years spent just kid of saying that he'd like another career but not actually doing anything about it.That's is who he is. Don't go by his words, go by his actions and the choices he's made in his life.

Look at you, in the last two years you have had this great job and you have some really solid ideas on your plan for your life.

There's nothing wrong with either of you. It's just that he doesn't sound like the kind of person who is going to be a good match for you in the long run. You can love someone a whole lot but still decide you can't be in a relationship with them.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:20 PM on April 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hmmm, I don't know how much you actually respect your partner, and I think part of the reason you bridle at the "choose your career or me" question is because you would actually not choose him (there is nothing wrong with this, per se).

I think you are also being blinded by comparing your relationship to imaginary relationships that don't exist. There is a lot more to different relationships than just tweaking one variable: you may very well hate being in a relationship with someone ambitious because they'll be the ones who won't move to the city for you, make the time/sacrifices for you, etc.

I get a sense from these questions that you may not have a had a lot of serious relationships, is this the case OP? If it is, you may be like some people - many people - who need to have a few relationships to figure out what they really value. In some cases that means you let early relationships that could have been successful go, because you don't know that they could be successful, and you need knowledge of yourself and your needs to make them work - knowledge that you don't have.

At what point do you compromise away your entire relationship until you are left with a middle ground that leaves no one happy?

I'm just one dude, and no relationship expert, but I will say this: for me, my successful relationship is all compromise. All compromise, all the time. Times a billion once you have a kid. The thing is, in a successful relationship, you should want to compromise. It shouldn't hurt - or at least the pain/resentment should be fleeting. In a good relationship, you always feel the compromise is worth it, and that this is a person you can work it out with; at least all the good relationships I've seen.

Is it that you don't want to compromise in relationships or you don't/can't want to compromise with this guy?

To me, it seems like you don't feel what this man gives you is worth moving to the suburbs, or frankly changing much about your life, and the rest is just guilt because he's a nice guy and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. OP, I would move into an anus for my partner. A literal anus. That's what she gives me, and on a more metaphorical level, I'm sure both of us feel we've made sacrifices for each other that were nearly so big.

Again, I'm not a fan of rules, but if moving suburbs in the same city would be a relationship deal-breaker, for me, that's not one worth holding on to.
posted by smoke at 5:30 PM on April 25, 2013 [13 favorites]

I'm in a similar relationship in that my SO is the one with the "career" and I am the one with a job. I'd like to do something I'm more passionate about, but I'm also okay doing something that I don't hate and pays me what I'm worth, and he supports either of those. This has never, ever been a source of conflict between us. It could be that I am more ambitious than your boyfriend and my SO is less career-centric than you are.

But I think that it is simply that we are more in agreement about what matters to us, more respectful of the other's lifestyle choices, and share similar long-term goals regardless of the path taken to get there.

I don't know if you're sabotaging the Best Thing Evar or if you're leaping into relationship that will only prove unsatisfying, but it just doesn't sound like a good fit.

Also - I'm not sure if this is just how you're phrasing your question, but you really should stop measuring your relationship by the standard you "see" in others'.
posted by sm1tten at 5:38 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't make this decision based on conversations that don't happen in person. Go visit him, or have him visit you, and have a hard talk.

I'm in a long distance relationship with someone who matches my level of ambition, and I have to say that when he's not around it's very tempting to think that the relationship isn't worth it. We're closing the gap this summer with very little risk to my career, but it was still a tough decision to make without actually having him be around. There was resentment. I don't like having to compromise for someone who won't compromise for me, and vice versa. We had a lot of tough conversations.

At the end of the day, though, I feel an equal amount of passion for this relationship as I do for my career. As soon as I saw him in person, I knew that moving so that we could be together was the right thing to do.
posted by rhythm and booze at 7:27 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are so many ways I could say what everyone else is saying, but I am just gonna requote my two favorites that sum this all up:

"I mean, in his case it would literally be to his great benefit but slightly scary and he says no chance."

Yeah. And this is why you know deep down it's not gonna work.

"I think you need to stop making this guy try to fit in the space where your boyfriend goes. Someone out there is better suited for it."

This sentence is beautiful and we should use it everywhere.

Let him go. This anchor is dragging you down.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:10 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like your boyfriend has a passion for much of anything. He's not career driven, he's not interested in studying, he doesn't really know where he wants to go or what he wants to do. You imagine then, that the one thing that he does love - you - would make it an easy decision to move to where you are as there's nothing really holding him back.

But nope, no real passion for you either (I'm really sorry to say this, it must suck to hear it.) He's needed his arm twisted to get him to go this far, and even then, he's trying to make sure you love him 'equally' given that he's planning on leaving his city to be with you,to make sure you would leave something (your career) to be with him. The thing is, he hasn't really given up anything to be with you, there was nothing there for him. If anything, he's gaining a proper relationship and he still has to be convinced.

This guy is 'meh' about everything. One thing I've learnt, you can't install motivation or drive or passion in someone. You can't force them to love you enough to want to be with you. He knows who you are. He either wants that or he doesn't. All his actions so far have said no and you've only gotten to this point by really twisting his arm. Do you really want to do this for the rest of your life? Do you want to have to twist his arm to get him to marry you or have kids or buy a home? Because I tell you, I've been there, it's exhausting and your self esteem will be in shreds by the end of it. You deserve someone who can't wait to be with you and will do anything to make it happen, not someone who does it begrudgingly and holds it over your head, trying to find out exactly what you'd do for him.

