moving forward, but towards different goals
November 28, 2017 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend of 5 years and I have started talking about next-step plans like marriage, kids etc lately, and while we seem to agree on every front verbally, our approach, attitudes and pace towards these goals seem to be completely different. The most immediate step in our plan is to move to a new country together in the next year, and start a business together soon after; but should I jump into it while I'm still having reservations about our differences?

My boyfriend and I have been going out for 5 years, lived together for 2. We are both around 30 years old. We work in the same field, and in recent years have entertained the idea of starting our own business together. This is amongst the many other "Big Life Plans" like marriage & kids & where to settle etc that we have started to discuss in recent months at my initiation. He's typically been reluctant to engage in these conversations and would often change the topic, but I believe he's warmed up to them recently as I have made it clear that they are important to me, and that I would be unwilling to go on with our relationship without some consensus on these issues.

One of the more immediate plans that we have is to move abroad, as we have found that our profession has a better chance there, and also because he's an expat where we live currently, and he feels ready to move on to a new place while we're still young. While I agree with him on the professional development front, I actually do enjoy living where we are now, and feel I could thrive either way if we are able to commit to one place. The reason I am hesitant, however, is what I feel through having been with my boyfriend all these years, is that we may have a mismatch in our levels of ambition and the way we go after our goals. While I'm someone that decides on a goal, and just goes for it right away quite practically, he likes to talk about what he wants to do, but on a more vague and abstract level; he often has grievances about work, but I have yet to see him do anything differently to tackle the problem or change his situation over these years. He previous passivity in dealing with a messy flatmate, whom he often had to clean up after despite multiple conversations about cleanliness, also comes to mind.

I love my boyfriend, I'm attracted to him, and he's a genuinely good person who has shown me over the years ways to be kind, which doesn't come naturally to me. We share hobbies and interests as well. I want to live this life that we've planned together with him, but I don't know how we may move forward when I'm unconvinced he would take concrete steps towards realizing our goals of starting a business and a family together. For example, I've been pushing for us to just agree on a company name, and even that has taken us 4 months because everytime we agree to one name, he goes and keeps suggestion new ones because he can't be sure about it. Meanwhile, I've been working on putting together work samples, setting up a website, and even designing business cards but can't finalize any of them because we don't even have a name.

We are giving ourselves 2 years in this new country that we plan to move to next year, but I am worried about taking the leap because we might just end up in the same spot but just in a foreign land, which I can't imagine could be an improvement on the situation. Previous attempts at talking about my hesitation has been met with his avoidance, he doesn't agree with my assessment of our difference in ambition at all. Honestly I have no problem with us pursuing our career / ambition separately (even though we could be stronger as a unit given we are in the same field), but he has insisted that he wants us to be a team. How should we go forward from here? Should we have a gentle conversation about how I may want to just get jump-started on this business alone? Will he take this to mean that I have no confidence in him or us as a couple? Or is this a bigger mismatch issue for us as partners in life?
posted by 01080591 to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So what I'm seeing from your boyfriend is that when he wants to do something, he can convert that desire into action. He's decided he wants to move to a new country, and so he's making steps to ensure that happens.

However, when he doesn't want to do something, he won't even entertain the conversation, or only very reluctantly. And if he does have the conversation, he won't then act on it or will stall so much that he might as well not be doing anything at all.

What it boils down to is he wants to move, but he doesn't want to marry you or have kids or a business. Having a conversation is like pulling teeth and he's showing you with everything he's got that he's just not on board and is only discussing it with you because saying no outright will force you to confront it and probably leave him.

In short, actions speak louder than words and his actions are screaming no. Will he change? Of course, anythings possible. But do you really want to drag him kicking and screaming? I mean, look how he acted on deciding on a business name (4 months of dragging his feet) and then apply it to every single incident in your relationship that might come up that he doesn't want to do and that'll be your life.

I'm sorry, but you need to find someone who wants the same thing.
posted by Jubey at 8:09 PM on November 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not seeing anything that indicates that he has taken action on the move abroad either...?

One thing to consider is that being overseas won't be the same as it is now. One big difference will be that you will both be expats. Being the local person in a partnership can definitely affect the dynamic especially wrt the issue of being proactive, I think. Even if your cultures are similar your partner is at a disadvantage compared to you in a range of ways, many of which can be very subtle. The other effect can be that your partner may have become used to your taking the lead because initially you were the one with connections, local know how, etc, and then this becomes your dynamic. Moving o/s may change that. In that case he will be the one with o/s experience.

