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Surrender to his value system? Is it a mistake?


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Hi, ENA, my old friend. I’m hoping for some advice.

 

I have been seeing my current boyfriend now for about 2.5 years (1.5 years exclusively). We are the dearest of friends and there is a lot of love and joy in our relationship. I feel comfortable with him, we can be ourselves, and there are no issues of trust or poor communication. We have been talking about our future together for quite awhile now. He is, in short, a fabulous partner.

 

Our relationship is currently at a crisis point, however, and I was really hoping to get input from some objective 3rd parties. He is looking to obtain an academic job in his field, whereas I have a year or so left of my graduate program. He is a native of the city in which I’m doing grad school, whereas I am a transplant who came here for an education (and with an open mind to my location in the future). While I’ve always been aware that he wanted to stay within a reasonable distance of his immediate family, it’s become painfully clear to me through his job search process that his ideal life would included living within 5 minutes of his parents. Also: he would like to start doing so immediately, whereas I’d originally thought he might be amenable to living elsewhere (doing post-doctoral work, common in our field) for a few years before trying to find a more “permanent” position closer to home. His family has also made it quite clear that they expect us to be living in the region. In fact, it’s almost as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

 

I am really struggling with these ideas, as I am the child of well-traveled parents who lived abroad and in several states before finally choosing the city in which I was raised (separate from my extended family). While I love my boyfriend, I am finding his provincial attitudes to be stifling, and it’s hard for me to watch my other student friends move away from here – alone and in pairs – to do as they please, whereas I feel “stuck.”

 

In general, I am a person who craves novelty and life experience, but my partner craves stability and habit…all in the immediate context of his family. I am worried that maybe our value systems are too different for sustainable happiness. I am willing to concede to his religion (previously a sticking point in my life, but not with him) and his desire to spend a lot of time with family (unusual for me), but I don’t know that I can give up my desire to experience more of the world – and the compromises he offers seem minimal to me. (For instance, he’s willing to let ME live elsewhere for years…but I’d go alone). I’m 27, and I feel that I’m taking a big risk in ending this relationship and looking for a new one, but part of me is looking longingly at my single male friends with more “open” horizons.

 

Help me, scold me, etc. Any advice would be really appreciated…I always benefit from the opinions here.

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I think you have to put this as a con on the big list of pros and cons. If when you do the good still outweighs the bad then stay with him... even it's such a big issue that it outweighs the good then it's maybe time to call it a day.

 

You're doing well in that there seem to be no personal issues, just lifestyle incompatabilities. Staying together is about how much you are prepared to compromise on lifestyle, and whether you can find a mode that suits you both.

 

I think that before you do go so far as to call it a 'con' though, you should see if you can compromise on this issue better. It seems as though he is having it all his own way. I would at least expect him to be more open to the idea of moving around a bit, with settling in his home city as a longer term plan.

 

You can always hold on to the hope that because he's never experienced that separation from family, he will discover the freedom and if you do move around he may find he doesn't want to return home after all. But you should first try to get him to accept some compromise and not submit to his plans completely.

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I think you should use some hard data, to make your choice. Do you feel more confined now, than six months ago? I don't think I need to get further into an explanation, than beyond saying, if resentment is building, how do you think it will feel in two years?

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He's already made it clear that his family is more important to him than you are, if he is telling you he is willing to be separated from you for years in order to be near his family.

 

I think you have to be compatible in terms of these kinds of decisions, because if you are giving up lots of things that important to you just to accommodate him, you may resent it in future years and feel trapped and smothered by his family. And once you have kids, they will be absorbed into that family, and there would be a bitter custody battle if you choose to leave and want to take the kids with you.

 

So i'd think long and hard before marrying him. You might want to go ahead and do your travelling, and see if you still last thru the separation and those years apart. If you still want to be together after that, good, but you may discover that you don't want to go back, or meet someone new on your travels.

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If he is a fabulous partner - that is a rare find. If he wants to live near family - who is to say you won't go on trips (vacations, mission trips if that is your thing, workshops, etc) to exotic places too? My parents were pretty nomadic due to dad's job and while it was interesting to live in different places, I really missed living near Grandma and Grandpa all those years.

 

I think that living near his parents depends on boundaries. If people have strong close relationships, that is great. But if everyone is always into everyone's business and running eachother's lives thats another thing. If you have never had a problem with them living in the same town now, that's a good sign.

 

I have had two relationships where the man wanted to be near family. The first we slowly moved closer and I felt smothered because the family was highly dysfunctional. The second is very successful. The parents live real close but they let their son have his own life. They have their own interests, etc., and they don't butt in. Its kind of neat to see a family that functions well together.

