Can you be with someone if you want different things?
It’s a really important question and has big implications for the future success and happiness of any relationship.
The good news is that different life goals don’t necessarily have to drive a couple apart.
Here are some signs that you are still in the right relationship, even if your life goals don’t match up.
1) Your goals don’t match but they don’t conflict either
A lot of whether this will work depends on what those life goals are.
Can you pursue your individual goals without clashing with or compromising each other?
If so, then it doesn’t have to impact on the relationship.
It’s common to have different interests and passions from your partner. We shouldn’t expect them to care about the same things that we do.
If your life goals don’t exactly match up, but they don’t conflict either, then it’s probably going to be okay.
The difficulty starts to arise when one person’s life goals directly come up against the other person’s.
For example, you really want kids and they are adamant that they don’t (or vice versa).
They dream of traveling the world and living in a new country, but you don’t ever see yourself leaving your hometown where all your family and friends are.
In these instances, it’s unwise to simply ignore the problem. You’re only storing it up for further down the line.
2) Your goals feel supported by your partner
One of you is not more important than the other. So nobody’s needs and wants should always take priority and precedence.
It’s a selfish and unfair approach if either of your strategies is simply to get the other person to change their mind and back down.
You don’t even have to understand each other’s life goals, but you do have to support them.
That’s part of being a team.
And even though you are a partnership, ultimately, you also have to respect one another’s autonomy.
Each of you gets to make your own decisions.
No matter what it is you want, your partner should still be your cheerleader. They should encourage and support you in your choices.
3) You’re both committed and see this as a long-term relationship
Certain practicalities are most likely to come into play in deciding the longevity of your relationship.
That’s why things like how long you have been together, and where you both see this going will all contribute to deciding your fate as a couple.
If it’s just a fling and one or both of you are hoping to keep things casual, then depending on your take on things, conflicting life goals will matter more, or could matter even less.
They may matter more because it’s not worth the energy or effort when you’re not that committed in the first place. Or matters less, because you aren’t so sure things will last that long anyway, so you can just enjoy the moment.
Having said that, the more in love, committed, and determined you both feel about the relationship the more likely you will be able to find a way through.
It’s true that sadly, sometimes love is not enough. But what it does do is provide a strong incentive to stick out any hard times that may need navigating in the years ahead.
That way, you’re more prepared to make tough choices…
4) You are both willing to make compromises and sacrifices
All relationships demand a certain amount of give and take.
But if you’re facing different life goals, yours as a couple may need to be greater than most.
If you want to be together, then are you both prepared to compromise?
What are you (and aren’t you) willing to sacrifice?
If there is a middle ground that you can both take, then you may not need to go different paths after all.
Even if it doesn’t feel like a “win-win” situation, it shouldn’t feel like a total “lose-lose” (or a “win-lose”) either.
Otherwise, resentment and bitterness can crop up further down the line if you’ve been required to give up too much.
5) You share the same values and outlook in life
Some differences within a couple can add richness. It would be boring if we were all exactly the same.
For example, having unique interests and hobbies can be perfectly healthy.
Admittedly, it’s far more ideal if your life goals are aligned, but as we’re already seeing, it doesn’t need to be essential.
What is essential is shared values.
Because these values dictate so much of who we are as people. It is where we assign worth and meaning in the world.
What we believe to be important is where we put our energy and efforts. It’s also what we protect and uphold.
Sharing core values is vital to a healthy long-term relationship.
If your morals and principles align you’re going to find communication, conflict resolution, and decision-making much easier together.
Denying your values is denying what makes you who you are. And that’s never going to work.
6) Your different goals haven’t been causing tension
If you are already arguing about it, then let’s face it, it’s already a problem.
That’s not to say it’s a problem that you can’t resolve. But if you see that it is damaging your relationship, you have confirmation that it’s an issue.
On the other hand, if your discussions about it seem to be constructive and getting somewhere, then it’s a good sign.
Neither of you are feeling the pressure. It’s not causing any strains that are spilling over into fighting or frustration.
You can communicate about it all honestly and thoughtfully with one another.
7) Your life goals don’t feel totally set and you suspect they may change anyway
If there is one thing that’s guaranteed in life, that’s change.
Life is in constant flux.
Not only does the way the world looks around us shift all the time, but so do we.
Think back 10 years.
Even if parts of you have firmly stayed the same. Do you feel like the same person?
And what about the dreams you have, have they changed?
It’s perfectly normal if they have.
Most of us adapt, grow, and change our minds as we journey through life collecting new experiences and perspectives.
Sometimes we think we want something, only to decide we’re not so sure anymore.
A lot of us may have goals, but deep down we’re not even convinced yet that we really do want that. It’s just an idea, and ideas can change.
The important caveat is that it’s got to be the way you really feel about it. You, hand on your heart, still don’t know what you want yet.
You do yourself no favors if you pretend that one of you may change your mind, just because you desperately want to hold on to the relationship.
Life goals are one element of compatibility…
And I’m not going to downplay them. Let’s not pretend they don’t matter, they do.
But many of us have lots of life goals. Some are deal breakers, others are not.
Some will come and many others may go as we change and grow as people.
So they aren’t the only thing that a strong relationship rests on.
A whole host of other factors play a part:
- How well you get along and enjoy each other’s company
- Physical attraction
- Shared values
- Sense of humor
- Good communication
- Acceptance of one another
- Support and emotional alignment
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