You may be able to guess that I can relate to much of this, and I will say that these issues still cause some frustration in my relationship but that we talk about various versions of this fairly often and it helps. I would suggest raising your concerns but maybe not telling him specifically that he needs to start the business stuff. Firstly because that is so overtly a test and because it's also so prescriptive that it doesn't really address the root issues. Talking about your reservations may be a little hurtful to him but it's also really important and fair.

Fwiw I see moving o/s as less of a big deal than starting a business together. The first easier to separate from the relationship if needs be.
posted by jojobobo at 11:36 PM on November 28, 2017

Tl, dr: tell him that exactly what you told us and let him respond.
posted by jojobobo at 11:38 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The situations where you describe his passivity aren't necessarily all the same. Roommate: he might have wanted to avoid putting his roommate in a hard spot, the inconvenience of moving out himself, or the potential for aggression from his roommate. Job: he might not feel competent to engage in office politics, or did the calculus that he'd rather stay there than look elsewhere, or he hates fighting *against others* for things. Not picking a name: he might be dealing with choice paralysis (wanting to make the perfect decision), here's a maximizer vs. a satisficer, or you're not on the same mental timeline regarding starting this new enterprise.

I guess I'd try to figure out whether these are all examples of passivity, whether they come from the same place or not, and what he sees as happening in his future and on what timeline. For example, he's holding up progress on getting your business started, so what is he seeing as a launch date? Does he prefer not to think in those terms and instead launch "when ready"? Is this a form of putting off commitment in a similar way to how you're ambivalent about moving abroad?

Also, if you're looking for examples of him being passive, make sure to also look for examples of him behaving proactively so that you don't fall into the trap of seeing only what you have in mind.
posted by trig at 1:14 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Given your very different work styles, I recommend not starting a business with him. You’re both going to end up frustrated and you’re either going to do all the work or constantly be in the nagging-mom role.

If you really do want to give it a try, I’d consider a conversation along the lines of “I’m at a point where I’m feeling ready to jump in and go all-in with . Here are the timeframes I’ve figured out for getting certain things done. Will this accelerated schedule work for you, or do you want to go in your own direction?”
posted by metasarah at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do not start a business with your romantic partner.

"While I'm someone that decides on a goal, and just goes for it right away quite practically, he likes to talk about what he wants to do, but on a more vague and abstract level; he often has grievances about work, but I have yet to see him do anything differently to tackle the problem or change his situation over these years."

Especially not *this* partner. Do you want to manage this person? Do you want your finances all tied up in his finances and his lack of work ethic? Do you want to be constantly trying to think of ways to gently but effectively get him to do what he needs to do, while protecting his fragile Passive Dude Ego because he's not just your coworker or employee, he's also your lover?
posted by zdravo at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Whew, weighty questions! I think the kind of differences you describe can be surmountable if if the two of you can talk about it with respect for both of your needs and traits and in a way that lets you be on the same team in dealing with it, if he's contributing in other ways such that you're not getting frustrated, and if neither of you hits a wall of "I can't deal with his anymore!"

What would happen if you brought up this topic with him? "Hey sweetie. I feel like there's this pattern where I want to move things forward, and you're okay with deferring the decision to try to make sure we get it right. And then I start to feel anxious and frustrated. I'm not saying you're causing it, just that we're different. Have you noticed that?"

If this was always an issue, as it may well be, do you get enough out of the relationship that you wouldn't mind being the Person Who Spurs The Team Into Action? Would he even go along with that, or would he insist on waiting until he's ready?

Do you think you could get to a point where you or he could say "oh hey, it's That Thing again. Should we use Tool A, Tool B, or Tool C this time?"

Do you think you can navigate this difference in high pressure situations? "I know you're not ready to decide on a ring, but we have to order them to get them by the wedding." Do you think you could hear "I know you want to make this decision and move on, but our child's name is something I really really can't just stand aside on. I really would love it if we slowed this down."

Do your answers on these questions differ for the work and home realms? (Me, I'm looking for emotional connection and peaceful co-existence at home, whereas at work, yeah, I want someone who springs into action with me and whom I don't have to prod.)

If you were to decide "this will make me increasingly frustrated until I can't stand it," then I think that's valid. But it sounds like you do want to build this business and family together, and the love I hear in your post makes me think you might be able to work this out. Also, what you say about him is promising. Science says lasting relationships come down to kindness and generosity. I wish you the best!
posted by salvia at 9:50 PM on November 29, 2017

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