 

So - it is up to you - but just consider that you don't have to do what your parents did just because they did it and also consider if you truly have the desire to live a bunch of different places to make you happy or if its the "grass is greener" that is kicking in.

 

Why do people always assume just because someone values his family that it will be smothering and it is in opposition to the other partner? I thought having someone with good family values was what people wanted because in the longrun, down the road, when there is marriage and children, he will hold them in the highest regard? Do what you want, but consider that people can always travel - if you leave him you can do so, but consider all options.

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I can understand that he might think "For instance, he’s willing to let ME live elsewhere for years…but I’d go alone" is a sweet compromise to make - you get to go! But in reality it's not a compromise at all, it's basically a break up.

 

Conceding to religion and a realclosefamily and giving up your wandering. That sounds like a lot of concessions.

 

Are you happy now? How do you think that will be in a couple of years?

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Sounds like so many people I know. Small town mentality - when they feel it is time to settle down, so many are drawn back to the family and they all live right close together. And they don't leave. Because that was their idea all along.

 

That's fine if that is what you want. But if it isn't, and it doesn't sound like it is for you - it's giving up on a lot.

 

If you were to get married, you'd be buying and living in a house right there. If you were to have children, his family would basically raise them. You'd be surrounded by his community.

 

I come from a small town and would never, ever on my life concede to a life like that. It doesn't sound like he is literally from a small town but the mentality seems the same !

 

It's not just the location and opportunities you give up, it's a part of you if who you are is inconsistent with that value system and way of life.

 

Is it ever a fair price to pay, oneself, for a partnership? I don't mean to sound so dramatic, I've just seen women get sucked into these situations so often and then now - with kids and their house near the spouses family - so miserable and feeling trapped, defensive and smaller versions of themselves, that to me it is scary as heck to hear a person even considering it.

 

It makes sense to make concessions and do things sometimes for the benefit of a relationship - but not if you can lose yourself in the process, and not if it's not for something bigger than just wanting to be with that person. Hopefully this makes sense.

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My partner is an all around the world sort of guy and I am the have lived in the same place all my life sort of girl.

 

We haven't talked extensively about it but I would be willing to go around the world with him. He did say he wanted to move a few states over and asked me which I would prefer.

 

I did state I would prefer the closest state so I could visit my family often but more because my mother is in bad health and my parents as a general are getting older and I see them needing my help in the near future. I don't see my brother or sister stepping in and meeting that need when the time comes.

 

I think knowing your mates exact reasoning and fears would be a good idea. It might help you understand why they don't want to go all over the world and hopefully you can reach some compromise.

 

I know where you are coming from as we are talking marriage and I have had a few spastic moments with my single friends calling me and inviting me to places like Mexico, Belize,the Bahamas and thinking if we are married-are these things I really won't get to do anymore.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I really, really appreciate the advice from everyone here – some really great perspectives. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with the issue. It’s gotten to the point where my work is suffering, and I feel like I’m at a personal standstill. New circumstances have arisen that make it tougher, I think.

 

My boyfriend has accepted a position relatively close to his home. (He’d actually wanted one that was in the same town, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t get it.) It’s a great job, and it’s in a relatively exciting area. He is nervous because the new job is a bit of distance from his parents – slightly less than 2 hours, versus the 1 or less he’s had to travel for his schooling. (He called to talk about it, and for the first time, I realized that he does actually have a fear of being separated from them – it’s not just a desire to stay close.) He knows that I am unsure about following him to the area of this job. There’s been some distance generated in our relationship (not of a negative kind – just thoughtful) as a result.

 

I know I could follow him to this new city (close to here, mind you), and that I might end up really liking it there. But I’m beginning to wonder whether the specifics of the situation are really the issue here. We’ve had some more conversations, and more options have been presented, but they all involve being within a small radius of his family – starting now, and permanently. I questioned him regarding academic sabbaticals abroad or elsewhere, and he admitted to having no aspirations in that regard.

 

I think I’m just worried that no matter what the specific circumstances of our arrangement may be, he will never share my desire for cultural variety/excitement/etc. He’s not the type to make lots of interesting friends, go to exciting places (though he’ll follow on vacation if I’ll lead), or try new things. He is a creature of habit and “sameness,” and finds it comforting. I, unfortunately, tend to find it a bit stifling. I am always seeking new company, new experience. I understand that this might make me sound “flighty,” but it’s not like that. I’m happy to commit to a partner at this point in life – maybe just not a geography or a rigorous, single cultural lifestyle.

 

A couple asides: I am currently residing far from my hometown (for school, as I think I mentioned), which contains my recently-widowed father. I am an only child. My partner, on the other hand, is one of three children of two currently robust parents. His solution is that my father should move out here to be close to us. While I understand that this is practical, I can’t pretend that I am not just a bit resentful of his dismissal of my father’s geography and context. (mandellin – it’s not his family that needs “help” at this juncture…it’s mine.)

