Q: Hi Meredith,
I have been seeing my boyfriend for almost two years. We are both in our mid-to-late 20s and have been living together for about a year. I love my boyfriend and in some ways can easily see marrying him. He's fun, funny, loves his job, and really wants to build a life together. However, I ran into an ex recently, and it's made me question things.
My relationship with my boyfriend, I'll call him B, has gone through some ups and downs over the past year due to different desires for our futures, which are heavily influenced by our upbringings. His family went through some tough times financially, both of his parents worked, and as a result, B has a kind of chip on his shoulder about people with money. It's actually caused some contention between him and my parents, so that's not a great relationship. He was raised in a house where swearing was allowed; it wasn't in mine. B also just generally hates getting together with his family, whereas I am freakishly close with mine. As much as B dislikes his family get-togethers, he envisions a similar life for himself. He wants a small house in the town where he grew up, wants to be able to swear at the TV in front of his kids, and expects that both parents will work to support the family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what he wants, but I'm not sure I see all of it for me. We try to compromise when we talk about future things, but lately it's been a lot of "no" from B.
For example, a bunch of my female coworkers had babies this year and almost all of them want to stay home and be the at-home mom now. I mentioned this to B, telling him how my mom loved staying home to raise us and how I think I might want to try it, at least for a year. Another couple we know had kids and the wife left teaching for 10 years and then returned, so I figure it is possible to do. B's response was a flat, "No, we won't be able to afford it. Both my parents worked, you'll be fine."
A few weeks later I was out with some friends when I ran into an ex-boyfriend from graduate school -- I'll call him G. G and I broke up due to busy schedules, but we were really on the same page in terms of personalities, life desires, etc. We grew up a town apart, were both raised by stay-at-home moms, are the same religion, have the same sense of humor, etc. We caught up quickly, and when I got home I had an email from him saying that he wants me to be happy with B, but he knows that he can make me happy too and if I'm ever available he will be there. I know that with G, I will be able to have the life I envision, but that shouldn't be the determining factor in a relationship. It should be the person.
I've tried to discuss this with B, but his answer is always "we'll deal with it when the time comes." I just feel like there are all these not-quite issues yet that will blow up one day. Any advice would be great!
– Teacher Without an Answer, Boston
A: The philosophical differences in this relationship don't bother me very much. What bothers me is how B deals. He can't just say no and expect you to follow his lead. That's not going to work.
You need to be with someone who will talk this stuff out instead of shutting you down. Sometimes it's cheaper to stay home with a kid, right? Is his objection to stay-at-home parenting just about the money -- or does he need to be with someone who prioritizes work as much as he does?
I know it's difficult, but you have to forget about G for the moment. You live with your boyfriend, and G is just a distraction. Spend your energy asking B whether he really sees the two of you working as a couple in the future. You both want a certain kind of life and there's no "dealing with it when the time comes." This is why we date -- to figure out how a long-term relationship with someone might work.
And for the record, choosing a partner isn't just about picking a specific person. It is about choosing a life. If you and B simply want different things, it's OK to walk away.
Readers? Is G a factor in this decision? What do we think of Bís negotiating skills? Is there a future here? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.