Remaining True to Yourself When Your Partner Has Different Goals

Remaining True to Yourself When Your Partner Has Different Goals

In relationships, there should be three relationships: 1) the one you share with yourself, 2) the one your partner has with him or herself, and 3) your relationship together.  However, sometimes one or two of these are tossed to the side when you start dating and commit to one another.  And the most common one to lose is the relationship with yourself. You just get so caught up and fascinated with someone else it’s easy to lose yourself.

While it’s important to create a healthy boundary around your partnership, you don’t want to lose yourself.  You’ve probably been in this situation before and realized your relationship was over when you lost sight of what you wanted or started putting your partner’s needs and ambitions before your own.  You don’t need to share every goal for your relationship to function, but it’s important to be aligned on those big life decisions, such as marriage and children.  That said, it is possible to have differing goals in life and still have a healthy relationship in which you are supporting your collective ambitions.

Get Clear on What You Want

First, you need to be honest about what you want out of life.  If you are somewhat of a chameleon and change your wants and needs depending on the relationship, it’s time to sit down and figure out who you are, without letting other’s expectations define your life goals.  Ask yourself what you really want from life; what do you value, what’s of importance to you?  If you are like some of my friends, marriage and children are off the table.  They dream of owning their own businesses, traveling the world, and basically being their most authentic selves…and this has remained true throughout all their relationships.  When you are clear about what you want out of life, you are able to be clearer with your partner.

Get On Board with your Partner’s Goals

Your partner will more than likely have individual goals.  Will you be supportive as your partner surveys individual ambitions or will you get frustrated because his or her goals do not align closely enough with your goals as a couple?  If your partner is interested in travel and possibly living abroad and you dream of buying a home, how supportive will you be?  Be really honest with yourself here, if you can’t get on board and be supportive, your relationship might be headed for Splitsville, because after months or years of putting off your goals, that bitterness will eventually bubble inside you.

Get on the Same Page

In relationships, it’s important to have conversations at natural transitions to make sure you’re on the same page, which is a must if you two are committed to moving forward together.  For the sake of not being too pushy, conversations about marriage and children may have gotten pushed to the side.  However, if you’re ready to get married or have your first child and your partner is determined to start a business within the next few years, it’s time to have a conversation; make your intentions known and discuss your non-negotiables.  Through this conversation, you can decide how you want to proceed. You might discover your goals are too different and you will struggle to happily support your partner, or you might be a little more flexible and put the relationship goals before your personal aspirations.  Either way, when it comes to the big decisions, you need to be on the same wavelength so it doesn’t cause tension later in the relationship.

Stay True to Yourself

If you decide you can be a little flexible, you still need to stay true to yourself.  If you want to focus on going back to school or buying a house and your partner just lost his or her job, you have to decide if you can be flexible while not compromising your own goals and ambitions.  You are the only one who can make this decision.  Listen to your gut instinct and decide what is best for you.  If you are not staying true to yourself, you will eventually resent your partner, which can quickly destroy your relationship.

Now, I’m not saying your relationship is doomed if you and your partner do not share common ambitions, interests, or values but your goals should align on major life decisions.  From there, you need to remain true to yourself by first getting clear on what you want and what is not negotiable. If you bend too much, chances are you will become unhappy and resent your partner for forcing you to put your life on hold.

Lori Dougherty is a Marriage and Family Counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. As a marriage and family counselor, she helps couples navigate the many difficulties that arise in their relationship. She also helps couples rebuild happiness together so they can have the fulfilling relationship with their partner they’ve always wanted.

10 Responses to Remaining True to Yourself When Your Partner Has Different Goals

  1. Hi Laura
    I’m in my second marriage to a wonderful women who was also previously married. She works full time, great mom to our 10 year old, good housekeeper and great intimacy. The problem …. she does not share my vision.

    I’m 64, she’s 48. She has conservative ideals where I’m a free thinker. I have 3 kids from previous marriage, she could not have any. We sometimes disagree on child rearing.