 

This weekend, we spent 9 hours at a family party. Since these parties happen every 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve requested a 3 – 4 hour window for each. He agrees, but then we never leave. I’m not used to this level of interaction, and while I love to hang out with them, I also have other things to do. Other people come and go from these functions – I sometimes wish we could do similarly.

 

Sorry for the prolonged response. I think the issue is this: is compatibility more important than I originally thought? Should I end this relationship and seek out someone who shares my values? I don’t resent what he prioritizes, but is it too much in contrast to my own life plan?

 

I would really appreciate more thoughts.

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I think the issue is this: is compatibility more important than I originally thought? Should I end this relationship and seek out someone who shares my values? I don’t resent what he prioritizes, but is it too much in contrast to my own life plan?

 

In these questions you are actually answering your concerns, PurpleKangaroo. There is nothing worse than feeling stifled and trapped.

 

He’s not the type to make lots of interesting friends, go to exciting places (though he’ll follow on vacation if I’ll lead), or try new things. He is a creature of habit and “sameness,” and finds it comforting. I, unfortunately, tend to find it a bit stifling

 

I think you have surrendered enough as it is. A relationship is a two-way affair, after all. I also detect that he seems to be almost pathologically attached to his family. Family is great, and it is nice to stay in touch and visit, but there is something off-key here.....

 

Compatibility is vitally important, and from your post I am reading "chalk and cheese".

 

Please don't make an unhappy future for yourself. It isn't worth it, and life is too short.

 

All the best

Hermes

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Oh, this makes me sad to read. It sounds like you two really care about each other, but you just don't have the same life vision. From what you describe, there really is a fundamental disconnect in your values.

 

He wants to be close to his family. I get that, family is important. But it seems like he is is more than a want...it's a need for him, to the point where he can't accommodate some of your basic desires. And that need will no doubt inhibit your ability to do the traveling and exploring you want to do.

 

I think eventually this will lead to resentment.

 

I'm sure he meant well by suggesting your father move to where his family is, but it also displays a bit of built-in entitlement...well, maybe that's not the right word. I think you had it right when you said "provincial". He just can't fathom another way?

 

You're not wrong to be questioning. I'm not sure what I would do in your situation. I would see if I could envision being happy traveling solo and planning adventures by myself or with good girlfriends. Can you see yourself fulfilling those needs in that way?

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Thanks for the responses, bambina and Hermes. Very helpful.

 

I ended our relationship this morning. (I'd agonized for a long time.) I feel a bit of relief, but also a lot of anxiety and regret. There was no question that he was a good partner to me, and that we could have made a happy home. But there is also no doubt that we have different priorities in life and that each major life decision for us as a couple would have involved ameliorating two intensely different opinions. Sigh.

 

I think we'll be friends. There were no hard feelings, which made things really difficult.

 

 

I feel guilty and doubtful that I made the right choice. Support/advice always appreciated.

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PurpleKangaroo:

 

Don't doubt yourself. You made the right choice. What would happen as time passes is that you would become more resentful,and he more entrenched in the overly emotional dependence on his family, until eventually an unpleasant impasse would be reached. You have taken a sensible, if hard, decision.

You are entitled to realise yourself as a person, to aim for your goals, in work and life. This man is not prepared to "meet you half way". The plain fact is, and I expect you have realised it. You have nothing in common.

 

Good luck with everything, and be happy.

Hermes

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Thanks for the responses, bambina and Hermes. Very helpful.

 

I ended our relationship this morning. (I'd agonized for a long time.) I feel a bit of relief, but also a lot of anxiety and regret. There was no question that he was a good partner to me, and that we could have made a happy home. But there is also no doubt that we have different priorities in life and that each major life decision for us as a couple would have involved ameliorating two intensely different opinions. Sigh.

 

I think we'll be friends. There were no hard feelings, which made things really difficult.

 

 

I feel guilty and doubtful that I made the right choice. Support/advice always appreciated.

 

I think that was a wise choice. While it is nice to be close to family, his closeness was a bit too much. I had moved around quite a bit for career purposes and was away from my hometown for about 14 years. I did end up going back and am happy to be close to the family. However, one thing I have noticed is that people who did not branch out and live away from where they grew up and away from family have more narrow views, more insulated views. It is good to have experiences elsewhere for a while even if you do eventually move back.

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Thanks, all. I'm really needing this reinforcement (as I get into bed alone and feel terribly guilty).

