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.
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.
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.