    I retired at 62 to pursue my dreams as independent advisor but she wants me at home during weekends and evenings when most of my customers are available. Obviously we (I) did not properly share my vision prior to marrying a second time. Our child was an unexpected surprise.

    I love my wife , child and home dearly and despite some tensions my business has grown, she/we have benefitted, but she will continue to push back when i want to work during her off times.

    Recently we had serious argument where the ‘divorce’ word was mentioned and I had to pull back. I just need some help on how to continue to pursue my dreams while keeping a happy marriage. Help!

  2. Be kind enough to divorce while she is still young enough to find someone else — the focus on YOUR goals at your age is the problem — the age difference is too much. She essentially is letting you know she wants you around while she is still young enough to enjoy your time together. But . . .you refuse, you focus on pursuing YOUR dreams, not her.

    You, an older man, are ignoring the wishes of a much younger woman. Let her go. Wanting to work during her off times is wasting the last dregs of her youth.


  3. Hi Lori,

    Thank you for such a nice article. As you can imagine, I’m in a similar situation. My boyfriend and I have been together for whopping 8 years now (we’re both 30 now). At this point in our life, we are totally different people than we were when we started dating, except for one thing, I think I still love him. However, things have started to become unbearable for me in the last 2 years I guess.

    To cut a long story short, I’m the more down to earth person and he’s the laid back type. I was brought up in a poor family, so money matters to me (I need to have financial stability, not luxurious life). He’s the opposite, in a sense that he doesn’t care about money and not surprisingly is always broke! I mean, that was fine when we were college students, but now I’m thinking of buying a house (I’ve been working really hard and saving for it, but obviously can’t afford to buy it alone) but he doesn’t even want to think about it (prefers to rent a room as we have for the last 5 years). Not to mention he doesn’t have any money to help me out! I became so frustrated that I’m wasting my life and time with a person who’ll never be able to behave reasonably that we started to argue about the smallest things like shopping lists.

    I’ve tried talking to him, told him how I feel and even hypothesised that maybe we’d be better off living separately, but nothing seems to work. He keeps on ignoring my arguments, tears and telling me everything is fine the way it is now, no need to change it. This brings me back to why I said I think I love him, if it isn’t love then I don’t know what keeps me with him despite my frustration.

    I suggested specialist help but he doesn’t want to hear about it either, I just think that one day I’ll give up and leave with resentment that I’ve been trying and in the end wasted so much of my time and life while I could have met someone more responsible. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong without realising it?

    Desperate girl

    • Hi Desperate Girl,
      It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a place where you wonder why you’re even still together because your goals are so far apart. Even if you have different goals, you and your partner should still be able to support each other in obtaining your respective goals. If your partner can’t support you in your goals and won’t help you achieve them then you need to start thinking seriously about how much longer you feel you can continue on this way. You’re the one who has to sleep with yourself at night so don’t let anyone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

  4. Hello. I am in a relationship of 23 years (with 20 years of marriage). I’m a rural person who greatly enjoys the seasons, planting gardens, fishing, hiking, and most importantly the quiet of nature. I meet my wife while I was in college in Florida. Careers and children later we were never able to leave the state, the noise, or the heat. All of which I have grown to hate. I acknowledge this is home for my wife but it hasn’t been for me. Now with two adult age children (one with a disability) and the other going to college and living at home it feels like we will never be able to fulfill my dream of living in a cooler climate or rural area. I have been open and honest with my wife about my desire to move since the moment we were married. Her response has always been that I need to be patient, I need to wait, and one day we will make it happen. It has never happened, financials aren’t great, and I feel she and I do not really share this goal for our life. She doesn’t accept or truly understand when I explain to her my desire to be closer to nature, my extended family, and a different way of life. I’m not sure how much longer I can “wait” and as I grow older feel time may be running out. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • This would be one that would need to be worked out with a counselor. She must have concerns about moving or else she would have moved by now. A counselor can help her work out her concerns and make it more comfortable for her. Hope it helps.

      • Counseling is not an option due to the cost. I was wishing for help with interpersonal relationships and maybe a few suggestions on how to achieve a combined goal, with compromise, that would fit both our needs.

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