 

I just got a call from him, which I answered. Apparently, we weren't clear yesterday morning, as I'd thought ... so we kind of "broke up" again. He dropped something terrible: "I don't know how I'm going to break this news to my family." I feel awful; I love them, and they, me. They did, however, sort of seem to take it for granted that I would abandon my own origins and live close to them, and in their style, if I were to stay with their son.

 

Guilt and regret are eating me. I may schedule a few sessions with a counselor to help me through. Your opinions and support are really helping, however. Thank you.

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Life is about making choices and often that means making sacrifices too. Staying involves sacrifices, but leaving him would also. The way I see it for you to be happy can either happen two ways. One way is to leave him and find someone more compatible. The other way is not to expect to do everything together. Friends can fill the gap that you feel you need to make you "completely" happy.

 

If you like family get-togethers but not for 9 hours, let your bf stay for 9 hours, you should be able to leave after 3 or 4.

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Purple Kangaroo:

 

He is a big boy, and not a child who has to "confess" some misdemeanour to his family. Are they going to throw a fit? Disown him? Berate him? Not your problem.

Please do not feel awful about it. Guilt and regret are a bad trip, so don't even go there. You have nothing to feel guilty about. He was and is unable to meet you half way. That is the bottom line.

A great idea to see a counsellor, and I am glad you have a clear head and can see your way forward.

 

Good luck

Hermes

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Purple Kangaroo:

 

He is a big boy, and not a child who has to "confess" some misdemeanour to his family. Are they going to throw a fit? Disown him? Berate him? Not your problem.

Please do not feel awful about it. Guilt and regret are a bad trip, so don't even go there. You have nothing to feel guilty about. He was and is unable to meet you half way. That is the bottom line.

A great idea to see a counsellor, and I am glad you have a clear head and can see your way forward.

 

Good luck

Hermes

 

I agree. There seems to be something so unhealthy about his family dynamic. To be that stressed out about telling them of the breakup is very unusual.

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I think that there are a lot of people on here too quick to say dump him, leave him. I can't help but see a lot of reason to stay with him. You've known him for 2 1/2 years, are comfortable around him. You have good lines of communication. Family is important to him, I don't see that as a horrible thing.

 

You don't have to have the same relationship with his family than you do. If you feel less close, if he wants to spend more time with his family then that could be OK. You don't need to have exactly the same friends, you could be closer to some and he could be closer to some, that should be OK. I know my parents are married for 55 years, for the most part he had his friends and my mom had hers and they got along great.

 

Just something to think about.

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Thanks, Hermes and CAD. This is a tough situation ... he has really been with me through a lot, both as a friend and a partner. He had my back through some serious professional struggles and the death/illness of my parents. It's a lot of support and love to sacrifice. I hope I've made the right choice, but maybe only time will tell.

 

I'm feeling a little anger in addition to the guilt because of the following: I feel like he made it all "up to me." As in, I could accept the terms he put out there or walk away. And as I eventually walked away, obviously, I'm the bad guy ... but couldn't he also have been more flexible about his terms? I don't know.

 

lukeb, I appreciate your input, as well. You're right about a lot of things. However, the issue is not so much whether we go on vacation or do every single thing together - our dynamic in that regard was quite good. (We spent a lot of time separately, which was just fine.) However, if I'd stayed with him, I would be committed to a certain lifestyle, and a really restricted geography. It's not a matter of "filling holes" with regard to stimuli that were missing (and there were quite a few). It's about the opportunities that are lost by accepting the bargain.

 

To make myself feel better, I'm thinking of my father and what staying in this relationship would have meant for him, long-term. It's unfair, I think, to subject him, also, to an unfamiliar, limiting geography because of my love choices. Especially a geography that I'm not particularly crazy about, either.

 

Thanks, all. This is so hard, and I still feel awful and doubtful. I'm going to e-mail a counselor I'm familiar with and see if I can get an appointment.

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Luke:

 

No one here said that it was a horrible thing to have good communication with one's family. By no means. I think it is a wonderful thing to be in contact with one's parents, to love them, and see them when one can. But once you marry, then you do not and should not leave 24/7 in your parents' pocket. Indeed once you are grown up and even single you should not do that either!

 

The difference is that this man has a childish (not to say pathological) dependency on his parents/family. I mean, a grown man "nervous" about being 2 hours away from his family!!!!! What are his fears? He evidently suffers from high insecurity.

 

 

He is nervous because the new job is a bit of distance from his parents – slightly less than 2 hours, versus the 1 or less he’s had to travel for his schooling. (He called to talk about it, and for the first time, I realized that he does actually have a fear of being separated from them – it’s not just a desire to stay close.)

 

and furthermore would not meet Purple Kangaroo even half way. He simply wants it all his own way, basically.

She herself has said he has good points, but I would also find it stifling to live with or marry someone like this.

 

Hermes

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