I read somewhere that we're conditioned to go for unattainable partners because subconsciously we figure the harder we have to work for it, the more valuable it must be and we get a feelgood rush when we finally 'win' their time or attention. The carrot of his company keeps getting dangled in front of you like a prize which keeps you hanging in there, but I tell you what, it really won't get any better. Your boyfriend won't change, he's not someone you respect and deep down I think you know it. It shouldn't be this hard. I know you love him. It's not always enough, and in this case it definitely isn't.
posted by Jubey at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

You realize if you had a partner who was equally passionate about their career, the logistics would be a lot harder to work out? That right now you are not at all being asked to pick a partner over your career, but if you were with someone with identical passion for their career, you would be much more likely to have to pick your relationship over your career?

Anyway, honestly it sounds like you just don't respect your boyfriend. And that's okay, you're not a bad person for deciding you don't want a long-term relationship with someone for whatever reason. But to me, just the fact that you're inclined to view this situation negatively instead of thinking about how it could work out great means he is not a good match for you. Also the fact that it's really a potential dealbreaker to move somewhere less than ideal for you. As smoke said, I would move ANYWHERE for my partner and it would hardly feel like it was a huge sacrifice or anything. If I felt I could give someone up that easily, it would be a sign to me that there's no great reward in spending my life with them.
posted by Nattie at 12:00 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go slightly against the grain here. I see a lot of answers to questions on AskMefi along the lines of, "break up, you can do better!". And lots of times they seem right. But lots of times they seem fueled by the idea that there are tons of people out there and you'll find just the right person and everything will be rosy.

The truth is that you might find someone who's great in all the ways your boyfriend is great, PLUS he's ambitious - but I think it's more likely that your next boyfriend will be ambitious but missing some of the great qualities your current boyfriend has, and you'll have to decide if *those* are things you can compromise on. And, as a female who wants to have kids, you don't have unlimited time to search around for the perfect boyfriend.

So the question really becomes: is his lack of ambition a deal-breaker for you? If you feel you don't respect him because of it, then yeah, it sounds like a deal-breaker and breaking up seems like the right answer. But if you do respect him and his lack of ambition is simply less than ideal, I think it's worth staying together and appreciating the things you *do* like about him.

I also agree with those who mentioned that a very ambitious boyfriend could be problematic in that neither of you would be willing to move to a different city for the other if it meant giving up a dream job. And your current boyfriend's lack of hard-core ambition could be great for a child-rearing situation. So there are some definite pluses here, but you need to figure out if you can reframe your thinking about this relationship to start appreciating these aspects of it, or if you simply don't respect your boyfriend anymore.
posted by whitelily at 2:50 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

He now says he will come to where I am and look for a job, but wants to know that if it came down to it, I would choose him over my career

This also raises a flag regarding the fact that he sounds miserable and in a dead end, and he wants you to be just as miserable as he is. It just strikes me that in the same way you're starting to see that you might like it if you were in a relationship where you were a "power couple" passionate about your respective careers, he is thinking he would see the appeal of being in a relationship where you were "two people starting out in life struggling and trying to figure out what to do with themselves." Plus, the pressure would be off him if you did that because he'd no longer be comparing himself to a successful, ambitious significant other but would have someone whose plight was the same as his, and he wouldn't have the extra knife-twisting of dating someone who had a bunch of things that he isn't going to have. It's all well and good to talk about "choosing love over career", but what would giving up your career for him gain you? As in, how would your relationship and your lives together be better if you gave up your career? Would it be because it was so beneficial to his career? (Probably not) In choices like this, there needs to be some tangible payoff that justifies giving something up, and I don't see that in his scenario.

One of the things one should note is that the things you think you wanted at 20 aren't the same things you wanted at 30. Maybe you met someone at 20 whom you thought, "This is just what I wanted! He's good looking, laid back, and has great taste in music! The man of my dreams!" Then by the time you're 30, you might think, "Wait a sec... school and work isn't just one of those things I'm 'good' at-- it's something I feel passionately about, and I like people who have that same temperament, much better than those who don't!"
posted by deanc at 5:15 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

A lot of great advice above, but something really struck me. Although you say you have a loving relationship, you don't necessarily mention how much you're in love with him or how happy and fulfilled he makes you feel.. I don't really get a lot of what a great partner he is to you.

I kind of feel like you're settling and like playdoh are trying to make him fit into the mold you want. It's hard to see the person you are actually dating when your head is in the clouds about who they might become or what your relationship could be like.

One thing I've learned, you can love someone and they can still be wrong for you. Relationships take their course and all of them end, whether it's a breakup or their passing. Learn what you can from them, and cherish the time you had, but it's less painful when you let go when you are ready than to keep holding on and any chance of reconciliation or friendship is thrown out the window.

One of the major reasons an ex and I broke up was because they didn't understand how I felt: "I can love you, but I don't have to be with you" every time they kept diminishing my needs and taking me for granted. Not to say that this is your case specifically, but something worth noting. Who knows, you could be excellent friends and just not suited to be lovers/partners anymore.

If I held on to my last relationship, I wouldn't have found the perfect SO for me. In comparison, I thought what I had was so special and the person I was with was so "the One", until my current relationship did I realize I set the bar sooo low and I wasn't even happy at all, I just didn't want to be alone. My current SO is beyond words. You could be missing out on that.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:04 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

would choose him over my career

Take a few minutes and actually work through this scenario. Let's say that you do choose him over your career. What exactly would your life look like at that point? You'd move to the country, he'd be working at that job with his friend, you'd be looking for some kind of work in the country, or maybe you decide to stay home and grow vegetables while you both live on his salary (would his job support that?)

Given his history, how long do you think he will stay at that job, and how far up the career ladder would he go? What will your life look like in a few years when he decides he doesn't really like it, or if the friend figures out that he's not such a great employee. Now where are the both of you???

IMHO, would choose him over my career only makes sense if he HAS something valuable that you can see is worth giving up your valuable thing.
posted by CathyG at 1:43 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

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