Hi, Carolyn: Last year I moved across the country to be with a wonderful man. The move required me to change my career plans a bit and take a pay cut. I also now live 3,000 miles from my family.
I enjoy my new city and my job. My relationship with my boyfriend is great, and I love him very much. But he is adamant about living in this region of the country, so staying with him means staying far from my family, which is inconvenient, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.
My bigger issue is that sometimes I look at my boyfriend’s life and think about how he gets to live in his city of choice, he gets to live near his family, he gets to pursue his first-choice job, etc. It seems like he doesn’t ever have to make any compromises.
I know he loves me and is serious about our relationship. He has thanked me for the sacrifices I’ve made. But how do I stop myself from thinking about our relationship in terms of wins and losses? How do I stop it from ruining an otherwise easy and happy relationship?
– Sleepless in Seattle
Your letter has a “reassure me” feel to it, so I apologize upfront for going in the exact opposite direction.
Your deal should trouble you, assuming you see mates as two people who choose each other above all else, as most of us do – romantics and pragmatists alike. Right now, you’re in a relationship where being with you is his second choice, because he has said as much. If forced to choose between you and Seattle, he’s taking Seattle.
Treating yours as a life partnership might be premature, but since relocating for him puts you on that path it’s entirely valid to examine where this path really leads.
Rootedness has huge emotional value; loving couples do negotiate locations instead of just defaulting to, “I go where you go, Dear,” even when that’s their mutual bottom line; and I applaud him for his honesty if indeed he’s unwilling to budge. However: We’d both be irresponsible if we didn’t treat this Seattle-only mandate as a potential indicator of indefinite, second-class status for you.
You may not ever want or need him to move for you, but knowing he would if some unforeseeable future demanded it – that’s the kind of emotional security that frees us to give ourselves completely to those we love.
Conversely, knowing you have to meet his terms to remain in his life serves as a little voice telling you, “Hold a little bit back.” Instead of both looking out for each other, he prioritizes his interests and thus leaves you to protect yours.
This isn’t to say you’re doomed; he may have no idea this – again, admirable – transparency about his priorities did more than just inconvenience you. You didn’t know it yourself until your discomfort could not be ignored.
Maybe you’re OK now with his being married to Seattle, but you want and deserve a partner who’s able, eventually, to commit only to you. If so, then you need to be transparent, too.